Breakfast. It happens every darn day (or at least it should), so you might as well make the most of it. Here are nine pieces of gear to upgrade the first meal of the day.
Bottled orange juice is fine, but nothing compares to fresh-squeezed. Not every juicer is equally effective, however. The best are the kinds that extract the flavorful oils from the orange’s rind, so avoid those flimsy little plastic things that just juice the fruit’s flesh. Splurge on a juicer with a pressing function (like this Orange X Juicer) and drink the OJ in its pure form, or use it to make the best mimosas ever.
Unless you’re very fancy or live in the back of a restaurant (and I hope you don’t live in the back of a restaurant), you probably don’t have a flat-top griddle in your home. The flat top is the key to your favorite breakfast joint’s perfect pancakes (and eggs, and bacon, and sausages—you get the point), but just because you don’t have thousands of dollars to drop on a kitchen renovation doesn’t mean you can’t make great French toast at home. An electric griddle (I like All-Clad's Electric Griddle) is a cheap-ish way of getting flat-top results without dropping flat-top dough.
Some people dig a drip coffee, some like a pour over, and others prefer a French press. (I like using a moka pot and a small saucepan to approximate an Americano.) Our coffee making preferences may differ, but the quality of the end product should not. As far as French presses and moka pots go, you’re not going to find much variance from item to to item—you don’t need to splurge here. Automatic drip machines are a different story and you should think twice before pinching pennies. The Mr. Coffee TF5 4-Cup Switch Coffeemaker is a pretty good cheap option. The Cuisinart DGB-550BK Grind-and-Brew 12-Cup Automatic Coffeemaker is a pretty good mid-range machine. Buy the OXO On 9 Cup Coffee Maker if you feel like blowing some cash.
If you insist on toasting bread, English muffins, and bagels in a toaster oven (you should be doing this in a skillet or on a griddle, guys), then invest in a decent one. While some more expensive toaster ovens are capable of cooking a whole chicken, you probably don’t need that. A thoroughly credible machine, like the Black & Decker TO1675B 6-Slice Toaster Oven. can be had for $40 or so.
If you like poached eggs, you need to own a 3-quart saucepan. Poached eggs are a bit intimidating, and most people are hesitant to cook them at home. (They get too foamy, they break apart in the water, they run together.) Why cook poached eggs at home when you can get perfect poached eggs at the diner down the street? Because you just made homemade corned beef hash, and there’s nothing better on planet Earth than poached eggs on top of corned beef hash. Get a decent saucepan (Le Creuset saucepans will last a lifetime), learn the whirlpool and vinegar trick, and enjoy perfect poached eggs in the comfort of your own breakfast nook.
If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, stop reading this and go buy one immediately. (Pro tip: You can often find cast-iron skillets from Lodge—who make the best cast-iron skillets on the planet—on the cheap at TJ Maxx or Marshall’s. I’m talking like $12. It’s awesome.) Cast-iron skillets are breakfast work horses. Have you ever had an egg fried in bacon grease leftover from the bacon you just fried in your cast-iron skillet? It’s the best fried egg you’ll ever eat. (Another pro tip: Don’t wipe all of that bacon grease out of your skillet—use some of it to further season your cast iron.) Traditional skillets are great. They’ll do the trick for bacon and eggs, and owning a good one is crucial for other areas of cuisine, but there’s something romantic about watching some rustic pancakes fry up in a skillet whose technology dates to antiquity.
This one seems obvious (Who doesn’t own a spatula?), but a bad spatula can mean the difference between perfect fried eggs and fried eggs that look anything but. I’m a fan of silicone spatulas because they’re flexible and can get between whatever you’re cooking (eggs, pancakes, French toast) and the cooking surface without tearing or damaging. I have (and love) this spatula from OXO Good Grips.
A good chef’s knife is a crucial piece of equipment regardless of the meal you’re cooking. But can you imagine cutting up a pound of potatoes without one? No chef’s knife, no home fries. No home fries, no bueno. Your breakfast just went from great to mediocre at best. Get a decent chef’s knife. The J.A. Henckels International Classic 8-inch Chef's Knife should do.
A nice pitcher isn’t a necessary piece of kitchen equipment, but owning one is a good way to impress company. Also, how are you going to serve all of that freshly-squeezed orange juice? A good pitcher also comes in handy when a certain lady named Bloody Mary decides she’d like to show up for brunch. Feel free to embrace shatterproof acrylic.
All of the equipment advice aside, you can’t really go wrong when you’re making breakfast. (Unless you forget to buy the eggs. Don’t forget to buy the eggs.) Smoky, salty meats; grilled, buttery, bready things; cheesy eggs covered in hot sauce; golden-brown pancakes covered in gooey maple syrup. This is what you’re looking for, and the gear above should help drive you down the road toward breakfast bliss.