Great Kitchen Products on Amazon

This is a collection of stuff for the kitchen (mostly tools and appliances, but also some ingredients) that I've already put in the hard work and research time to find and try. Since the amount of time I spent finding the right citrus juicer is completely unreasonable and was totally not worth it, I thought I could at least get some value out of that search, and my many others, by sharing these products with you.

Knives

The Misono UX10 line of kitchen knives are hand-down the best knives I've ever used. I own the 6" utility knife shown below and it is my absolutely favorite knife for miscellaneous tasks. I'd love to have one of their chef's knives, but there's a reason I don't: the price. These things are crazy expensive, but they are great.

My go-to knife, though, is still my chef's knive. The size and blade shape are literally made for chopping and breaking down foods; it's often the best design for most routine western kitchen tasks because that's what it was designed for. I've done a ton of research and sampling of various knife brands over the years but have settled on Shun as my go-to brand and the Shun Classic series as my go-to line. Shun makes excellent knives that completely out perform the larger German brands you're used to seeing, and they do it at a competative price. The knives in the Classic line also go on sale quite often, so, if you're interested, add the ones you want to your Amazon shopping cart and monitor the price for a while. When something's in your cart, Amazon will notify you of price changes each time you visit the site. The other lines that Shun makes are great knives, too, but the Classic offers the best value and balance of features for most of us.

 
When you add something to your Shopping Cart, Amazon will notify you of price changes when you visit the site. That’s a great, free, easy way to get “price alerts” for items and catch deals when they happen. No need for a third-party service.
— Me
 

Shun also makes a great paring knife in the Classic line. I've given this knife as a gift many times for weddings and whatnot. If you're going to have just one paring knife, this is the paring knife to have. Be careful with it, though. The edges and tips of Shun knives are very thin. I broke the tip of my paring knife off trying to pry with it one day because I'm an idiot. That was years ago and I continue to use it—no big deal, it just looks stupid now.

Finally, for a wild card, I'm gonna mention the Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Revolution Series chef's knife. I got this knife because I really wanted to see what the whole ceramic knife thing was about. What can I say? I get really excited about advanced materials.

In short, these knifes are sharp. Really sharp. Like, unparalleled. They are also really brittle, so you never, ever want to pry with them or apply torque to them like one would while trying to split open a watermelon or something. Also never chop cleaver style. They will break and chip if you abuse them. But, boy are they sharp. They stay sharp for a really long time, too. Like probably longer than you will. It's a good thing, too, because you can't sharpen them yourself. They have to be sent off back to Kyocera or another specially firm to put a new edge on them. That sounds like a pain but you likely won't have to worry about it because they stay sharp so long.

All that said, they do a fantastic job when you need to chop, mince, julienne, dice, chiffonade, or brunoise vegetables and the like. The precision and consistency with which you can accomplish those tasks is just amazing. Speaking of chiffonade, you get less edge-bruising when cutting delicate herbs like basil with a ceramic knife, and for two reasons: 1) Being so sharp, they truly cut the leaves instead of crushing them, and 2) the ceramic is non-reactive, so it doesn't initiate a browning reaction like a steel knife can.

On the flip side, I don't like the size, shape, or weight of the Kyocera as much as I do  steel knife. They just don't feel as good in the hand. There's always a flip side.

Tools

As for those citrus juicers I was talking about, here's the deal. Get the Chef'n FreshForce Citrus juicer. I also recommend you get the green color since it's usually cheaper. Note that the green and yellow versions are actually the same size and are not made specifically for lemons and limes. The orange one actually is bigger and the price reflects that.

The Chef'n FreshForce juicer and it's gear system makes easy, quick, clean work of juiceing lemons and limes. It's convenient and quick for me to use while I'm cooking or mixing drinks. While I have the little white table-top juicer shown below as well, I haven't used it since I bought the Chef'n. It's less convenient, makes more of a mess, takes longer, and might cause tennis elbow. I'm not sure, I'm not a doctor. So yeah, check out that Chef'n.

One thing to note about the Chef'n Freshforce and other juicers that style: You can generate a ton of pressure by squeezing those two handles together. If you squeeze too hard your juice will get some of the bitter taste from the oils of the rind and pith. That's usually not a good thing, so be aware. Easy does it.

Speaking of essential kitchen gear, you gotta have a good set of tongs and a good spatula. I prefer silicon heads for things like this because silicon is durable, heat resistant, and won't harm delicate surfaces like teflon or that perfect seasoning you're cultivating in your cast iron pan. Tongs are probably my most-used item in my kitchen after my chef's knife. I use them to turn sausages in a pan, prod at things roasting in the oven, flip things, and to serve. They're just the best. I like the kind with a lock in the hinge that keeps them closed for compact storage when not in use. You don't need fancy tongs, you just need tongs. OXO makes a cool pair with a lock and silicon tips for a good price.

After tongs, it's all about the spatula. I use my Zyliss Silcon Spatula for everything from scrambling eggs to stirring stews and tossing stir-fties. The silicon tip is, again, indespesable here. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, Amazon only has this Zyliss spatula in crazy read and green color with Prime shipping. Hopefully the normal white one will be back soon.

Speaking of cast iron, if you use it as much as I do, you know how important that all-important seasoning is. People make a big deal out of cleaning cast iron, but it's not that bad. I just rinse and wipe my pan after each use and then use a dry paper towel to apply a thin layer of oil to the still-warm pan. Then, I walk away. Nothing to it.

For stubborn burnt-on bits, This cheap little plastic scraper from Lodge is the best. It makes quick work of charred remains in the pan (after they are softened with hot water) without any fear of damaging the seasoning. If you've got a really tough cleaning job in front of you, try this chain mail scrubber from Hudson Essentials. It will similarly take care of your cleaning needs without messing anything up. Since it's stainless steel, just put it int he dish washer and it will be ready to go next time. As a bonus, it's pretty hardcore to use chain mail in the kitchen.

As an alternative for when you find yourself with stubborn charred remains of your Jimmy Dean Hot Sausage stuck in your cast iron, wipe it out and put a half-teaspoon of coarse kosher salt in there with a teaspoon of oil. Scrub that salt around with a paper towel to work off all that gunk and rinse it with water to remove it all. Repeat if necessary. Apply a little oil to the coat the surface and leave it on the warm stove to dry. This will wear off some of your seasoning, but it's a great way to clean the stubborn stuff (when you don't have chain mail lying around).

Pro Tip:Clean your crusty cast iron with oil and coarse kosher salt.

Coffee

I use a Krups Moka Brewer to make coffee every single day, and I've been doing that since July of 2004 when I bought this thing. It's a very simple design, so there are few opportunities for it to break or malfunction. It consistently brews a strong, rich cup of coffee, which is what I like, and it's easy to clean.

The Moka Brewer is unique because, while it's still essentially a drip-style coffee maker, it brews under slight head pressure. The water reservoir is below the pot. When the water gets hot enough, steam pressure pushes it up a tube in the side of the coffee maker where it showers out over the coffee grounds. I know that sounds exactly like how almost every drip coffee maker works, but there's  a difference. In the Moka Brow, the system is almost completely sealed. The wad of coffee grounds themselves create steam back pressure as the hot water ties to move threw them. That results is a strong, rich, full extraction that shares some qualities with espresso coffee, which is made using the exact same concept, but under very high pressure. In addition to all of that, its makes pretty cool noises while it brews.

 

Grinding your coffee yourself is the single best thing you can do to make better coffee at home.

 

For coffee grinders, I strongly recommend the Bodum Bistro burr coffee grinder. And if you don't grind your coffee at home, I recommend you start, and start with the Bodum Bistro.

Grinding your coffee yourself at home is the single best thing you can do to make you home coffee better. It adds only about 20 seconds to your coffee routine, costs only $75 one time, and makes a huge difference in the cup. It's far better to spend $75-$100 right now for a coffee grinder than to buy extra fancy coffee all the time. Stick with something that costs $10-12/lb, grind it yourself, and you'll come out ahead on cost and quality.

Also, if you're just getting into coffee grinders, whatever you do, get a conical burr grinder instead of a blade grinder. You'll get vastly superior results from a burr grinder; it will produce more uniformly ground coffee more consistently than a blade grinder ever could. That translates to a more consistent extraction, less sludge in the bottom of your cup, and an all-around better cup of coffee. You're welcome.

Blade grinders are fine…for spices. If you’re grinding coffee, get a burr grinder.
— Me

I got the Bodum Bistro grinder a couple of months ago and have been extremely happy with it. It replaced a Capresso Inifinity burr grinder that I got in 2005. The Capresso is also a great home grinder, and has worked well for 11 years, but I like the Bodum better. The Bodum Bistro creates a more even grind with less dust, is quieter, easier to use, and creates less static.

The Bodum Bistro operates on a timer control like most home burr grinders, but it differs in that is also has a separate "grind now" button. So, instead of turning the timer to your favorite number manually every morning, you set the timer dial once and just press the little button every morning. That way, it will grind the same amount of coffee every time. This is opposed to other grinder where you turn the timer knob each morning, trying to turn it to the same place, and watching the knob return to 0 each time as it grinds.

You might also notice that the ground-coffee-receiver container is made of glass instead of plastic. The ground coffee container also fits snugly into the base of the grinder with no gap between where the grounds come out of the grinder and into the reservoir. Those factors combined mean you'll find much less of a problem with static electricity building up and scattering loose grounds all over the counter.

The Krups Moka Brewer does take a rather odd filter, though: it uses the 3.5" disc filters that used be used in percolators. That's fine except they are a little harder to find that standard basket or cone filters. Amazon has them, though. If you have an ACE Hardware store near you and can do local pickup, they are super cheap from the ACE website.

If the style or unconventionality of the Moka Brew doesn't do it for you, then how about the highest rated coffee maker going right now? The Sweet Home and several other websites have rained praise on the OXO On 9-cup coffee maker. It was designed to compete with long-time highly-rated internet-famous coffee makers from Bonavita and Technivorm—and it's winning.

The Sweet Home says it's fast and brews great coffee using the right temperature and right extraction times. For the coffee geeks out there, note that is has a pre-soak stage that wets the grounds before the full brew begins. That gives the grounds a minute to soak, mimicking the pour-over process, developing a rich, full flavor. Though I don't have the OXO On, it's high on my wishlist.

Sheet Pans

Spare yourself the trouble and cost of consumer baking pans. They are overpriced. They come in a zillion shapes and sizes so they don't stack together well or store easily. Did I mention they cost way to much?

 

Donate all of your old baking pans and cookie sheets, including the fancy non-stick and "air-bake" gimmicks, and replace them with cheap commercial aluminum pans.

 

Donate all of your baking pans and cookie sheets, including the fancy non-stick and "air-bake" gimmicks, and get a few commercial aluminum pans.

The half-sheets are about the same size as a normal cookie sheet, but they also come in quarter- and eighth-sheet sizes. A full-sheet commercial pan won't fit in a home oven.

I like to use my little eighth-sheet pans for single servings. I live alone so I cook my myself a lot. It's the perfect size to broil a tuna melt, roast a chicken quarter, or, I dunno, whatever tiny things you like to cook and toast and whatnot. They're cute, too.

Whatever the size, get in the habit of lining your pans with parchment or foil for use. It makes cleanup basically instant.

Standard Commercial Sheet Pan Sizes
Conventional Size Name Width (in) Depth (in) Height (in)
Full 28 18 1
Two Thirds/Three Quarters 21 15 1
Half 18 13 1
Quarter 13 9 1
Eighth 9.5 6.5 1

While you're ordering your new sheet pans, go head and get a couple of mesh cooling racks to go with them. There are a lots of options (get the stainless steel ones, though) that are designed to fit in the standard commercial sheet pan sizes above. These are great for cooling cookies and cakes or even baking bacon if you like it chewy. Baking bacon on a rack in a pan like that keeps it from frying itself in its own fat and results in meaty, chewy bacon rather than the crispy crunchy kind.

Ingredients

I'll end this madness with a few ingredients, and I'll keep it short.

Laxmi Whole Black Peppercorns, imported from India, are delicious. It's not cheap, but it has awesome floral aromas and tastes of citrus with a nice level it heat. It's way better than your average jar of black pepper corns. I still use them both, bringing out the Laxmi for dishes I really want to set off.

If you're into Thai curry and don't already use Mae Ploy curry pastes, you should check them out. They are flavorful, spicy, and hot. Delicious. They make a number of different types of curry, but I'm partial to the red and green myself. When using them, take it easy and the salt and any extra hot spices. These pastes are intense.

On a related note, I've included a link to a can of good coconut milk that's Prime Pantry eligible. It's not fancy or special, it's just good and well-priced.

Finally, that weird box of angel food cake is indeed there on purpose. If you've never made a boxed angel food cake, you should try it. It's only like $2.50 and it will knock the socks off of any pre-made angel food cake from the store. It's also super easy. Just add water to the mix, whisk, and bake. Done. I'm sure that made-from-scratch angel food cake is better, but ain't nobody got time for that.

 
Ain't nobody got time for eggs whites and scratch angel food cake and all that. Try the boxed mix instead.

Ain't nobody got time for eggs whites and scratch angel food cake and all that. Try the boxed mix instead.