Our restaurant kitchens may be stocked with some of the most sophisticated equipment on the market, but ask any chef and the most-used tools in their arsenal are likely to be the most basic: the spatulas, spoons and sheet pans that get the job done, efficiently and effectively. Having the right set of kitchen tools will make your life a thousand times easier in the kitchen, whether you are hosting a dinner party for 20 or whipping up a mid-week meal for one.
When it comes to investing in more costly, heavy-duty equipment, opt for items that are multi-use and multi-functional (not that spiralizer you used to make zoodles that one time you resolved to eat more greens). For those of us doing more cooking at home these days, it is time to take stock of your kitchen tools and streamline with these tried-and-true gadgets our chefs say are essential to cooking like a pro.
Jowett Yu, Ho Lee Fook
For efficient grating and zesting, a microplane is a must. Finely grate a block of parmesan cheese over roasted vegetables or cooked meat, zest lemons into your marinades or dressings, or shave truffles over a finished plate of pasta. A handy microplane does the trick every time.
Braden Reardon, Carbone
If you are looking to take your cooking to the next level and planning to splurge on just one piece of equipment in your home kitchen, make it a smoking gun. This item can be used to make both great food and cocktails. Bonus: It doesn’t make a mess, which means less cleanup for you! I recently used my smoking gun to make some smoked Greek yogurt for a flatbread spread at home with kabocha squash confit in clarified butter, Calabrian chillis, oregano and pickled onions.
Joshua Stumbaugh, Associazione Chianti
I am a firm believer that a good cast iron pan is a cook’s best friend. It is so versatile and when taken care of properly, can literally be passed down for generations. It takes a little use to get it properly ‘seasoned’, which basically means you have cooked in it enough that the oils have built up in the iron (so it can be used in place of a non-stick for cooking something like eggs, for example). The number one rule for a cast iron pan is to never wash it with soap or in a dishwasher! Wipe it out with a dry towel or use water if something is stuck to it, but you don’t want to take away all of its seasoning by putting it in a dishwasher.
Billy Otis, Taqueria Super Macho
One tool that you really need to get for restaurant-quality cooking is a chinois (a really fine mesh strainer). It is the difference between achieving that perfectly smooth consistency for your soups or sauces, versus having little seeds or other solid bits still left inside. If you are doing a long simmering reduction sauce, you can also pass it through the strainer to take out any whole spices or herbs, leaving you with that delicate perfect finish.
Luca Marinelli, Osteria Marzia
The one item I can’t live without is a hand blender. For making quick work of sauces or dressings, you should invest in a semi-professional one (the ones that chefs use in restaurants); trust me, it will save you a lot of time in the kitchen to blend or puree food directly in the pot or container it is in.
Yen Chan, La Vache!
For someone who loves cooking at home, invest in a good quality blender! It is definitely one of the most versatile kitchen appliances: you can use it for everything, from making vinaigrettes to soups, aioli or purées, your morning smoothies or milkshakes. A good blender can break down anything you throw at it, while also getting you closer to that restaurant-level presentation on the plate.