In the spirit of fair play, it seems proper to follow up a rant and rave on bad kitchen equipment with one on good kitchen equipment.
As a general rule of thumb, good kitchen equipment is solid and durable, usually plain and free of excess ornamentation. I find it interesting the range of things that people I know have in their kitchen, and certainly the equipment you value most will depend heavily on the type of cooking you do. Here's my list of the things I use the most and can't do without.
The Essentials: Things that are used all the time (at least once a week, if not every meal)
- Frying pan, cast iron skillet, large and small saucepans, stockpot
- Wooden spoons
- Chef's knife and boning knife
- Cutting board (wood or plastic please--for God's sakes no glass)
- Vegetable peeler
- Cheese grater
- Ramekins and au gratin dishes
The nice-to-haves: usually used for more specialty purposes, but still good to have
- Lemon zester
- Rolling pin
- Jelly roll/sheet pans
- Cooling rack (for baking)