A Chopping Block
In the background of nearly all my cooking pictures, you will see my handy wooden cutting board. It's not just any cutting board, but the best cutting board you will ever use. I love mine so much, I even take it on vacations with me. It only took a few trips away, using some crappy small plastic cutting board, to make me realize I really don't like cooking without it.
I saw Rachael Ray on the TV once talking about things in the kitchen she couldn't live without, and a large wooden chopping block was one of them. So, I went out & bought one.
It needs to be heavy, so that when you are chopping, it doesn't wobble, or move around. It needs to be big, so that you can prep an ingredient, push it to the side & have room to chop the next ingredient.
Because wood is difficult to sanitize, you should never prepare raw meat on one. But, it's perfect for nearly anything else. I clean mine with hot soapy water. To deodorize it, when needed, pour on some kosher salt & use a half of a lemon to scrub it around. I also take care of it by rubbing it down with mineral oil once in awhile.
I lucked out & found mine at Home Goods for $30. But, they can be very pricey. Keep an eye out for a deal, or buy bamboo, which tends to be cheaper than other woods.