sous vide cookers molecular gastronomy or copper pots here. Just a few Amazon links for products I personally recommend and use. Each of these is an item that works well and gives you great value for the bucks.
OXO Good Grips Professional 6-1/2-Inch Santoku Knife
The problem with good quality chef’s knives, apart from the cost, is that they tend to walk away on you. At just $20 or so, this knife does a very credible job and if you lose it or it gets dull, just buy another one. (But they actually sharpen very well if you take the trouble.) I have probably purchased 6 of these babies over time and stuffed them into odd drawers where they are always turning up just when I need them. Have compared to some other santokos at prices up to $100 and these hold their own. Buy one or two and you will be back for more.
Lodge 5-Quart Dutch Oven
If you bake bread, you need one of these, pure and simple. It replicates the steam heat of a professional baking oven by trapping in the moisture in the dough during the initial oven spring; after about 20-25 minutes take off the lid to let the bread brown and develop its crust. Be sure to preheat both the pan and its lid for at least 15 minutes, and be sure you wear good thick mitts when handling. 5 qt is the perfect size for a 1 kg boule; in fact, a larger capacity probably won’t do as good a job of trapping the steam. Just buy this one and you won’t be sorry, until you wish that you had ordered two of them.
Note: if you are a disciple of Tartine’s Chad Robertson you may be looking for the Lodge LCC3 Logic Pre-Seasoned Combo Cooker. That’s fine, click the link if you want one. A key benefit, according to Tartine Bread, is that the low rise skillet unit allows you to slash the top of your risen loaf without burning yourself but since I use the OXO Santoko knife to attack the dough in my Dutch oven I’ve never had this problem. Also, the combo cooker is 3 qt. vs 5 qt. for the Dutch oven…. just sayin.
Weber Smokey Joe Charcoal Grill
Weber grills give consistently good results because they are well designed, cook evenly and last a very long time. This is the entry level, small enough to set on an apartment patio or take along in your car trunk, but the grill area is big enough to cook steaks for a family of four. Another item I have purchased in multiples over the years: if I find myself at a location for a planned stay of a month or more and there’s no Smoky Joe, I will go on Amazon and order one.
Fox Run Silicone Baking Mat, 11-3/4 by 16-Inch
When I bake bread, I like to preheat my quarter-sheet pan in the oven while the loaves are proofing on a silicon pad like this one. Then transfer the pad to the pan and top with an inverted baking pan to capture the steam for nice crust and oven spring. These pads are also great for any application where you want to never worry about food stick… pizza for example… and they keep their structure and function at temperatures as high as 500 degrees.
I have two Silpats I’ve used for years till they have a fine patina of baked on spatters (which don’t seem to affect the no-stick properties). I’ve recently switched to this one which is working fine at about half the cost.
Progressive International HGT-11 Folding Mandoline Slicer
Mandolines seem akin to the Veg-O-Matic® on the gimmick scale, yet they are found in professional kitchens because they do a good job of creating consistently thin slices and julienne sticks. Mandolines can also tend to be pretty expensive for what they do on a cost/benefit ratio so Burnt My Finders prefers to stick to the low end price wise. This is one of the best I’ve tried and also among the cheapest; the folding base provides a stable footprint so you’re much less apt to add your fingertips to the pile of sliced of slivered veggies.
And here’s a finger saving tip, especially when working with carrots: don’t try to get down to the very last nubbin of your ingredient on the slicer because that’s when you are going to get hurt. Just put those little chunks aside for making a stock.