My Top Ten List of Favorite Kitchen Helpers

I remember my grandmother’s using a big, scary butcher knife that looked as though it had been through the Civil War. Except for a candy thermometer, she never had most of the items I consider essential to my cooking and baking. She’d probably shake her head at my over-flowing kitchen. But I’m all about making life in the kitchen as easy as can be and the items I’ve listed below either improve efficiency or make things easier.

Stand mixer – My mother-in-law has had her Kitchenaid since the ‘40s and I’m sure it could go several more decades. Mine is much newer but just as strong. It is so wonderful for mixing up bread dough as well as making simple mashed potatoes.

Heat-proof spatulas – My husband put one of these in my Christmas stocking a few years ago. Before that, I’d been using the old rubbery kind, the kind that chipped, melted, got hard and whose heads often separated from their sticks at the most inopportune time. My new spatulas make baking soooo much nicer.

Food Processor – I know women who say that they’d rather just chop things with a knife because they don’t want to have to wash a food processor. I just throw mine in the dishwasher and it isn’t any more a problem than a dirty bowl. I’ve had the same Cuisinart for about 30 years and it is still growing strong. My food processor grates cheese and mixes up dough as well as slices and chops. I would be lost without it.

Silpat liners – What a relief to throw away my rolls of parchment paper. Nothing sticks to a silpat and even boiling caramel can be poured directly onto them. The sizes available fit into my baking sheets, unlike parchment which has to be cut. And they clean up with a quick wipe.

Whisks – Again, don’t buy the supermarket kind. They are flimsy and the wires often tangle. Oxo sells whisks with soft, comfortable handles that I love.

Candy thermometer – You can get by without a candy thermometer but you’ll risk grainy fudge and limp candies. It is such a simple thing to heat your candy mixture to the proper temperature and not have to fuss with all that soft-ball and hard-ball, mixture in cold water business.

Tongs – I never used kitchen tongs until I saw how the TV chefs used them. Now I use mine at every meal. For turning, for grabbing, for reaching things on the top shelf of the cupboard, nothing works better.

Good knives – Yep, they are expensive but once you’ve used a quality knife you won’t go back to the cheap kind. Look for knives that can be sharpened and then learn how to sharpen your own knives.

9 x 13-inch baking pans – I have four. My favorite has a domed lid which allows for lots of fluffy icing. I have metal ones for baking and heavy ceramic and glass ones for cooking main dishes and casseroles.

Microplane grater – In many surveys I’ve read, the microplane is everyone’s favorite kitchen gadget. They really do make grating lemon or orange peel a breeze. They also make the prettiest dusting of chocolate over desserts. I use mine for onion and garlic when I don’t want big pieces. I don’t know who the first person was to come up with this idea but I’m grateful to him/her.

So there’s my list. What’s on your kitchen favorites list?