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As a lifelong lover of cooking, I’ve always had a well-equipped kitchen. Or so I thought. While attending a culinary program in Italy, I realized how many essential cooking tools I had been living without.
None of them were pricy gadgets or niche items designed for obscure culinary techniques. These were inexpensive, everyday tools I never knew I needed. I was shocked to discover how much time can be wasted in the kitchen when you don’t have the right equipment at your fingertips, so I loaded my Amazon cart up with all of the things I now can never cook without.
Here are the 10 kitchen tools I bought as soon as soon as I got home from culinary school:
When it comes to slicing tomatoes, cubing squash, cutting eggplant or trimming green beans, you need the right knife for the job. A serrated paring knife is the inexpensive do-it-all knife that professional cooks rely on. The teeth allow you to cleanly cut into fruits and vegetables with fleshy interiors without puncturing and damaging the outer skins, and you don’t have to worry about citrus juice or acid from tomatoes damaging your nicer blades.
I’ll refrain from launching into a sermon on the merits of the metric system, but regardless of the units of measurement you use, a digital kitchen scale is the key to accurately measuring your ingredients. This scale is small, sleek and can be tucked away easily when not in use.
How I ever cooked without one of these I’ll never know. Microplanes are there for you when you need to grate ginger, whole spices, or nuts, and when you need to zest citrus. Most of the time, they’ll also put your bulky box cheese grater out of a job. Oh and that one-trick garlic press you have sitting in your drawer? Obsolete. A microplane is even more effective.
Mise en place isn’t just for professional kitchens. Preparing ingredients for a recipe before you start cooking is key, and a set of these small glass bowls helps you stay tidy and organized. You’ll feel like Gordon Ramsay when you look at all of your pre-measured, sliced, and chopped ingredients lined up neatly before you.
What is mise en place?
Mise en place is a French term that refers to prepping all of your ingredients before you start cooking so they are handy and pre-measured when you need them.
A skimmer ladle is the tool you want on hand for things like removing ravioli from boiling water, scooping up blanched vegetables, and skimming foam or fat off the top of liquids. It’s also handy for rinsing things like berries or tomatoes in place of a strainer.
There’s nothing worse than having to wash a bowl in the middle of cooking because the only two you own are already dirty. Do yourself a favor and buy a set of nesting mixing bowls. They are easy to store and you’ll always have a clean bowl that’s just the size you need.
For a while, I wondered if I actually needed a dutch oven. Was it going to be something that just sat collecting dust in the back of a cabinet? Now I'm a total convert, and my dutch oven gets near-constant use. It’s what I use to make stock, batches of sauces, braised meat, soups, and homemade bread. This one is a great option if you don’t want to spend the money on a Le Creuset or Staub.
In professional kitchens, proper food storage is imperative. And the standards should be just as high at home. While it’s not necessary to label and date every single thing in your refrigerator, you should be storing your food in well-sealed containers that make it easy to see what’s inside. Ditch your old, mismatched plastic containers and opt for a set of glass containers instead. They’re better for you, the environment, and your organization game.
They may seem antiquated, but mortar and pestle sets very much deserve a spot in the modern kitchen. Use them to grind spices, make pesto, smash garlic, or crush nuts for sauces and garnishes.
It wasn’t until I had to roll out large batches of pasta and pastry dough that I realized not all rolling pins are created equal. Handleless rolling pins are far easier to maneuver and grip than the classic handled rolling pin, and they're also easier to keep clean. I’ll always hang onto the worn, handled rolling pin that’s been in my family for generations, but this tapered French dowel is now my go-to.