I have a love-hate relationship with the contents of my kitchen cupboard and drawers. I love everything from my partially melted blue spoon for stirring, to my expensive and well looked-after Japanese knife and largely redundant crab claw crackers. I hate the fact that no matter how many times I tidy, I still can’t seem to find half of it when I want it. This is particularly true of cake tins, which seem to restack themselves when I’m not looking, losing bases as they do. Anyway, this page isn’t about tidying, it’s about what I, and perhaps you, actually need in the kitchen, the things that make cooking easier.
Over the past 11 years we’ve written numerous features about our favourite pieces of kitchen kit, based on what we use at home, and what has stood the test of time and serious hard work in the olive test kitchen. It’s telling that the majority of the pieces of equipment we rated all that time ago are still our first pick. These six items are permanent fixtures in our kitchen.
Still the best available in our opinion, and with a big range of sizes, shapes and grating blades. Microplane’s graters’ tiny razor-like edges are formed by a process called photo-etching, in which holes are made with a chemical (rather than being stamped out), leaving edges that slice finely instead of tearing. From £14.95, widely available.
Mandolines really speed up making dishes that need lots of slicing or shredding; they’re essentially a really sharp, long-lasting blade. I like the Benriner Japanese mandoline that has a flat blade for slicing, three shredding blades of different widths, and a guard that stores flat (which means it’ll fit in my kitchen drawer). £16.44, amazon.co.uk
Magic non-stick liners
PTFE coated fabric you can use to line your baking sheets and cake tins. It wears well and will save you a fortune in baking paper. You can also use a sheet for rolling out pastry on. 33 x 100cm sheet/£10.25, lakeland.co.uk
Modern cooks need a meat thermometer – it’s the only way to tell if your meat is cooked to the degree you want it to be. From £36, thermapen.co.uk
Accept no imitations. Only a real Pyrex jug will stand the test of time and still have readable measurements however many times you wash it. From £3/0.5l jug, widely available.
Nylon dough scraper
It doesn’t matter if you never make bread, this tool is much more than it appears to be. Use it for lifting chopped veg into your saucepan, dividing dough into pieces, levering brownies out of a tin, or for scraping purée through a sieve. Cheap as chips. You’ll wonder how you ever did without one. From £1, widely available.
Still an object of desire
There are many pale imitations of the all-singing all-dancing Thermomix, but none of them can do quite as much and with such a level of efficiency. Steam, whisk, grind, weigh, simmer, knead, make risotto – this is your kitchen assistant. Because there’s only one bowl, one blade and one whisk, the washing up is minimal, and though it isn’t a small appliance, all of your others can be retired. This is the only big bit of kit you’ll need. It’s a very serious investment, but chefs swear by them and it will revolutionise the way you cook. £925 (including delivery and a demonstration of how to use it), ukthermomix.com
New kid on the block
This mini chopper from Zyliss is very handy; small enough to stick in a kitchen drawer and easy to wash up. It operates using a pull cord and has two blades that move independently, which means they whizz round at different speeds and levels and chop more efficiently. It will chop onions and nuts, make a salsa or small batch of pastry in no time. Minimal effort required. £19.99, widely available.
Pots and pans
OXO Non Stick PRO Cookware Collection
We are longtime fans of OXO kitchen products for their functionality and simple good-looks, so had high hopes for their new range of cookware. Our food editor Janine gave them a thorough run-through: ‘Pans have heavy use in our test kitchen, so sturdiness is vital. These passed with flying colours. The hard-anodised aluminium coating is scratch-proof and the Magneto base means that it’s impossible to warp the bases with heat (I tried it with induction, but it suits all hob types). I loved the sleek, silver-riveted handles, which have been designed to stay cool on the hob, and mean the pans will transfer happily to the oven. Lastly, they look gorgeous so I’d be happy to have these out on display.’ From £29.99, lakeland.co.uk
3 bakeware makes that will never let you down
If you want good bakeware you need to invest. Good quality, long-lasting cake tins and baking trays come at a heftier price but are worth every penny.
Silver in appearance (no PFTE, or polytetrafluoroethylene coating) with a core material that spreads heat evenly when cooking and freezes equally well. This means your bread tin can also serve as an ice-cream mould. Baking sheets are rigid and remain that way when used at high temperatures. Classic and classy. alansilverwood.co.uk
Hard-anodised aluminium baking trays and roasting tins that will never bend or buckle, and freeze equally well. These will last a lifetime. facebook.com/MermaidCookware
Most famous for bundt tins, this company also makes other bakeware and cookware. Cake-tins are rigid and non-stick to release their contents easily, which allows them to have elaborate markings and shapes (everything from skulls to wreaths). The swirl-shaped heritage pan is one of our favourites. nordicware.com
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