There is pretty much a constant stream of delivery guys carrying Amazon boxes to my door.
From my first few years on Amazon when I mostly just bought books and movies, to now when I buy…EVERYTHING there, Amazon has been a constant force in my life.
We each discover a few gems over the years that stand out from the rest. Lifehacks that change everything (like the moment when you first tried shredding cooked chicken with a hand mixer), the one indulgence in a hundred that gives you pleasure every single day, or that perfect tool that cuts your work in half and doubles your satisfaction.
Life is a process of gleaning the gems that other people have discovered, and using them to upgrade your daily experience. And to that end, I’ve put together a collection of the purchases that have given me the greatest value, the ones that made my life easier, and continue to bring me pleasure.
I went back through my thousands of purchases on Amazon over the last decade plus, and gleaned the small shining collection that still stands out as the very best, after the excitement of buying and trying is long past.
This is the kitchen-related portion of that list.
Not only do they upgrade your life, but many are my go-to for gift-giving as well.
I’ve tried a LOT of tea infusers over the years.
From the cheapo tea balls with the clasp on one side, ones with handles so I can stir them like a spoon, ones for single cups, all the way up to giant ones for big pots.
For years I played the game of “THIS is going to be the one that solves everything”, just to be disappointed again.
I’ve had this three-infuser set for over a year now, and I will never use anything else again.
The top comes off, so they are super easy to load and easy to clean (unlike any infuser with a spring), but locks on securely when you close it. They keep all your bits contained with no escapees, and did I mention they are EASY TO CLEAN? That’s unheard of in tea infusers!
As a die-hard tea drinker, I adore these with a fiery passion and want to buy everybody around me a set.
I spent the weekend at a friend’s lake house a couple years ago, and while the teens were out on the lake learning the nail-biting thrill of high-speed tubing, my friend and I relaxed on the deck and she introduced me to the magic of a good wine aerator.
I went to pour myself a glass and she stopped me with a knowing smile. When she suggested that I try running it through her aerator first, I was extremely skeptical. Sure it seems all cool and fancy, but what serious difference could it make?
So, humoring her, I got out a second glass and did a side-by-side comparison. My friend watched with amusement. She knew what was coming.
The glass that went through the aerator tasted like a completely different wine!
Both were good, but the aerated wine tasted mellower and aged. Which is essentially the point. The aerator does in seconds what it takes years in the bottle to do. So you wouldn’t want to use it on an expensive older wine, as there would be no point, but on something young and cheap (admit it, that’s all of our everyday wines), it massively improves it. I’ve been known to run wine from a box through the aerator, and straight into my pretty carafe, and then confidently serve it to my guests at dinner.
That next week after my introduction to aerators, I bought this little beauty. I love the little stand that comes with it, and I keep it in the cabinet next to my wine glasses to make it conveniently easy to grab. I’ve had it for a couple years now and smile every time I use it. I’ve even taken it on vacation with me at least once.
I don’t drink a lot of caffeine (blood sugar issues), but I looooooooove coffee. I love the smell of the grounds, I love the ritual of making it, I love the heat of the cup in my hands, and I adore that first nutty, creamy, velvety sip. Even though I have to drink decaf, life without coffee wouldn’t be worth living.
And so I LOVE my French Press.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have a 12-cup drip coffeemaker for the army of coffee drinkers that live in my house, and the 30 cup percolator for entertaining, but the French Press is all MINE. It’s what I use when I’ve chased the teenagers out of my kitchen, and I’m ready for a coffee-and-a-book break before rejoining the world. It’s what I use for a coffee experience. Thankfully it’s also easy to use, and takes less than sixty seconds to clean, so win/win!
The process of using a French Press is easy, and the results are mellower and less bitter than drip coffee. Also it is so incredibly easy to adjust the strength of the coffee, you can dependably produce the exact style that you love best, every time.
The exact French Press I bought isn’t available anymore, but this one has much better reviews than mine (4.8 stars on 3,468 reviews, as of the time of this writing!!!). Also this one is all-steel, whereas mine is a traditional glass carafe. While I prefer the look of the glass, I’ll admit that the fact that I’ve had to replace it before due to a broken carafe (and an ill-fated weekend trip to a state park cabin, when it didn’t get wrapped well enough) makes this sleek silver all-metal press awfully enticing.
Okay, this one is going to seem weird.
Yeah, I know. The most boring and cheap kitchen item ever. But please bear with me.
There was a dark time in the history of my household when coffee was ticklish, frustrating business. We like our coffee strong, and so when we used the drip maker (so…daily) sometimes it wanted to overflow.
For a while, each day was a balancing act between getting strong enough coffee in the puny, midget-sized standard sized filters, and not having a disgusting coffee ground tidal wave instead of glorious liquid joy.
My husband and I flung ourselves at this problem with the intensity of trying to negotiate world peace, but week after week, month after month, it kept happening. It was a stressful time.
Finally, we discovered these babies.
And yes, you order them in a case of 1,000. I order a case about every two years. I should probably stockpile some, just in case they ever discontinue them.
What makes them special is that they are taller than regular 12 cup coffee filters but still fit in the same baskets. Of course being taller, on some coffee pots (ones with the swing nozzle) you have to make sure the filter is tucked properly in place and that the nozzle is positioned over it. But even then, we are talking about two seconds of effort in return for never overflowing the grounds again.
If you never get grounds in your coffee, wonderful! But if overflowing coffee baskets are a trial in your life, these lovely tall filters are totally worth the effort of making sure they are sitting properly in the basket. When we are on vacation and buy regular filters, we consider it camping.
I am keto. Both because my blood sugar on normal food looks like an amusement park rollercoaster, and because I never want to go back to being obese. I also love spaghetti…and fettuccine…and traditional Japanese ramen…and you get the picture.
Now I’m not going to kid you, zoodles don’t taste like real noodles. Anybody who tries to convince you that they are indistinguishable, is either trying to sell you something, or on something.
That said, zoodles are really yummy.
Just a different yummy.
And if you are a lifer like me, they are a super welcome addition to your food repertoire. And this is the tool to make them with.
I started with a little handheld gizmo to test the concept of zoodles, as I was very skeptical initially.
Keto people tend to try to make chocolate cake out of cauliflower and then convince our kids that it tastes “even better than the original!” As a demographic, we take brainwashing to the level of an art form. So if some brilliant keto idea sounds a little implausible, I tread carefully.
Much to my surprise though, I love zoodles. The veggieness is mild enough that they obediently take on the flavor of whatever you put on them, and they serve that most precious job of being a carrier for lovely rich sauces.
But after convincing myself of the concept, the whole interminable twisting as I used a giant pencil sharpener on a zucchini, got old really fast. So I finally broke down and bought this lovely beastie.
And then I bought one for my sister.
Because it really is that awesome.
And my teenagers have found that if you get your angle just right, you can make zoodles that can stretch across the entire length of the kitchen!
Ah the Instant Pot. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess this is not the first time you’ve heard of this particular gizmo.
And while Instant Pot usage is a borderline cult (Google “Instant Pot Halloween costume”), I promise it really is as amazing as they say.
I’m serious. If you don’t have one, buy one now. Today.
I own two.
The standard is the 6 quart, and that is what is going to work best for 90% of users. I also own the 8 quart one because I love cooking for big groups. We call her Big Bertha.
They also have a 3 quart that I haven’t been able to honestly convince myself that I need (but not for lack of trying).
If you are a single person, living alone, get the 3 quart. If you have more than four kids in your house (or more than 3 teenagers), get the 8 quart. Everybody else should get the 6 quart.
Also sign up for a couple IP Facebook groups, and then go type “Instant Pot recipes” into Pinterest. Your brain will explode. In a good way.
Amazon also has some fabulous IP cookbooks, but once you get the hang of it, you will be able to convert most of your favorite recipes automatically.
This is the ultimate tool for soups, stews, or bean or grain dishes. Rice is ridiculously easy (Equal parts rice and water, put the lid on, and press “rice”, and you walk away. That’s it!), meat is falling off the bone, yogurt is super simple, and you can make the best bone broth you’ll ever have. It is amazing.
We haven’t owned a toaster in a decade. And even when we did, it was such a unitasker that it never earned its space on the counter. When we switched to a toaster oven, we never wanted to go back. The high-carb family members can still have their toast, but they also can toast their sandwiches in it, which they could never do in the old toaster.
The kids cook just about everything in it because it’s faster and easier to heat up than the regular oven. My younger daughter makes herself an amazing single-person meal of tilapia and roasted oiled veggies on the included pan. My MIL takes her toaster oven out on the patio in the summer, so she can bake without heating up the kitchen.
We had a different toaster oven originally that my husband brought home from a big box store, and it was nice and all, but when it finally died I was delighted to get to shop for one with great reviews, and I haven’t regretted this purchase for a moment. This toaster oven solves problems I didn’t even realize the last one had, and it’s been a pleasure to use from day one. We’ve used it multiple times a day for about two years, and it’s still a pleasure. If I ever need to replace it, I’ll re-buy the exact same model.
I don’t even know how many of these grinder bottles I own now.
In addition to the normal salt and pepper, I have coriander, fennel seed, and even rosemary in these things.
Some spices work better than others, so you have to play around with them, but the flavor of fresh ground spices is fabulous!
Plus when you are grinding up your spices, you feel like a super fancy cook, without having to mess around with anything actually time-consuming or difficult.
This may seem like a weird item, but it is deceptively convenient. These pint jars are the perfect size for portion-controlling leftovers and batch cooking. I frequently make a big pot of soup and then what the wolf pack doesn’t eat right then, I divide into these jars. You can grab a jar and either put it in a bowl, or heat it as-is, and eat it right from the container.
They are perfect for single serving salad jars for packed lunches. I’ve also used them a lot for making jars of overnight oats in the summer for the kids, and making portioned out servings of homemade yogurt. I also have been known to squirrel away a single portion of a particularly yummy low-carb dish in one, and hide it in the crisper drawer behind the carrots, so it’s still there for me later and escapes the ravening hordes pillaging my fridge.
Don’t forget to also buy a cheap package of plastic wide-mouth lids, as they work better for everyday use than the metal canning lids that come with the jars.
What makes these special is that unlike the old wide-mouth pint canning jars, these are short and squat, so they stack perfectly in your fridge and your utensils can easily reach all the way to the bottom.
I love the grab-and-go aspect of them and use them for more and more things as time goes by. Super simple, but amazingly convenient!
When I first bought these, I was a little concerned that the metal seemed way too thin, and was unlikely to last. Lol!
These have ended up being the ultimate workhorses in my kitchen. There are days when I get my favorite size bowls out, use them, wash them, and put them away, three or four times in a single day. The day before Thanksgiving I sometimes have every one in use at the same time.
I’ve used them constantly for over two and half years and they don’t even have any dents!
If one of the kids lets something dry on, I can take the metal scrubber to them with no worries. If I need to melt butter, I just set whichever pan I’m working with directly on top of the living room wood stove.
I pretty much abuse these bowls day in and day out, and they put up with everything. At this point I wouldn’t be able to function in a kitchen without them.
I have never seen another pan quite like this one.
Each well is a little over 4 inches wide, so each one makes a meal-sized portion.
I’ve made meat pies in this, individual meatloaves, cheesecakes, personal sized seedcakes for Hobbit Day (Sept 22, celebrated religiously in our household!), and pretty much any sort of baked personal-sized meal.
They are the perfect size for baking peasant pies that are going to be packed for lunches.
And it’s a professional quality pan, which is good, because I intend to own this forever.
Yes, it’s a turner. We all have them. Or if you grew up in the Midwest like me, you call them a spatula and confuse everybody.
Why would I put fish turners on a list of the best products I’ve ever bought?
Because they are simple, plain, and…perfect.
They drain cooking liquid or grease off your food better than the round metal disk ones ever could. They scrape browned bits from the bottom of the pan better than your cheap plastic ones can even dream of doing. They just do their job with a perfect level of competency that you had no idea you were missing before.
As in, I bought a turner for my sister, for a GIFT! She needed these in her life.
I have three of the big ones, and one of the small ones. We use different ones based on which pan we’re using. My husband has asked for another small one because he gets grumpy if the turner he wants to use is dirty. We’re a little spoiled at this point.
Don’t wait for your current turners to wear out. Throw them away and get one of each of these. You can get more when you know which size you use most frequently. I promise you will never go back.
According to Amazon, I’ve owned this for six years. It has been wedged between heavy things, tossed, dropped, the cord wound too tight (none of these actions by me, but the junior cooks in the house are more enthusiastic than careful), and I’m pretty sure somebody tried to chop nuts with it once, but to this day it blends up every soup, beverage, or other concoction I point it at, and doesn’t have a scratch on it.
And it fits just right in the plastic cup that comes with it, to be able to make mayo (See Pinterest for instructions).
It took me a few years (and a rather pedantic lesson from one of my kids) to realize that when you press the button on the back, the bottom part detaches for easy cleaning, but we won’t talk about that.
Something like six or seven years ago I went to visit my sister in California for a week. I love to cook, but she wasn’t super into that sort of thing at the time. I was cooking in her kitchen, keeping my internal commentary on her cheap low-quality kitchenware strictly to myself, when I reached under her sink and pulled out a Kirkland saute pan.
I stopped dead.
The shape, the lines, the heft, the thickness of the multi-layered copper, aluminum, and steel bottom…I think I may have petted it.
I looked at her in wonder and begged to know how she’d come by this pan. She casually mentioned they’d been a gift for her wedding, and she had a whole set that she hardly ever used. She wasn’t kidding either. Most of the pots and pans looked like they’d never even been put on a stove. I cooked in them more that week than they had ever been used before.
And as quickly as I got back home to Indiana, I declared that since my birthday was in a couple weeks, I was buying myself an extravagant birthday present, and bought myself the exact same set.
When I go on vacation I get homesick for my pans. When I return home, I still pet them. My husband has started suggesting that I just take my pans with me, because he gets tired of listening to me pine for them.
I am not gentle on cookware, but these can take anything I dish out and ask for more. I love them almost as much as I do my dogs.
They don’t sell the *exact* set of Kirkland pans now that I bought, but my experience has been so overwhelmingly wonderful that I would buy whatever the current set they have in a heartbeat, if something happened to mine. Seriously, if my house burned down, this would be one of the first things I replaced.
I like to expand my set or replace things, without having to worry about trying to match the new with the old.
That’s why I love these napkins.
They aren’t blindingly high quality, but they look nice. I can get them in any color I need (though the red ones can be out of stock at some points in the year), I can expand my set to accommodate a larger than normal party (like when I host half the free world on Thanksgiving), and they are delivered right to my door.
If some get stained up and not fit to use, I just order another package.
I love these wine glasses for the same reason.
I don’t like anything fancy or decorative on my glassware, just simple plain glasses that display the wine well, feel good in the hand, look elegant, and otherwise don’t compete for visual attention on the table.
And I didn’t want to go buy a set from the store that would slowly get broken over time and not be able to be replenished (because stores never continue to sell the same exact thing). So I knew I wanted to find wine glasses online that I could keep going back and getting more of. And these are perfect.
They aren’t high-end crystal glasses that you have to fret over.
From time to time a guest knocks one over and breaks it and I don’t even blink. I just smile and clean up the mess and tell them not to worry, as I buy stemware by the package when I start to run low. It takes all the stress and drama out of inevitable glass breakage, and helps you be a laid-back relaxed hostess.
I’m not going to list a bunch of cookbooks because there are about a million out there and everybody has a different favorite. But a couple books particularly deserve a place in this list.
The Flavor Bible is more of a reference tool than a cookbook. It is very simple.
You look up pretty much any ingredient, and it gives you a list of other ingredients/flavors that work well with it.
No matter how “creative” a cook you are, this will keep you from making a meal that becomes infamous.
Hungry for one thing in particular? You can use this to build a meal around that ingredient, and know it will all fit together.
It is also wonderful when you are bored and want to try something new, but want to be reasonably sure ahead of time that it will be good. This is a must-have book.
This book will teach you how to cook. If you can cook already, it will teach you how to cook better.
It is fun, it puts things into an easy mental framework you can use when you are actually cooking, and she makes the whole process easy and simple.
As this point, meeting Samin Nosrat is one of my lifegoals.
I even read this book to my kids as part of their homeschooling.
It is fabulous.
If you know any young cooks just starting to outfit their kitchen, please forward this list onto them, and since I continue to update it as I stumble across hidden gems that become must-haves in my life, don’t forget to Pin this list for reference!