What kitchen/household objects SPARK JOY?!?
January 17, 2019 7:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm moving into a new apartment, and I'm bringing very little with me, so I'll be restocking most small household objects, kitchenware, cookware, bathroom, etc. What are the things in these categories that you love having and are a step above the generic version of that object?

Joking Marie Kondo title aside, I have a little time and a some money to outfit the new place, and since I'm starting basically from scratch, it would be nice to hear what other people have discovered they like, instead of just walking through Target with a shopping cart.

I'm happy with some splurges, though cheap and unexpectedly great is awesome, too.
posted by mercredi to Shopping (53 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
 
These are probably universal, but I especially appreciate these upgrades in the kitchen...

-Silicone baking sheets
-Kitchen Aid Mixer
-Really good hand grater, lemon squeezer, can opener (OXO brand I think?)
-Knives
-Staub Dutch Oven
posted by jraz at 7:24 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


Flexible silicone lids blurr the distinction between bowl and tupperware -- at least for fridge purposes. Also great for when you lose or break a lid.

I would bake a lot less without a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. (Go for the sturdy American-made one, if possible.) (*Other brands may be just as good, but I've only ever had this one...for going on 10 years.)
posted by platitudipus at 7:28 AM on January 17


Microplane, good lemon squeezer, good garlic press (seconding OXO), and a small all-purpose paring knife (between that and my chef’s knife, I really don’t use anything else for cutting). Also, an easy to use knife sharpener for said knifes (a sharp knife is a safer knife). Thermapens are also a godsend if you cook a lot meat and don’t mind shelling out.
posted by lovableiago at 7:38 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]


My last (as in final) plastic-handled silicone spoon spatula just snapped. They have metal-handled versions that seem less likely to do that.
posted by mersen at 7:41 AM on January 17


The small silicone balloon whisk instead of the crappy metal spiral whisk or a fork.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 7:42 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


For me, it's:
-Microplane grater (in addition to, not in place of, whatever standard cheese grater you like)
-good pantry storage (I use the OXO pop line & love it but I think it depends a bit on your kitchen staples & your space. If you don't already, transferring flour & such to something more scoopable than the bag it came in is life-changing.)
-good cutting boards (I got a set of good plastic ones from costco that is now discontinued but anything resistant to warping is totally worth it)
-food scale for baking (this one doesn't need to be fancy, just having one at all is so huge)
-one-piece silicone spatula/spoonula (I can't find the brand for the ones I have at the moment, but seriously any brand that a) doesn't have crevices and b) has an equally heat-resistant handle so that it doesn't melt on the side of your pot is your friend here.)
-kitchen scissors that come apart for washing (mine's a cheapie generic amazon pair, but they're still amazing)
-thermopop thermometer
-snapware food storage (I have a mix of their plastic & pyrex lines for weight vs quality, respectively, and it's nice to have both of those available but easily store them together with their interchangeable lids)
posted by mosst at 7:46 AM on January 17


On the bathroom front: A few years ago we made the transition from fluffy towels to Turkish hammam-style towels and we have never looked back. They are infinitely nicer: They are larger for better wrapping up in them, they are thin so they dry super quickly, they are absorbent so they dry YOU super quickly, they are easy to wash and maintain so they don't get that gross towel smell, and they are cute as hell and make you look like the kind of stylish person who uses cool towels. I've gotten ours from here and been very happy with them. We've had a few of ours for five years or so and they still look like new. We toss them in the washer on super-hot and the dryer too, we definitely don't baby them.
posted by DSime at 7:49 AM on January 17 [10 favorites]


Heath plates, bowls, and mugs, and a random assortment of other dinnerware I've picked up at estate sales...I like collecting some of these things slowly over time, as it makes me appreciate it more.
posted by pinochiette at 7:50 AM on January 17


I love all the brightly colored nesting stuff from Joseph Joseph: tupperwares, mixing bowls, measuring cups/spoons. Also the color coded cutting boards to keep meat and veg separate. (also comes in mini board size)
posted by poffin boffin at 7:51 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Tongs. All shapes and sizes. Great for everyday cooking, and for parties with finger foods. I bought a handful of tiny ones in fun colors for super cheap at world market and have no regrets.
Cast iron skillet.
I also splurged on an All-Clad 4 quart saute pan. It's perfect for one-pot meals. I use it at least three days a week.
Rubber spatulas. Big ones for scraping mixing bowls, little ones for getting all the peanut butter out of the jar.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:51 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


The aesthetic probably doesn't match your decor, but Target's new Pillowfort line of kid-related housewares has a line of tough plastic tableware that nests. No, like REALLY nests, and takes up the tiniest bit of space in the cupboard. The smallest plates (about the size of a big saucer) and bowls are $3 for a rainbow six-pack or they're sold individually if you want to pick a color scheme, and they are fantastic for mise en place, snacks, for using on the food scale, etc. I'm probably about to ditch or repurpose my grab bag of pinch bowls that don't nest very well and get knocked over or stuck inside other things. Mine have only been through the dishwasher a few times but there appears to have been no change in them so far, and I hope that holds true over time.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:55 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


These nested stainless steel bowls might seem like an unlikely item to spark joy, but they absolutely do. They nest, so they basically take up no space, they're pure stainless steel so can be heated over a double boiler if needed, they don't have any crevices inside so great for mixing, and best of all, they all have lids so you can just stick the leftovers in the fridge in the same bowl. I mentally pat myself on the back every time I reach for one of them.
posted by peacheater at 7:56 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


Kitchenware: I really like Crate and Barrel for tableware. In my opinion, they hit a really nice intersection of relatively inexpensive and really nice for the money. We have two sets from them - one for everyday use [aspen dinnerware] that I originally bought in 2007 (and that I've been able to get replacement pieces for ever since!) and a slightly nicer set that we were given as a wedding present a couple years ago. Their glasses, particularly their wine glasses, are also nice value for the money. We've got a lot of their Viv glasses, which feel a lot nicer than what they cost.

Cooking Equipment: If you bake, and don't have one already, a standing mixer is totally worth the splurge. I'm with platitudipus here: KitchenAid. I'd avoid the shiny silly ones made for people to ogle at Williams-Sonoma and find one of the simpler 5 or 6 quart models aimed a little more at commercial use (rather than being done in shiny colors). I bought mine in 2007 and use it constantly. A food processor is also useful - you (probably) don't need a really huge one, we've got this 9-cup model and it's perfect for our needs.

A good toaster oven is amazing. We've got one of the monstrously huge and programmable Breville models, and it's great, but it's also kind of a silly splurge if you're just setting up. I'd look at Wirecutter recommendations for toaster ovens - we had a close cousin of their budget pick for years, and it was great.

If you drink tea (or just like having a kettle), it's totally worth losing the counter space to a nice one. Temperature-controlled ones have gotten way cheaper and better in the last few years. Oxo has one that's well-liked in the coffee and tea world; we've got a Breville with a handful of preset temperatures that we really like.

Good kitchen knives are absolutely essential. The usual minimum recommendation if you're just setting up is a 8" chef's knife and a paring knife, and that's really what I reach for 80% of the time. A good serrated bread knife is also nice to have, as is something between a paring knife and a chef's knife in size. As is becoming something of a refrain in my comment, Wirecutter has good recommendations for chef's knives.

In small kitchen gadget land? Microplane, absolutely. Accept no substitutes. I really like their metal-handled one, because it feels a lot more sturdy than the slightly cheaper plastic-handled one. A good citrus juicer (I've used this Chef'n for years). An immersion blender is an amazingly useful tool for a lot of things where the cuisinart is just too big and/or requires too much cleanup.

Bathroom: This is going to sound a little silly, but if you have a shower/tub setup where you'll need a shower curtain, I find it's great to have both an inner and an outer curtain for aesthetics, and to buy the slightly more expensive but much, much nicer to use rings where the curtains just go over a hook on either side. So much less annoying to deal with.

Also, good towels are totally worth the splurge. It's been one of the upgrades we've been happiest with lately.

Bedroom: Sheets and pillows that you like. If you like flannel sheets, for instance, Amazon's house brand is remarkably nice for the money. Spend a little extra here to get what you like, because it really does make it more pleasant.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 7:56 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]


An addendum to the cooking equipment in my earlier comment: Cuisinart makes fantastic multiclad cookware. Functions as well as all-clad for less than half the price. Look for their Multiclad Pro line. You can either buy individual pieces, or sets. I've used it for a decade and been very happy.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 7:58 AM on January 17




Just thought of another one: I have a couple of mini-spatulas like this; I actually got them as a free gift with purchase but I use them ALL the time. I like to make a lot sauces and cream topping mixtures in little bowls and these are great for getting all of something out when it's too thick to pour. They are also amazing for getting that last bit of goodness out of jars of peanut butter and the like.
posted by lovableiago at 8:16 AM on January 17


Swedish-style cheese slicer
posted by mymbleth at 8:17 AM on January 17


We recently moved and I replaced all our brooms, whisk brooms, floor mops, dust pans, etc. with new, sturdy, color-matched ones from Casabella. They look nice in the broom closet—almost too nice to use—what if they get dirty?!
posted by Ideefixe at 8:24 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I use this scraper tool all. The. Time. It’s marketed as a baking tool for spreading icing, etc. I don’t bake but I use it for everything else. When I just looked it up I realized there are two sizes, not sure which one I have (bigger one if I had to guess) but honestly I love it so much I will probably go order the other size as well.
posted by sillysally at 8:27 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


This citrus juicer works so well and is such a delight--I'm always tickled when I extract get way more juice out of a single lemon or lime than a recipe indicates I will.

I also agree with those recommending a microplane, a good electric thermometer, and a good garlic press that saves you from having to peel the cloves.
posted by dapati at 8:33 AM on January 17


These may or may not reach the level of uniqueness you seek, but here are the kitchen items I use the most, and would replace immediately if they got lost or broken. They are all a pleasure to use.

This IKEA cheese grater with container. I especially like the bi-directional grating action.
This hand held IKEA cheese grater for adding fresh cheese as a topping.
Scissor-action cooking tongs. Much easier to handle than spring-loaded tongs, and prevents splashes when turning cuts of meat, etc.
Fish turner, which I have never used for fish but is superior to a regular turner for just about anything.
These Fiskars kitchen shears and herb snips.
This meat thermometer was the third one I bought after the first two failed quickly. Three years later, it's still going strong.
This instant-read thermometer for when I don't need to keep the probe in the oven. It's put up with all kinds of abuse, including getting partially melted when I said in on a still-hot smooth top burner, and keeps on working.
And obviously a good cast iron pan. I have something like this set, and feel like if I had to I could cook anything I needed with just those.
posted by The Deej at 8:42 AM on January 17


When I was outfitting my kitchen, I splurged on stainless steel measuring cups and measuring spoons. I love these. They will last forever. Don't get plastic!
posted by hydra77 at 8:59 AM on January 17


Not available affordably but super easy & inexpensive to make* is a raised wooden cutting board. You can chop to your hearts content and sweep into a bowl, pan or trash bag. I love it more than any other kitchen tool.

*Take a wooden cutting board and screw in a rubber tipped door stop to each corner. Don’t even need a drill. If you have more carpentry skills and tools you could cut up a dowel rod and put rubber tips on the pieces but the door stops work very well.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 9:01 AM on January 17


My KitchenAid stand mixer
This ginormous Ikea cutting board
We just got several All-Clad Tri-Ply stainless pots for Christmas and I love them so much. My husband said, "Do you need to get a room?" as I was admiring them, and I replied, "We already have a room. It is called the kitchen, and you can get out if you don't like it."
Our Lodge cast iron skillet and pizza pan. You will never go back to pizza stones once you try cast iron.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:04 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


I'm a minimalist by nature, but for Reasons, the gadgetry creep is real. So, I'll going through a similar exercise soon.

I've found that I don't really need a whole lot, even to cook everything I want. (Within reason. I'm not gonna buy a gadget for one single recipe, as there's a non-zero chance I won't make it again.) I also find having constraints on my tools makes me more creative in the kitchen.

I'll caveat that I don't bake, basically at all, so YMMV with my list. Also, unless I call out a specific brand, I get all of this stuff from a restaurant supply store.

+ 12-inch Lodge cast iron pan and large stainless sauté pan
+ One large Le Crueset dutch oven and one small, and a big stock pot
+ Wooden pan paddle and 3 or 4 wooden spoons of various sizes
+ One stainless steel spatula
+ Microplane
+ Stainless measuring cups and spoons
+ Wusthoff 8-inch chef's knife, paring knife, serrated bread knife, and honing steel
+ Two plastic, Target-brand cutting boards, with non-slip rubber thingies on the bottom
+ White, easily replaceable table settings for 12, including cloth napkins and 2 white table cloths (meaning, real basic stuff, so there's no worry that they'll discontinue anything)
+ A few large white or glass serving plates, trays, and bowls
+ A nice stack of white, bleach/vinegar-able bar mop towels that double as pot holders, enough that half of them can be in the wash at any time
+ Kitchen twine and cheese cloth
+ Large, oval Granite Ware roasting pan, a set of 3 Pyrex bakeware with lids, and one cookie sheet
+ Cuisinart stainless stacking mixing bowls with lids
+ A set of glass Pyrex storage containers, including a few in a teeny-tiny size (I like to be able to save like, a quarter of a leftover diced onion or whatever)
+ OXO stainless paper towel holder and a big stainless tea kettle

I'm sure I'm forgetting a few minor things, but that's basically it. None of these things independently bring me joy, exactly, but the whole package of simple, clean, high-quality, scrubbable, bleach/vinegar-able, and easily replaceable—but rarely replaced—tools makes me very, very happy.
posted by functionequalsform at 9:33 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Parchment paper. Any brand will do. Use consistently for baking and roasting (e.g. vegetables on a sheet tray.) Such a difference!!

Good digital kitchen scale. Can't imagine baking without it, honestly.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:43 AM on January 17


I bought a set of Komachi knives at Costco several years ago and they are wonderful.

I also have these for meal prep and food storage. The steam vent tab is clutch for reheating lunch in the microwave at work.

A lot of my cookware is from TJ Maxx or Home Goods. High quality stuff like Cuisinart and T-fal for half the price.
posted by basalganglia at 9:49 AM on January 17


Totally agree with knives. We have a set of Wustoff Classics and they're great. Pricey to buy a whole set, but a Chef's Knife is like $60 and really worth it.

Really anything OXO is going to be great. The garlic press as mentioned is very good. I like the cheese grater with the container too.

Also agree about good towels. If you're a woman with long hair, an Aquis Hair Towel will cut your drying time in half.
posted by radioamy at 10:06 AM on January 17


The things in my kitchen that I've had the longest and spark the most joy are our set of mismatched handmade pottery plates, bowls and mugs. They are not for special occasions; we use them every day at every meal, and I love them. I built my set slowly over a number of years starting when I was a grad student (they're not cheap, so I'd get them one piece at a time when I had the money) and although we've broken some over the years, they're remarkably sturdy, with most pieces being 15-20 years old and still going strong.

If you like the look of handmade pottery and can afford it, I highly recommend this approach to choosing the dishes you'll use every day.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:17 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]


a well balanced and confortable kitchen knife, maybe MAC or Wusthof. Go to a specialty store and have someone help you find something that fits your hand well. With a good steel, cutting with a good knife is always a joy.

also a Baking Steel. For making smashburgers (and other things) this is the plancha/baking stone surface I had been dreaming of.
posted by alchemist at 10:54 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I love my Fiestaware. I collect about ten colors, and no two pieces are the same. It makes me happy every time I use it. The colors are so bright and cheerful. Kohl's and Macy's frequently have it on sale.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 11:04 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I love my OXO smooth edge can opener. It's easy to use and there's no risk of cutting yourself. It basically cuts the can open in a way that makes a lid that pulls off.
posted by starlybri at 11:17 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I do not yet own this, but just the idea of the cutest ladle ever cheers me to no end. Samson the Ladle has wonderful adventures!
posted by Neely O'Hara at 11:37 AM on January 17


If you like rice, I thoroughly recommend getting a Zojirushi rice cooker. We got one when we moved in 2017, and at the time I thought I might have bought an expensive novelty that we wouldn't use, but now we depend on it. We eat so much better now that brown rice 3+ times a week is trivial to prepare and perfect every time.

We also use it for steaming dumplings and vegetables, and even to make cheesecake. I love my rice robot so much.
posted by terretu at 11:51 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]


Food huggers! They are exactly as you request - not only super useful (and environmentally great - you'll use less saran wrap), but well designed and therefore delightful to use.

Also this switchit spatula. A distinct pleasure to use, and easy to clean.

Lastly, seconding (glass) snapware. I leapt and upgraded to it a few years ago - it was 100% worth it.
posted by marlys at 11:56 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Oops just thought of a couple more:

Kitchen: Duralex Gigogne (7.75oz) tumblers - why they are so utterly perfect, I cannot even quite say - but they are.

Bathroom: a foaming soap dispenser that I fill with a 50/50 mix of distilled water and liquid soap.
posted by marlys at 12:05 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


I really like my Nespresso milk frother. Good for putting in coffee but also for just drinking some warm milk or hot chocolate.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:16 PM on January 17


This trash can and these liners that fit it perfectly and never leak.
These scissors. I have three pairs because I use them for everything from cutting wrapping paper to cutting up chickens.
This toaster oven. It dehydrates and airfries and proofs bread and it holds enough that I rarely use my regular oven.
This instant-read thermometer.
This Dutch oven. I have Le Creuset too but I love this brand more.
This French press. It will last a lifetime because there are no breakable parts.
These ice cube trays.
posted by theperfectcrime at 12:18 PM on January 17


I also have probably too many kitchen gadgets but the following SPARK JOY for me:

1. My Delonghi cappuccino maker. There are nicer ones than the one I have on the market, but I bought this one as a present to myself after I finished my undergrad degree, to save money from buying lattes and it's now 16 years old and still doing exactly what it needs to do, while also reminding my of a time in my life that was a financial struggle and making me grateful for where I am today. So, if you have a similar item, maybe take it with you. :-)

2. My KitchenAid mixer. I got a deal on it by stalking restaurant equipment auctions, but now that I have one, I'm so happy with it, I think it's worth the high price. Makes terrific homemade bread.

3. Because it's cheerful and kitchy: a tea kettle that looks like a cow.
posted by Kurichina at 12:28 PM on January 17


Just thought of another: Philips Hue lighting. No one needs them but they are so nice to have.
Also, good linen sheets. I’ll never go back to cotton.
posted by theperfectcrime at 12:30 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Bathroom:

One of my favourite things ever for bathrooms are wet rooms - depending on the size and shape of your batroom, they can be relatively easy to create (in my current bathroom all I would need to do is buy & install a glass wall and move the shower system a bit, but I'm renting so that's out). Here's a short blog by someone who had this done, and here are some examples for different bathroom shapes.

To get a full experience, this needs a big rainfall shower head.


When I was a kid, we had a ceiling-mounted drying rack - absolutely great. I'd get one in a heartbeat if I had my own house.

Kitchen:

I absolutely love the faucet in my kitchen, so much so that I have bought a similar one for the bathroom. It's got a flexible pipe thing which swivels all round and gives you the option for shower and stream. They look great and make cleaning incredibly easy.

This expandable colander is also great.
posted by doggod at 12:44 PM on January 17 [2 favorites]


We love this can opener that leaves a smooth edge instead of sharp and ragged ones. We would buy it MANY times over!!
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 12:59 PM on January 17


This Monstera leaf pasta spoon sparks joy during use and also when it's peeking out of my tool jar.

A friend calls it "the Korok spoon". 😍
posted by homodachi at 1:19 PM on January 17


I used to think of immersion blenders as pointless single-use things, but now that I have one I actually use it way more than either my regular blender or my food processor. If I could only keep one of them, the immersion blender would absolutely be it.
posted by nebulawindphone at 2:57 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]


Bonavita kettle
this vegetable peeler
cast-iron skillet
posted by epersonae at 3:26 PM on January 17


I regularly gift OXO vegetable peelers to friends who have inferior vegetable peelers. Also good for slicing cheddar cheese for sandwiches.
posted by cholly at 4:11 PM on January 17


I don't know what other people think of Zyliss (you can often find them sold at mall kiosks), but I found their hard cheese graters and aluminum garlic presses to actually work really well - and not expensive at all.

I had a garlic press shatter on me (the failure mode precluded self-injury, I got a much more expensive non-Zyliss version that Does Not work nearly as well and is harder to clean), but I'm probably a few generations behind on the hard cheese grater (I bought it sometime before the 2010 Olympics) - and that still works amazing.

If I have leftover hard cheese, I put the entire thing inside of a ziplock bag, evacuate most of the air, seal, throw into the fridge (where the rest of the block of parmesan lives).

Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy rice cooker. It's ridiculously expensive, has some (minor) weird kawaii quirks, takes a little longer, and it makes amazing rice. I'm a NAmerican-ized HKer who'd dropped rice as a staple - but I cook/eat rice on the regular now and have changed my cooking of sides accordingly.

Congee (which the Neuro Fuzzy supports) is my new experimental hobby now - especially since I can get fresh 'Chinese donuts' (ja leung, a kind of savoury cruller).

I had the opportunity to replace my bedding linens - going 400+ count (beware though; sometimes it's technically a certain threadcount but the quality of the thread sucks) with long-fiber (forex, Egyptian cotton) has been really nice, especially after breaking them in and after a few washes. I can't remember the brand - might be Schlossberg (I remember it being a Swiss company) - but they're absolutely luxurious and have been really durable without losing looks and have gotten more comfortable over time.

I saw some "shredded memory foam chips filled" pillows at Bed Bath Beyond that seem interesting, but haven't pulled the trigger.
posted by porpoise at 6:39 PM on January 17


Here's a thread with MeFite recommendations for genuine-article Tupperware.
posted by jgirl at 6:50 PM on January 17


Kershaw kitchen shears are much, much better than anything else I've ever found. They are perfect, and giftable, even.

OXO tongs are better than other tongs I've used.

OXO's smooth edge can opener means you can put the lid (loosely) back on later, which saves needing fancy tupperware for something that's only in the fridge a day... and either way, you need a can opener, so this feels like a flat out win.

All of those are cheap, and all three are pretty damn well perfect.
posted by talldean at 7:44 AM on January 18


This Kuhn Rikon can opener.

Everything about it is great. It's a side-opener so leaves no sharp edges on the opened can; it's my go-to bottle opener; the pointy tab and curve on the bottle-opener end is for opening pull-tab cans which is an unexpectedly brilliant bit of design.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:02 PM on January 18


A knife sharpener. Whatever works for you. A nice sharp knife is so much better than a sorta-kinda-sharp knife. Note: one thing that works for people that are even less mechanically inclined than me is a sharpening service--but you have to actually take them there!

What has worked for me is this motorized dingus with replaceable belts. I bought some replacement belts from an abrasives company and it turns out they don't wear much so I may have a lifetime supply.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 4:44 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


I love seeing the word "dingus"! My Grampa used to say it way back in the sixties.
posted by jgirl at 7:21 PM on January 18


Jar opener!

A nifty little thing I was gifted in college I still use over a decade later.
posted by ataco at 11:17 AM on January 20


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