Whether you're cooking for one or entertaining a whole crowd this fall, Kelsey Nixon's got you covered! Ahead of the season's major holidays, Us Weekly asked Nixon, the host of Cooking Channel's Kelsey's Essentials — and a former finalist on season 4's The Next Food Network Star — to share some of her favorite gadgets all home cooks should have on hand. "My mantra is 'a fresh approach to the basics,'" explains Nixon, who released her first cookbook, Kitchen Confidence, in February.
Must-Have: Digital Thermometer
"In the fall months, we start cooking more proteins, and they're the most intimidating things to cook," the NYC-based chef tells Us, adding that it's easy to misread directions and end up with undercooked or overcooked food. "You think you're a terrible cook, and that's not the case at all!" she says. "A digital thermometer is an insurance policy whenever you're cooking meat. The one I use every day in my kitchen is $10!"
Must-Have: Slow Cooker
"If you're a working parent, no one's going to complain about an easy dinner that can be thrown in in the morning, and be ready when you walk in the door at night. It's a great thing to have on hand," suggests Nixon of the appliance, which varies in price according to size. "Just dump in food and stir — that's it! Let it work its magic. Once you become a dedicated slow cooker user, you're set for life because you realize just how fantastic it is!" she tells Us.
Must-Have: Rimmed Baking Sheets
"I really suggest investing in sturdy ones, especially if you're going to entertain. They're great just as transport pieces," says Nixon. Choose sheets with a rim, and don't spend more than $10, says Nixon.
Must-Have: Y-Shaped Vegetable Peeler
"This time of year, we see all kinds of root vegetables, and most of America is reaching for the wrong peeler," Nixon tells Us. To spend more time with guests instead of peeling potatoes and carrots, use a Y-shaped peeler to peel most efficiently. Says Nixon: "Shop for the peeler that looks like the letter Y, not the one that's long and slender."
Must-Have: Spring-Loaded Tongs
"Many times, people own one set of tongs, but I recommend owning three," says Nixon. "They can be so useful for cooking and serving. Maybe you're making cookies and the recipe instructs to flip the cookies halfway through, but you never do it because it's too cumbersome. Try the long tongs — it's much easier. If you're making stir-fry, use your tongs. I use mine more than any other hand tool in the kitchen!"
Kelsey's Essentials, now in its fifth season, airs on the Cooking Channel.
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