Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman


This is the big ticket recommendations from last year (and the year before) because, well, the best equipment, lke fundamental technique, doesn’t change. Hope everyone had a happy and festive thanksgiving!

It’s time again for my picks for the big-ticket items, those expensive appliances and pots that are game changers, but real investments.

I’ve just started a relationship with Le Creuset, the company that makes the best enameled cast-iron cookware on earth. My go-to pot is the 7-quart Dutch Oven (they’re made in France and the company wants me to call them French ovens, which I find interesting since there really should no longer be a nationality attached to the thing; my preferred name for this one is “My Favorite Pot”). It’s what I bought my beloved Dad long ago; now, sadly, I have two of them. My other favorite is the braiser, the everyday pot in which you can cook just about anything. (Here’s one of the videos we did, where I use this pot to make an easy cassoulet.) I’m also partial to the smaller “ovens”—the 3.5-quart version is perfect if you cook for only one or two people.

For stainless-steel cookware, All-Clad is the best, and they aren’t paying me to say so. Here are their saucepans, plus a big sauté pan and a small oneMy favorite All-Clad pan is the saucier.

I recommend these Wusthof knives. You don’t need a ton of knives, but you need at least two: a chef knife (big) and a paring knife (small). A serrated knife comes in handy for slicing bread, and a flexible boning knife is helpful if you do a lot of cutting.

The Vitamix blender is an awesome machine.

The KitchenAid stand mixer. Far more important than a food processor, this is the workhorse in my kitchen.

Here’s the food processor I used to use, but the lid broke so now I have to turn it on manually and put a plate on top, which is kind of a pain. In professional kitchens, all the food processors are Robot-Coupes. They’re great, and until their marketing company contacted me and sent me one to try, I didn’t know they made one for the home kitchen. They do, it’s called a Magimix 3200, and while I don’t like the name, it’s a fabulous machine, with three different-sized bowls. Alas, available only at Williams-Sonoma.

The iPad2 and Fire HDX 8.9 are going to be game changers in the kitchen. These are the most exciting kitchen tools to come along in a decade. If you have one already, have a look at my bread baking app (on iTunes and Kindle Fire) and also the app for smart phones called Ratio (on iTunes). I personally use Ruhlman’s Twenty on my iPad via the Kindle app: below, the finished braised lamb shank, from Twenty.

Cooking is a craft, and good tools are a must with any craft.

Braised lamb shank


© 2014 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2014 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.


25 Wonderful responses to “Shopping: Big Ticket Items”

  • Heather olsson

    I personally love my Cutco knives and my Bosch mixer which includes a food processor. We use our Vita-mix at least twice a day and it’s still going strong after ten years. And, I 100% agree with the iPad being the latest and important tool in the kitchen. Downloaded books, apps to hold recipes as well as how-to videos are all so handy. And bonus, I get to watch cooking shows to give me all the more inspiration!

  • DanK

    I spoiled myself to a set of Shun knives and thought that I may have spent more money than I should have on a nice set. Boy was I wrong! Some of the best money I’ve spent!

    Also love having a Le Creuset store at the local outlet mall. Bought a full set of table service for 8 for 50% off!
    Love it!

    • Guy

      Almost all of my Le Creuset pieces came from a nearby outlet mall, all bought on sale, as “factory seconds” and “color of the month” (along with a discount coupon from the mall itself, and a AAA discount!). Sale price was about 1/3 of the normal retail price…

      The other piece? It was a gift, I hope purchased the same way :-).

  • Allison Horton

    TWENTY is a MUST for everyone and like Le Creuset and All-Clad it is a game-changer!!!!

  • Thomas C

    Still surprises me everytime I see All-Clad at the top of of pro’s top lists. I think their handles are horrible and there are many other multi-clad brand pans that work exactly as well, but easier to hold and use.

  • Tonya

    I will concur, get thee to a Le Creuset store and at least get the Dutch, French, Favorite oven. Many uses and one of my go-to pans -Great investment. I have a 5qt. All-Clad saucier and its my other go-to pan. I use it for all intended purposes plus as my cheat wok. Just cooking for 2 mainly on electric stove and it does the trick for that. A Vita-Mix is a great tool and worth every penny. I killed 3 cheaper blenders in 5 years before finally taking the plunge. They have a payment plan now that takes some of the sting out of that purchase. Le Creuset outlet stores are one of the best for value.

    I do have a question for Mr. Ruhlman – what type of stand do you use for you iPad in the kitchen? So far I have not found a set up that I am happy with in that regard.

    • Sandra

      I love Le Creuset for the colours and because, yes, they are fabulous to cook with. However, because I’ve never had a budget that could readily accommodate Le Creuset prices, I’ve found that good old Lodge cast iron pans, at a fraction of the cost, are every bit as wonderful, and I plan on including my collection of Lodge pans in my will for future generations of cooks.

  • Bob

    LeCreuset is worth every penny.

    Psst. Meyer Corporation has their annual sale going on their website, … or at their warehouse in Vallejo, California.

  • George Mutz

    Thanks for the recommendations. It’s always interesting to see what is recommended by someone who actually uses the items and, perhaps more importantly, has used many of the competitors.

    I would just like to point out that one problem with copying over last years list is that a lot of the Amazon links point to items that are no longer available. Perhaps there has just been a model number change, or even some significant upgrades. Unfortunately, sometimes these can be downgrades in disguise. Add to that that model numbers are often intentionally ambiguous, and it might not be clear exactly what you’re recommending anymore.

  • Victoria

    There isn’t a single thing I disagree with here. I actually have my original (from the 1970’s) Cuisinart sitting on my counter. It was made in France by Robot Coupe, and it is still going strong.

    Merry Christmas.

    • Martha

      We just replaced our original Robot Coupe which we got in 1983 — only reason is we couldn’t replace cracked work bowl.

  • Martha

    Great suggestions – still have my Le Creuset oven for over 30 years; Wusthof knives we received for wedding 30 years ago; just replaced original Robot Coupe AND Cuisinart after 35 years due to cracked bowls which we couldn’t find. And using the KitchenAid inherited from MIL which is at least 25 years old as well as all-clad pans.

    All possibilities for upcoming weddings!

  • Zora Margolis

    Great culinary minds think alike. I have five Le Creuset enamel cast iron pots in various shapes, one of which has been in regular use for thirty-five years. My biggest gripe is the white interior, which develops unscrubbable staining after doing a few red wine-based meat braises. After 35 years, even soaking with bleach water doesn’t help. My newest acquisition in this genre of pots is a 4-quart Staub, with a black interior, which admittedly makes it a bit hard to keep track of onions burning, but never looks grungy inside like my LeC’s do. If I had it to do over, I might have gone with more Staub. But KitchenAid? Check! Mine is almost 40 years old, made by Hobart, and works as good as new. Use my All-Clads every day. Ditto my 8 year-old VitaMix. I’ve started giving my daughter a piece of All-Clad every year for Christmas. I found her a like-new 8-quart Staub oval dutch oven at a garage sale for $50 (they are at least $275 new). She’ll use it for the rest of her cooking life.

    • Tonya

      Zora – I got a bottle of this when I bought my pans :

      It works like a charm to get the insides white again and anything on the outsides of the pan as well. The outlet store regularly stews a spice mix during the holidays that leaves the inside black. They use the cleaner and its back to stain free. I use it at home after cooking with wine and looks new again. It only takes a small amount so a bottle of the cleaner lasts a long time.

  • Christine Valada

    I only wish I had discovered and scrimped for Le Creuset earlier in my life. I now have a 9 quart oven and a 7 quart oval, as well as several other of the pots and an array of the ceramic pieces. My Cuisinart from 1978 still works very well, but I bought a 14 cup machine in 2001 which I use all of the time. I also wish I had bought a Vitamix years ago–in 1971, I was living in a home with one which was already 20 years old and it ran like a dream. My first Kitchen-Aid originally belonged to my mother, but I bought a larger one for myself almost 25 years ago. I have a carbon steel chef’s knife that my knife sharpener drools over every time I take it to him; it is close to 40 years old. Bottom line: I love your suggestions and anyone who follows them will be happy with the investments for a very long time. I’d also recommend copies of Ruhlman:Twenty and Ratio.

  • Sarah

    Do you have a recommendation for roasting pans? All stainless-steel vs anodized non-stick? I’ve wanted to get a roasting pan for a while, and I don’t want to get a cheap light-weight one, but I am unsure how much to invest in one.

  • Kirsti

    Hi Sarah! We love our All Clad stainless steel roasting pan… perfect size, easy to clean up, and comfortable handles. And, despite other people’s misgivings, we also love our extensive All Clad pots and pans collection. My husband is a 30 + year professional chef and has used these at home and in various restaurant kitchens. They will not let you down and they last! We bought our first set 22 years ago… still look beautiful!

  • Pete

    Lodge also makes enameled cast iron for a fraction of the cost. I don’t own one but I’d like to. Michael, the top of my food pro broke as well. They sell new tops.

  • witloof

    I have the saucier from All Clad, too, and aside from using it for tart Tatin, I don’t cook with it nearly as much as the other ones I own {2 and 3 quart saucepans and 8 quart dutch oven}. I would love to know what makes this your favorite and what I should know about it that I apparently don’t.

    • Tonya

      For me, since I moved to smaller kitchen with less storage space, everything must have multiple uses (ok mostly everything) I have a 5qt saucier and use it as I would for saucepans, all manor of stews and soups and as a small wok. The shape is wok like and seems to do the job because just cooking for the 2 of us. Use it for cooking up small amounts of pasta and a quick chili for frito pie last night. I have used it 8 years now.

  • P Adams

    This post and the comments took me down memory lane. In 1972 I was one of the first customers at Sur La Table’s original store in Seattle. Shirley Collins, the founder, taught me to buy quality equipment by suggesting how much pleasure is derived from working with great tools and how they will last longer. I still have virtually all of my first purchases including lovely baking pans, my original Cuisinart and Le Creuset cookware. Luckily she also tempted me with copper cookware and I’ve enjoyed collecting and using it over the years. Excellent equipment elevates the process. .

  • Robin

    Hi- I have a large collection of All-Clad and Le Creuset and love them both. The even heat retention and clean up are both amazing. I was wondering how you feel about Staub. I just bought three pieces, but have not cooked with them yet…

    Still using my mom’s old Cuisinart (she bought a new one 20 years ago!) and just treated myself to a Vitamix for the holidays!

  • Maree

    I live in Australia. Have used Magimix food processors for more than 30 years. My current model is the 5200. It’s my third. Nothing wrong with the previous two- have sold or gifted them. Wanted bigger motor and bowls.

    Likewise, have 30+ year old Le Creuset. Still perfect. My kids will inherit.


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