There are some tools and equipment you automatically reach for whenever you're cooking. These are some of mine. It is more difficult for me to cook when these objects aren't in the kitchen where I'm working.
If you've never used kitchen shears, buy a pair soon! They are the best tool to choose for snipping herbs, dicing dried tomatoes and other dried fruits, and trimming pie crusts. Henckels is the best brand I have found.
I first learned how valuable a digital timer is when I worked at Pillsbury, especially a programmable timer. When you're cooking more than one food item, a programmable timer is a necessity for keeping track of your projects. This little gem slips easily into your pocket, so when you're cooking something that doesn't need constant watching you can go off and do other things.
Using a meat thermometer when cooking or grilling is the best way to tell if the food has reached the proper temperature for food safety. These thermometers do a wonderful job and take hardly any time at all to assure you your food is cooked to perfection.
A mandoline is a nifty little tool that slices food so thin you can see through it. It also juliennes and makes crinkle cut foods. If you love waffle-cut fries and potato chips that you find in restaurants, a mandoline is the only tool to use. The best come with a safety pusher to keep your fingers safe.
I first saw these fabulous nonstick liners on Martha's show, of course. And I bought some for myself. They are really fabulous. Nothing sticks to them, they are sturdy and easy to clean, and they save so much cleanup time. One tip - keep the cardboard folder they come in to store them after they have been washed and dried. Then they'll be safe in your cookie sheet cupboard.
My mother still uses the stainless steel old fashioned can opener that first came on the market in the 1930s, I think. There are so many wonderful can openers out there now. You can buy cordless openers, those that open the cans from the side instead of the top, easy holding models; just browse and buy.
When you want just the flavor of ginger, onion, or citrus fruits, microplane graters or zesters are the best tool. These tools were made to smooth wood, until a Canadian woman discovered they were superb graters. Try one!
How many spatulas have you ruined by using them in hot foods? A silicone spatula costs a little more, but it will last a long time. The best withstand heat up to 500 degrees and won't crack, lose its shape, or chip. And very large spatulas
are fabulous for working with cakes and cookies.
I really have to have several serrated knives in my kitchen. I think they are the best tool for slicing bread, especially crunchy French or Italian loaves.
Whisks are an essential part of my kitchen. There's no better way to make smooth sauces or blend ingredients for pancakes or waffles. And if you buy a nylon whisk, you can also use it on your nonstick pans and skillets. Buy two!