The 12 Best Kitchen Tools We Bought for Ourselves During These Very Terrible 17 Months

updated Sep 3, 2021
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When you look back on this past year-plus, how would you describe it? For me, it would be terrifying, stressful, and surreal. Too many people have lost so, so much and I myself have spent most of this time paralyzed and worried that my dad, who is over 75 and has pre-existing conditions due to Agent Orange poisoning, would become sick. (Thankfully, my whole family is vaccinated now!)

I think a lot of us feel or felt this way: Scared and tired, and tired of being scared. And we’ve all had to find ways to cope. One of those ways, for myself and my colleagues, is by spending more time in the kitchen. (Something that’s comforting, but also necessary!) Making a perfect, golden-all-over roast chicken; a long-simmered, deeply flavorful ragu; and chocolate chip cookies (heavy on the chocolate) soothes the soul.

As such, a lot of us have found ourselves investing more in our kitchen equipment. Being in the kitchen so much makes it abundantly clear which gadgets are working for us and, well, which ones are not. Here are 12 of the things Kitchn editors bought themselves during the pandemic.

1. Half (and Quarter) Sheet Pans

“I’ve never used my sheet pans more than in 2020. For one, I had a baby, which means I had no time to cook and thus became a true believer in sheet pan meals. I also channeled my anxiety into baking cookies — a lot of cookies. I treated myself to some new pans from Great Jones (their Holy Sheet and Little Sheets) and it was so nice to swap them in for my warped, rusty ones!” — Lauren Kodiak, Copy Chief

2. A Can Opener

“I bought the can opener that we featured in Kitchn Essentials! Mine was, like, 20 years old and rusted! And we all know how crucial canned goods have been this last year. It’s been nice to have a reliable tool for opening them.” — Faith Durand, Editor-in-Chief

3. A Dutch Oven

“The Staub 4-quart Dutch oven! I didn’t realize how much I’d use it, but I leave it on my stovetop 24/7 and use it pretty much daily!” — Lauren Masur, Contributor

4. A Citrus Juicer

“I finally splurged on a larger 5.5-quart Staub to replace a smaller 4-quart Dutch oven I’ve been cooking in since college. Now the soups and stews have room to bubble without boiling over. However, the most *satisfying purchase* has to be the Chef’n citrus juicer. My handheld reamer never extracted quite all of the juice for lemonade, palomas, and margaritas, and I’m happy to report that the Chef’n juicer is much more thorough and easier on my wrist.” — Patty Catalano, Contributor

5. A Splatter Screen

“Although inexpensive, a splatter screen always felt like an unnecessary buy. Finally, after committing to using my cast iron skillet more throughout the pandemic to naturally season it and make it truly nonstick, I caved because I was getting tired of scrubbing grease off the floor after pan-searing chicken thighs and frying lots and lots of eggs. I should have bought one years ago! It’s truly does work, it’s durable, and it can be tossed in the dishwasher for easy cleaning.” — Sheela Prakash, Senior Contributing Food Editor

6. Sturdy, Plastic Cutting Boards

“The cutting boards from Material were a big step up from the flimsy plastic ones I’ve been using for years. They are lightweight but sturdy, and they have a large surface area for all my prep tasks. I love that they’re dishwasher-friendly and relatively affordable. And of course, the great color choices don’t hurt either.” — Ariel Knutson, Contributor

7. Pre-Cut Parchment Paper

“I’ve eyed those large boxes of pre-cut parchment paper MANY times, but was always too frugal to pull the trigger. After a year of intense baking, though, I finally decided that I deserved a treat. Now every time I pull the perfectly flat sheet out of that little box and float it into my baking sheet I smile. What took me so long?” — Nina Elder, Executive Food Director

8. An Instant-Read Thermometer

“I had the same instant-read thermometer for years and it was … fine. I didn’t love it as much as I loved the Thermapen, which I had used at work, but it was decent. Then one weekend when I was baking, the thing just stopped working. Luckily my cinnamon rolls came out just fine. And I had the perfect excuse to get the new one from the brand that Kitchn editors swear by!” — Lisa Freedman, Lifestyle Director

9. Lazy Susans

Lazy Susans! Now I can actually see what I have in the pantry, which makes it easier to shop and cook more efficiently.” — Tracey Gertler, Production Editor

10. Bread Bags

“These bread bags for all my sourdough experimenting! We don’t have enough counter space for a bread box, and I didn’t like using zip-top bags, which seemed wasteful and the crust would get soft!” — Christine Gallary, Food Editor-at-Large

11. A Colander

“I finally replaced my old very broken colander and purchased this one from IKEA based on an article we posted last year. This colander has such a smart design. The handles extend so you can float it across the sink when draining and it has taller-than-usual feet to keep the surface of the colander lifted, should you stand it up on the base of your sink!” — Amelia Rampe, Studio Food Editor

12. Silverware

“I replaced my old, mismatched silverware with this new set from Made In. It’s so sleek, comfortable to hold, and just a joy to eat from. Because, yes, silverware is IMPORTANT. I also got the Material cutting boards Ariel mentioned and they’re perfect: lightweight-yet-durable and I, too, love the colors.” — Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, Lifestyle Editor

What kitchen tools or gadgets have you replaced this year? Tell us about them in the comments!