We asked chefs and foodies to identify the real keepers among zillions of kitchen gadgets and tools. By Kimberly Holland
Barton Seaver, National Geographic Fellow, author, and chef
"I don't have a lot of pots and pans, but I will spend a lot of money on the ones I do buy. And I treat them better than my appendages. A $300 pan that lasts three generations is a better investment than a $60 pan that needs to be replaced every few years. Hopefully my children will be using these in their lifetimes in their own kitchens."
Gesine Bullock-Prado, Pastry chef and cookbook author
"I use a laser-gun thermometer for everything from candy making to beer crafting, bread proofing to cheese producing. You'll end up running around the house taking readings of everything because it's so much fun."
Art Smith, Award-winning chef, author, and restaurateur
"My biggest indulgence as a chef, and my favorite beverage to offer a guest in my kitchen, is coffee. I love my Nespresso, but I really love my milk frother! It makes my delicious coffee a dessert, using fat-free milk, and whips it into beautiful pillow clouds. It looks fancy and tastes amazing."
Allison Fishman, Cooking Light contributor and host of Yahoo's Blue Ribbon Hunter
"My all-time favorite gift that I've given a million times is a salt crock. If you're like me, you keep a ramekin of salt next to your stovetop. But sometimes, stuff will get in the salt—if it's water, say goodbye. The salt's ruined. With a salt crock, your hand fits in perfectly, but kitchen splashes don't."
Shop: Le Creuset
Jennifer McLagan, Author of Bones, Fat, and Odd Bits
"I love being able to time four different things at once. Plus, after the alarm has sounded, it continues to count—that way, if you don't hear the alarm, you know how long ago it went off. It also has last-setting memory recall for repeat recipes."
Liz Thorpe, Founder, The People's Cheese and author, The Cheese Chronicles
"Cheese, properly stored, keeps longer, and that means less waste and expense. The goal is to keep air out without suffocating the wedge in plastic. That's why a splurge on cheese paper is a great gift for cheese lovers. Formaticum makes a pack with enough paper to store 24 quarter-pound pieces of cheese, and its benefits are especially apparent for soft-ripened cheeses like Brie, triple cremes, and mold-ripened chèvre."
Hugh Acheson, James Beard Award--winning author and chef
"Paring knives are great to have around the kitchen because they are versatile. I can butcher a pig with a paring knife if I need to. Or I can slice vegetables or even cut herbs in the garden without having to wield a huge 10-inch chef's knife. Paring knives are definitely my most-used knives in the kitchen, and they're affordable if they need to be replaced for any reason."
Shop: Broadway Panhandler