May 30, 2023
She loves the classics, like Pyrex mixing bowls and Rubbermaid containers. Elisabeth Sherman is a writer, editor, and fact-checker in the food, culture, and entertainment spaces. She has been working
She loves the classics, like Pyrex mixing bowls and Rubbermaid containers.
Elisabeth Sherman is a writer, editor, and fact-checker in the food, culture, and entertainment spaces. She has been working professionally at national magazines since 2015.
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Food & Wine / Amazon
My mother-in-law, Kathy, is one of my heroes — and one of the biggest reasons is because she is a legend in the kitchen. Even in the sweltering heat of the New Jersey summer she whips up perfectly crisped chicken cutlets (which must be dunked in Ranch dressing to be fully appreciated, trust me) and serves as grill master when all her kids and grandkids stop by for a pool day. Oh, and at Christmas, she bakes mound cookies — chocolate chip, thumbprints stamped with strawberry jam, and magic cookie bars — that we eat until New Year’s.
When Kathy dispenses cooking advice, you listen. And in the past seven years, I have been observing her in the kitchen and learning from her every move. I know the exact bowls she uses to whip up the frosting for legendary pistachio cake and why she always has a trusty pair of silicone tongs within arms reach.
If you are in need of some hard-won kitchen wisdom from someone with decades of experience, strap in, because Kathy recently revealed her seven essential kitchen products — keep scrolling to find out what made the cut.
There’s a running joke in my house that Kathy always cooks too much food — platters of chicken cutlets and towers of burgers for four or five people — but she always says “I’d rather have too much than not enough,” and of course she’s right. After dinner, the ritual is always the same: We clear our plates, someone opens the cabinets, and out come stacks of her Rubbermaid food storage containers with their instantly recognizable red tops. If you go rooting around her refrigerator in the morning, you’ll find towers of these containers, all filled with leftovers — she loves them because they wipe clean easily and can be used every day without wearing out or breaking down.
The problem with cookie sheets is that burned food and oil gets stuck on the surface, rendering them useless, and this always seems to happen immediately after buying a new set. But Kathy recently told me that after years, these Calphalon baking sheets have remained spotless and smooth. Around Christmas time Kathy makes hundreds of cookies, and these baking sheets have withstood multiple trips in and out of the oven. They haven’t warped or bent, and any charred cookie remains are easily scraped away.
This summer Kathy got really into air fryer cooking, adding this Ninja multi-purpose countertop oven to her kitchen. Not only does it air fry lots of different snacks, from chicken wings to dumplings, but it can also toast bread, and produces a perfectly melty grilled cheese sandwich. But Kathy tells me that it's actually best at reheating pizza. It gets crispy without being too hard to bite, softens the crust, and melts the cheese without making it taste rubbery.
Kathy is an accomplished baker, legendary not just for her Christmas cookies, but her pistachio cake. It’s common to find her in the kitchen, whipping up the pudding-based frosting for that cake, making whipped cream, or storing cookie dough in one of these glass Pyrex mixing bowls. Pyrex is famously durable, and these bowls have never shattered or even cracked — and she’s been using the same set for at least as long as I've known her, about seven years (possibly longer).
One of our summer traditions is gathering the whole family together for backyard barbecues. It’s always Kathy who presides over the grill, presenting cheeseburgers, hot dogs, and corn-on-the-cob stacked on top cookie sheets. And to make sure everything is perfectly cooked, she relies on this unfussy OXO analog thermometer. It has no fancy settings or Bluetooth technology to try to wrap your head around, just a straightforward temperature reading. And guess what? I’ve never eaten an under or overcooked burger grilled by Kathy.
Whether she’s grilling or just preparing a regular weeknight dinner, Kathy seems to always have this pair of silicone-tipped tongs in her hand. She could be rotating hot dogs, serving spaghetti, or breading pork chops, and these tongs will come in handy. They’re heat-resistant up to 600°F, and they don’t scratch any of her pans. If you’ve only used stainless steel tongs, take it from Kathy: Silicone tongs are much more versatile and much more gentle on your food, and your cookware. Plus this pair is only $12.
Kathy’s Cuisinart food processor stands like a sentry in her kitchen and it's a testament to purchasing the best kitchen tools you can have. One of the more heavy duty food processors out there, it’s best at big tasks like dicing carrots and celery (it fits whole fruits and vegetables), shredding a block of cheese, chopping nuts, and pureeing butternut squash for soup. It truly is a workhorse, and especially useful around the holidays (which are coming up fast) because it helps Kathy speed up recipe prep when there are multiple dishes to cook. Plus, it has wide, clearly marked “off” and “pulse” buttons at the bottom that are impossible to miss and make its operation near-effortless. At $180, it’s certainly an investment, but one that will pay off — Kathy has had it for at least a decade, and it has yet to give any signs of breaking down.