David Siegel’s Kitchenware Porn

Must-Haves and Gifts for the Passionate Cook

This is my list of must-have kitchen items. Everything but skillets and ovenware, which will have their own pages. The full product-porn list is at dsiegel.com.

Over the years, I have learned to cook well with a small core set of tools. I don’t need a double-boiler, an asparagus pot, a crock pot, rice cooker, and many other things. It’s kind of like baby stuff — you don’t need nearly as much as they want to sell you. Here is my limited list of must-have items …

The Must-Have Spatula

I’ve tried a lot of spatulas. Except for on a grill or perhaps in a commercial kitchen, I believe this is the best spatula ever made. I have one that’s 20 years old and will easily last another 20. I bought two more just because they are so handy, and I often buy them as presents. If a friend or relative lets me stay in his/her place for a week, I leave one of these behind as a thank-you. I even thanked the owner of the company for making them! Click on the picture and get yours now:

The legendary Berndes spatula: $10

The Must-Have Oven Gloves

I actually installed a hook on my wall so I can show these off all the time. I love them.

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Blue silicone oven gloves: $14

Cookware I Don’t Like

Calphalon Classic

Calphalon Classic is anodized aluminum. It scratches. It looks terrible after a year or so. And it isn’t a magic non-stick surface. It’s kind of the worst of all worlds. Most of their line is now stainless and much better, but don’t be suckered by anodized cookware.

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Friends don’t let friends get Calphalon Classic

Most pots and pans combine steel for cooking with aluminum for heat distribution. You don’t want an aluminum (or copper) disc bonded to the bottom of a steel pan. You want the aluminum (or copper) to go all the way up the sides for even heat distribution. You want three layers. More than three layers is fancy, but I don’t think you can tell the difference.

Cookware I Love

Iittala Tools

These pots were designed by Björn Dahlström. I bought mine in 2000, and they are as good as the day I bought them. They will last 100 years. These are, simply, the most beautiful and best pots in the world.

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Iittala caserole in 4qt ($370), 5qt ($410), and 8qt ($475) — the large one is only for commercial use

They were called Hackman Tools. They were discontinued (or the company closed) around 2010. Recently, Iittala brought them back to life, so you can now enjoy the same amazing cookware that I use every day. Hackman had two cast-iron frying pans, which Iittala replaced with two stainless frying pans that I present on my skillet page.

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Iittala Tools 2-quart saucepan with lid: $295

These pots have three layers, and the aluminum goes all the way to the top. The handles are attached without rivets (try to find another brand that does that). They are the most comfortable handles in the business. It’s such a pleasure to use these tools daily. I’ve scorched them and blackened the bottoms, and they clean right up and look good as new. Get at least one Tool and you’ll want the rest. They decided to make their small sauteuse without a pour spout, but it’s still an everyday pot that will last decades. Makes a great gift.

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Small sauteuse, 1 quart: $185

Milk Pans

You also want a .7- to 1-quart milk pan. I use mine all the time. The handle must be able to go into the oven. No lid. The one I have is no longer made, but these two are good substitutes.

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Neoflam aluminum, nonstick milk pan. I don’t know why it’s in white, I would much prefer black.
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Williams Sonoma Signature Thermo-Clad™ Butter Warmer, made in Italy: $80 Takes longer to heat but looks better on your stove and will get a lot of use.

Lids & Steamers

I’m a big believer in lids and use them often. Each pot should have a lid, and you can store them in a holder that mounts on the back of a cabinet door. More and more, I think lids should be glass. If Iittala made glass lids for the Tools pots, I would buy them.

I also love this clip-on strainer. It replaces the colander-style and stores under the sink with the rest of the lids. I use it several times a week.

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A pair of silicone clip-on strainers: $15

If you make dim-sum often, you’ll have a set of stacking steamers. I had a set and never used them. But there are times when you want a steamer, and this one doubles as a colander, saving space.

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Stainless steamer insert, various sizes: around $15

Don’t forget a splatter screen. This is how you make yummy glutinous rice.

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Splatter screens are all $10–15

Immersion Blenders

I use this Breville immersion blender about twice a day, every day. It crushes ice, makes smoothies in a jiffy, and lets me make perfect omelettes. I don’t have a blender or a mixer or a food processor, I just keep this on the countertop and use it all the time.

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Breville immersion blender, beater, and chopper: $80

UPDATE: Mine broke after two months. They sent me a replacement and it has been going strong for six months now. It’s a workhorse in my kitchen.

Blenders

A good countertop blender costs about $250 and has only two switches: a low/high and a on/off/pulse. A good blender is designed to crush ice. For home, these two blenders are good candidates: the Waring Commercial BB300 ($148) and the Hamilton Beach Commercial HBB250R Rio ($150).

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You may want to check Vitamix, but I think their products are overpriced, and they don’t need so many speeds. Might be able to get one on sale. Here’s a 1,000-watt blender with a brushless motor. Brushless motors are quieter and last longer:

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BioChef Atlas Power Blender 1000W, quieter than most, 10-year warranty, and too many speeds. Good value at $250

There’s a new development in blenders, and that’s the vacuum blender. It prevents aeration of the mixture and does a more thorough job of blending. There are times you want aeration (when blending eggs to make an omelette, you get a fluffier omelette), and times you definitely want the vacuum (when mixing up crepe batter, you don’t want any bubbles). In fact, I would say most of the time you want the vacuum, because whatever you blend will keep longer without oxidizing. And it will be much quieter than a normal blender. But — we’re at the beginning of vacuum-blending. The units are pricey, and people are complaining that the vacuum stops working after several months. A commercial vacuum blender will set you back at least $1500. Here is the only home unit I think is worth trying. If you get it direct you have 30 days to decide:

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Kuvings vacuum blender: $650 (check around for better prices)

Here’s a more affordable 1,500-watt vacuum blender that gets good reviews:

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Bonsenkitchen high-speed vacuum blender, comes with an extra vacuum cup for storing smoothies: $240

At this point, there isn’t a brushless vacuum blender I can recommend, but that will probably change in the next half year or so.

In addition, you may want to have a food processor. I don’t have a food-processor recommendation, but my Breville comes with one that I never use.

You will also want a spiralizer, trust me. If you have a Kitchen Aid mixer, you can get the superb $70 attachment. Unless you do a lot of this, get a the Spiralizer original, which has over 12k reviews and is rated 4.5! Don’t forget -you’ll want to maintain the sharpness of these blades. Another choice would be the Good Grips spiralizer with tabletop suction, which I have and like a lot.

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This machine on the left ($23) has over 12k reviews on Amazon! The Good Grips ($24) has a suction cup.

Here’s how you make spiral potatoes in the oven. I make them in oil, but I can’t find a good video on that.

After you make your fried potatoes with oil in your Iittala Tools stockpot, you’ll need a way to get the oil back into the jug. A funnel with a strainer is indispensable.

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Stainless funnel with strainer: $15

Sushi Mat

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I like this kind of slatted mat; always clean immediately after use: $10

Mixing Bowls

The key to these bowls is the wide lip, which catches drips. You can pour batter out of these bowls and it won’t drip down the sides.

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Stainless mixing bowl set: $19

Spatulas

A good cook absolutely needs an assortment of rubber spatulas. You need at least three, and more shapes are better. Most spatulas have narrow handles that twist in your hand. I like a wide, flat handle and a very flexible blade.

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An excellent performer, the Vollrath 13.5" high-temperature spatula: $17
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The Get It Right 11" spatula: $13 (comes in other lengths)

I have these two small spatulas from Williams Sonoma and use them much more often than I thought I would:

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Pair of small spatulas: $15

Coffee maker

The only acceptable material for a stovetop coffee maker, in my opinion, is stainless steel. Then you need to decide on the size. Most of these come in 4 and 6-cup versions. If you want a cup of coffee for yourself every day and then you plan on serving friends when they come over, get two coffee makers. Plan on using oven mitts to hold the hot handle. There are coffee makers you can touch when hot, but they are made of aluminum and I don’t like them. I use oven mitts.

On the left is the Bon Vivo 6-cup. This is the unit I have. Remarkably, the copper color fades within six months and looks like normal stainless! So take pictures early, or just get the polished stainless version. Either way, you’re going to use oven mitts. On the right is the Bialetti Venus 6-cup, another good-looking strong performer. This handle may be cool enough to touch if you keep it out of the heat.

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Bon Vivo and Bialetti 6-cup stainless steel coffee makers

For the best coffee, see my upcoming mail-order-food-porn page!

Containers

You want a set of square or rectangular glass containers for food prep, serving, and storing. Something like this:

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Prep Naturals containers: $26

And for dry goods, you want something that really keeps your flour and rice dry. There are many systems. I like straight sides and good gaskets.

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I use Prepworks containers for flour, sugar, rice, etc. Expensive, but get a set to save money.

For cereal and general storage, you want something with straight sides that’s easy to open. I also love these storage bins and use both the single and double-wide bins in most of my cupboards to keep them organized and help bring down items from the top shelf:

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Akro storage bins — get plenty, you,ll use them everywhere.

All my Product Porn pages are at dsiegel.com. The next one is Skillets.

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David Siegel is a serial entrepreneur in Washington, DC. He is the founder of the Pillar Project and 2030. He is the author of The Token Handbook, Open Stanford, The Culture Deck, Climate Curious, and The Nine Act Structure. He gives speeches to audiences around the world — see his speaker page if you would like him to speak at your next event. His full body of work is at dsiegel.com.

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Provocateur, professional heretic, slayer of myths, speaker of truthiness to powerfulness, and defender of the Oxford comma.

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