Essential Tools

The Kitchen Tools Our Editorial Team Wouldn't Want to Cook Without

December 18, 2015

As a team of cooks—who make everything from giant cinnamon roll cakes to new takes on your jiggly heirloom salad to squashduckens to fried toast—we're well acquainted with our tools. They make our cooking projects easier—and a heck of a lot more fun.

So, what to get the cook that has everything? The tool they can't cook without (or wouldn't want to). Here are the kitchen tools our editorial team loves the most and would be lost without. (Yes, you can also consider these gift suggestions.)

Kristen Miglore: Bench Scraper

Photo by Alpha Smoot

This bench scraper is the "Go-Go Gadget" extra hand I've always wanted in the kitchen—for leveling measuring spoons, scraping up sticky messes, and scooping piles bigger than I can hold.

Samantha Weiss-Hills: Microplane Grater

Photo by James Ransom

The microplane is the best thing that has happened to me, re: garlic. I hardly ever mince garlic now (unless I really need to get some stress out); I just shave it on the microplane. It keeps things contained and gets all those juices pumping out of the garlic so it's practically a paste.

Amanda Sims: The Greater Grater

The Kuhn Rikon Greater Grater, which my mom bought for me at T.J. Maxx and has already replaced for me once. It creates the perfect little shape of any hard cheese—basically everything you want from your microplane but actually just the opposite: eentsy, rubbly, tiny nuggets rather than cheese fluff that ends up melting into a big fluff puddle. (I use a Microplane, too, but more for ginger, garlic, etc.) Plus, the Greater Grater has a cup on the back, so all the perfect rubblies will collect while you grate, ready to be shaken (back through the holes) onto everything. Sometimes I grate a bunch at once and then put the whole Greater Grater in the fridge.

Caroline Lange: Chef's Knife

Photo by Mark Weinberg

I bought my kitchen knife as a end-of-summer/back-to-school gift to myself three years ago. It was a bit of an investment (I paid about $100 for it), but I use it daily, and it has made every single kitchen task, from slicing bread or onions to chopping nuts and peeling winter squash, so much more pleasurable. It's an 8-inch Santoku knife, which I bought from Korin; I haven't once had to sharpen it (though I probably should), and am a little obsessive about it (in college, it lived in my bedroom, not in the kitchen).

Leslie Stephens: Food Processor

Photo by James Ransom

The day I got my food processor (a house-warming gift from boyfriend's mom!) was the day I quadrupled my recipe repertoire. I use it all the time—for pasta sauce (mostly), breadcrumbs for baked tomatoes, this weird fish sauce I'm obsessed with, the potato chips in these potato chip cookies. Basically, for something to be called dinner in my apartment, a component of it will have passed through my food processor. Just did some quick math and I use my food processor for 12 of the 15 recipes I have uploaded to the site.

Taylor Rondestvedt: Apron

Photo by Alpha Smoot

The apron that my mom sewed for me. It's not a completely essential tool, but it's beautiful, and I'm kind of a messy, throw-everything-all-over kind of cook, so it's saved many an outfit. Plus, it reminds me of home, and it's a great reminder of all the women that taught me how to cook (she added one of my grandmother's buttons to the bottom).

Lindsay-Jean Hard: Mandoline

I could probably live without my Japanese mandoline—but I don't want to. When my husband and I first moved to Japan, we only brought a handful of essential kitchen items that we couldn't live without for even a minute (i.e. a French press), so we had to buy almost everything needed to outfit a kitchen. I picked up this little mandoline set for three reasons:

  • Look at how cute it is! It all neatly stacks back together in its own container. All kitchen things should be designed this way.
  • It was cheap.
  • It has 4 different slicing and shredding options! Four options are obviously better than one.

I used this all the time in Japan, but when it came time to pack up and move back stateside, I left it behind. I figured that it wasn't worth taking up space with something so inexpensive: Surely I could easily find something I liked just as much back home—but I couldn't! The only logical option was to send my husband back to the Japanese equivalent of IKEA on his next business trip to find me the exact same mandoline. And now I'll never move anywhere again without it.

Kenzi Wilbur: Fish Spatula

Photo by Bobbi Lin

I bought a fish spatula from a restaurant supply store when I first moved to New York because I thought it was a little badass to have something I saw only in abundance in hardworking restaurant kitchens. I barely had my own kitchen yet, but I needed this spatula. And turns out I really did: I still have the very same one, and I use it for everything I ever flip or scrape—it's got a more delicate edge than most spatulas, and the thing can't be fazed, unlike other, flimsier, thin spats. I kind of still think saying "spats" makes me badass. Just let me have that one, okay?

Sarah Jampel: Parchment Paper

Photo by James Ransom

Name any baking problem you've had and I'd bet it could have been avoided with a proper and adequate use of parchment paper.

  • Cookies with burnt butts and doughy faces? Parchment paper.
  • Cake glued into its pan? Parchment paper.
  • Pie dough globbing to your counter? Parchment paper.

Parchment paper is a baker's best friend, so much so that the "Our 52 Favorite Tips for Smarter Holiday Baking" article might have been more appropriately named "52 Reasons Why We're Starting a Parchment Paper Fan Club" (F.Y.I.: Dorie Greenspan and Alice Medrich are card-carrying members.) Parchment is the perfect non-stick surface, it makes cleanup (not only for messy doughs, but for oily or burnished roasted vegetables) a breeze, and it can even be reused. IS THIS FOR REAL?

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I love the name of parchment paper (it makes me feel like Shakespeare!), I love its soothing brown tone, I love the sound of ripping it off the roll, and—ahh—the satisfaction of peeling it away from the bottom of a still-warm cake.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I have and use all the tools mentioned in the article - although I have a much bigger mandoline - which I use for really big jobs, like slicing ten pounds of onions for onion confit. ”
— Andie P.

Parchment paper, will you marry me?

What's the tool you wouldn't want to be in the kitchen without (or the one that's on your wish list)? Tell us in the comments!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Wendy Strow
    Wendy Strow
  • Andie Paysinger
    Andie Paysinger
  • Tatiana
  • Susie Landsem
    Susie Landsem
  • Fiona
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


Wendy S. December 20, 2015
Any idea where to get a fish spatula for lefties?
Andie P. December 19, 2015
I have BellaCopper heat diffusers for my gas stove top because I often need to use several small pans that will not sit securely on the cast iron grate itself and I only have 5 burners. The double burner plate allows me to put 8 small pans and the diffuser keeps the heat even and low so I don't have to watch them constantly. I posted a photo on Facebook yesterday showing how efficient this is. I have and use all the tools mentioned in the article - although I have a much bigger mandoline - which I use for really big jobs, like slicing ten pounds of onions for onion confit.
Tatiana December 19, 2015
What store in Japan is the equivalent of IKEA? My husband travels there for business quite frequently and I'd love to get him to bring home one of those cute mandolines for our kitchen.
Fiona December 20, 2015
Yes I need to know what is the name of the store in Japan to get it. Muji? Tokyu Hands? Aki Home?
Lindsay-Jean H. December 20, 2015
Nitori, I hope they still carry the same one! (I'm a huge fan of Tokyu Hands too.)
Susie L. December 18, 2015
Cute article - I feel the same way about my knife!