Choose What You’ll Use: Wedding Registry Essentials

As I write this post, Dan is doing the dishes. Isn’t he great? He happily accepts the fact that he married a cookware addict, but sometimes after the dishwasher has completed its cycle and been emptied in my absence, I’ll walk into the kitchen to find a small army of bowls and tools waiting to be returned to their rightful homes.

This kitchen arsenal that Dan wrestles with weekly has been amassing itself long before I put together my wedding registry, but I was still new enough at the cooking game when I got married to make a few missteps. The longed-for but never-used grill pan and too-large-for-my-sink cutting board, both taking up valuable storage space, are testament to my naiveté.

nested mixing bowls
These days, I know what works and what ends up collecting dust, so I’ve given my highly opinionated take on iVillage with a useful Wedding Registry Guide—a 20-item primer on how to choose what you’ll really use. (My opinions on waffle irons and panini makers may shock you. You’ve been warned.)

Ah, but I couldn’t stop there. You think I only have 20 items in my kitchen right now? So here’s a bonus list of five more kitchen must-haves that go beyond Dutch ovens, stand mixers, and newfangled Sodastreams.

Basic Cook’s Tools
Unless you have a serious jones for washing dishes (a gene that neither my husband nor I possess), you’ll want more than one whisk, a few sets of tongs, and most definitely a whole bunch of spatulas and spoonulas. (For the uninitiated, a spatula is the flat version, and a spoonula—as seen below—is a thicker, rounded version that stirs and scoops.) And this seems like a no-brainer, but even now—many years into my life as a dedicated cook—I find myself wishing for more prep bowls. A nested set is key, but small bowls for whisking eggs, melting chocolate, and keeping chopped veg and herbs at the ready are always in high demand.

how to fold ingredients, spoonula
Immersion Blender
Although I love my Vitamix with the depth and passion Lorelai Gilmore feels for a cup of coffee, there are times when pouring boiling liquids from a super-heavy pot into into the relatively smaller blender opening just doesn’t seem like a good idea. Or when I only need to make a small amount of salad dressing and don’t feel like dirtying up the big kahuna to get it done. That’s where the immersion blender comes in.

Just plunge the powerful stick into your pot of soup or sauce—while it’s still on the burner simmering, even—and whir away. Or pour a wee bit of heavy cream into a small prep bowl (see below) and make whipped cream for one. Useful and decadent at the same time! Get the kind with a stainless steel shaft for easier cleaning and zero staining when you puree tomato sauces.

Stainless Steel Measuring Cups and Spoons
Why stainless steel, specifically? For one, it’s dishwasher-safe, which means easy cleanup after measuring out teaspoons of hot sesame oil and tablespoons of cream cheese. It’s also much easier to level off flat-topped metal cups for accurate measurement. The collapsible plastic cups might fit nicely in small apartment drawers, but they’re wobbly and inaccurate. Stick with the classics. (Oh, and get two sets of each of these too, if you’ve got the space and a dishwasher.)

stainless steel measuring cups
Double Burner Griddle
This one’s for the pancake freaks. Sure, you could make one or two at a time in your favorite cast iron skillet, but hungry and possibly hungover brunch guests can only remain so patient for so long. With a flat griddle, you can make eight—count ’em, eight—pancakes in one fell swoop, line up a flotilla of fried eggs for homemade Egg McMuffins, and throw a whole slab of bacon down at once so the food gets to the table faster. I’ve been known to throw my griddle in the car for out-of-town weekends, but maybe that’s a little extreme.

Digital Probe Thermometer
You wanna talk inefficiency? Opening and closing the oven door again and again to stab your sizzling roast or turkey multiple times, letting all those precious juices and BTUs escape while you wait for the meat’s internal temperature to rise five damn degrees. That’s inefficient. A probe thermometer is the “set it and forget it” option, letting you choose your target temperature and keep track of its progress while the food stays safe and cozy in the oven. I particularly appreciate the extremely loud timer on mine, which lets me know my chicken’s hit the sweet spot of 165˚ even when I’m upstairs primping in the bathroom for my party guests. Yes, it works on the grill too.

I could keep going with recommendations like offset spatulas and spring-loaded scoops for the bakers, but I know you’ve got great ideas too. Beyond these and the iVillage wedding registry essentials, got any other essential tips for the soon-to-be-hitched?

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  1. I would have appreciated this list when I was starting out. Every time I visit my adult children, I cringe at some of their choices in the kitchen, like non-stick pans, which really should be avoided. Do you have a line of stainless to recommend? I plan to build them a set over birthdays, etc. I like All-Clad, but it’s pricey.

    1. Oh, Rachel, I probably could write a whole post on registering for plates and glassware. Such decisions! We went with one set of plain white (Crate & Barrel’s Maison, seen in so many of my photos), which ended up being the right choice given my later career, eh?

  2. We didn’t have a registry because we weren’t sure which country we’d end up in when we got married. This ended up being a mistake, because even though we’d put the word out that we didn’t want any gifts, especially *boxed* gifts, we got quite a few – and none of it was something we wanted. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, because I’m not – we truly loved sharing the day with our family and friends, and that’s all we wanted.

    The only thing I’d add to your list is probably something I use every day. My little Le Creuset Cocotte, as a salt cellar. It doesn’t have to be a cocotte, but I think everyone should have a salt cellar on their counter next to the stove. It reminds you to season the food as you’re cooking. And as you grab the cellar, you’ll think of the person that gave it to you. James bought me the one we have, it was my first LC piece ever. Every time I pick it up, I smile and think of that Christmas.

    1. Good call on the salt cellar, Amber – I have a little glass butter dish that I’ve repurposed for the task. It’s sturdy, because it travels all over the kitchen with me, but it’s also cheap because I’ve killed two already. Whoops!

  3. Great post and good advice! waaaay back when (yikes! that’s 40 years ago this month!!) I was getting married, I don’t even know if we had this kind of registry… if so, I was ignorant of it; all we did was register our china and flatware patterns at a standard department store. Then people gave us whatever kitchen ware they thought would be helpful… which didn’t turn out so badly! My most memorable gift was a cast-iron dutch oven paired with a book of poetry, and a lovely note from a long-time neighbor who said something to the effect that “In a married life, sometimes the best comforts are a well-made pot roast and a great poem.” She was truly one-of-a kind!

  4. I second the double burner griddle, though I only use the grill side. It stays on my stove at all times.

    My advice is don’t get a panini grill, unless you really think you love grilled sandwiches and chicken so much you’ll use it all the time. Mine has languished on top of the fridge for years, yet I can’t seem to get rid of it. Any takers out there?

    1. Sarah, did you read my panini maker comments on iVillage? It’s definitely something to think seriously about before committing. Dan loves ours, but it has this mysterious habit of sitting on the counter for days at a time, waiting for the magical elves to come clean it.

  5. Choose what you’ll use is such smart, commonsense advice, Casey. That said, I didn’t have a wedding registry and was grateful that some people gave us lovely serving bowls and unique platewear that, whenever I break out these items and people offer compliments I simply smile and say: “Wedding present.”

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