My Essential Cooking Equipment: Patricia Wells

The food authority and cookbook author shares what tools she can’t live without.


Although I do consider myself a gadget girl, I find that about nine out of ten gadgets fail to deliver on their promise. I recently purchased a “floating thermometer” that I thought would be great for monitoring the temperature of water while simmering. The first time I used it, the face of the thermometer steamed up so seriously that I could not read the temperature! So it does well to choose wisely. Here’s a list of the equipment that never fails me.

Basics: I use both gas and induction cooktops, and favor all of the Le Creuset cast-iron products for searing and braising. For sheer ease of cleaning, I find that All-Clad stainless steel pots are excellent for simple heating or reheating.

Pasta Pots: A pair of stainless-steel pasta cooking pots (5 quart [5 l] and 10 quart [10 l]) fitted with colanders are my favorites. I use them not just for pasta but for all my stocks (just lift out the colander and all the stock has been filtered out!), as well as for blanching.

Copper Pots: I love copper, and have a huge selection. I especially like to own equipment that will live longer than I do.

Grills: I adore the panini grill for all kinds of grilling tasks, from toast to vegetables, so much so that I no longer own a traditional toaster. I haven’t had particular success with grilling meat, poultry, and fish on it, though, so I stick to my outdoor or stovetop grill for those.

A label maker: I label everything: my spices and salt infusions, my containers of soups and stocks; leftovers in the freezer. Even if it is quite clear that the liquid in that container is chicken stock, I date and label it anyway. One can never be too sure! Of course you don’t need to buy a machine: A roll of labeling tape and a Sharpie will do in a pinch.

A digital scale: Measure, weigh, measure, weigh. Weighing ingredients, from flour to sugar, nuts to vegetables, is a much more accurate method than eyeballing or even using cup measures. All of the recipes in the book are written to accommodate this.

Multiple sets of measuring spoons: Have at least 4 or 5 sets and take them apart and recombine them, with the 1 tablespoon measures all hung together and so forth. You will always have a clean spoon at the ready. When, ever, did you need to use all of those spoons on the ring at the same time?

Timers: Timers are essential. Most cell phones today have excellent timers, but I also love to have a collection in my kitchen, especially when several items are being timed at once. Be sure to place the timer next to the pot or oven it relates to, so you know that it’s time to intervene with that recipe!

An electric spice mill: This is a pure essential for grinding seeds, nuts, dried vanilla beans, and spices.

This article is adapted from Patricia Wells latest book, My Master Recipes: 165 Recipes to Inspire Confidence in the Kitchen With Dozens of Variations, which comes out on March 7. Wells has won five James Beard Awards and has written 15 cookbooks.

Copyright © 2017 by Patricia Wells. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.