When I volunteered to write this story, Commerce Editor Emily Johnson told me to prepare myself: "It's low-key the best place in New York." She was referring to Anna Stockwell's apartment in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, which I had seen glimpses of on Instagram but never visited in person. That it could be the best place in New York seemed both insane and impossible, but at the time it was only my second week at Epicurious. What did I know?
Nothing, is the answer, because Anna's home is the kind of place you want to visit under the guise of "lunch" and then never leave ever. When we arrived on a Friday morning, Anna had set out Cara Cara orange slices, seasoned Persian cucumber spears, and a pot of hot coffee on her large dining room table, next to a jadeite vase of yellow tulips. Had I died? I could certainly imagine an afterlife this sunny and cozy, full of art and pretty fabrics, with two perfect cats running underfoot. I felt my own pulse: nope, still alive. The shelf of oversized mason jars full of lentils and oats, the bowls of fruit as decoration, the bright red speaker atop the fridge playing Joan Baez—all of that was real. If it wasn't the best place in New York, it was at least top 10.
Anna is Epicurious' Senior Food Editor, which means, among other things, she's behind most of the recipes and food styling that grace the site every day. At work, she's the inventor of the Power Sprinkle, an advocate for crispy white beans, and a broom influencer. At home, Anna is a superhost, an "aggressive nester" whose kitchen reveals that her love of cooking for and with other people doesn't evaporate when she's off the clock. It's a room that maximizes prep space and over-indexes on the kinds of tools that make her dinner party guests part of the process. It's more tried-and-true staples (and sentimental value) than trendy gadgets, with cheery pops of red in every corner. In short, it's not out of your league; it's the kind of kitchen you could have, too, if you tried—and if your mom kept you in a steady supply of great hand-me-downs.
Read on to learn about the most beloved tools in Anna's home kitchen, all of which promise to make cooking and entertaining a little easier and a lot more attractive.
Hacked IKEA butcher's block
Anna's butcher's block is the subject of many a covetous DM. It's a hybrid of an IKEA island and surfaces from her childhood home. "About 6 years ago my parents redid their kitchen in New Hampshire," she says. "They replaced their wooden counters with soapstone, so they had all these slabs of butcher's block in the garage. I had a carpenter friend glue two pieces together and round off the corners, and then I stuck the new surface right on top of my existing IKEA island. The drawers from the original are still there, I just made it bigger."
When you're working with a fridge like Anna's, packed with containers of leftovers from the Test Kitchen and tons of fun ingredients to play with, organization is often a losing battle. Anna makes it work, keeping convenience in mind: "I stole these baskets from my mom, who's had them since the '80s. I think originally they were supposed to be sieves. I like keeping all my refrigerated fruit (like apples and lemons and limes) in one, and eggs in the other, so when I reach in, I can just grab what I need. No opening the box of eggs or pulling open a drawer for lemons. Easy access. And they look cute!"
"People often ask about these, too," Anna said, gesturing at her wall of knives. Thankfully, they don't require home renovations or a carpenter friend for installation. "They're just magnetic strips from Amazon. I like to put anything magnetic up there: scissors, peelers, Microplanes. I have too many knives because I like to have people help me cook. Not all of them are nice, so I can just hand them out and let people prep without worrying."
Epi's staff is made up of a bunch of ThermoWorks DOT disciples. The small, magnetic thermometer with six (!!!) possible probe attachments makes braising, roasting, and even grilling a breeze because it keeps track of your meat's internal temperature (meaning no opening and shutting the oven or grill over and over to check for doneness). Anna loves her DOT for other dependability reasons, too: "I don't trust my oven to keep a consistent temperature, so I keep the air probe in there at all times. Especially when I'm developing recipes at home, it's really important to be exact."
Tiny cutting board collection
A stack of tiny cutting boards that Anna uses for prep-and-transfer-style tasks sit in the corner near the window, in pool of sunshine. "If I have to cut a bunch of garlic, I'll do it here on a little cutting board, then pick the whole thing up and move it to a pot on the stove," she says. "I also use them for serving cheese." Like her knife collection, the many boards come in handy when people come over for dinner. "I can have five people sitting around my dining room table each with their own little cutting board and knife, helping cut apples for apple crisp."
$20.00, Sur La Table
"I love that it automatically shuts off," Anna says of her electric kettle. "When I wake up in the morning, I walk in and turn on the kettle, then go do other things without worrying that anything will burn. I make a cup of pourover with it every morning, and tea every night before bed." Aside from hot drink duty, the kettle also plays a role in one of Anna's favorite time-saving kitchen tricks. "Water boils way faster in the kettle than in a pot, so I'll heat water in the kettle, then pour it into a pot for pasta!"
Could a tiny whisk be anything other than adorable? Anna says it's the most useful tool she owns. "I have the exact same one at my station at the test kitchen, and everyone knows it has to return to my station, always. I use it for everything. Unless you're making whipped cream, you don't need a huge whisk. In fact, a big whisk is too big for most tasks, like scrambled eggs, or dry ingredients for a cake—a big whisk will make that flour fly everywhere. You can use a mini whisk to bring together yogurt sauce and salad dressing right in your measuring glass or in a small bowl." She also notes that it makes a surprisingly good housewarming gift. "Nobody thinks they need one, but once they have one, they love it."
Originally Appeared on Epicurious