Our Resident Genius' Guide to the Smartest Kitchen Tools

Everything you need to work like the cleverest cooks out there.

December  4, 2020

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Founding Editor and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook. Today, Kristen shows us the kitchen tools that help her cook like a, well, Genius.

These are the tools I consider make-life-easier, everyday essentials—the sometimes unexpected companions that make cooking and baking feel more calm and effortless and that I would attach as my go-go gadget arms if I could. This list was partially cribbed from Genius Desserts, but I find these multitaskers are just as handy for tonight’s dinner and Saturday’s pizza projects as they are for boatloads of cookies and cakes.

Butter warmer

So many recipes call for a stick of melted butter or a tiny amount of boiling water or hot coffee. This little number lets you heat small amounts quickly while keeping a close eye—and ear—on things on the stovetop. You’ll never have a bowlful of melting butter explode in the microwave again.

Bench scraper

For scraping flour and stuck-on bits from the counter, scooping up piles of chopped fruit and vegetables, cleaving doughs into even portions, and delicately removing rolled-out cookies and crusts that have stuck to the counter without a tear. Mine is standard-issue from culinary school with a big chunk missing from its handle; this one would make a better gift.

Wide-mouthed storage jars

You’ll bake more quickly (and more often) if you can get into sundries such as flour and sugar easily. Be sure there’s plenty of room for your scooping hand to get in and out—I don’t remember where I found mine, but the lids like to pop open at terrifying moments, so I have my eye on these beauties instead.

Basic digital scale

Maybe you’re already a devout cooking-by-weight enthusiast—now it’s time to convert your friends, so they can have more predictably genius cakes and pizza doughs (and fewer bowls and measuring cups to clean). My OXO scale has lasted me a decade already.

Sturdy, one-piece silicone spatula

This all-purpose utensil can be used for anything from stirring curds and compotes to scraping down bowls to folding ingredients together. I prefer mine to be strong and a bit stiff, with handles that don’t detach. (Wooden handles can’t go in the dishwasher, and water and other sketchy materials can get trapped in the gap that holds the handle.)

Bundt pan (for more than cakes)

Set one into an ice bath and you have the quickest, most conductive way to cool down ice cream bases and puddings fast. Oh, you want to use it for cakes? Get one with a light-colored interior. The black-coated nonstick versions are prone to overbaking (burning). This one is my favorite dramatic shape that makes extra crunchy tips.

Offset spatula

Just try smoothing batter or icing evenly into a tight corner with anything else. The thin, blunt edge is also handy for lifting delicate cookies off a baking sheet and maneuvering sizzling ingredients in a crowded skillet. I use a basic one I picked up at a restaurant supply store but I wouldn’t mind if someone wanted to stock me up with one of these.

What are your smartest kitchen tools? Let us know in the comments.
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From our new podcast network, The Genius Recipe Tapes is lifelong Genius hunter Kristen Miglore’s 10-year-strong column in audio form, featuring all the uncut gems from the weekly column and video series. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss out.

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I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."