In my quest to command the kitchen, I (well, my mother--I'm unemployed, remember?) has had to invest in a few new kitchen tools. I've also started to use things we had around the house that my kitchen lacked when I was living on my own. These are the things that are coming with me when I finally move back out--or, at the very least, will grace my future kitchen immediately.
These things are amazing! When I make bread, naan, pizza or calzones, I bake on my stone. It gives good crust, if you know what I mean. Apparently, these stones are also great for cooking things in phyllo or puff pastry, and even roasting garlic. Rumor also has is that if you have an unreliable oven, like every single apartment I have ever had, keeping the stone in the oven as it preheats and cooks helps regulate the temperature.
My mom picked one up at Bed & Bath for pretty cheap, so you don't need a really expensive one as long as you read the directions and follow them well.
I hate wasting cookie dough on my hands. Every bit of wasted cookie dough is a national tragedy in my book. This means that the usual method of two spoons for doling out dough is out. It's too messy, too annoying, and the cookies are always different sizes. I'm not anal about precision in the kitchen, but I want things to bake evenly. It's just easier. So, in comes the cookie scoop. Scoop and squeeze. No mess and even cookies. We have this one.
Tip: pre-scoop all of your dough onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet and place in the freezer until solid. Pack the frozen dough balls and take out as needed. If you don't want to wait for them to defrost, add about 10 minutes to your cook time--but watch carefully.
Cast Iron Skillet
I know. We totally should have had one before. But we didn't, 'cause we were stuck in the non-stick mentality. This changed because my mom and I wanted to try making an apple pancake. See, we really enjoy apple pancakes from The Original Pancake House. The cinnamon-y, apple-y goodness cannot be beat. Such things require a cast iron skillet as to not lose any of the caramelized goop when transferring into an oven-safe pan from a skillet. So we went for it. And it is awesome. Use for everything.
Biggest Silicon Spatula of All Time
I'd take a picture, but I don't want to get out of bed. This spatula has a very long handle and a very stiff head (I looked it up! it's called a head!). Because of this um, stiffness, it can scrape anything off of the side of the bowl. It also doubles as a great spoon when stirring and sauteeing. It is also heat-resistant, meaning you won't melt the utensil (uh huh, which parent melted the big plastic spoon?) and can leave it sticking in your dish while you walk away. I might steal this one if I can't replicate it.
Silpat & Parchment Paper
I like both for different reasons. I tend to use parchment paper when I don't want to clean and the silpat when I know whatever I am making is likely to stick. Either way, they both make life easier when dealing with baking sheets. You will never again throw a fit when half your cookie sticks, or when something leaks and cakes onto your supposedly nonstick sheet. Although, I do have to disclose the fact that my french macaroons filled with pricey almond paste stuck to the silpat, and since I couldn't use a metal spatula to get them up, it was kind of a mess. Never again.
Zest is so much fun! It gives a kick to different dishes that you couldn't get otherwise. I recently zested some orange into chocolate cupcakes and some lemon on top of a noodle & strawberry salad (don't ask, just accept). I also have some fresh nutmeg seeds and ginger that I am planning to grate into dishes. You can also grate chocolate if you're feeling fancy. I, however, would not suggest grating anything large, as it takes too long.
So, now a question for you. What are your kitchen essentials?