13 Chefs Weigh In on Their Number-One Kitchen Essential
To achieve the title of Chef requires years of experience. But outfitting your kitchen with the best kitchen gadgets, used and approved by culinary experts, is a bit simpler. Having the right tools for the job, after all, helps to bring a culinary concept to plate.
To uncover what, exactly, top chefs ID as their go-to, must-have kitchen tools, we went straight to the source. We’ve asked chefs Lena Ciardullo of Manhattan’s Marta, Angie Rito of Don Angie, Ayesha Nurdjaja of Shuka, and more to share their kitchen must-haves. For Ciardullo, it’s the multitasking chef’s knife. For Rito, it’s a Microplane zester to be used on citrus and cheese. Nurdjaja, meanwhile, relies on tasting spoons because a chef needs to measure their progress with sips and bites.
Below, more star chefs on their favorite kitchen tools and which are worth adding to your arsenal at home.
Chef Lena Ciardullo: A Chef’s Knife
According to Lena Ciardullo, executive chef at New York City’s Marta, Caffe Marchio, and Vini e Fritti, a proper chef’s knife is a necessity. “I love my Suisin chef’s knife—it’s universal. Generally speaking, I use it for nearly all tasks.”
Chef Suzanne Dumaine: A Mortar and Pestle
Suzanne Dumaine, who owns New York City’s Three Owls Market, is a fan of the mortar and pestle for its ability to release fragrant oils from spices and herbs. “I’ve become pretty attached to my mortar and pestle. Not only does it make me feel like an Italian grandmother and double as the culinary version of a stress ball with all that pestling, but it coaxes the most incredible flavors out of everything from whole toasted spices to fresh herbs that you can’t quite replicate with a blender. I’m constantly throwing fresh herbs, spices, garlic, anchovy (any aromatics will do), and a big pinch of salt in there, and after a few therapeutic minutes of pestling, I have a bright, fragrant pesto, gremolata, or herb rub at the ready.”
Chef Jacqueline Mearman: An Immersion Blender
For Jacqueline Mearman, executive pastry chef at Baltimore’s Atlas Restaurant Group, the versatility of an immersion blender is unmatched. “My favorite kitchen tool is is the KitchenAid 2-speed Immersion Blender. You can make anything from buttermilk ranch to flourless chocolate cake with this mini beast. The blade attachment is detachable, making it easy to switch between different prep with a quick rinse.”
Chef Marian Cheng: A Microplane
An all-around favorite of the chefs we surveyed, the microplane might just be the one must-have for anyone looking to up their game in the kitchen. Hannah and Marian Cheng, co-owners of Mimi Cheng’s, enjoy the super-fine texture created by the grater: “It’s perfect for creating light and airy clouds of cheese for salads, soups, and pastas. The consistency of the finely grated cheese makes it easier to meld into the dish. It’s also great for zesting citrus, garlic, and ginger when you want a subtle hint of flavor.”
Angie Rito, chef and owner of Don Angie in the West Village, agrees: “I’m a huge fan of Microplane graters. I love their versatility. They can be used to zest fresh citrus or finely grate cheese, or they can even be used to grate things like fresh garlic, horseradish, or jalapeño very finely so that the ingredients basically melt into sauces and dressings.”
Chef Carolina Santos-Neves: Tasting Spoons
To chef Carolina Santos-Neves of the West Village’s American Bar, the value of a set of tasting spoons is simply unmatched: “It’s simple and perhaps even an obvious answer, but the importance of a Tasting Spoon makes this my kitchen tool of choice—especially when you’re trying to maintain consistency in the food you’re creating. When do I use it? For sauces! To me, sauces make up so much of a dish. Whether it’s for the harissa-tomato sauce we use on American Bar’s gluten-free calamari, our peanut dressing vinaigrette, or even our hot fudge, this spoon is the ultimate vehicle.”
Chef Barbara Lynch: The KitchenAid’s Pasta Attachment
According to chef Barbara Lynch, the founder of Boston’s Barbara Lynch Collective of restaurants, a handy pasta attachment is a game-changer for home cooks: “I can’t live without a KitchenAid Mixer with the pasta attachment! While I do love hand-rolling pasta, the KitchenAid with the pasta attachment is the most efficient, consistent way to make pasta dough. It’s reliable and can get the pasta dough exactly how I like it—so thin that you can see through it—like the thinness of a silk scarf! I entertain often, and my go-to is pasta with whatever else in the fridge or pantry, so it’s a staple in my kitchen.”
Chef Sarah Thompson: Yakumi Pans
Chef Sarah Thompson, formerly of New York City’s Cosme, swears by sets of Yakumi pans for keeping her kitchens organized and in top shape: “My number one kitchen essential is a Yakumi pan. These pans are small storage containers with removable compartments and they keep all my prep and ingredients organized. They are especially great for keeping smaller amounts of ingredients easily accessible. We use them all over our kitchen.”
Chef Esther Choi: A Mandoline
Esther Choi, chef-owner of New York City’s Mokbar and Ms. Yoo, says a mandoline is a powerful tool for slicing and julienning vegetables to any thickness. “Slaw can be sliced paper-thin (almost shaved), which you can’t achieve with a knife. I love using the mandoline teeth to make noodles from zucchini or cucumbers. Chips, french fries, or potato galettes are also amazing things you can make with it,” says Choi. Admittedly, it’s a tool that requires a touch more care to use than most others: “Definitely get to know the mandoline,” she advises. “It can be quite dangerous if not used properly. I have seen some of the ugliest cuts and accidents from this tool. However, if you are using safety measures such as a cutting glove, you can definitely learn pretty quickly how great it is to use. I recommend starting slow and firm to get to know the pressure you need to use for the type of vegetable you’re working with.”
Chef Ayesha Nurdjaja: Kunz Spoons
Ayesha Nurdjaja, chef-partner at Shuka and the soon-to-open Shukette, thinks having a few Kunz spoons handy is a lesson in versatility. “The Kunz Spoon is a multipurpose spoon and a quintessential cooking utensil for a chef,” she says. “Honestly, in a professional kitchen, we use it for everything—and you can do the same. Portioning, eating, saucing a plate, flipping scallops in a hot cast iron pan, skimming a stock, opening a beer bottle! They also come in gold or, even with a design. You can use it as a serving spoon for your rice pilaf when having guests over.”
Chef Pati Jinich: A Vitamix
Chef and cookbook author Pati Jinich turns to her Vitamix blender for smooth, perfect-every-time textures. “I use it daily for a wide variety of dishes: soups, salsas, creamy guacamoles, vinaigrettes, margaritas, smoothies, and even cakes,” she says. “I love keeping mine on the counter, so it’s always at the ready for any task, rather than having to dig it out of a cupboard every time.”
Chef Michael Poirkoff: A Pocketknife
For Michael Poirkoff, executive chef of The Maker Hotel in Hudson, New York, his favorite pocketknife opens up a world culinary possibility in the great outdoors. “Whether you’re foraging mushrooms, taking a bloomy wheel of cheese on a summer picnic, or cutting cucumbers out in the garden, this classic little knife will become your go-to tool. It’s sharp, has a great lock on it for pocket travel, and comes in a variety of handsome hardwood handles,” he says.
Chef Mike Seely: Culinary Tweezer
Mike Seely, executive chef of Bayberry Garden in Providence, Rhode Island, explains: “Tweezers get a bad rap in some kitchens because they denote overly fussy plating and a sense of culinary elitism. But I have been using them for years in my home kitchen. I taste food with them, flip sausages and bacon, and use them to temp steaks like some chefs use a cake tester. It’s gotten to the point where I reach for them in my apron chest pocket even if I don’t have an apron on. They have become a true appendage.”
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