Too Many Gadgets Spoil the Kitchen
The essential bridal registry list.
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One area where bigger is better: cutting boards. Get one as big as your cabinets and sink can bear. When chopping, you want to be able to move aside the food you've already cut, something you can't do on a dinky cutting board. Get a thick board, too—at least a half-inch thick, so that it's less inclined to slide around. As for wood/bamboo or plastic, it's something of a draw (wood draws microbes away from the board's surface, plastic can generally be sterilized in the dishwasher). I prefer wood because it's more attractive, and it doesn't get fuzzy with use. Go ahead and get one smaller cutting board, too, for those times when you need only to slice a strawberry. Flexible plastic mats aren't really shock absorbent enough on their own, but they are effective, dishwasher-safe liners to use when cutting raw meat on your board.
The glass or ceramic 9x13 pan ties, in my mind, with the Bundt as the most American of pans, but it's far more versatile. Old 9x13 is good for casseroles, slumps, buckles, and grunts, good for sheetcake, baklava, and braised shortribs. It may be breakable, but it's fairly sturdy, and it looks pretty on the table. In general, this sort of bakeware is a good investment because it can double up for serving, so you might indulge in a few other shapes as well. Click
How can people buy so many fancy linens that don't dry a drop? I highly recommend terry bar towels, which do clean up spills, and (when dry) function as excellent pot holders. Bonus: When stained beyond redemption, they can move to the rag bin and be cheaply replaced. For drying wine glasses, admittedly, you want something less napped: Splurge then on flour-sack towels. Save the cute linens for your placemats and napkins. Other drying notes: Do get a strong drying rack. You will need it even if you have a dishwasher.
I love appliances and can't bear to part even with those I use but once a year. But think long and hard about each new appliance you introduce to the kitchen. Although my food processor is great, I still mutter whenever I have to pull it out of its above-the-fridge cabinet. If I had to choose only one, I'd go for a very high-end blender. (Yes, the price is obscene, but have you ever felt a 2 horsepower motor whizzing away in your hands?) Unless you use the slicing/shredding blades often, blenders and food processors serve a similar purpose—and blenders have the edge in pureeing the hell out of liquids like soups and sauces. They are also a little easier to clean (fill your blender with water and a drop of soap, run it as if you were making a milkshake, and rinse). I do enjoy my food processor for certain jobs, like truly lazy shredding and hummus-making, though. Click
I have a dark and ominous Lazy Susan cabinet jumbled with spice jars. Growing up, my mother had a dark and ominous Lazy Susan filled with spice jars. It is hereditary, perhaps, but not my proudest inheritance. I wish I had considered my spice problem more thoroughly before I settled into my home. You should, too—register for a spice rack that makes sense for your space, whether that means a sleek countertop solution or something that fits in a drawer. All jars must have airtight seals. Also, gift givers, a particularly lovely extra gesture would be to send high-quality spices to fill those jars.
A registry gives you a fantastic head start on a kitchen, but the truth is that the best kitchens evolve a little at a time, after you observe what you use constantly, and what's gathering a thick coat of greasy kitchen dust. Nothing gets a shared household off to a worse start than an argument over where to put the goddamned wok.
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Photograph of a wok on Slate's home page by John Foxx/Stockbyte; photograph of a chafing dish on Slate's home page by Ethan Miller/Getty Images. Illustration by Alex Eben Meyer.