10 Must-have Kitchen Tools

Kitchen utensils are instruments used to prepare food. They make work in the kitchen quicker and easier.  I have drawers full of kitchen utensils (no surprise there!), however, I only use a select few utensils on a daily basis.

Knife: One true essential is a good quality knife or set of knives. Different kinds of knives are designed to be suitable for different kinds of tasks.  However, if you are going to buy yourself one knife, make it an 8-inch chef’s knife.  Look for certain characteristics like a high-grade stainless steel blade, a full tang, and a handle that fits comfortably in your hand.  In the absence of other knives, this knife can be used for preparing vegetables, fruit, cheese, fish and meat.  A smaller paring knife is nice to have for more detailed preparations.  A knife with a serrated edge is nice to have for slicing bread, tomatoes and carving thicker slices of meat.

Kitchen Shears: I use my kitchen shears all of the time.  They are great for snipping herbs, trimming meats, opening packages of ingredients and cutting parchment paper or kitchen string.  Remember, though, to wash and sanitize kitchen shears after using them, just like you would any other kitchen utensil.

Peeler: Another essential utensil is a vegetable peeler.  I use mine to remove skin from fruits and vegetables.  A peeler can also be used to turn vegetables like carrots, celery and zucchini into “ribbons” for salad and garnish. I also use mine to shave hard chesses, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, for pasta and salad.

Spatula & spoons: Rubber spatulas and wooden spoons are good to have around.  They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.  I use them for a range of tasks like mixing batters, sautéing vegetables on the stove, and scrambling eggs.

Grater: A box grater is useful for zesting oranges or lemons, grating cheese, or shredding carrots.  Most box graters have different-size holes on them for the purpose of coarse, fine or super-fine grating.  For super-fine grating and zesting, I often use a microplane.  That said, if you are buying only the essentials, a box grater offers more versatility than a microplane.

Tongs: Metal tongs and metal spatulas are great for handling raw and cooked meats.  Tongs are best for lifting and turning sturdy meats during cooking. I also use metal tongs for tossing and serving mixed green salads and certain vegetables such as green beans or asparagus.  Spatulas are used primarily for lifting or turning larger pieces of meat or more delicate pieces of fish during cooking.  Again, both come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Whisk & measuring cups: I use a whisk, measuring spoons and measuring cups almost every time I cook.  Whisks are great for mixing salad dressings and sauces or wet and dry ingredients when baking.  Buy one set of measuring spoons and you will be able to accurately measure ¼ teaspoon, ½ teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon – and anything in between!  There are two types of measuring cups, one for dry ingredients and one for wet.  Measuring cups for dry ingredients (like sugar, flour or nuts) typically come in sets of 4 – ¼ cup, 1/3 cup, ½ cup and 1 cup measures.  They are shaped in such a way to allow you to level the top of the cup with ingredients to obtain an accurate measure.  Measuring cups for liquid ingredients (such as water, oil, or chicken stock) are typically clear glass or plastic and come in a variety of sizes – 1 cup, 2 cup, 4 cups and more.  These measuring cups are shaped and marked in such a way that you can pour your wet ingredients right up to the appropriate measure, without spilling over the top of the measuring cup.  They also include a lip for then pouring your wet ingredients into mixing bowls and pans.  Always set a liquid measuring cup on a level surface and view the liquid measure at eye-level for accuracy.

A slotted spoon is nice to have for removing ingredients from a pan or pot while leaving water, broth or fat behind.  Slotted spoons can also do double duty as serving utensils for marinated vegetables or other dishes where you want ingredients lifted from liquid for serving.

 Ladles: I make a lot of soup, so I use ladles all the time.  They are also handy for serving gravy, sauces, fruit salads, and punch.  They come in a variety of sizes and can be used to portion servings based on their size – 4 ounces, 6 ounces, 8 ounces, and more.

I hope you find this list of essentials helpful.  There are a lot of other utensils that are nice to have, but I think I could make pretty much anything with just this list of items.  Let me know what other utensils you just can’t live without!

Kristen Desmond

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  1. Spot on. These are definitely essential in my kitchen!

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