All year long, our culinary team rigorously tests tools and equipment to help you cook better, whether it’s with an outdoor wok burner for serious wok hei, a stainless steel skillet for perfect pan-roasted meats, or an essential upgrade to any gas grill. To that end, we have a lot of recommendations for every kitchen size and budget.
Of course, there’s another side to this, and that’s you. Knowing what you add to your cart informs us about what you’re into (better baking pans!) and not into (slow cookers). So this time of year, we like to take a look back and see the equipment that you felt was worthy of a spot in your kitchen.
Below you’ll find the most popular Serious Eats–recommended tools, the ones our readers shopped for again and again in 2020. Already got ’em? Let us know what you think!
There are a lot of reasons for keeping an instant-read thermometer in the kitchen, from reducing food-poisoning-your-guests paranoia to ensuring your meat is cooked to actual perfection (and a safe temperature!). When it comes to speed and precision, the Thermapen trumps all others. It’s the one we reach for when we’re testing recipes and the one we get super-excited about when it’s on sale. It’s no surprise the Thermapen is also one of your most-shopped-for tools this year.
Poultry shear popularity explodes over the holiday season. That’s likely because you all have realized that spatchcocking your Thanksgiving turkey is the absolute best way to achieve a juicy, not-overcooked bird. With the ability to slice through tissue and slippery fat, these poultry shears cut out (hehe) the competition in our review. But don’t just use them around the holidays. Use them for better roast chicken, too. There’s nothing better than a spatchcocked roast chicken on a cold Friday night.
An Ultra-Deep Cake Pan
Stella has produced a fair amount of cakes in her day. That’s likely why we all consider her recommendations gospel. Case in point, her favorite cake pan, an eight- by three-inch anodized aluminum pan from Fat Daddio’s, is one of our top-selling pieces of equipment this year. That additional depth will help your cakes rise taller and fluffier. Plus, it’ll help keep messier (drippier) baked goods, like sticky buns, from dripping into your oven. In fact, all of Stella’s cake recipes are developed for this type of cake pan. Luckily, getting one will only set you back $11.99.
A Detroit-Style Pizza Pan
With more time at home in 2020, lots of you got a chance to dive into the world of dough, from sourdough to focaccia, and pizza crust, too. Perhaps that’s why so many of you picked up a Detroit-style pizza pan for Kenji’s recipe. While you could make this pizza in an 8×8 cake pan, this particular black anodized aluminum pan ensures an extra crispy crust and delightfully browned cheesy bits.
Last year Sho wrote a story about everything you can do with a wok. That paired with Kenji’s guide to buying and seasoning a wok and Tim Chin’s guide to wok hei resulted in a tidal wave of orders ever since. If you’ve been tentative about picking up a wok, I can safely say that we have all the content you need to use yours well and reap the benefits. The benefits being kung pao chicken, fried rice with Chinese sausage, fish-fragrant eggplant, and Thai stir-fried cabbage.
If the success of these angle guides has taught us anything, it’s that functional kitchen tools don’t need to be expensive or fancy or even that big. If you’re new at sharpening your knives, these little angles can make the process so much easier.
This kit comes with a variety of angle options ranging in one-degree increments from 10 to 20 degrees. (You can also stack them.) All you need to do is attach the small plastic wedges to the end of your whetstone with a rubber band, and they sit there as a reminder of the sharpening angle you want to achieve. While it takes patience and practice to sharpen your knives this way, it’ll help preserve them and make them safer to use.
A Good Bread Knife
Having a serrated knife in the kitchen is essential. Those sharp saw teeth will break through the toughest bread crust without damaging the airy crumb and breeze through tomatoes without any issue. Our favorite bread knife has long been from Tojiro, and it continues to be a favorite among you, too. Perhaps, it’s the price, a cool $24, or that Daniel calls it “a pleasure to use.” Who knew slicing could be so much fun?
An Oven Thermometer
It’s possible that this in-oven thermometer is the cheapest item that Serious Eats recommends—and the most useful. At just $6 (and sometimes cheaper over the holidays), this little thermometer will hold your entire oven accountable. An oven that runs hot can burn cookies; one that runs cool can result in gummy cakes. Simply put, it’s harder to make our recipes, or any recipe, if you can’t rely on your oven to be accurate.
A Cast Iron Skillet
More and more people are coming to appreciate the range of kitchen tasks that a cast iron pan can help with, including recipes as diverse as skillet hummingbird cake and butter-based steak. We’ve long looked to Lodge for our cast iron and our testing only cemented our loyalty. Their pans are functional, affordable, and made in the US.
If you’re feeling intimidated at all about seasoning and caring for your pan, we can help you there, too.
Flat Metal Skewers
It may be difficult to think about, or even remember, grilling season right now. (Though if you live in a warm climate, lucky you!) While we have a few recommendations for the best skewers, our top-pick for longevity is the flat skewers by Norpro. These guys are easy to maneuver and the flat surface will keep your food from sliding around. This results in evenly cooked and charred meat, vegetables, and even cheese.
Cotton Kitchen Towels
The final insanely popular item you all stocked up on this year is not sexy. But man is it functional. The simple cotton kitchen towel. This set of 15 comes out to just about a dollar a towel. You can use them as pot holders and trivets; they make for a great non-slip surface between your cutting board and your counter. They come in handy if you need to squeeze excess liquid out of greens. Stella even uses them to rub the skins off pistachios after blanching.
If you haven’t yet picked up a set of these, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. Go with the herd. Act on your fomo. Join the kitchen towel club. You won’t regret it.
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