Updated for 2018! Official winter is just around the corner, and it’s time to get serious about soup-making. For the cooks in your life — and you! — I have the ultimate gift guide for soup lovers, assembled from my years and years of cooking soup and being super picky about the items that get a permanent spot in my kitchen. These are my very favorite tools, small appliances, and cookware!
This post contains affiliate links to tools, appliances, and cookware that I’ve purchased myself, used in my own kitchen, and can endorse with a full heart. If you click through and make a purchase on Amazon, I earn a small commission. Links to other sites are not affiliate links. I’ve identified all of the links, so you know where you’re going before you click them.
I never in a minute expected to become as fond of the NutriBullet as I am — “as seen on TV” products are not my thang. But, I use the NutriBullet all the time, and not just for smoothies. I use it for salad dressings, pureeing soups, smoothing out sauces — anything that’s appropriate for a regular blender. Best of all, it’s super easy to clean. This model also comes with a grain blade that turns nuts and grains into very fine flour. I really just love this thing.
It took me a long time to cave (and save!) to buy a Vitamix. I reached the tipping point when I began making dairy-free cashew cream on the reg: It’s asking the NutriBullet a lot to grind nuts to a silky smooth consistency.
I also was growing tired of my juicer, which had served me well for many years, but whose cleaning regime was more than I was willing to commit to in a typical day. This is the model that fits underneath my cabinets, so it sits out on the counter at all times. Its power truly is impressive!
I don’t think I have to do a hard-sell on a food processor. 😉 I go through stages when I think I can get rid of it, in favor of other appliances that might handle the work, but then, thankfully, a recipe will come along and remind me of the usefulness of the machine, and so it stays put. In addition to chopping, grating, and slicing, it makes great dough. In fact, I rarely use my KitchenAid mixer anymore (so much so that I do not have one on this list, either).
I remember oh-so-well the pressure cookers from my childhood. Big, stove-top things that spit water and hissed and chugged like a lawn sprinkler. My mom was far braver than I, I can tell you that! Nothing cleared the kitchen of children faster than that pressure cooker.
But today’s pressure cookers, are much, much safer, and far less intimidating. This is a great size for meals for a family of 4, or meals for 2 with leftovers. (See it in action in my Instant Pot Chili Mac recipe.)
I’ll admit that this 3 Qt was an impulse buy on Prime Day, but it’s become an appliance that sits on my counter more often than not. I use the 6 Qt model for meals (soups, etc.) and the 3 Qt for ingredient prep and side dishes, such as beans from dried, rice, hard boiled eggs (the things you’ve heard about easy peeling are absolutely true), “baked” sweet potatoes.
It might seem ridiculous to have two pressure cookers, but I use both all of the time, so, it’s worth the storage space. (See the 3 qt in action in my Instant Pot Cranberry Sauce recipe.)
The best way to buy, store, and use spices is to purchase them in their whole form, and then grind them fresh as you need them. Coriander, cumin, star anise, fennel seeds, allspice berries, mustard seeds — these and more are spices that store very well whole, but, once ground, lose their zing pretty quickly. I keep this grinder on my counter, I use it that much. It’s also perfect for grinding up dried chili peppers for homemade chili powder or curry spice blends.
I have a beautiful mortar and pestle that also sits on my counter … unused. As a serious cook, I know I’m supposed to prefer the mortar and pestle, but I just can’t argue with the efficiency of the electric grinder. I recently upgraded to this model from the old reliable Krups that I had for years. The Krups model is great … except that you can’t rinse it with water, making clean-up a two or three step process. This Chefman model has a removable cup that’s washable and quite roomy. Now I find myself mixing up all kinds of spice blends, like ranch seasoning and home smoked chili powder. A really great purchase!
Probably my most used small appliance in the kitchen. Super effective for blending soup right in the pot, whipping up salad dressings and marinades in the 4-cup Pyrex cup mentioned above, and smoothing out sauces. Blenders are great, but so often I just don’t want to drag out that big ole thang (or clean it up later). This unit has the power to do the job, and clean-up is barely more than rinsing. (See it in action in my Creamy Pumpkin Soup recipe.)
I use this tool all the time to transfer cooked pasta, noodles, and tortellini from their cooking water into my soups. It has more uses than that, of course, but its use for soup means that it’s one of the half dozen or so tools that sit next to my stove at all times.
The companion set to standard measuring spoons (#7), it features measurements like 2 teapsoons and a “pinch.” The set comes in extra handy for baking.
The XXL version of the classic 1-cup glass measuring cup comes in handy for whisking up salad dressings and marinades, and measuring out broths and stocks for your soup.
One of the few truly indispensable tools in the kitchen, the Microplane makes fast work of zesting citrus, grating fresh nutmeg, ginger, and garlic, and creating fine shreds of Parm. Easy to use, easy to clean.
Like my measuring spoons, I’m completely smitten with this set of measuring cups, which I’ve had for 6 or 7 years. In addition to being beautiful, they are, above all else, accurate — accuracy is surprisingly absent from so many measuring cups. Another really important feature that you don’t notice until it’s too late: each cup and handle surface is perfectly flat, so when you go to level off that cup of flour, you can do it in one smooth swipe.
Five years ago, I would’ve unhesitatingly counseled every new cook to save up their pennies for a fancy, high-end knife, like my Shun chef’s knife (Amazon). I love my Shun knives, and I certainly have gotten my money’s worth out of them … but … I no longer tell people go for high-end knives. Not as long as Victorinox keeps putting out these miracle blades.
I’ve used my share of cheap, junk knives that were returned or donated within a month of purchasing. But these are not cheap, junk knives. Oh, they’re inexpensive, yes, but they’ve become my most used knives in the kitchen. They have fabulous thin blades that retain an insanely sharp edge, and are cheaply shaped up with a no-frills, hand-held knife sharpener (Amazon). I cannot recommend the Victorinox line more highly. Seriously, these knives rock.
I’m not sure if you can actually fall in love with a set of measuring spoons, but if not, this is pretty dang close. Glancing through the first couple of pages of spoons on Amazon, I think I’ve used most of them, lol. But this set from Cuisipro is an absolute keeper. Not only are they sleek, elegant, and display-worthy, but they have these features: all but the tablespoon fit in retail spice jars (and the tablespoon does fit my adorable spice jars (Amazon)). They sit flat on the counter, so you can pre-fill them with spices or liquids and set them down without spilling. They’re stainless steel so they clean up beautifully.
Although more commonly used for baking, a kitchen scale comes in handy on a number of fronts (including US/metric measurement conversions). In fact, if more folks had a scale in their kitchen, I would do all of my soup recipes in weights, rather than using vague ingredient measures like “1 small onion.” This battery-driven model has an easily cleanable glass top.
These nested bowls are the workhorses of my kitchen. Stainless steel is practically indestructible, and can withstand whisking, mixing, and things like shredding chicken with forks or chopping a salad’s worth of lettuce with kitchen shears. Easy to clean by hand, and dishwasher safe.
I’ve struggled a lot with knife blocks. Because I don’t have a matching knife set, my choices are limited to universal blocks with flexible storage. For a long time, I had a slotless model filled with rubber bristles. It worked for quite a while, but the bristles eventually began stiffening and breaking down, making it nearly impossible to insert knives.
While I like the idea of a magnetic knife display, I have pets who love being in the kitchen with me. I’m also a chronic worrier with a vivid imagination of knives being knocked to the floor below. No way. This sleek, double-sided magnetic knife block both holds knives securely and provides a plastic safety shield to prevent knives from being knocked off the block.
Ditto to everything I said above about the paring knife. The paring knife and this chef’s knife are my food prep assistants. My Shun knives, while heart-achingly beautiful in craftsmanship and design, remain sheathed more often than not.
I hadn’t owned a Le Creuset Dutch Oven in many years. I scorched the interior of one during a jam-making session and was so disgusted that I banished it to the garage, where I’ve since lost track of it (it’ll turn up eventually!). After that incident, I became a die-hard Staub girl (see #6), falling in love with its roughly-textured, black interior. However, I’ve been really wanting a white-on-white soup pot in a fairly small size. I write almost all of my soup recipes configured for 4 cups of liquid — a 3 quart pot is too small, while a 5 quart is ridiculously too large.
I saw this pot in a W-S email earlier in the fall, and became immediately smitten. I vastly prefer wider, low-walled cooking vessels, and knew that the 3 1/2 Qt would be the perfect size. This pot is just gorgeous, and you’ll see it upcoming in almost all of the photographs for my 2018/19 winter soups. Also, there is a sparkly Midnight Blue color that I’m absolutely swooning over, and if I ever come up with a reasonable justification for another Dutch oven, I’m going to jump on it immediately.
For sheer utility and economics, you cannot beat Lodge. If you’re new to cast iron cooking, go with the Lodge skillet. You’ll never have to — or want to — buy another skillet for the rest of your cooking life.
This (and #7 below) is one my favorite every day cooking pans. I use it for everything, from boiling spaghetti, to frying eggs and veggie burgers, to toasting buns slathered in butter, to cooking saucy pasta dishes. Its non-stick surface is a dream, and the glass lid really comes in handy. I can’t stand saute pans with a single long handle, so these double-handled sauciers are the perfect cooking vessel for me. (Note that the product title on Amazon says 2.5 quart, but it is the 5.5 quart.)
This is probably my favorite skillet. I use it all the time, and even made a skillet pecan pie in it the other week. It has a dark interior and that famous Le Creuset “Flame” exterior. (See it in action in my Orzo and Butternut Squash Skillet with Kale and Blue Cheese recipe.)
A cook’s kitchen isn’t complete without Bar Keepers Friend, because, let’s face it, burning happens. This very night, salmon marinade escaped its parchment paper and burned all over the baking sheet upon which it was roasting. Mess! A short soaking with Bar Keepers Friend, and the hard soot came right up. There’s not a pot cleaning challenge this product hasn’t lived up to, and it’s stainless steel’s BFF.
In the ongoing wars between Le Creuset and Staub, I do come down on the side of Staub, despite my crushes on #1 and #4 above. I *love* their cookware. Their black interiors and ever-so-slightly rough surfaces are perfect for browning meat. And they don’t stain (or, if they do, you can’t see it – hello, inky-black goodness). I actually own three Staub Dutch ovens, and they’re all just fabulous. (See it in action in my General Tso’s Chicken Soup recipe.)
I do try to avoid nonstick cookware as much as possible, but this pan is one exception (along with #3 above). Smallish and low-walled, I turn to this pan often for things like stir fries, creamy pasta dishes, meatball making, and, during the winter when I’m not too eager to stand in front of the grill, hamburgers. I saute up a big bed of onions, position the patties on top, put on the cover, and let them cook. Turn once, top with cheese, and replace the lid to create melty, cheesy goodness burgers. Love this pan! (See it in action in my Pizza Chicken recipe.)
For the longest time, I had an old-fashioner colander: mostly solid with largish holes poked in a designy pattern. I tried lots of other strainers, including collapsible silicone, and all sorts of basically novelty items that didn’t make the cut after the first use. Each time, I went back to my old-fashion colander. Until this micro-perforated wunderkind. A sturdy mesh of fine holes ensures rapid and thorough draining, while restraining the contents within the basket. Good stuff.
I hope you’ve found this list interesting and useful, and, please, if you have a cook’s tool that you love, do share below! I’m always on the lookout for something fabulous. 😉