Buy It Nice, or Buy It Twice: Kitchen Edition

wusthof200Reader Chris sent in the following question (edited for clarity):

I read in your website about cast iron pans and KitchenAid mixers. I want to buy a small home and have nothing. What are some must-have kitchen items that will last a long time and be used most often? So they are an “investment”.

I finally figured out why people make you register for nice things on your wedding registry. After getting married over 12 years ago, I had to stop buying Hungry Man frozen dinners and really learn to cook at home. This also meant developing an appreciation for well-made kitchen items. When you “go cheap” on certain things, you not only have to replace it down the road (“Buy It Nice or Buy It Twice”), but you also feel a bit of annoyance and regret every time you use the inferior tool. In the words of Marie Kondo, owning high-quality tools “bring me joy”.

Here’s a list of high-quality items that are actually in my kitchen as I type this. There is no order, just a quick mental inventory. Some cost a few bucks. Some cost hundreds.

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Lodge 12″ Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
With over 10,000 reviews (!) and a 4.6 out of 5 star average rating, I know I’m not the only fan of these heavy-duty beasts. Great for searing and pan-frying, oven-safe, no worrying about scratches or dings. They will outlive you. Got a rusty one? They are easy to resurrect; here’s a quick video on how to season your cast iron.

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Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron 5-1/2-Quart Round Dutch Oven
I cook multiple times a week with our Staub and Le Creuset enameled cast-iron dutch ovens. Cast iron isn’t a lot of maintenance, but you do have to keep it dry after each use to prevent rusting (and seasoning it again takes time). With enameling, you can just wash and leave it wet. The dutch oven shape also makes it perfect for braises, stews, and soups. (They also look nicer at dinner parties.) They do run $200-$300 but spread out over 30+ years of use it’s not that bad. But I’ll be honest, I don’t know how much better they are than this Lodge Enameled Dutch Oven which regularly runs under $80.

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KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer
We’ve used this machine regularly without any issues for over 10 years across multiple apartments, studios, and houses. We use it to beat eggs and knead dough for pizza, pasta, cookies, and bread. I don’t know what kind of motor is inside, but it is durable. The bowl has some small dings and there is a little rust on the exterior but nothing that prevents good operation. I notice a ton of different versions now, but I think the Artisan is the classic version.

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Kuhn Rikon 3-Set Original Swiss Peeler, Red/Green/Yellow
These may not last forever, but they have lasted a lot longer than my previous peelers and I’m still on my first one. (I also have a serrated version that I don’t use as often.) I bought these after seeing them recommended by America’s Test Kitchen and they peel much more easily and comfortably. Note: I see some Amazon reviews that say “I love my old Kuhn Rikon peeler but this one I just bought from Amazon is horrible.” My thought? Counterfeits. I would only buy these “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com”, even if it costs a few cents more. You’re still getting the best peeler out there for ~$4.

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Wusthof Classic 7-piece Knife Block Set
I remember wondering if Wusthof and Henckels were worth the price as I zapped them onto our wedding registry. Then someone actually bought us a set of Wusthof Classic knives and we proceeded to use them nearly every day for over a decade. They have been professionally sharpened a couple of times (less often than recommended), but they still work perfectly with no chips or rust spots. I bought a $40 Asian cleaver from a shop in Chinatown a couple years ago, and it only lasted a few months before large rust spots appeared. My mom told me I didn’t treat it right. I told her I’d rather spend $80 on a knife and have it last decades even after not treating it right. So I did. 🙂

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J.A. Henckels International 8-pc Steak Knife Set
We also got a set of Henckels steak knives as a wedding gift. They’ve also lasted over a decade as our family’s only set of steak knives. They still cut great. Yes, they cost about double the price of the AmazonBasics steak knives set, but I wonder if I’ll ever have to buy steak knives again.

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Zeroll 1020 Original Ice Cream Scoop, 2 Ounce
Didn’t see this coming, huh? This is the best ice cream scoop, period. Once you try it, you will wonder why all the other ice cream scoops in the world are so bad in comparison. If you walk into an ice cream shop, this is probably the brand that they use. It has conductive fluid that makes it easier to get through rock-hard ice cream. It creates the perfect ball shape for placing on cones. The 2-ounce size makes a small/medium-sized ball, but other sizes are available. Why not own the best ice cream scoop in the world for about $15?

I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things. There are also many other items I on my wish list that I haven’t bought yet. What high-quality kitchen items would you consider a good “investment”?

Shout out to Gita, Ben, Kiran, and family! Thanks for reading!

Comments

  1. Linda Buchanan says:

    I’ve read the ice cream scoop is not dishwasher safe. That seems strange to me. Seems like I’d want to be able to throw it in the dishwasher.

    • Yes, the label says that it is not dishwasher safe. I believe the conductive fluid expands with heat and dishwasher can get really hot? Otherwise it’s a solid piece of aluminum alloy. My guess is that if you run your dishwasher without heat it should be fine (which some folks do to save energy anyway).

      The good part is that you’re just washing off ice cream so it is always easy to rinse off, it’s not baked-on food or grease. We just treat it like a good knife… hand-wash and rack-dry.

  2. 1. Crockpot- saves time. 2. Pressure cooker – saves time. 3. VitaMix – best blender ever, workhorse. Makes smoothies, blends soups, make homemade peanut butter, hummus and more. I bought a used one on eBay.

  3. The Le Creuset is worth every dime. For soups, stews, meats, whatever … even cooking temperature, easy to clean and solidly durable.

    And, yes, never scrimp on knives. It will cost less in the long run. Keep your fingers, too.

  4. Vitamix and Blentec are awesome blenders. The vitamin customer service is great too if you have issues. Can get either one at Costco.

    I’m traveling more lately. So I want to replace my cheap carry-on luggage with something better, like Briggs & Riley. Does anybody have recommendation?

  5. Linda Buchanan says:

    I’d like to recommend Cutco knives. I’ve had my set for over 40 years and it’s still in great shape. They come with a lifetime guarantee. And they are made in America. I try to buy American, when I can.

  6. Things I’d recommend: An immersion blender, and stainless steel pots and pans (for when you don’t want to lift cast iron).

    Things that I would recommend avoiding: Single purpose electric gadgets, E.g. Ice cream maker, bread machine, electric citrus juicer.

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