Sometimes it’s hard to know which kitchen tools are worth your time (or in this case, will save you time), and which ones are utterly unnecessary (we’re looking at you, banana slicer). So we caught up with Jackie Cuthbert, development chef at Conagra Brands, to see which tools she turns to to get the job done.
Chef’s knife + honing steel
A kitchen is NOT complete without a sharp knife. It sounds like an oxymoron, but a sharp knife is a safe knife. A chef’s knife is ideal for almost everything—dicing onions, chopping herbs, slicing through melons, mincing garlic. A honing steel should be used before you start chopping. This doesn’t sharpen the knife, but it realigns the metal on the knife to produce a sharp edge.
A wooden spoon is also an essential kitchen tool. Let’s make a vow to get rid of all plastic utensils in the kitchen (minus a bench scraper—see below)! A wooden spoon can be used in place of plastic to prevent scratching non-stick surfaces or simply as a tool for sautéing garlic and onions in a pan.
Peeler + paper towel
One of the best things about working with different chefs is that you pick up tricks. Simply peel veggie peelings into a paper towel on a cutting board, so when you are finished all you have to do is crumble the paper towel into the trash. This is one of the more obvious tools, but is a must-have to peel carrots and root veggies.
This handheld grater is great for taking a thin layer of citrus zest or shaving Parm, but where I think it’s true value lies in grating garlic. Say goodbye to ruining your whole cutting board with minced garlic, and instead save time using this essential kitchen tool by grating garlic directly into a dish.
This is one of my favorite kitchen tools! Not only is it great for getting every last bit of dough out of a bowl when baking, but it’s also a trusty tool for scooping up veggies from a cutting board and transferring them to a pan or container.
Besides its obvious use, which this spatula is great for due to its flexibility, you can also use this tool to scoop out blanched veggies from a pot or unsticking them from a baking sheet. What’s great about these is that if you get a good one, it’s delicate enough to transfer pastries, but sturdy enough to scrape off bits of food.
One of my favorite tools to have in the kitchen is a scale. For more precise kitchen activities like baking, a scale is essential. This is because volumetric measurements can differ even if you are using the same instrument every time. For example, a cup of packed flour is different from a cup of loosely packed flour. I also use my scale for weighing out coffee for our French press every morning (I know, fancy). Scales are easy to use, and cheap.
A mandolin is another essential kitchen tool! If you are looking to save time and quickly julienne carrots or cucumbers, this is your best bet. These Japanese versions are razor sharp and produce some of the prettiest cuts. I particularly like to use mine for shredding cabbage and carrots for slaw or very thinly slicing cucumbers for noodle bowls!