When you go out to eat, you’re likely not thinking about the tools that go into your order—but you should be. They often make a critical difference in how quickly the plate arrives at your table, and in your first impression of that meal. The ingredients may take center stage, but tools work behind the scenes to make sure that every plate looks presentable and precise.
It’s much easier to recognize the importance of dependable tools when you’re cooking at home, of course. And if you’re looking to be a home chef with a professional-level gadget drawer, you don’t have to sneak behind the service counter to see what’s being used: I asked five L.A.-based chefs to describe their favorite tools, and the dishes they use them for. From budget-friendly purchases to use for weeknight meals to splurge-worthy buys for special occasions, these picks and tips make it easier to cook at home like a restaurant pro.
Cooks At: Viale Dei Romani
Favorite Cooking Tool: Garlic Peeler. “It’s the best kitchen invention of the modern era,” he says.
Favorite Dish to Make With It: “I love making pasta alla piastra, which is a 100-layer lasagna bolognese creation that takes three days to make,” Lane says. “You can’t make it without plenty of garlic.”
Cooks At: Rosaliné
Favorite Cooking Tool: Bamboo Steamer. “It’s a versatile tool that allows you create all sorts of dishes, as long as you have the patience to wait while your favorite meal steams," says Zarate.
Favorite Dish to Make With It: “My favorite dish to make in a bamboo steamer is shrimp, scallops, and scallion dumplings for my kids, but I also use it to make eggs or steamed vegetables served over a bed of rice,” he says. “To make eggs in the steamer, I beat two eggs in a bowl and add one part chicken stock with some chopped chilis, scallions, and whichever peppers are on hand. Then I put a small ceramic container over the bowl and let the mixture steam in the bamboo steamer very slowly.”
Cooks At: Yours Truly
Favorite Cooking Tool: Utility Knife from Shun. “It’s a small, everyday knife that has a really fine serrate, allowing it to stay sharp for a long time,” he says. “I’ve used it throughout my cooking career, and I’ve gifted it to many people.”
Favorite Dish to Make With It: “It’s the best thing to use when cutting tomatoes, because it gives you a clean cut without damaging the fruit,” Abgaryan says. “When I cook for my family, I like to keep it simple. Sliced tomatoes with good olive oil, lots of salt and pepper, lemon zest, and whatever herbs they have in the kitchen. In the summertime it’s great with watermelon and feta, or with sliced avocados.”
Cooks At: District
Favorite Cooking Tool: Stainless Brushed Six-Quart Sauté Pan from All-Clad. “This pan is durable and versatile,” says Cuadra. “I can start cooking an item on the stove, and then easily transfer the pan to the oven to finish cooking or baking.”
Favorite Dish to Make With It: I love to make almost everything in that pan, from meats, to fish filets, to pasta,” he says. “But as far as my favorite dish, I thoroughly enjoy making braised short ribs. I turn this into a one-pot meal after searing and then braising the short ribs in the oven, low and slow, with the lid on. Once they’re fork-tender, I take them out, strain the braising liquid, and return the liquid to the pan. I then cook vegetables and potatoes in the strained sauce. Once the sauce is reduced, I add the short ribs back in.”
Cooks At: Sushi Note
Favorite Cooking Tool: Wasabi Grater. “At Sushi Note we use fresh wasabi root as opposed to powdered wasabi, because we want to keep the traditional flavors intact,” Saito says. “The fine surface of this grater makes for a creamy wasabi paste. You can find fresh wasabi at your local Japanese market.”
Favorite Dish to Make With It: “Traditionally, wasabi is used for sushi and sashimi, but it’s also a great ingredient to use in your steak marinade,” he says. “My favorite trick is to mix fresh wasabi with soy sauce and marinate my steak in it. I then add a pinch of fresh wasabi on top of my steak before serving. The root of wasabi is much milder and doesn’t overwhelm the flavors of the steak.”