I highly recommend using a digital kitchen scale — one that measures to the nearest gram and has a tare function — whenever you bake (or cook). Saves on dishes and cupboard space (no more measuring cups!) and ensures consistent results. Starches tend to stick and clump when measuring by volume, so they can be difficult to measure accurately with cups. I’ve used a few different scales over the years, and highly recommend this one by Escali:
For things like leaveners, seasonings and other small measurement items I still rely on measuring spoons. A little bit of Xanthan gum goes a long way, so it’s sometimes necessary to measure it to 1/8 teaspoon for best results. Finding a set of spoons that includes that small a size can be tricky, here’s the exact set by Amco that I use:
Stainless Steel Pots and Pans
High quality, uncoated stainless steel pans will last you many, many years. I love my All-Clad d5 pans available exclusively at Williams-Sonoma — even with heavy use they look just about new after an occasional scrub with Bar Keeper’s Friend (find at big box and grocery stores).
I use the 4-quart deep sauté pan most often; it’s perfect for everything from risotto to meatballs in sauce — a splatter screen comes with and fits perfectly. A 2-quart saucepan is indispensable as a double boiler base — use a small, stainless steel bowl on top — for melting chocolate and heating egg whites for buttercream. It’s also a nice, small-yet-practical size for warming stock, making infused oils and more. Last, I like a medium-size, 4-quart saucepan or soup pot — they’re the same body, just different handles (one loop and one long handle or two loop handles). It’s a great size for a batch of soup or cooking up a half pound of pasta.
As much as I love the above All-Clad pans, I can’t justify the price (and the many layers aren’t really necessary) for a stockpot. The stainless steel stockpots by Winware — available in sizes from 8- to 80-quarts — fit the bill. If you’re short on space, a single 12-quart is probably your best bet for everything from boiling a pound (or more) of pasta and making homemade stock (I own the 16-quart and I’m guessing it’s overkill for most people). Also, unlike the more common aluminum pots on the market, they work wonderfully on induction burners!
Super-sharp Knives (and something to keep them that way)
You only need three knives — chef’s, paring and bread — so make ’em good! (Plus, dull knives are horribly unsafe, likely costing more in medical bills. So not a good thing.) I’m a fan of Japanese knives with their smaller angle blades, particularly those by Global. My hands are on the smaller size, and Globals fit them perfectly. Plus, the single-body, no wooden handle body style is not only nice-looking, but functional (handles cannot loosen over time, more sanitary, etc.) But while they work well for me, it’s most important that you find a knife that’s comfortable for your grip, whether it’s by Global or another knife company.
As far as your chef’s knife goes, I recommend either the G-2 8″ chef’s knife or, for those who aren’t as comfortable with a large knife, the GS-5 5 1/2″ vegetable knife (it works for more than veggies!). For a paring knife, you have several options, my choice: the GS-38 3 1/2″ western-style paring knife. I’m not the biggest fan of their large bread knife (G-9), however, the much-more-difficult-to-locate GS-61 6 1/4″ bagel/sandwich knife is awesome — it feels much more balanced than the former and tears through crusty loaves of bread with ease.
The sharpest, most expensive knives in the world will be useless if you don’t maintain them, so it’s important to sharpen them regularly (and store them properly and use them on a knife-friendly surface). In terms of sharpening ease, the minoSharp water sharpener cannot be beat. Much easier to use than a whetstone, the wheels sharpen both sides of the blade (not for the one-sided or serrated knives, unfortunately) at the perfect angle. Many of the sharpeners on the market are intended for European knives — which have a different, wider angle blade — but this one is intended specifically for Global knives.