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    Just 38 Easy Ways To Take Your Cooking And Baking To The Next Level

    If you've been avoiding fresh herbs because you hate picking off the leaves by hand, do yourself a favor and check out number 19.

    1. Achieve a pro-level sear from a *pre-seasoned* (!) Lodge cast-iron skillet, which offers excellent heat retention, making it perfect for keeping your favorite dishes piping hot. Plus, it can be used on the stove and in the oven, or even over a grill or fire! 

    BuzzFeeder's photo of baked pasta in a cast iron pan
    reviewer holding up the black cast iron pan
    Britt Ross / BuzzFeed,

    I've had my Lodge skillet for maybe seven years now, and I love it just as much today as the first day I got it. Nothing — and I mean NOTHING — is better when it comes to achieving the perfect golden brown pancake, crackly-skinned fish, and crispy on the outside, gooey on the inside baked pasta (see photo above). Contrary to popular belief, it's incredibly easy to care for, and as long as you don't let it rust it'll last you FOR-EV-ER (just feel how heavy it is and you'll know you're working with something sturdy!). 

    Promising review: "As a professional chef in the industry for 20 years now, I have my own file of brands I seek out. When it comes to cast iron, Lodge is a brand I know is going to be good. When it came to the price, I couldn't click 'buy' fast enough. This has become my go-to pan any time I am working with meat at home, be it a burger patty, or a large piece of meat I am searing off for braising in the slow cooker. This is a pan I know I will have for the next 20–30 years." —Mike

    Get a 10.25-inch skillet from Amazon for $19.90 (also available in other sizes here). 

    2. Whiz up smooth salad dressings and silky sauces from scratch using a compact yet powerful Beast Blender that'll get the job done in a matter of seconds. Bottled green goddess, you've been replaced. Oh, and can we talk about how GORGEOUS it is?!

    gif of someone turning on the blender to make a smoothie
    the gray blender filled with an orange smoothie and a hand holding a smaller blending vessel with an attached carry handle

    P.S. The blending bowl also doubles as a portable thermos and comes with a screw-on drinking lid and carry cap.

    I got this blender over the summer, and wow, as someone who had firmly decided I was an "I don't need a blender" person, I quickly changed my mind after the first use. For starters, it's not as large as those super industrial-strength blenders, and it's so aesthetically pleasing that I have it out on my counter at all times. Plus, it couldn't be easier to use — just fill the bowl with your ingredients, pulse, and in a matter of ~moments~ you'll have a perfectly uniform blend of whatever you're trying to blitz. I first tried it out on a smoothie made with frozen bananas and peaches (see it in action on TikTok here!), and it pulverized the icy fruit like a champ. Best of all? It's a total breeze to clean, which, if I'm being honest, was probably the biggest factor in my having waited so long to add a blender to my kitchen arsenal. I can't recommend it enough, 15/10, no notes. 

    Get it from Amazon for $195 (available in three colors).

    3. And transform your chunky butternut squash concoction into an ethereally smooth puree right in the pot via a KitchenAid immersion blender, which should really be called "Fairy Godmother: Soup Edition." Best of all, it'll keep you from burning yourself, since you won't be transferring a big batch of piping hot soup to a standing blender!

    the blue immersion blender
    reviewer photo of the light blue immersion blender inside of a pot of soup
    Britt Ross / BuzzFeed,

    I own the blue immersion blender, and as someone who's just 5 feet tall and has practically zero upper body strength, I find that it's been a total game-changer. Now, whenever I want a smooth sauce or silky soup, all I have to do is stick this bad boy into the pot, press a button, and presto! No more having to muster up all my strength to lift a heavy pot, and then pour hot liquid from it into a blender (I mean, disaster waiting to happen). Oh, and it's SO easy to clean, plus the pretty blue hue makes me happy every time I use it!

    Promising review: "Best immersion blender I've used! This thing is so powerful! Smoothly blended my roasted butternut squash, onion, and celery to make a bisque. I love the pan guard so I can blend right in the pot and it doesn’t scratch. It was very easy to use and clean. Highly recommend." —Annabelle

    Get it from Amazon for $50.99+ (available in 10 colors and in corded and cordless styles). 

    4. Enjoy perfectly crisp roasted veggies and evenly baked cookies every time by using Nordic Ware aluminum half-sheet trays, because not only is aluminum durable, it's also an excellent heat conductor. The lighter finish helps prevent food from burning, and trust me, these babies will last FOREVER!

    reviewer's hand resting on one of the baking sheets
    reviewer photo of a pizza baked on the sheet tray

    I use these sheet trays at home, and whether I'm roasting cauliflower or baking cookies, I end up with even browning every time. I've had mine for almost 10 years now, and they still work just as well as they did when I first bought them. Sure, they might be a liiittle less shiny, but that's how you know you're getting good use out of them!

    Promising review: "Love these baking sheets. They are the best ones I have ever owned. They say buy light-colored baking sheets for light-colored cookies that don't burn on the bottom, and these sheets seem to hold that saying true. Highly recommend them." —Chantilly Philly

    Get a pack of two from Amazon for $23.76.

    5. Replace your dull knife with an essential chef's knife, which won't just improve efficiency, it'll make cooking safer, since you'll get crisp, clean cuts without exerting as much force. You'll be amazed when you see how effortlessly it slices through a tomato — which, let's face it, would've taken 15 minutes and an entire box of bandages with your old knife.

    GIF of reviewer slicing a piece of paper with the knife to demonstrate how sharp it is
    reviewer photo of the knife on a wooden cutting board

    Promising review: "I have wanted a chef's knife for years. I finally tired of cutting vegetables with cheap paring knives. I'm so glad I bought this. I was afraid to use it for a couple of weeks because even though the blade is six inches, it was intimidating to look at! I'm happy I gave it a try, it cuts and chops like a breeze. I did an internet search on how best to grip the knife securely, that's what gave me the confidence to start using it. I keep my other hand flat across the top side of the knife, so not to chance cutting myself. The cost was reasonable for a quality product." —Debs

    Another promising review: "I bought this for my husband; he is a professional chef. He absolutely loves this knife. The quality is great, and the price is reasonable for a chef knife. We originally purchased a different one that was more expensive and after a week of using it started getting rust spots. He has been using this one now for two months and loves it. No rust spots." —Tara L.

    Get it from Amazon for $41.35+ (available in four sizes). 

    6. And make sure you have a handheld knife sharpener to keep your most-used kitchen tool impeccably pointy. Simply swipe dull knives through the coarse side and sharp ones through the fine end to touch-up and polish. 

    gif of BuzzFeeder running a knife through the knife sharpener
    BuzzFeeder holding the knife sharpener next to a kitchen knife
    Britt Ross / BuzzFeed

    I use this for my knives, and whenever I hear the 'zing!' of the blade going through I feel *so* legit. My knives are several years old, but giving them a quick once-over with this handy gadget makes them work like new every time. 

    Promising review: "This made it so simple to sharpen my knives and it has been life changing. Not sure why I felt this was so hard or complicated before. This is an awesome little product. Stores away nicely, sharpens with only a couple of turns. Huge value for the money!" —RTRae

    Check out our full KitchenIQ 50009 knife sharpener review.

    Get it from Amazon for $10.51.

    7. Weigh flour using a digital scale rather than measuring in cups, since it'll give you the most accurate amount (and saves time on dishes!). Scooping flour into a measuring cup often yields wildly different results depending on how tightly it's packed, which is why using a scale will keep your end product from being too dry (the WORST!).

    Reviewer photo of the scale being used to weigh a mason jar and its contents
    reviewer photo of the scale holding a large mixing bowl to show that the reading is still visible even with a large bowl on top

    It can weigh items ranging between 0.1 ounces to 22 pounds, and comes with AAA batteries so you can try it out right away. Plus, it features a tare function, which allows you to place a mixing vessel (e.g., bowl) on top, zero out the weight, then add your ingredients and weigh just those. 

    Promising review: "I got this after rekindling my interest in sourdough baking. Since I haven't really baked that much before, I was content just using my standard measuring cup. When I started using this, I noticed there can be a big difference between grams and cups. I must say, I was hesitant to use this scale right away because I thought it would have a big learning curve. However, I was up and running in minutes. It was easy to make my plate a '0' and begin the weighing process. I just finished baking a zucchini sourdough quick loaf and it came out much better than my previous attempts without weighing ingredients. I like the look of this scale and think I'll get a lot of use out of it." —Karin Foster

    Get it from Amazon for $25.99+ (available in five colors). 

    8. Swap your bulky box grater for a Microplane when you're zesting citrus, because while box graters are "grate" when you're shredding potatoes and carrots, a handheld grater gives you much more control so you can avoid getting pith (the bitter white stuff) in your food.

    reviewer photo of the microplane next to a tablespoon full of orange zest and a zested orange
    reviewer photo of a microplane over a plate of lemon zest, with a bunch of zested lemons above it

    You can also use it to shave fine specks of Parm over your pasta!

    When I worked as a baker, I often had to zest dozens of lemons at a time to make large batches of lemon cake, so I know a thing or two about the most efficient (and comfortable!) tools to use. Without a doubt, a Microplane is the best thing for the job, as it's designed to be held in your hand, meaning you can zest right over your mixing bowl rather than having to bust out a cutting board. I also found that when using a box grater, my knuckles were much more prone to nicks and cuts due to the extra effort I had to put in (not to mention the awkward angle I was holding my hand at). 

    Microplanes stay sharp for a really long time, and in my experience they're more precise than box graters when it comes to removing the zest without bringing the bitter pith along with it. I even bought one for my dad as a gift a few years ago, and he told me that zesting is now his favorite kitchen task! 

    Get it from Amazon for $13.99 (also available in a pack of two). 

    9. Grow — and pick! — fresh herbs right from your very own counter thanks to an AeroGarden Harvest, which doesn't require soil, sun, or a backyard. Ina will be *so* pleased you didn't use the dried stuff, even in the middle of winter!

    Plus, reviewers say it's foolproof, so even if you're lacking a green thumb, you'll delight in seeing your herbs sprout up! It includes basil, curly parsley, dill, thyme, Thai basil, and mint seeds, along with a bottle of all natural plant nutrients.

    Check out BuzzFeed's full AeroGarden review for more info!

    Promising review: "This was worth every penny and then some. Easy to set up, spectacular results! Every one of the seed pods germinated, growth was quite astonishing, first flower popped out about 45 days from set up. My garden is now covered in healthy vegetation and copious blooms. Can't ask for more! But I may have to buy more, LOL!" —D.L. Sniderman

    Get it from Amazon for $85.98+ (available in two sizes and four colors, as well as in several kits). 

    10. Ensure your balls of cookie dough are consistent in size by having an easy-grip Oxo cookie scoop at the ready, because not only will they look prettier this way, they'll all finish baking at the same time, too!

    reviewer photo of the cookie scoop next to a tray of uniformly-sized cookie dough balls
    Reviewer photo of the cookie scoop filled with chocolate chip cookie dough

    You can also use them to evenly portion cupcake batter!

    Promising review: "I really like Oxo products and have many of them. The quality is always right up there. I have both the small and medium cookie scoops. The small one is the one I use most, but I like the medium-sized one if I'm giving cookies away as gifts or want to take them to social gatherings. It just makes a generous cookie for giving. I prefer the smaller scoop when making cookies just for my husband and I. I like the fact that these scoops make cookies uniform in shape and size. Prior to buying these scoops, I just used a spoon and my cookies were anything but uniform! The dough slides out of the scoops very easily and keeps my fingers clean." —Rosebud

    Get it from Amazon for $13.99+ (available in three sizes, a variety pack, and several bundle sets).

    11. Expand your culinary skills with Our Place's Always Pan, a versatile cooking vessel that'll quickly become one of your kitchen go-tos (and is a certified BuzzFeed fave!). It's essentially an all-in-one kitchen tool, as it has braising, searing, steaming, straining, sauteeing, frying, boiling, serving, AND storing capabilities. 

    gif of someone lifting a metal steaming basket filled with edamame out of the taupe always pan
    the lavender always pan next to various ingredients
    Our Place

    Plus, it comes with a wooden spatula and metal steaming basket!

    Here's what BuzzFeed Shopping writer Taylor Steele has to say about it: "As someone who neither enjoys cooking nor is particularly good at it, the Always Pan has made being in the kitchen feel like less of a chore. Having one pan that can do everything means I don't have to second-guess every cooking decision I make. I can boil and prepare pasta in it. And I can roast Brussels sprouts. And I can make the perfect fried egg. And I can steam dumplings. The best part is that everything slides so seamlessly out of the pan and onto the plate, which also makes clean up super fast and easy. Both the amateur (read: reluctant) cook and the more seasoned chef will enjoy creating fan favorites and new recipes in the Always Pan!"

    Also, BuzzFeeders LOVE this pan: seven of our team members shared their thoughts in our Always Pan review, saying they loved everything from its nonstick coating and lightweight feel to its *gorgeous* design.

    Get it from Our Place for $145 (available in seven colors).

    12. And effortlessly take your cozy braises from stove top to oven by way of Our Place's Perfect Pot, which will keep all of those tasty juices trapped inside with its dome-shaped lid. (No more dry pot roast!) Plus, its super lightweight design will make you forget all about your heavy Dutch oven, since it'll give you more control and confidence when you're lifting it.

    gif of someone lifting the lid off of the blue perfect pot to reveal a hot soup
    arms putting the lavender pot into an oven
    Our Place

    It's designed for (*takes huge breath*) boiling, crisping, baking, braising, roasting, steaming, straining, pouring, serving, and storing!

    I have this pot at home, and the first thing I noticed about it (aside from its pretty looks) was how shockingly light it was (less than five pounds with the lid!). As a 5'-tall weakling, I tend to get nervous whenever I have to lift a cast iron Dutch oven more than a few inches, so I was thrilled when I realized I'd be able to make my favorite hearty meals without the risk of dropping a heavy, piping hot cooking vessel. Plus, it comes with a steamer insert and a wooden spoon with — get this — little grooves that allow it to rest right on the pot's handle, so if you're anything like me and *still* haven't gotten around to getting a spoon rest, this bb's got you covered. Best of all, if you're short on cabinet space, this pot is so beautiful you'll want to display it on your stove for all to admire. 

    Promising review: "Love it, in particular the color, weight and functionality. I've been using it weekly to do a rotisserie-style chicken in the oven (amongst using it for other recipes) and it literally is perfect. My only problem — can I justify buying other colors, maybe one for each day of the week??" —Amy T.

    Get it from Our Place for $165 (available in nine colors). 

    13. Ditch delivery for pizzeria-worthy pies at home with a heavy-duty pizza stone that'll give you the crispy crust of your dreams, no fancy oven required. It's been fun, Domino's!

    reviewer using a pizza peel to lift a pizza from a pizza stone in an oven
    reviewer photo of a homemade pizza

    Pizza stones absorb excess moisture from the dough, meaning you'll get a crispier, more evenly baked crust than you'd get if you just used a sheet tray. Plus, you can use it on the grill, too!

    Promising review: "Whether you make pizza from scratch or enjoy a frozen pizza from the market, this pizza stone is essential for the best at home pizza experience. Preparing your pizza on a stone ensures a crispy crust and removing the pizza from the oven, on the heated stone, assures you that it will remain warm while the slices are consumed." —Steve

    Get it from Amazon for $29.99+ (available in three sizes).

    14. Slice your potatoes with uniform precision by using a Dash Safe Slice Mandoline, which your precious little fingies will be relieved to know doesn't require them to be anywhere near the blade! Plus, it comes with over 30 slicing options — from 1–8 millimeters thick!

    gif of reviewer using the mandoline to slice matchstick vegetables
    reviewer photo of thinly-sliced lemons in the bowl of the mandoline

    You can also use it for julienne- and matchstick-dicing! Just feed your ingredients through the tube, push the lever, and your slices will come out on the other side. 

    Promising review: "I tried to use a conventional mandolin one time...and sustained quite a cut. When I was asked to make my famous scalloped potatoes for Easter, I just didn't have it in me to slice the potatoes by hand (I have an autoimmune disease that often saps all of my energy). I love that your fingers never get close to the blade! They even provide a brush so you can safely clean the blade. This mandolin sliced 5 pounds of potatoes in no time at all and they were all a uniform thickness. Yes, you are able to adjust the size the cuts. I believe this has been my best kitchen investment this year." —Teri H

    Get it from Amazon for $39.99+ (available in six colors).