I often get questions about my recommended utensils, appliances, ingredients, and tools — and love to read about other people’s — so I have put together this list of favorites, the kind that bring me joy every time I use them.
I’ve limited myself to five(ish) in each category, which took some effort as there’s lots I’m enthusiastic about, but it will just give me a reason to revisit these lists and update them over time.
If you have any question about these, please feel free to get in touch!
Cooking Utensils• This Shun chef’s knife is the one I loooooove and use for all of my chopping and slicing. It has a wonderful heft and the handle is extremely comfortable.
• Earlywood spatulas and scrapers for stirring pots, flipping things in pans, and scraping cooked-on bits of roasted things. Gorgeous and handcrafted — read more of what I think about Earlywood here and here.
• Benriner mandolin slicer, a Japanese-made slicer with adjustable blades, to slice fruit and vegetables evenly, create super thin shavings, and make sticks of varying thickness. I own a narrower model, but would buy this wider one if I were to make the purchase today.
• Staub Dutch oven for stews and soups and anything slow-cooked. The dimples on the inside of the lid allow the moisture to drop back in for optimal cooking. Works in the oven, on the stovetop, and as a serving vessel, and will last several lifetimes!
• De Buyer skillets for sautéing and frying. These French-made, pure iron pans have a most pleasant heft to them yet they heat up quickly. Perfect heat conduction and naturally nonstick surface that improves with use. Remarkably easy to clean, too.
• The Inspiralizer for spiralizing fruits and vegetables — so fun, and indispensable if you’re trying to lower your carb intake. I love it to create zucchini noodles to dress and eat like spaghetti or Asian noodles, or to make vegetable “rice”, and it works wonderfully well with potatoes and sweet potatoes. There are quite a few different models out there, but this one, created by Ali Mafucci of the Inspiralized blog, is particularly well designed and amazingly affordable. It clamps to your work surface, offers three different noodle shapes, and the blades are super sharp so you hardly need to apply any force at all. It even has a safety cover for the blades so you can let a young child use it (with supervision of course). If you like the sound of that, you can purchase it here.
Baking Utensils• OXO pastry blender for working butter into dry ingredients when making scones or sablés by hand. This yields super light and flaky results.
• Danish dough whisk, the tool that will change your baking life! It is uniquely suited to mixing thick doughs, such as bread doughs and pâte à choux; I also use it to mix my homemade granola. Quick and easy to clean, too.
• Silicone baking mat to bake cookies and breads that won’t stick, without using up a sheet of parchment paper. Very useful when making homemade chocolate-covered things, too, to allow them to set.
• OXO digital scale to measure your ingredients by weight, which I strongly recommend. This one has an attractive and sturdy design, it is easy to use and to keep clean, and doesn’t take a lot of space. It is precise enough that I feel comfortable measuring very small quantities, and I have found the pull-out display to be surprisingly handy.
• Baker’s Edge Better Muffin Pan, the most innovative muffin/cupcake pan I’ve ever owned, and an absolute pleasure to use. It’s made with heavy-gauge cast aluminum with a clever alignment of the cup for optimal heat conduction, and the design is all in one piece so it’s very easy to clean. It feels hefty and sturdy, the muffins pop right out, and I love that each cup has a cute little smiley face underneath — it’s a rare baking utensil that has a sense of humor! Made in the USA by a small company.
Eco-Friendly Kitchen Tools• Flip & Tumble reusable shopping bags: I have a half dozen of these and keep one in my purse at all times; I take them with me when I travel, too. I’ve owned them for years and years and they show no sign of wear. I love how they roll up super quickly into a cute ball.
• Flip & Tumble reusable produce bags, to avoid using disposable plastic or paper bags at the farmers’ market or supermarket. I have an extra set that I use for delicate laundry items, and as nut milk bags!
• Bee’s Wrap all-natural wrappers, made of organic cotton coated with a layer of beeswax. They keep whatever shape you press them into, and they work really well to cover a bowl of leftovers or keep your baguette fresh until morning. A set of three sizes is a great starter kit for anyone trying to use less plastic in their kitchen.
• Activated charcoal stick to use as an eco-friendly water filter: just plop a stick in your water jug and let it work its magic. One stick can be used daily for 3-4 months, then you boil it and use it again for another 3-4 months. And unlike most other water-filtering solutions, this is 100% biodegradable.
• Duralex glass bowls with lids to use for food storage and as serving dishes as well. Duralex glass is practically indestructible (consider the drinking glasses, too) and I prefer glass to metal so you know what’s in them at a glance.
Appliances• Thermoworks instant-read thermometer for gauging the doneness of meat, to checking the temperature of my little ones’ soups, to tempering chocolate. This one is most sleekly designed: it has zero buttons (it turns on when you pull out the probe) and it reads the temperature in 2-3 seconds with a 0.7°F (0.4°C) guaranteed accuracy. I also like their remote thermometer very much.
• Cuisinart griddler and waffle iron: I use this several times a week for cooking meat, fish and shellfish, for grilled sandwiches, and for creating various kinds of waffles, both sweet and savory (waffled hashbrowns anyone?). It isn’t very heavy, which means it’s no trouble to take it in and out of the cabinet where it lives, and it takes up minimal space in my small Parisian kitchen. It heats up quickly, cleans very easily, and everything I’ve tried cooking with it has been a success.
• Kuvings cold-press juicer: Thanks to this, my whole family has gotten into the habit of drinking a nice glass of fresh, cold-press juice every morning, which is both delicious and gives us a head start on our nutrition for the day. The wide mouth means there is minimal cutting/chopping to do, and this model is very easy to disassemble, clean, and reassemble. Because it’s a vertical juicer, it doesn’t take up much space on our countertop, so we can keep it there and available for quick, daily access.
• KitchenAid stand mixer for mixing cake doughs, kneading bread and brioche, and whisking eggs and cream. A workhorse, and so attractive on the counter! For mixing I use a silicone-lined BeaterBlade attachment that has silicone “wings” that scrape the sides as you go.
Ingredients• Fresh cinnamon from Cinnamon Hill, a small company that specializes in sourcing and selling the highest-quality, freshest cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam. I get whole sticks and grate them with the beautifully crafted (and highly giftable!) cinnamon grater that Cinnamon Hill has designed. Truly, you don’t know what cinnamon tastes like until you’ve tried freshly harvested, freshly grated, top-grade cinnamon.
• French grey sea salt: I only ever use this French sea salt in my cooking, whether it’s to salt the water for pasta, season the food as it cooks, sprinkle over chocolate cookies, or use as a finishing salt. It is unrefined, which means it hasn’t been chemically processed, and retains all of its micro-nutrients and minerals. I keep a little jar of it by the stove with a quarter-spoon plopped in it for easy measuring.
• Nutiva coconut butter: Ever since I discovered this, I’ve been addicted. Coconut butter — not to be mistaken with coconut oil — is made from the dried meat of the coconut, which is finely ground until it releases its oil. This turns it into a lusciously creamy substance, with a slightly grainy texture that is most pleasant, and a subtly sweet, irresistible coconut flavor. Here are my favorite coconut butter recipes to use it.
• Valrhona couverture chocolate: Using high-quality chocolate in your cakes and cookies makes an astounding difference, and this is the one I keep on hand at all times. It is made by French bean-to-bar manufacturer Valrhona (of which I was given a factory tour!) and it is the one used by some of the best pastry chefs and chocolatiers in France and around the world.
Reference books for cooking• The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, an indispensible guide to learn to cook without recipes — or develop your own. This breaks down how recipes work in terms of flavor pairings and texture affinity, and I turn to it often to get my creative juices flowing.
• On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee, the ultimate reference book if you’re interested in the science of cooking and baking. A newer book I’ve added to my bookshelf in that department is J. Kenji López-Alt’s The Food Lab: it is more recipe-driven and therefore more approachable for the casual reader.
• Larousse Gastronomique: this impressive tome is a must-have if you’re interested in French cuisine. It’s an incredibly thorough encyclopedia of ingredients, dishes, traditions, and techniques, with lots of illustrations and recipes along the way.
• Ratio by Michael Ruhlman, a game-changing and empowering book that reveals the cooking formulas that govern basic preparations, so you can cook ad lib and free yourself from recipes.
• Good Food from KCRW, hosted by Evan Kleiman out of Los Angeles. An entertaining and thoughtful look at food trends and culture from a Californian angle.
• The Food Programme: This high-quality show has been around for over thirty years, and each episode is an in-depth exploration of a particular theme or place.
• The Splendid Table is an American public radio show “for people who love to eat” (that would be us), hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper. Each hour-long show addresses a variety of topics, discussing them with regular contributors and special guests.
• Burnt Toast: The food/cooking podcast from the wonderful Food52 site is full of insights and cool tips.
• On va déguster: Perfect if you’re looking to improve your French! This food-themed radio show is hosted by French food writer François-Régis Gaudry on France Inter. Each episode focuses on a theme or trend, with guests.
Photography• I shoot the pictures on Chocolate & Zucchini with a Nikon D800 DSLR, which I upgraded from the Nikon D300. The lens I use is the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G.
• If you’re looking to improve your food photography skills, the Minimalist Baker’s Food Photography School is for you! It gives you unlimited access to 130+ video courses in which Dana teaches you everything she knows about equipment, composition, lighting, styling, and editing, with plenty of tips and tricks that will accelerate your learning curve.
Blogging• I work with the wonderful Cre8d Design agency for my site design and development. I can’t speak too highly of this brother-and-sister team — their professionalism, their informed advice, their fresh outlook, their responsiveness — and it feels great to have them on my side. If you’re considering a blog design or redesign, fill in their project form and enter the referral code CNZ: this will get you a free copy of Rachel’s ebook 101 Ways to Market Your Website, and one free hour of credit for any ongoing site updates or maintenance when your site is live!
• It can feel overwhelming to stay on top of everything when you have a food blog, which is why I joined the Food Blogger Pro membership site. I get access to well-crafted video courses on all the tools I need, insider info on trends and blogging techniques, and advice and encouragement on the community forums. The site isn’t currently open to new members, but you can sign up to join the waiting list and be notified when enrollment reopens in the spring of 2016. In the meantime, I recommend you listen to the fantastic (and free) Food Blogger Pro Podcast, of which every single episode has taught me something valuable. You can also download these two helpful (also free) ebooks: 10 Mistakes that Bloggers Make and The Number One Thing that top bloggers are focusing on right now.
• Pinterest is one of the most important social media platforms for food bloggers, and I use Tailwind to collect pins, schedule them, and manage my boards. It is very easy to use and saves me lots and lots of time.
• Edgar is the game-changing tool I use to schedule content to be posted to my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Instead of working hard on updates that will just get lost in the ether, the idea behind Edgar is to build a library of content that you can draw from again and again, to capitalize on your hard work. You can still publish spur-of-the-moment updates, but most of the posting is handled in batch, which frees you up for real-time high-value interactions with your followers.apron that the child can fasten himself; no knots! Karla Norgaard makes these by hand in the US using really sweet fabrics, and my eldest son loves his. Karla has agreed to offer C&Z readers a 15% discount if you use the promo code CANDZ.
• A two-step stool for the child to safely reach counter level.
• A crinkle cutter allows toddlers to start cutting fruit and vegetables independently (but with supervision!) without actually using a knife.
• The Opinel “Petit Chef” kit is a learner knife for slightly older children; the handle has a loop in which to slip the index finger for a more secure grip.
• A mini rolling pin to roll out dough for cut-out cookies, tartlets, and mini-pizzas. The silicone lining means the dough doesn’t stick much to the pin.
• Mini tongs for transfering and serving foods.
• A vegetable brush to help clean fruits and vegetables.
• A “Y” vegetable peeler to learn to peel carrots, potatoes, and apples.
Baby and Toddler’s First Meals• Earlywood baby spoons, smooth and pretty, so your child starts his eating life with handsome, non-plastic cutlery. Brad Bernhart makes these by hand and can add a personalized engraving — perfect for gifting!
• The Babybjorn high chair is stable and super convenient: it’s the table itself that secures the child in, so there are no straps to deal with. The top of the table can be clipped off for cleaning (it’s even dishwasher safe) and the seat part is very easy to wipe down as well.
• These jumbo ice cube trays are perfect for freezing fruit and vegetable purées.
• These unbreakable glass tumblers from Duralex are a staple of every French household, and I’ve found them to be a godsend with children, who can learn to drink from a real, non-plastic container without you worrying about breakage.
• I’ve invested in a set of cube chair and table for my eldest’s first meals out of the high chair, and they are cherished items of furniture in our household. He also uses them as a desk and chair, and we as step stools.
Parenting Books• It’s Not About the Broccoli by Dina Rose: all about building good food habits for your child, with an emphasis on preventing or solving issues of picky/limited eating.
• Baby-Led Weaning by Gill Rapley, a guide to feeding your baby the same foods the rest of the family eats. We did this in combination with some purées and other mashed foods, and have been very happy with the approach.
• No Bad Kids by Janet Lansbury (also her website and podcast). Janet Lansbury is my parenting guru: she is all about respectful, empathetic parenting with proper limit-setting, and no one’s guidance resonates so clearly with me.
• How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. An enlightening read that gives practical advice and tools to communicate with children with respect and openness. Also: Siblings Without Rivalry by the same authors, on how to foster a positive relationship between your children.
• Waiting for Birdy by Catherine Newman, a first-person account of having a second child. Laugh-out-loud funny and amazingly relatable.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links on this page are affiliate links: at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. I have first-hand experience with all of these products and companies, and I recommend them because I love them. Please do not spend any money on these products or services unless you feel that they will make your life or craft better.