Any cook worth their salt has strong, time-forged opinions about their gadgets, especially the fancy ones. Canvas the epicurean in your life, and they’ll have collectively wielded dozens of chef’s knives, baked with a variety of Dutch ovens, and emulsified with plenty of hand blenders. You can bet they won’t be short on reviews, either. Though the party pieces usually get the spotlight, the humbler kitchen tools (which, typically, vastly outnumber the higher-profile tenants of a kitchen’s shelves and cabinets) deserve attention too. The perfect spatula can be far more impactful to your cuisine than a high-priced Dutch oven.
Here’s a list of eight mighty but modest kitchen essentials that have proven their mettle after having stirred vats of soups, flipped thousands of omelets, or chopped through forests of cilantro.
1. Jonathan’s Spootle, $24
Available in left- or right-handed versions and made out of durable wild cherry, this “spootle” combines the best features of a spoon and a spatula—making it the perfect stirring and serving utensil.
Speaking of spoons, these measuring spoons should be standard issue for all home cooks. This set is durable, accurate(the quantities are stamped into the steel so they won’t fade over a thousand washes) and features a half-tablespoon measure that’s often absent from most measuring spoon sets.
3. Epicurean All-in-One Cutting Board, $39.59
There is no shortage of cutting boards made out of fancy wood, but this one from Epicurean is all you need. It lasts longer than the chunkier rare-wood variants, has built-in rubber feet that can be replaced (no more kitchen towel under a plank), and is fabricated out of an eco-friendly wood alternative that provides the same knife-feel as the real thing.
4. Gefu Multi-Use Kitchen Scissors, $18.95
All you need out of a pair of kitchen shears is long-term sharpness and the capacity to get banged around a bit. This pair checks both those boxes, but is also overengineered with a bottle cap opener, can opener, jar lid lifter (which is rather helpful when canning), nutcracker, and removable blades. It can even scale fish.
5. Ginkgo Japanese Stainless-Steel Spatula, $30
At first glance, this clever spatula might seem like an oddly shaped scrap of sheet metal, but it more than pulls its weight in the kitchen. Excellent for sautéing, flipping, scraping, or moving ingredients in any way you can imagine, this spatula should never be far away from the stovetop. You might just find that you don’t need those other four worn-out spatulas in your utensil holder—they don’t work as well as this steel version.
Prefer silicone? This spatula from GIR is a great alternative.
6. ThermoWorks ThermoPop2, $30
Sheet pan salmon? Grilled steak? Blanched chicken? This very simple thermometer makes accurate, reliable measurements for any meat cooked by any method you can think of. It’s waterproof and lasts longer than most other cheap digital thermometers that end up being a dime a dozen.
Contrary to what many cooks initially think, a spoon rest is in no way a superfluous imposition on limited counter space. The spoon rest eliminates more cleaning time than it creates, can survive unlimited drops onto the floor when it’s accidentally knocked aside (which often happens), and is roomy enough to hold two or three utensils at a time.
8. Helen Chen’s Stainless-Steel Spider, $11.80
Just because you don’t make Karaage weekly doesn’t mean your kitchen shouldn’t have a spider. Bamboo is a water-resistant wood and provides a great look and feel to this essential kitchen tool. These are great for frying, of course, but don’t count out how often blanching or boiling is made so much easier by a spider.
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