Braised-Lamb-Shank-parchmen

Using my Le Creuset pot to braise lamb shanks. Photo by Donna Turner Ruhlman

These are the big ticket recommendations from last year (and the year before, with several additions) because, well, the best equipment, like fundamental technique, doesn’t change. I always advise buying fewer items of high quality. Hope everyone had a happy and festive thanksgiving!

My go-to pot is the 7-quart Dutch Oven . 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. Here are their saucepans, plus a big sauté pan and a small one. My 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 if you do a lot of mixing and pureeing and making fruit and vegetable based drinks.

The KitchenAid stand mixer is the workhorse in my kitchen.

Here’s the food processor I recommend, also from KitchenAid.

I’ve become enamored of pressure cookers for the way they allow me to get a braised dish on the table in an hour, cook beans faster, and even make fabulous stock in a couple hours. I use this Fagor 8-Quart Pressure Cooker.

Sous vide cooking grows in popularity, so herewith my thoughts on the equipment to choose if you want to embrace this valuable form of cooking. The best immersion circulator on the market is the PolyScience Chef Series circulator. It’s made in Chicago and can stand up to the 24/7 use required by restaurant kitchens. If you want the best of the best, this is it. But PolyScience has gone outside the US to manufacture less expensive versions: The Creative Series and the Discovery Series. Both work well for home cooks who don’t sous vide seven days a week. Make your decision based on how often you intend to use it.

Of course, if counter space isn’t an issue, and if you don’t need to sous vide large items, there are other options, such as the Sous Vide Supreme which works great. And ever less expensive versions continue to enter the market, such as the Anova Culinary Precision Cooker. I haven’t tried this, and would welcome feedback from anyone who has.

For sealing food at home, The Food Saver is good at what is says it does, but for sealing food to cook sous vide, it has drawbacks (it won’t seal liquids, and sometimes the juices from the meat prevents a proper seal). Again, the PolyScience Chamber Vacuum Sealer, is astonishingly good. If you have the cash, it’s an amazing piece of equipment. A must for restaurant kitchens.

And one last note, dehydrating food is also on the rise: I recommend Excalibur 5-tray Dehydrator, the size is perfect and it’s very easy to use.

Happy shopping and lucky cooks who receive a gift mentioned in this post!

 

Please note, just as and FYI, that if you want to help support this blog, clicking on links from this site to do your shopping helps my blogging cause.

 

© 2015 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2015 Donna Turner Ruhlman. All rights reserved.

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17 Wonderful responses to “Shopping: Big Ticket Items”

  • Greg Thomas

    Michael,

    I would HIGHLY recommend the Anova. I have the very first model and it has stood up to YEARS of weekly use. I’ve run it for days at a time for short ribs, I’ve run it up to 175F for some items. It’s metal lower comes apart for cleaning as well. I would definitely put it head to head vs the Polyscience model. I cannot recommend it enough to people.

  • Trevor

    I own the first generation Anova, and I love it. It never shows a temperature that differs when confirmed with a Thermapen, is quiet, and sets up / tears down easily. Now I just need a liquid capable vacuum sealer.

  • Kyle

    I also have used the Bluetooth Anova since it’s entry to the market and it has been simply amazing! I have used it for large groups to par-cook 130+ chicken drummettes and for parties to fully cook three tri-tips at a time. It always works for me in a clean, straightforward, and consistent manner. I recommend this to anybody who will listen.
    I also use a FoodSaver dry/wet vacuum sealer and have done liquids or wet foods with great success. I believe my sealer ran me about $179 or so.

    • Disco Dave

      Do you have a informed opinion about the type of bag you sous-vide with? I see other food blogs that say they use and suggest using Ziploc Brand plastic bags, which to me sounds a bit sketch. Those bags are made for storage and storage alone. The thickness of the bag’s sides, along with what is basically untested for the low gentle heat and the long term effects of exposure of that type of plastic (not going all BPA here) being heated to cook with, does that concern you as a person? Like, I superficially trust vacuum sealer bag thickness as able to handle the heat of a sous-vide, but there is still no serious empirical research to back that claim up also.

      I’m not throwing shade or digging at you, more of, since you seem to use the sous-vide machine (which I greatly desire to own) you have enough experience, would you mind sharing your opinion?

  • Ted

    I have the first gen Anova as well and absolutely love it. Super easy, quite and accurate. And doesn’t take up much space in the kitchen.

  • Mike

    I have the bluetooth-enabled Anova Precision Cooker. Overall it’s great and the customer service is great as well. I got a bum unit shortly after the Kickstarter-funded units shipped and they were amazingly fast in sending me a replacement. Didn’t even need to send the bad one back.

    It can take a long time to reach the top of its range (for doing low-temp pickling, for instance, at 185F), which isn’t really it’s main use. But for most other applications, it is quick to get up to temp, especially if your tap water is hot.

    Can’t recommend it enough.

  • Jennifer Cox

    This is terrific. As a professional chef myself, I use different equipment at home so it’s nice to know what works for you! Question: have you used the Breville food processor? I love the ice cream maker so was considering it vs the Kitchen Aid version. Thanks!

  • E. Nassar

    Another big thumbs up for the Anova. I’ve been using the Bluetooth equipped model. They have a Wifi one as well now. It is hands down objectively a better product than the Polyscience Creative model.
    I speak from experience. The Chef Series model might be good but the Creative one is poorly made. I went through 2 of them in 2 years! The internal wiring seems to crap out and singe. For affordability and quality the Anova is the way to go.

    • Disco Dave

      Do you have a informed opinion about the type of bag you sous-vide with? I see other food blogs that say they use and suggest using Ziploc Brand plastic bags, which to me sounds a bit sketch. Those bags are made for storage and storage alone. The thickness of the bag’s sides, along with what is basically untested for the low gentle heat and the long term effects of exposure of that type of plastic (not going all BPA here) being heated to cook with, does that concern you as a person? Like, I superficially trust vacuum sealer bag thickness as able to handle the heat of a sous-vide, but there is still no serious empirical research to back that claim up also.

      I’m not throwing shade or digging at you, more of, since you seem to use the sous-vide machine (which I greatly desire to own) you have enough experience, would you mind sharing your opinion?

  • Darcie

    I have a Sansaire immersion circulator and it’s been wonderful. Similarly priced to the Anova and in head-to-head testing by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt of Serious Eats it basically tied with the Anova.

  • MaoZhou

    Disco Dave,

    The ziplock bags HAVE been tested to work fine with Sous Vide. And I think Dave Arnold actually has test results from them. They work fine up to 400 degrees(I think) definitely well above sous vide temps. They also DO NOT LEACH pcbs into the food.

  • Jackie

    I use an Anova as well. As a scientist I trusted it because they make lab water baths which need to be robust. I have a FoodSaver vacuseal and use bags for this. Again I know them from the lab and you get a robust dependable seal. I love popping a couple of rib eyes in my Anova/lobster pot sous vide when I get home and then going for a long walk and having it ready to briefly sear on the grill or in a cast iron pan when I get home – easy and dependable.

  • Mark

    LEM Products make great simple heavy duty machines for Grinding, stuffing and vacuum sealing meats

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