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Eater Staffers on the Kitchen Tools They Can’t Live Without

These pots and pans, appliances, and utensils have made cooking in quarantine a little bit easier

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Appliances including a toaster, coffee maker, and mixer on a kitchen counter. Shutterstock

As the weeks of social distancing and recommendations to stay home as much as possible stretch on, cooking has taken on both more urgency and more burden. Luckily, there are products that, whether by intention or not, can ease the load, making spending so much time cooking so much easier.

Below, a roundup of the tools and products that have made Eater editors’ kitchen lives better. And if you’re looking for more on what to cook with said tools, check out our guide for folks who literally never cook as well as our pantry-cooking guide.

Pots and Pans

Whirlpool nonstick griddle

“Maybe the best part of a recent move has been playing with the nonstick griddle that straddles two burners atop my new stove. I’ve used it to char tomatoes, peppers, and garlic cloves for salsa, revive leftover steak, toast slices of sourdough, and inflate Indian chapati to accompany this cilantro chutney chicken recipe. A quick wipe down keeps it clean, so that accounts for one less dish to wash while the sink piles up.” — Gabriel Hiatt, Eater DC editor

Cook N Home nonstick wok

“I never knew that I could fall in love with my wok, but here I am. This wok brings me so much joy when I’m cooking. It’s sturdy so it can hold a lot of stuff; it’s big enough to cook a family-sized portion. The pan’s marbling coat makes sure that nothing gets stuck on the bottom, from braising short ribs to frying eggs. I use this pan for everything from stews to fried rice; it’s incredibly versatile! I know it’s overwhelming to look through different wok options, but for home cooks who want to cook many different dishes without having to clean up any residuals, this is the one. The price is also extremely affordable, so what’s not to love?” — James Park, social media manager

Great Jones sheet pan

“This is the first ‘fancy’ sheet pan I’ve ever had, generally preferring basics from restaurant supply stores or else the cheapest available from retailers like Williams-Sonoma. Intrigued by the company’s promise that it doesn’t warp, I ordered one last year and have not been disappointed. Since shelter-in-place started, though, I’ve found myself reaching for it over my other sheet pans, and I’m 99 percent sure it’s because the vibrant color stands out among my pans and makes cooking feel that much more lively. I’ve used it to make cookies, nachos, and all sorts of roasted vegetables, but also as a Bananagrams board and a photo backdrop.” — Hillary Dixler Canavan, restaurant editor


Panasonic toaster oven

“I grew up in a toaster oven family — even now, everyone in my immediate family has the same one — but even I, a super fan, did not fully appreciate the appliance until I moved in late March, just as the COVID-19 outbreak hit NYC, and found myself living in an apartment with no gas for about a week and a half. As a result, I spent a lot of time with my toaster oven, sometimes cooking three square meals a day in it. It’s fast and versatile, good for so many things: roasting vegetables, baking brownies and small cakes, and, of course, just toasting bread or bagels or nuts and spices.” — Sonia Chopra, director of editorial growth

Ninja Express Chop

“I never really thought I needed a food processor — big or small, really — until I got the Ninja Express Chop. I had somehow managed to avoid all recipes that required one, since it seemed so bulky to move and a pain to clean. Once I got the Ninja Express Chop, all that changed. It’s small and easy to fit in the cabinet; and it easily comes apart into four simple pieces, all of which fit in my sink or dishwasher, so I don’t mind cleaning it, even when it’s coated with oil from herby salad dressings or flecks of basil from my homemade pesto — all things I never would have made until I got it.” — Ellie Krupnick, managing editor

OXO tea kettle

“Weirdly enough, I have been relying heavily on a tea kettle. I’ve been using it every single day at various times to boil water. I start with it in the morning to make oatmeal for breakfast and continue throughout the day to make tea and repurpose hot tea for iced to switch it up. I am trying to stay as hydrated as possible while I am home.” — Stephen Pelletteri, executive producer

Anova sous vide machine

“We’ve been using the Anova to cook large portions of pork shoulder that we then eat for days and days in tacos, ramen, and more. It’s a multi-day process including a 24-hour sous vide, 24 hours in the fridge, and then oven-roasting before pulling — lots of time, but mostly hands-off. (Try J. Kenji López-Alt’s recipe to start, and then experiment with your own variations. We’ve enjoyed adding a molasses glaze before it goes in the oven.) Hint: Reserve the cooked pork juices after the sous vide process to use with ramen — boil with the water in a one-to-one ratio for the best fancied up packaged ramen you’ve had.” — Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Eater Boston editor

Hamilton Beach panini press

“My cheap-ass panini maker is so much more than a device on which to make grilled cheese, even though that’s its most common use. It’s also a lovely way to make toast (that’s a grilled cheese sans cheese) or just warm up bread enough to apply butter. Going further off-label, I’ve been using it to cook up frozen hash brown patties (they’re done in a flash with a nice crispy crust, way better than the 20 minutes in the oven version) and grill baby asparagus (while full-sized asparagus is too girthy to cook completely, the babies do just fine). Is this why people bought George Foreman grills back in the day?” — Eve Batey, Eater San Francisco senior editor


Sur La Table fish spatula

“I’m an evangelist for this tool even under normal circumstances, and have gifted it more times than I can count. One of its purposes is obvious from its name: it’s great for flipping fish without having it break apart or damaging the skin. But I find myself using it daily, whether it’s to remove my meatloaf from its loaf pan or lift up a focaccia to see if it’s browning underneath.” — Missy Frederick, cities director

McoMce plastic bench scraper

“I’ve gotten really, really tired of cleaning my kitchen during shelter-in-place, but this plastic bench scraper is a life-saver. It’s good for pushing dough out of bowls or scraping stubborn bits out of pots and pans, but I mostly use it to clean my kitchen sink. It makes quick work of collecting food scraps without having to pile them all into my hand (yuck). Once I’m done cleaning, I rinse it with a bit of soap, so that it’s ready to cut cinnamon rolls, collect herbs on my cutting board, and clean the sink — again.” — Elazar Sontag, staff writer


Comfy Package plastic kitchen containers

“During this time where I’ve been cooking a lot and ordering a lot of food, plastic food storage containers have been my saviors. It’s a habit I picked up from my dad, who works at a New York City market. The multiple sizes, from the slim eight-ounce cups to the large 32-ounce containers, makes it easy to store anything, from leftover cream cheese to portioned-out frozen lentil soup. The sizes also make it easier to downsize leftovers in the fridge, thus clearing up space for more food.” — Nadia Chaudhury, Eater Austin editor

Ball glass jars

“Last summer we had a crazy infestation of pantry moths, so on the advice of our exterminator I started saving all of my glass jars to store flours and cereals and other moth-attracting ingredients in. Now that my pantry is more valuable than ever, I’m using these jars to keep all of my bulk staples like beans, grains, and pastas organized and easily visible. I use old peanut butter jars for the most part (my kids go through a jar a week), but I’d actually advise going a little bigger if you’re buying them new, with some wide-mouth half-gallon Ball jars or invest in some fancy straight-sided ones like these wood-topped ones from Target.” — Lesley Suter, travel editor

Other Stuff

Final Touch rocks glass with ice ball

“I wanted to up my Manhattan game during the coronavirus pandemic, and the only new tool I bought was this rocks glass that includes a silicone mold to make a round ice cube. The rocks glass has a glass cylinder at the bottom so the round ice cube will roll around the bottom of the glass. It feels sophisticated to drink out of this glass, almost like I’m at a restaurant instead of at home.” — Susan Stapleton, Eater Vegas editor

Aerogarden countertop garden

“Two words: Breakfast salad. Yep, That’s been a thing in my life anytime I have my AeroGarden up and running and this quarantine called for it. Fresh herbs and lettuce in just a few weeks. I even threw some wild flowers in this time for some much needed cheer. Take that shallots-in-a-jar.” — Maureen Giannone Fitzgerald, production executive