The Best Advice for Shopping for Your Kitchen on Amazon

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Amazon’s Prime Day takes place July 12-13 this year, and the internet is already awash in lists of the summer sale’s best deals.” We’re not here to tell you what to buy—that’s between you and your gods of commerce. But we can dispense some valuable advice about the common kitchen products you’re likely to see promoted on Prime Day and empower you with as much information as possible before you click “Add to Cart.”

Salt grinders are bullshit

We know they look pretty, and it’s nice to have a salt grinder twinning with the curvaceous pepper grinder that graces your countertop. That’s why Amazon is always pumped to show you OXO Good Grips salt grinders, electric salt grinders, LED light salt grinders (yep, they’re available), and anything else that can command a price of $15-$65. But salt grinders are, in fact, bullshit. You can read all about it from expert Caitlin PenzeyMoog, who grew up immersed in her family’s spice business and who literally wrote the book on spices. Here’s the short of it:

Don’t put your salt in a grinder. All you’re doing is making your salt smaller than it was before. Unlike pepper, which is actually processed in the grinder, salt does not need to be ground and is not fresher after coming out of a grinder. It’s just smaller. Use a shaker.

Or, do what I do and pinch the salt from a pot with my fingers, which gives me even more control than the shaker.

You might already have the best storage containers

We have extolled at length the virtues of the humble plastic quart container, a food storage tool so simple and so versatile that any attempt to rival its supremacy in the kitchen is an embarrassment. Here’s what we have to say about the preferred medium of professional cooks everywhere:

Quart containers are uniformly sized, easily stackable, freezer-friendly, dishwasher safe, and microwaveable. When the majority of your food storage vessels are exactly the same, it’s easy to keep cabinets orderly, and you can avoid having an emotional breakdown over mismatched lids.

They’re just as useful inside the fridge and out: I use them for storing pantry ingredients like specialty flours and dried beans, freezing extra soup, packing up leftovers, organizing smallwares, making cold brew… seriously, I do not know how anybody can function in the kitchen without these things.

The best thing about quart containers is that you don’t necessarily need to buy them at all, on Amazon or otherwise. Many different varieties of takeout come packaged in the coveted quart container, from lamb vindaloo to tom yum, meaning you might already have the best kitchen tool at your disposal. Take it from someone whose Pyrex food storage bowls all got rips in their lids within a year: You don’t need to invest heavily in smart kitchen solutions.

Know your knives

Since a set of kitchen knives can be a hefty investment, it might make sense for many consumers to peruse the selection on Prime Day in order to take advantage of a discount. But it’s not a decision you want to let Amazon promotions make for you.

First of all, in addition to a big, fancy set of imposing chef’s knives, it’s just as important to stock your kitchen with what we call “weeknight knives”—that is, a cheaper collection of easy-clean, unfussy knives that can be slotted into the dishwasher rather than being hand-washed. Josh Wussow, an expert on knives, has some great recommendations for low-key alternatives, some of which only cost $10.

If you do decide to invest in the big knife block full of fancy blades, you better know how to clean it. Despite the fact that a knife block only houses your clean knives, it nevertheless needs a good washing about once a month to keep it free of bacteria. The Takeout has some tips on how to do this, since getting down into those narrow knife slots isn’t the easiest task.

Always check the measurements

Ordering all our stuff online can have a negative environmental impact, and free returns only compound the carbon footprint of home delivery—which is one reason to make your online purchases count, whether from Amazon or anywhere else. With that in mind, always check the measurements of whatever you’re buying so you can make sure the dimensions make sense for you.

That fancy espresso machine—or even a run-of-the-mill microwave—might not have anywhere to sit on your already crowded countertops, for example. Or, here’s a mistake I’ve made with pretty much every home I’ve ever lived in: Those two-tiered cabinet storage racks with the pull-out drawers are always two inches too tall to fit under my sink. If you have shallow cabinets, oversized dinner plates aren’t going to work for you. These aren’t the sorts of things you want to discover after you’ve already unraveled your product from a sea of kraft paper tape, AirPak, bubble wrap, and Styrofoam inserts. Check those “Product information” drop-down menus, and if the dimensions aren’t listed, check the “Customer questions & answers” menu to see if anyone has already sought clarification.