What's your most favorite kitchen /cooking item?
April 27, 2009 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Planning our wedding registry. What's your most favorite kitchen /cooking item? Do have a utensil, tool, pot or pan that you LOVE to use and couldn't imagine cooking without?

My favorites so far... tongs, silicone rubber spatulas and cooling racks.

Links helpful.
posted by kdern to Home & Garden (84 answers total) 79 users marked this as a favorite
a microplane and a good pair of scissors, devoted to kitchen use.
I also enjoy having an electric kettle for hot water, but the microplane and scissors are my favorites.
Best wishes to you!
posted by pointystick at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2009

Love my hand-held juicer and my microplane.
posted by Evangeline at 1:01 PM on April 27, 2009

I can no longer function in the kitchen without this pan.
posted by scody at 1:02 PM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

My Henckels Classic Clad pots and pans. Sooo much better than anything else I've ever used; especially if you have a gas stove. Sauteeing, browning, frying and cooking things like risotto is suddenly much easier, with consistent and predictable results. Also, they are gorgeous, functionaly designed, and a joy to clean.
posted by halogen at 1:02 PM on April 27, 2009

I cook most meals on an Iron skillet.
posted by magikker at 1:03 PM on April 27, 2009

I live in an apartment and our Foreman Grill has seen use every week!
posted by alcoth at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2009

I have a couple of Epicurean Kitchen Series cutting boards I love. The Wustof rep I talked to recommended them, for whatever that is worth.

I love my All-Clad stainless.
posted by Silvertree at 1:06 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

A good little knife that can be used for vegetables, cheeses, and just about anything else.
posted by ocherdraco at 1:07 PM on April 27, 2009

No item gets as much use as our coffee maker & grinder. After that, we've got a couple of really nice 7-8" chef's knives, a cast-iron skillet, and a good no-stick skillet.
posted by adamrice at 1:07 PM on April 27, 2009

A good, sharp knife (I like my cheapie Forschner an awful lot) is your best friend in the kitchen. That, and a big-ass cast iron skillet.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:07 PM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Immersion Blender. Cheap, absolutely the best thing to happen to a kitchen that sees a lot of soup.

Alternately, a Kitchenaid Mixer will last you literally a lifetime (I am using my grandmother's!). A nice cutting board/butcher's block is nice. A good knife will change your life. Microplane. A couple of silpats.
posted by GilloD at 1:08 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

sturdy kitchen shears ($5)
santoku knife ($10, but nicer ones are worth it)
small flame colored Le Creuset dutch oven (expensive, but I got mine for $45 on super sale) - the cast iron lets you cook with it on the range or in the oven, the flame color makes it pretty
posted by ladypants at 1:09 PM on April 27, 2009

The Kuhn can opener. I never want to go back to life before I had it.
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 1:11 PM on April 27, 2009

Oh and this peeler is awesome. I got it on recommendation from my chef of a brother. He's got to use his tools all day long so he tends to recommend great stuff.

And something else that I absolutely love, which I've not ever seen recommended are deli-tainers. The Chinese restaurant I order from delivers soup in them and I keep them because they are the best tupperware ever made. I asked my brother what they were called so I could buy a proper set. He knew exactly what I was talking about and said they were the only thing he uses at home. Apparently they are the storage option in restaurants.
posted by magikker at 1:13 PM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

Rice cooker big enough to cook for at least 6 people.
Good quality cookware - stainless steel, for me.
KitchenAid stand mixer
An immersion blender (for soup, especially)
My huge food processor and my tiny mini-preps, too!
posted by VioletU at 1:14 PM on April 27, 2009

Dual ended silicone spatula ($10)
posted by djb at 1:14 PM on April 27, 2009

I am thrilled that we have _two_ sets of metal measuring spoons. It means that I almost never have to wash spoons in the middle of recipes.

I wish we had two sets of metal measuring cups/scoops (you know, one is 1/4 c, one is 1/3 c., etc.)

What I wish we had: a huge, empty spice rack (or little shelf) so that I could put all my randomly-collected little jars of spices on it. Also: ~20 empty little spice jars; I love buying herbs and spices in bulk, but storing them so that you can see everything is difficult. Bonus if the little shelf has a door that closes so that all those jars don't get dusty, and to protect them from light.
posted by amtho at 1:14 PM on April 27, 2009

Also: you should probably avoid receiving a wok, if at all possible, unless you know you will use it.
posted by amtho at 1:14 PM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

KitchenAid Stand Mixers are absolutely wonderful if you do any kind of baking.

As other people have said, a very nice sharp knife.
posted by Brettus at 1:15 PM on April 27, 2009

My husband is the primary chef in our house, so I deferred to him on pot and pan preferences, but I get the most mileage out of the immersion blender, the hot air popcorn popper, a good pair of kitchen shears, an excellent knife set, and the wall-mounted spice rack.

Also, since I clean the kitchen, cutting boards that fit in the dishwasher turned out to be essential, since handwashing/storing our one really big board every night quickly turned into a real pain in the ass.
posted by anderjen at 1:16 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Slow cooker!
posted by ericb at 1:20 PM on April 27, 2009

5 qt Le Creuset (or any good quality enameled cast iron) dutch oven. Actually, I have them in various sizes, but the 5qt is very versatile - it can go on the stove or in the oven, so aside from regular cooking duties I use it in the oven for slow roasting or for baking no-knead bread.

Good kitchen scissors. Also very versatile but they are especially helpful when trying to take apart a whole chicken.

10 inch Lodge cast iron pan - I love using it for cooking eggs, baking cornbread, and frying chicken.

Kitchenaid mixer

Good, sharp knives - a good knife can totally change your opinion on cooking, since so much of it can be prep. My go-to knife on an almost daily basis is a Santoku-style.

Sturdy wooden cutting board. It's something you virtually every time you cook, so it's worth it to have one that doesn't slide around. Mine is a big, fat slab o' wood that has indentations on the side to make it easier to pick up. Mostly it lives on my counter.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 1:22 PM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'll second the microplane and cast-iron skillet and add these:

Frieling Stainless-Steel 35-Ounce French Press

Cheese Slicer

I'll have to add a negative recommendation for the silpats -- I used mine a few times and had a chemical/plastic smell come out of my oven. It kinda scared me, so I went back to using a baking sheet with parchment paper, which works at least as good (if not better).
posted by bengarland at 1:22 PM on April 27, 2009

My Top 5

1) Global 10" Chef's Knife (have owned many knives from different makers and love the feel and edge-holding ability of Global)

2) Sturdy Tongs (I have and use three pairs, one 12" and two 9")

3) Fish turner (useful for way more than fish) or offset spatula

4) Digital thermometer / timer (never under/over cook your roast chicken again)

5) Le Creuset dutch oven (you will own this forever and it will become one of your favorite things in the kitchen)
posted by donovan at 1:23 PM on April 27, 2009

This is probably pretty boring, but:

Crock pot.

By far.
posted by Flunkie at 1:24 PM on April 27, 2009

Fancy rabbit wine opener. Even if you don't drink a ton of wine, it's really fun and has lots of adorable accessories such as a foil cutter and wine bottle stopper.
posted by miss tea at 1:24 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Stainless steel sheet pans. You can get 'em cheaper than this at a restaurant supply store. And don't forget a couple Silpats to go with them. Both will last for a long time.
posted by Atom12 at 1:26 PM on April 27, 2009

A Le Crueset dutch oven and a cast iron skillet.
posted by iwhitney at 1:30 PM on April 27, 2009

Seconding the KitchenAid Mixer. It makes bread, cookies, and lots of other things significantly easier.
posted by gregr at 1:30 PM on April 27, 2009

nthing Crockpot, good knife, or KitchenAid mixer.
posted by InsanePenguin at 1:34 PM on April 27, 2009

I have these little (~4"x4", but folded in half) silicone grabbies for pulling hot things out of the oven. They're not perfect, but I like them better than old-school hot pads/gloves. They're smaller, they're hand-washable, and they don't have tags that can scorch. Annoyingly, I CANNOT find them online right now, and they're at home while I'm at the office. The best I can find is these which are different. Mine go IN your hand, not ON your hand.

Also, nthing a digital remote thermometer with an alarm.
posted by knile at 1:35 PM on April 27, 2009

The Small Batch Baking cookbook and related miniature loaf and cake pans. Perfect for making small desserts as a couple!
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 1:36 PM on April 27, 2009

>5 qt Le Creuset (or any good quality enameled cast iron) dutch oven.

Yes, yes, yes! I replaced my 20+ year old Le Creuset 5-quart with a Martha Stewart dutch oven that was on sale. While I initially loved the Martha Stewart piece, it has chipped around the edges already and the inside base has wear and tear that enamel cast iron just shouldn't have. The knock-off is acceptable and has utility, but for quality I would get the Le Creuset, it'll last years.

Additionally, this is sort of strange because it's a low-cost item that you wouldn't normally put on a wedding registry, but I love my Cuisinart Wood Toaster tongs, used for fishing toast out of the toaster. Can also be used to squeeze used tea bags. They're very handy if you've got one of those toasters that doesn't spring the toast up very far when through heating.

The Amazon reviewer writes:

"Well done Cuisinart." Yes. Well done Cuisinart.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 1:37 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Immersion blender, and definitely get one with the whisk (great for whipped cream) and chopper attachments.

I'm very fond of using flat-end wooden spatulas like this one instead of wooden spoons. I find them to be the most satisfying stirring implements.
posted by yarrow at 1:37 PM on April 27, 2009

Mark Bittman wrote this article in the NYTimes about his answer to the question, "What kitchen equipment should I buy?"

Would it be too party-pooperish of me to suggest going without anything in addition to what is on this list and asking people to donate the money they would otherwise inevitably spend on a fondue set? Not that I have anything against fondue. I love fondue.
posted by ekroh at 1:41 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Boy oh boy, do I love my cleavers. A big heavy one and a medium-weight smaller one.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 1:42 PM on April 27, 2009

Yes, yes, yes.
-Kitchenaid stand mixer. Get the highest wattage you can afford - you'll appreciate it when you're mixing a heavy dough or making a double batch of sticky cookies. Bowl-lift is superior to tilt-head (IMO).
-Stainless steel sheet pans.
-Two sets of quality measuring spoons.
-A good food processor (voting for Kitchenaid again on this).
-An instant-read digital thermometer.
-I always found parchment to be a pain in the ass to unroll and cut, and then I discovered these - they're worth their weight in gold.
-These mixing bowls are beyond awesome - they're lightweight, sturdy, attractive, and dishwasher-safe.

why yes, I *am* a big fan of KAF/The Baker's Catalog, why do you ask?
posted by spinturtle at 1:48 PM on April 27, 2009

I'm pretty well in accord with Bittman's minimalist list (although I would opt for heavy-bottomed stainless pans instead of cast aluminum, in general), but I'll never give up my bread machine. Being able to set the timer to have hot, fresh bread on Saturday morning is priceless. It's the one entirely-frivolous kitchen item I wouldn't want to be without.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:51 PM on April 27, 2009

hand crank pasta maker
posted by rikschell at 1:52 PM on April 27, 2009

10" chef knife
paring knife
12" skillet with a handle that can go into the oven
5 quart dutch oven
1/2 bun pans (jelly roll pans) from a restaurant supply
Big cutting board

And if you are registering, put a KitchenAid Mixer on the registry for a generous gift-giver to gift you.
posted by sarajane at 1:52 PM on April 27, 2009

Added thought - if Le Crueset is too spendy for your tastes, Staub makes good quality enameled cast iron, too. I've found some really good deals for them on QVC.
posted by spinturtle at 1:53 PM on April 27, 2009

My Vitamix blender. And my silicone spatulas, for sure.
posted by hecho de la basura at 1:53 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Like ekroh, I am generally a kitchen minimalist and I love fondue. And you can totally make fondue in the Le Creuset dutch oven. The cast iron holds heat beautifully. You can also use it as a crockpot/slow cooker. You can bake, broil, roast, saute in it. You can use it as an enormously heavy paperweight. It's expensive, but if you have a relative who's dying to get you something traditional and a little fancy it's a great gift and it will last a life time. Used ones are also good values because they are nearly indestructible, and they turn up at garage sales from time to time.
posted by ladypants at 1:54 PM on April 27, 2009

It's a wedding registry: list everything you can think of, and return what you two realize you don't really need, want, or have space for. Maybe keep it all for a few weeks and see what you use, and what you still need. Return the unused items, buy the things you need with the refund money.

My pick: a really good citrus juicer. We have an Everything Juicer, but it's really big and kind of a pain to clean. Juicing with it is a LOT of fun, but I don't often make carrot juice. I use a dinky little citrus juicer a lot more often, because we like fresh, pulpy orange juice.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:58 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have a Kitchenaid stand mixer and while nice to use for the heavy duty stuff (breads, larger batches of cookies), I find a good hand mixer to be easier most of the time. Less clean-up and bother and I also like the maneuverability of a hand mixer. you just have more control and precision but I get the appeal of a stand mixer; I just don't find it essential. But good knives are essential: a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife are the basics. A heavy duty cutting board or chopping block is also a very nice thing to have.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:03 PM on April 27, 2009

In my opinion, one can never have too many measuring spoons, measuring cups, or cutting boards. Beyond that, I love my Cuisinart food processor, instant read digital thermometer, and my cast iron grill pan most. Mixing bowls with spouts for pouring are also wonderful to have.
posted by iceprincess324 at 2:03 PM on April 27, 2009

I don't know if it's essential but it is beautiful: Jucy Salif.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:10 PM on April 27, 2009

Second (fifteenth?) the knife. I have an Shun chef's knife that is my favorite kitchen tool. It comes with a "D" shaped handle so you may need the left-handed model.
posted by rtimmel at 2:11 PM on April 27, 2009

Not that ou asked, but for some reason the 2.75 quart Dutch oven costs less than the 2 quart size, and my guess is that is the introductory/value/wedding present size.
posted by ladypants at 2:16 PM on April 27, 2009

Seconding Shun knives, especially the Alton Brown series with slightly angled handles (the same D shape as described by rtimmel above). I have minor wrist problems, and considering that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I love these knives. Also, their customer service is superb. I cannot say enough good things about this company.
posted by halogen at 2:17 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

3-in-1 Crock pot
Stainless 5-1/2-Quart Saute Pan
Salad spinner
Collapsible colander
Chef's knife
A comfortable apron with pockets
Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything

And while it's certainly out of place on a wedding registry, I suggest that at some point you consider getting yourselves the following:

Advantium speed cook oven. Great for two people and does steaks (and other food) to perfection.


Trivection speedcook oven. Bigger than the Advantium, and does a twenty pound turkey in two hours.

(WARNING: these items ain't cheap)

You can take my crock pot, my saute pan, my spinner, my colander, my knife, and Bittman. But you can only have my Advantium and Trivection ovens when you pry them out of my cold, dead fingers.
posted by magstheaxe at 2:24 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Get what ever you need. Just remember people like family members will have to be able to afford whats on your registry.

What good would a $300 - $400 dollar stand mixer do if nobody will be willing to buy it for you.
posted by majortom1981 at 2:27 PM on April 27, 2009

The best thing about my kitchen is having so many cheap restaurant-kitchen stainless steel mixing bowls that you can just grab one for each ingredient. I get mine in bulk on the Bowery.

If you bake at all, heat-proof non-stick silicone mats like the Silpat are great.

The Adjust-a-Cup is awesome both because you can slide the plunger down to level the top at the exact amount you need, and because you can then push the plunger up to empty the cup cleanly and completely into a bowl.

I love my electric pepper mill because I can season with one hand while stirring with the other.
posted by nicwolff at 2:33 PM on April 27, 2009

Nthing good knives, especially a chef's knife, and multiple sets of measuring cups/spoons (sturdy metal ones won't bend or melt in the dishwasher).

Prep dishes are also incredibly useful, especially if you cook a lot of things where you have to add ingredients quickly. There are plenty of attractive and durable dipping sauce/side dishes available that can double as prep dishes.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:37 PM on April 27, 2009

Nthing Le Creuset. I use the 5 (5 1/2?) qt round for EVERYTHING. All the time. From no-knead bread to pasta to soup, I use it all the time. And the very fact that it's expensive -- like $200-$250!!!! -- means it's a good thing to ask for as a gift, because it's hard to stomach buying for yourself. I mean, you'd better not make your whole registry that expensive, but a few pricey items are fine. Rich aunts, lawyer friends, etc.
posted by kestrel251 at 2:40 PM on April 27, 2009

We use the Magic Bullet and the salad spinner every day. (We're on our third salad spinner; OXO's salad spinner has lasted the longest, going on 2 years!) The Magic Bullet is great for grinding up garlic with hot chili peppers to make stir-fry paste while the salad spinner is used to wash and drain stir-fry vegetables.

Also, F.Dick's offset serrated bread knife, recommended by Anthony Bourdain. It's a good filet knife or a bread knife and can cut through tomatoes without crushing them.
posted by parilous at 2:43 PM on April 27, 2009

I absolutely adore my KitchenAid Artisan mixer. Also, great knives and a magnetic strip to store them on the wall. Half sheet pans, for all manner of oven usage, and silpats to go with. A good thick heavy wooden cutting board (mine was 10 bucks in Chinatown). I have two plastic ones as well, but I'm much more likely to wash the wooden one mid-recipe.

For me, beauty and history are nearly as important as utility. I have cast iron from both my father and step-dad, and a blender that belonged to my grandparents when my dad was growing up. I have a great ceramic mixing bowl that's turquoise and makes me smile every time I use it. My mugs are mostly handmade by local artists. Consider aesthetics.

Think about what you do in the kitchen, what might make those things easier, and what you would like to do, if only you had the equipment.
posted by mollymayhem at 2:45 PM on April 27, 2009

I'll join the Kitchenaid Standing Mixer chorus. I love mine. It's the only countertop appliance that I use regularly, but then, I do a lot of baking.

If someone else is footing the bill, I'd ask for a 10 and a 12-inch stainless skillet from All Clad (not the nonstick). Those things will last you forever, and they cook food wonderfully.
posted by bibliowench at 2:52 PM on April 27, 2009

Mason Jars. Specifically for storing leftovers, spices, etc..
posted by saxamo at 3:30 PM on April 27, 2009

You don't exactly need this, but I love my electric panini press. Makes a sandwich much more special and satisfying. You don't have to coat the outside of the sandwich with butter if you don't want to.
posted by lakeroon at 3:38 PM on April 27, 2009

Shun Knife.

Worth it over, and over, and over again.

Do be careful with it.
posted by sickinthehead at 3:42 PM on April 27, 2009

Besides the le Creuset, we have almost all of the above in our kitchen (I live in a big house with 14 people) and it all gets a ton of use (except we don't have a stand mixer - just a handheld electric one). Things I love having that I would not have anticipated caring about:
1. Rice cooker
2. Cast iron skillet
3. Good sharp knives
4. Wooden spoons
5. A truly extensive spice rack
6. Joy of Cooking
posted by mai at 3:44 PM on April 27, 2009

Maybe it's just me, but the first thing on my list is a set of high quality wooden utensils. There's no stirring the sauce with metal!
posted by thinkpiece at 3:46 PM on April 27, 2009

I love my Ikea cheese grater. (You grate cheese into a container, and then take the grater off and put the lid on it when you grate too much!)

I love the spice rack I made myself. I got pretty spice stickers from a restaurant supply store, and the bottles are old, but with new stoppers.

I also like going to Cook's Illustrated and check out their reviews on equipment.
posted by cathoo at 4:00 PM on April 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

- Global makes fantastic knives that stay sharp a long time, and can be (professionally) resharpened hundreds of times. They are spendy, but they're the last knives you'll ever need to buy.

- Yes, Kitchenaid mixer, if that's within the budget for your guests. The closest thing to heirloom appliances there are.

- The Lincoln Wearever Eversmooth frying pan is the best I have ever used. It comes in a whole bunch of sizes. They make soup and sauce pans too.

- A hefty roasting pan + rack. You might only use it for Thanksgiving, but you'll be glad you have it.

- A nice wine decanter, and some nice, but simple crystal glasses. We have some that look just like regular everyday stemware, until you pick them up and feel their weight (and hear the sound when you toast). We don't use them everyday... but because of their casual style, we use them a lot more often than we would use the traditional fancy cut crystal.
posted by toxic at 4:37 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

A hand food mill for creating the smoothest soups, sauces, syrups and baby food ever. Much better than a blender or food processor.
posted by nax at 4:37 PM on April 27, 2009

Kitchen Aid stand mixer.
Good knives.
Brita water filter.
A larger ricer.
And just put every Oxo utensil on the registry. Totally worth it.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 5:06 PM on April 27, 2009

Magnum Plus Pepper Mill

A half twist will dispense an amount of pepper that takes several turns on a regular pepper mill. You can adjust the fineness of the grind, and it's very well made. The reservoir is large, too, so you don't need to refill it very often. I've had mine for about 5 years.
posted by bengarland at 5:37 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you love potatoes like I do, a potato ricer is nice to have. Gets the extra water out of hashbrowns (potatoes first shredded via food processor), or use it to make nice smooth mashed potatoes.
posted by illenion at 5:53 PM on April 27, 2009

We've had our Black & Decker Handy Steamer Plus for about 15 years, and we use it all the time. We use it for steaming rice, vegetables, meat, tamales. I'm just about to shred some steamed beef brisket for tacos.

Amazon has a newer version of this product here:

posted by pizzazz at 7:43 PM on April 27, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the suggestions everyone... very much appreciated! Nice to see so many other foodies out there!
posted by kdern at 7:55 PM on April 27, 2009

Some good suggestions here.

One thing that is extremely useful that hasn't been mentioned: A nice digital kitchen scale.
posted by AceRock at 8:13 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Gotta go with Thermapen. It puts other probe thermometers to shame.
posted by Caviar at 8:18 PM on April 27, 2009

My favourite kitchen items:

- a heavy, good quality pizza cutter. Gets used for much more than just pizza, especially with kids. French toast, pancakes, puff pastry...

- Tupperware. I use all brands of plastic containers but truly, when it comes to the important stuff, nothing else comes close. Every morning I fill up a tall Tupperware tumbler with milk, put the lid on, and toss it in my purse. I've been using the same tumblers for 9 years and they've never leaked. The stuff stands the test of time, AND when you use it according to the directions, it has a lifetime guarantee. I also have the Tupperware peeler and ice cream scoop...highly recommend.

- good quality woks. My Joyce Chen woks were on my registry and I've been using them regularly for 11 years. They're in great shape.

- a little steamer basket, the kind that fits in the bottom of a pot. I registered for, and received, a fancy plug-in steamer with a timer and all the extras. Used it for about a year and went back to the simple basket.

Good luck and congrats!
posted by yawper at 8:24 PM on April 27, 2009

OXO nylon tipped tongs, if you have a dishwasher. They're a pain to wash in a regular sink.

Metal colanders when I didn't have a dishwasher; easier to wash than plastic ones in the sink.

A decent ($40 at target, $300 le creuset) cast iron enameled dutch oven. You can cook anything in it, almost nothing sticks to it, and the heat is very even.
posted by talldean at 9:04 PM on April 27, 2009

One Thing I Would Not Cook Without: Small 7"x7" glass baking dish. Sure that 9x13 is great when you're cooking for a dinner party with 6 people, but the small one is perfect for the 380 other days of the year when you're just cooking for 2.

General Advise for Registering: (IANAPS (I am not a personal shopper) but IAIDSR (I am in department store retail) and have set a bazillion people up with wedding registries and have helped a bazillion more try to find gifts on registries)

I'm sure you already know this, but just in case:
-Make sure you have a good price range and a good quantity of stuff. I have heard plenty of people complaining when they are hunting down registry items at the last minute that there is nothing in their price range left on the registry.
-If you register at stores: Some places offer discounts on unpurchased gift registry items for the happy couple after their wedding. So even if you want it but don't think anyone would buy it, put it on the registry anyway. You might be surprised when someone gets it for you, or at the very least you can buy it with a discount after the wedding.

Kitchen gadgets are great. They are fun to shop for as presents and fun to receive as gifts. Find the gadget wall and go nuts. Also, a good set of mixing bowls of various sizes, my sister bought me a nesting set that goes from really big to nice and small and I literally can't believe how handy they are. As others have mentioned, sharp, really really, sharp knives, sturdy cutting board. Kitchen accents like pot-holders, dishtowels, spoon rests, place-mats etc.

Go for the things you want or have always wanted, or things you see and totally want to try but can't quite justify buying for yourself. Most places will let you add and remove items on your registry after you've initially set it up, if not, register somewhere else.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 9:21 PM on April 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Electric kettle, digital thermometer, rice cooker.

I don't own a coffee maker; I use the kettle and a French press. I also use it for heating broths and other liquids that I need hot right away. I won't roast without a digital thermometer. And the rice cooker is mainly because I can't make rice on the stove without burning it.

But make sure you get lots of tongs, spatulas, turners, and wooden spoons. OTOH, you can buy wooden spoons in bulk at Ikea for cheap.
posted by dw at 9:24 PM on April 27, 2009

this is not something to put on the registry, but something to buy and read and consult when you're making the registry- Alton Brown's gear for your kitchen.

It's a really great piece of thought about what must be in any kitchen, and then what should be, and it basically comes down to this: only have what you use. If you make a shit-ton of rice, get a rice cooker. If you never make rice, why would you need a rice cooker? uncleozzy uses their bread maker every week, and therefore, it is not an unnecessary thing. If you never use yours, it is totally unnecessary. This is not just big machines, either. If you have 20 knives, but only ever use four of them, why do you keep the other 16 around?
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 11:45 PM on April 27, 2009

I'll throw my thoughts in here. We registered about a year ago, and didn't really know what we'd end up using. 6 months later, the most useful:
-OXO salad spinner - a lot more useful than I thought it'd be, can be used for all sorts of veggies. The #1 winner on our list.
-Shun santoku - Very sharp, I like using them. I find the chef knives too large to work with, and small parer is too thin & too long.
-Kapoosh knife block - got mixed reviews, but I like mine a lot (much more than a solid wood block!)
-Cutting boards. A couple big plastic rigid ones and a few of the flexi ones.
-Nice pots/pans (Emerilware/all-clad is nice/cheap)
-Crock pot. Used a few times, these meals are so easy and very good. For some reason we've gotten even lazier post marriage.

Least useful:
-little veggie chopper thing (example). Just haven't ever used it, esp. not with nice knives around.

Congratulations, good luck!
posted by jumpfroggy at 12:45 AM on April 28, 2009

Nthing the Microplane grater! Everyone I gave it to over the last years was very impressed and uses it almost daily, and so do I.
My other kitchen favorite is my Peugeot pepper mill.
posted by The Toad at 3:21 AM on April 28, 2009

My grandmother's cast iron Dutch oven from ca 1930, still going strong and still the best pot in the house.
Henkle's knives and sharpener. I don't have a full set, just the ones I know I'll use all the time, and the ones which fit my hand perfectly.
Dansk enamel lasagna pan as there's something about bright red enamel that I can't live without.
Big maple chopping board.
Bamboo veggie steamer, also perfect for heating up baby food in small ramekins.
Ramekins as they're useful in so many ways.
Splatter screens as I hate grease all over my stove.
posted by x46 at 4:43 AM on April 28, 2009

Nth a good pepper mill, a KitchenAid mixer, a good knife (no need for a whole set, 1 or 2 good ones will do if you keep 'em sharp), a crock pot, and maybe a rice cooker. Nice pots and pans make cooking more fun, although if you watch Amazon you can pick them up yourself piece-by-piece or as a set for way cheaper than any retail store. And here's where I'll go out on my own:

A Belgian Waffle Maker! My wife LOVES waffles, so much so that she registered for this thing in two places to make sure we'd get one. Maybe you aren't waffle people, but I still think the concept is good: pick one thing that you REALLY WANT but would never buy for yourself because its too darn impractical.

Also, if you can get away with it, skip the formal china set: ours lives in a couple tupperware crates in the attic and has never been used even once. Sure, we may use it someday, but in the meantime there's plenty of other stuff we could have actually used that we ended up having to buy for ourselves down the road. You can always make do without formal china--a lawn mower, not so much.
posted by jtfowl0 at 6:40 AM on April 28, 2009

A v-slicer or mandolin! I have the linked one and love it! My only issue with that model is that it doesn't create 1/8 inch slices, only 1/4 or 1/16.

I also have a Lodge 10" cast iron pan that has replaced all my non-stick skillets. I have a stainless steel and the Lodge, and that's it!

If I could get anything I don't have right now, it would be a Le Cruset and a KitchenAid stand mixer. Have fun!
posted by peep at 10:34 AM on April 28, 2009

I heart most of these answers but am compelled to be curmudgeony about a couple. I goddamn hate santoku knives, so would recommend one only if you already know you like them; and a well-seasoned cast-iron pan is so much nicer than a new one that I wouldn't buy cast iron new if I had it to do over.
posted by clavicle at 2:10 PM on April 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

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