Now that you’re spending more time in your kitchen than you can ever remember, it’s time to set yourself up to make the most of it. It’s not just about efficient organization or acquiring the most top-of-the-line version of things, you also want to think about dependable tools to make cooking easier, and what’s worth splurging on to make being in your kitchen more physically comfortable, too. (I’ve got my eye on a kitchen mat, see below.)
You probably (probably??) already have the basics covered. A knife — or better yet, three. A saucepan, a stock pot, and a skillet. A sheet pan. A cutting board. Consider this list your guide to some subtle upgrades: aka the products that make your kitchen a way better place to be. — Hillary Dixler Canavan
A Grade-A Frying Pan
Eater recommends: All-Clad Fry Pan
“The pan achieves its purpose beautifully. Because of its heavy composition, it retains heat evenly; because it’s made of aluminum and steel, it can go straight from the stove into the oven. Its curved walls let you toss food easily, if you so choose. You can probably flip an omelet in it, though I haven’t tried, because I prefer my eggs scrambled — which it does very well, especially when you use both butter and olive oil. And I’ve been told it will last forever, or at least much longer than the lifespan of our family’s early-2000s nonstick set, which began flaking its coating around year three. It’s humble, but high-quality, something you might find in a fine dining kitchen; regular restaurants probably have something more like these.” — Emma Alpern
A Top-Notch Chef’s Knife
Eater recommends: Long Chef’s Knife
“Designed by Fumie Shibata, its ergonomic, fish-like shape is both chic and functional, making for smooth cutting in almost every instance. (My personal favorite: slicing onions, which this knife does with a strange, precise intuition.)
It’s crafted from two different types of steel, but my favorite part is really the wooden handle, which isn’t made of just any old wood. The chestnut wood is meticulously worked through a charcoaling process that ensures it’s water resistant and antibacterial. In other words, this knife isn’t just made to look pretty; it’s built to cut through anything and last through decades of repeated use.
Which, if you’re like me and exceedingly lazy, makes it a one-time purchase that’s well worth it. There are countless Japanese knives out there, and just as many divergent opinions on which is the best. But for the beginner looking for something beautiful, think of this streamlined Japanese knife as an investment — an investment in your future, living out your professional chef dreams.” — Fariha Róisín
A Comfy Foot Mat
Eater recommends: GelPro Mat
“From the moment I plunked it down on the kitchen floor, its pretty blue blossom pattern livening up the off-white tile, I’ve been itching to stand at my butcher block and chop onion after onion… then pull the mat over to the stovetop and caramelize those onions for hours. (Do I need a second mat?)
The feel of it is so satisfying that I’ll often stand on it for a few minutes even when I’m not cooking…That comfort has given me more focus and patience in the kitchen; maybe I’ll even start chopping faster.” — Rachel Leah Blumenthal
A Good-Enough Knife Sharpener
Eater recommends: Wüsthof 4-Stage Handheld Knife Sharpener
“There are hundreds (thousands?) of online guides to knife-sharpening techniques and products. There are experts who proselytize whetstones; hobbyists who are down with cheaper gadgets, like the SunrisePro or the AccuSharp; some who say electric sharpeners are the way to go, and others who eschew electric altogether. Honestly, there’s so much knife sharpening content out there (which we at Eater have contributed to!!) that when I sent my husband on an internet mission to figure out the best way to service my beloved Wüsthof, he came back empty-handed, frustrated, and resigned to take it to a professional in our neighborhood, passing the buck (literally) to someone else.
Luckily, before he did, we received a belated gift from our wedding registry: the Wüsthof 4-Stage Handheld Knife Sharpener, which I had thrown on there without much thought months ago. It turns out that it works just fine. I don’t know conclusively if it’s The Best, but with a knife that cuts like a dream again, fine feels good enough.” — Ellie Krupnick
A Reliable Rice Cooker
Eater recommends: Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker
“The fuzzy logic system, which allows the cooker to make small adjustments based on moisture and other variables, makes extremely good white rice of all kinds, especially sushi rice. The brown rice setting makes rice a bit too wet for my preferences, but this Healthyish method of cooking brown rice on the white rice setting, which better suits American tastes, works great.
What I really adore about this rice cooker, however, is the porridge setting. If I have an excess of chicken stock, I’ll make a golden, rich congee; if I’m making meatballs, I’ll make big batches of a cheater polenta. And most mornings in the winter start with a creamy oatmeal cooked on the porridge setting.” — Meghan McCarron
Bonus: A Fun Tablecloth
Eater recommends: Bloom Oilcloth Tablecloth
“So much of restaurant design doesn’t make sense outside of restaurants: No one (I would think) is going to install a booth tree, 2020’s first major design trend, in their dining room. Sure, certain design trends, like the current tendency towards maximalist walls, are meant to be aspirational — but isn’t nice when you can exactly replicate the thing that makes a restaurant dining room so inviting? Consider the oilcloth tablecloth.” — Monica Burton
Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. For more information, see our ethics policy.