I’m not endorsed or paid by any of the brands on this page; these are the products I’ve found work best for me, through trial and error. Most items are readily available from your local kitchen supply shop, but they can also be ordered from online retailers.
Cast Iron Pots & Pans
Enameled Dutch Ovens
For stews, chilis, and curries, which cook long and slow and often leave a fair amount of sauce behind, I like a good 5-quart enameled dutch oven. Le Creuset is the best-known maker of these classic pots, but for value, quality, and ease of cleanup, it’s hard to beat dutch ovens from Fontignac, which retail around $99, and Lodge, which retail around $65.
Skillets & Grill Pans
For non-enameled cast iron, Lodge is tops. We have skillets in every size, plus the square grill pan for indoor grilling. A splatter screen is also helpful.
I only own one hand grater and I use it for everything: the classic Microplane zester. It’s inexpensive (around $13) and lasts forever . . . although I have lost several knuckles to overzealous zesting.
Accept no substitutes, a mandoline is the right tool for getting even vegetable slices, and the Super Benriner is the standard. Another knuckle-killer, even with the hand guard, but not nearly as dangerous as it looks. The thickness is adjustable, so you can get paper-thin onion slices and thick discs of potato from the same tool.
Shredding, Blending, Chopping, Pureeing . . .
We live in an apartment. Our kitchen is not spacious. If I’m going to eat up precious countertop with an appliance, you’d better believe it’s going to be useful. My Cuisinart is the go-to tool for blending batters, shredding cauliflower rice (and potatoes and onions for latkes), and pureeing smoothies. No additional attachments required.
For years, I just threw things in the freezer and hoped for the best. Liquids like soups and marinades, however, benefit a great deal from flat freezing, which shortens defrosting time while optimizing long-term storage—not to mention that your freezer will run more efficiently if you limit the unoccupied space.
I prefer these slider bags, which leak less when rinsed and reused; they’re also easier to press air out of, so less food is lost to freezer burn. If you have a freezer with drawers or trays that slide out, you may be able to use those to stack liquids; otherwise, a cookie sheet or baking tray will work nicely to create a flat, even surface.
Most of the seasonings I use are available from McCormick in your local grocery store. For specialty items like dundicut peppers, garam masala, Tien Tsin peppers, and Berbere spice, Penzeys offers reasonable prices and ships all over the U.S. (and sometimes internationally, too). All of their spices are available in jars or in bulk bags with jars sold separately. A few years ago, I overhauled the spice cabinet and replaced everything I owned with Penzeys products, and I can’t overstate the difference it made in flavors. Fresh, high-quality spices are worth the investment.