The kitchen tools I love and use the most
I'm talking about the ones I reach for over and over again. Some may seem obvious, and others more obscure, but each has played a significant role in improving my relationship with cooking, without any added effort. This isn't an exhaustive list, because there are plenty of necessities I didn't include here (tongs, spatulas, cutting boards, pots/pans), and it doesn't include any appliances—my goal is to let you know about simple tools or brands that I rely on regularly to up my kitchen game.
There are a few select dishes I literally wouldn't be able to make without a nonstick skillet, namely: every preparation of eggs. So although I don't use mine everyday, I really rely on it. I actually don't think I made a successful (unbroken) fried egg or omelette until I finally tried with a nonstick skillet. Now I'm simply too scared to ever stray.
Small Mason jar with lid
The easiest, quickest, most efficient way to make and store a salad dressing: in a mason jar. Add all of your ingredients, and shake vigorously to emulsify. And then just put the lid back on for storing in the fridge. It's simple and genius. The hardest part is trying to locate the two lid pieces in the abyss that is my (everyone's) cupboards.
Kuhn rikon swiss peeler
This peeler is Queen! It's Bae. It's the Cat's Meow/Bee's Knees/etc. It's, dare I say, everything. I don't really know why, nor do I particularly care why. I just know you'll be peeling it (see what I did there?) out of my cold dead hands someday. A sweet foodie follower whose cooking life I also love following along with said, "I give them as presents and people are like 'oh thanks... a peeler...' — YOU KNOW NOTHING!" lol. She gets it. Also it's five dollars, hence why I own four of them.
This is the quintessential tool for zesting citrus and finely grating everything from Parmigiano Reggiano to fresh ginger to garlic to nutmeg. I use my microplane almost daily, so it's always sitting nicely on top in the kitchen tool drawer from hell.
Le Creuset Dutch oven
I think I've gotten my money's worth in use of my Dutch Oven 10 times over again. (And everyone who has one says the same thing). Not only are they amazing for cooking anything that is going to go from stovetop to oven, but they're actually great for essentially anything that you'd otherwise cook in a stock pot. I use it for all soups, stews, sauces, and braises, and even boiling pasta or potatoes if I need to. They weigh approximately 500 pounds each, which I initially thought would bother me, but now I can't imagine my life without my two cast iron beast babies. Tips: Buy a bigger one than you need, or I think you might later regret being limited by its capacity. Check HomeGoods occasionally for insanely good deals on Le Creuset and Staub. Also, store it in a cupboard where it is easily accessible and reachable. Otherwise you will resent it for its size when you break a sweat trying to pull it from the back of your cupboard, behind everything else.
This might be the dirtiest kitchen tool I have, but that's due to user error in that I rarely wash it properly. It's just a big screen with a handle for resting on top of any pan that's sizzling and popping with hot grease that in another lifetime would have ruined all my clothes or shot, piping hot, directly into my eyeball. This thing is the nuts! It might seem "extra," but it's one of the most worthwhile tools we've bought for the kitchen.
Quarter sheet pans
How do I hate sheet pans? Let me count the ways. I hate storing them because they're enormous and never fit well in any cupboard. I hate reaching for one because inevitably either all ten of them come crashing out or all ten of them are jammed together. I hate washing them because they're bigger than my sink. I hate roasting veggies on them because they get warped easily and also I'm not cooking for a family of five. Well, I hate quarter sheet pans a lot less. These smaller pans are so much more convenient to store, retrieve, wash, etc. and they are the perfect size for most things I cook for our family of two. I love having two of them because they can fit in the oven next to each other, but are obviously much more versatile/adaptable than having just one pan to work with. (I have this kind).
Paring knife & Chef's knife
And good ones are particularly key. A chef's knife can be used for any amount of slicing, dicing, and chopping that you need to do, and for those times when a smaller or more delicate or more precise tool is needed, a paring knife is perfect. If you have these two, you shouldn't need much else by the way of knives... and that's why I recommend spending a little more and investing in a solid, professional brand. We've been building a collection of Zwilling J.A. Henckels Pro knives over the past five years or so. Tip: Wusthoff and Zwilling Pro lines occasionally make their way to HomeGoods/TJ Maxx/Marshalls. That's how we've scored at least four of ours at a fantastic discount ($100 compared to $175, for example, for the 8" Traditional Chef's Knife).
Since I'm not formally trained as a chef or cook, I prefer to rely on a thermometer to check desired doneness in meats. I therefore use mine all the time. I don't like cutting into things to check, so this handy little guy is great for me and anyone else who can't always tell by feel or touch.
I don't think you can ever have too many wooden spoons. They're easily my preferred tool for any sort of stirring and sautéing because they're heat resistant, light weight, and harmless to just about any surface they come in contact with. Oh, and they're so pretty to display, saving precious drawer space for other uglier items! I've never really invested in an expensive set of wooden spoons, and I'm sure the difference in quality would be clear. But for me, I sort of like treating them a bit carelessly and just buying some new ones for a few dollars a couple times of year when mine get too tired looking.
Glass measuring cup
I have a two cup and a four cup measuring glass, and I use both all the time. They're durable, easy to clean, and, of course, accurate. For a long time I was using dry measuring cups for liquids, but this is really the right way to do it. Plus, the larger one works great for filling my coffee maker with an exact amount of water each morning. I also use them for watering plants and filling vases because the spout makes pouring a cinch.