11 kitchen pandemic purchases to make your life easier
Do you have a favorite kitchen purchase that you made this year? Share in the comments below.
Table scraper: why did I wait so long to buy this inexpensive tool? Maybe because I’ve baked more now than ever before. After improvising with knives or the sides of metal or silicone spatulas, I finally gave in. No more trash trying to get the last piece of dough out of the bowl or counter for bread or candy. The metal scraper is a great tool for cutting dough for square biscuits or for cutting sturdy bar biscuits. It is useful for removing stuck-on pieces of dough from the counters or for smoothing dry ingredients. The set comes with stainless steel and plastic scrapers that fit together exactly so they’re easy to find in my overcrowded utensil drawer. They are also dishwasher safe. (Chef’n Pastrio 3-in-1 Bank Scraper Set, $ 10) – Ann Maloney
Tea towels: Three meals a day for three people, plus recipe tests for work, meant I did a lot of dishes. Between drying pots and pans and constantly washing my hands, I went through tea towels like there was no tomorrow. It was a couple of months before I decided to take a page off of our Food Lab log and get myself a large pack (24 to be precise) of cheap tea towels. It made a huge difference, and I no longer hesitate to toss a damp or dirty one with so many clean towels waiting for me in the closet. (Utopia Towels, 24-Pack, $ 16.99) – Becky Krystal
Nutcracker: I’m not sure why I’ve kept buying unshelled nuts over the year, but it’s one item that you really need a nutcracker for. And to my surprise, it’s difficult to find one! Whenever you search online, you will inevitably see pages of Christmas nutcrackers that don’t really do the job and are a bit creepy to hang around my kitchen even when they work. I found a Tablecraft silver zinc nutcracker at Ace Hardware on a trip for something else, and it does the job well. It also looks just like the one my grandmother used as a kid, so it sparked a little cute nostalgia that I completely forgot about. (Tablecraft 8-7 / 8 in. L Silver Zinc Nutcracker / Pick Set, $ 5.99) – Kari probe
Electric tea kettle: Tea has been one of my constant comforts during this pandemic, a calming self-care I do every morning and many afternoons. I’d drank loose-leaf tea for years, but instead of using a kettle, I’d boiled water on the stove, decanted it into a glass measuring cup, and poured it over the leaves. It was annoying and often chaotic. Finally, I indulged in the Oxo programmable tea kettle, which is fast and accurate (set the temperature to an accurate temperature based on the type of tea), not to mention the elegance. Of course, it’s great for coffee lovers too. (Oxo Cordless Adjustable Temperature Kettle, $ 99.99) – Becky Krystal
Coffee maker for one: when my husband decided to stick to the cold brew indefinitely (he claims it wakes him up better), I needed a little jig to make my morning bowl. Step into the tiny 1-cup moka pot. I thought I was scared of floating over coffee every morning, but instead I look forward to it. The calming ritual of filling the tiny funnel with finely ground coffee, setting it on my hob, and waiting for it to make sloppy noises – meaning the brew is ready – has been my favorite morning practice since the quarantine began become. It’s also low-maintenance: all you need to clean is water. In fact, the manual that came with the pot tells you (yes, I’m the sucker who reads the manuals from cover to cover) that the pot should be washed with just water and absolutely no soap. And best of all, because of its pocket-sized cuteness, I can always take it with me when it’s okay to travel again. So I can do the same calming ritual every morning wherever I am. (Bialetti Express Moka Pot, 1 Cup, Aluminum Silver, $ 22.93) – Olga Massov
Lid Organizer: Nobody is telling you you’re going to be moving in with your significant other because all of a sudden you will have about a million lids. Tupperware lids, takeaway container lids, Pyrex lids, pan and pot lids. Lids everywhere. We keep our plates, lids collection, pots and pans on a rack to avoid lids from overhead cabinets raining on us, but they still slid around and fell in disarray to the floor, driving us insane. Finally we had enough and just searched for “Lid Organizer” to find a YouCopia StoreMore Lid Holder on Target. Now household chaos is reduced to an occasional nuisance and we are both visually at peace trying to find a lid. We may get a smaller one for take-away lids – there are more lids available. (YouCopia StoreMore Lid Holders, $ 19.99) – Kari probe
Reusable Storage Bags: I am the person who normally lets single-use plastic storage bags of various shapes and sizes dry on the dish rack next to the sink. I try to clean and reuse them as often as possible, but they inevitably fall apart and need to be opened. It wasn’t until this summer, when I was cooking three meals a day at home and putting away leftovers much more often, that I realized I needed to invest in more durable, more sustainable food storage bags. Stasher’s reusable silicone bags are just that and so much more. Their airtight seal is easy to secure, I can see inside the food grade silicone, and they stand up to the fridge, freezer, dishwasher, microwave, oven, and even sous vide cooking (not in my kitchen, but fine to know! ). Stasher bags come in different sizes and colors. Best of all, cleaning is a breeze, which has helped me reduce plastic use and waste in my kitchen. (Reusable Stasher Silicone Storage Bags, 4-Pack, $ 49.99) – Matt Brooks
Jumbo sheet pan: I’ve long recommended a key for crispy roasted vegetables: make sure you don’t crowd it on the pan. So when I bought a new stove with a slightly more spacious oven after my old one went down due to a pandemic overuse, one of the next things I couldn’t resist was an extra large sheet pan. This isn’t a large sheet pan – no 30-inch oven could hold that – but it’s 15 “by 20.5”, a few inches longer, and wider than the standard half-sheet (which I have several of). That doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but do the math and it adds up to 73.5 square inches – in other words, a lot more cauliflower. (King Arthur Jumbo Sheet Pan, $ 29.95) – Joe Yonan
Toaster: One of the most documented side effects of working from home is using your housewares – especially kitchen appliances – much more than usual. That wear and tear has resulted in a spate of repairs and replacements in our household, and I’m ready to bet on yours too. When our decades-old toaster, which we use every day, gave up the ghost, it did so with a clear “I’m done” sign: Its plastic lever, which was used to lower the toast into the dry sauna, snapped off, and with it my patience for household appliances Plastic and cheap manufacture. Plus, I was fed up with gazing gadgets and wanted something to fix my eyes on. “I deserve it,” I told myself. That way, I bought a toaster that cost twice what I was hoping for and I have no regrets. I love the all-metal construction (especially the lever!) And the little metal crumb tray that makes it easy to keep the toaster clean – without having to shake my toaster over the sink anymore. And my inner design freak loves retro design – proof that well-made, functional products can also be beautiful. (Smeg 2-Slice Retro Toaster, $ 169.95) – Olga Massov
Charcoal Grill: When I moved to Washington from New Orleans, I left my garden grill at home because it was so worn out. Though we grilled like crazy at home, I needed a Washington Post recipe review for grilled pork loin this summer to get me to replace it. We went to the old school with this weaver – and two chimneys to make the charcoal good and hot. We went back to the grill game this summer with meat and vegetables, and when the temperatures dropped we started grilling oysters too. (Weber 741001 Original Kettle 22-inch Charcoal Grill, $ 110) – Ann Maloney
Pullman loaf pan: After about my third loaf of sourdough – around the end of March – I realized that I didn’t appreciate round bread. Sure, it’s okay if you’re just tearing off a piece for dinner, but it’s not conducive to stable sandwich making. I liked the idea of a Pullman loaf pan because the lid opened up the possibility of a perfectly square slice (and you can leave the lid off if you want a standard rounded crown). The cooked bread easily pops out of the corrugated aluminum pan. They come in 9 and 13 inch lengths, and I grew up because that’s my style … but I wish I had gotten small because it turns out we’re not going through bread that fast. I also had to scale up some recipes because of the bulk, but I made standard sourdough, King Arthur’s Oatmeal Bread, out of it and even turned my grandmother’s recipe for buns into loafs. My sandwiches are more symmetrical than ever. (USA Pan Pullman Loaf Pan, $ 19- $ 29) – Jim Webster
Correction: An earlier version of this article linked to the wrong model of Oxo tea kettle at an incorrect price. This version has been updated.