Behind every successful chef is a kitchen stocked with well-worn (and beloved) utensils and essential cooking tools. Navigating the many options available in specialty cooking and chef supply stores can be overwhelming. To help you hone in on the top kitchen essentials, here's a list of 10 tools every chef needs:
- Chef's Knife
Before you can perfect your knife skills, you'll need a quality chef's knife. This is the knife you'll use most often, so it's a good idea to invest in a model that's made to last. Look for one with good balance and metal that runs the full length of the handle (otherwise known as a "full tang" knife). This 8-inch model by Wusthof is a great option for culinary students and professionals.
- Cutting Board
A top-notch cutting board is your knife's best friend. Opting for a plastic or wood version comes down to personal preference (both are sanitary options, but if you prefer wood, look for a sturdy hardwood board, such as maple, beech or bamboo.) The United States Department of Agriculture recommends using a dedicated cutting board for produce and bread and another for raw meat, poultry, and seafood to prevent contamination. Whichever option you choose, once your board becomes difficult to clean, it's time to replace it.
- Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls
Professional chefs and home cooks alike will get their money's worth from a set of durable stainless steel bowls — a must for everything from tossing salads to whipping cream for desserts. Buy a set of nesting bowls that fit inside each other for space-saving storage.
- Stick Blender
This clever gadget is great for pureeing vegetable and fruit, getting lumps out of soup or gravy, whipping cream, whisking eggs, mixing batters and so much more. Cleaning up is a breeze since the metal mixing end of most models is dishwasher safe.
- Kitchen Towels
Strong, absorbent kitchen towels are arguably one of the most important kitchen essentials. They're great for everything from swiping scraps from your cutting board and wiping your knife to dabbing extra moisture from produce and handling hot pans. You can even dampen a towel, fold it up and place it under your mixing bowl or cutting board to keep it steady. Because they will become your new go-to item, it's best to buy towels in a set.
- Microplane Grater
This versatile kitchen tool with razor-sharp stainless steel teeth grates citrus zest, hard cheeses and spices in a snap.
- Heatproof Rubber Spatulas
Not all kitchen essentials are big-ticket items. Inexpensive cooking tools, like spatulas that won't melt when they come into contact with heat, are equally important. Look for a model that can withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, and buy one or two more than you think you need — you'll always have a clean one ready to go!
- Rimmed Baking Sheet
No list of kitchen essentials would be complete without mentioning these workhorses. They can be used for baking everything from cookies and biscuits to jelly roll cakes, as well as roasting vegetables, broiling meat (with a wire cooling rack) and resting cooked meat.
- Meat Thermometer
This inexpensive tool takes the guesswork out of cooking meat by measuring the internal temperature. With this tool, you'll be sure the meat is cooked to your desired doneness, with no harmful bacteria remaining.
- Kitchen Scale
Baking is all about precision, which makes this kitchen tool indispensable. Buy a model that's large enough to place your mixing bowl directly on top of. You'll be able to zero out the weight after each ingredient addition (saving time on prep and clean up).
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