14 Kitchen Tools Chefs Swear By—and They're All Under $25
Perfecting your cooking skills is endlessly easier when you've got a fully equipped tool arsenal.
Believe it or not, you don’t need to go to culinary school to cook like a pro. When it comes to the fast-paced environment of a professional kitchen, maximizing efficiency and accuracy are key. Here are 14 essential tools chefs swear by that will make your life in the kitchen significantly easier—and best of all, they’re all under $25.
Whether you’re adding a dash of nutmeg or a hint of lemon zest, this handy tool helps finely grate ingredients that are difficult to maneuver with a knife or tedious to mince. Quickly elevate your dish with finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh horseradish, or garlic to add fresh and intense flavors in seconds.
Not only great for baking, a bench scraper is the perfect tool to save you precious time while meal prepping for the week. Instead of haphazardly using the side of your knife to scoop the contents of your cutting board, give yourself the luxury of added surface area to carry your carrots from your cooking station to the pan. Trust us, once you have one, you won’t stop reaching for it every time you cook.
This highly practical tool is ideal for spreading frosting on cakes, smearing jam onto toast, and smoothing out the surface of creamy hummus for bonus presentation points. But it doesn’t stop there: this small-yet-invaluable gadget is the perfect assistant for handling delicate items (think transferring hot cookies from a baking pan to a cooling rack or flipping small, fragile foods like tofu in a pan).
Food thermometers are an essential tool for ensuring your food is properly cooked. Instead of cutting through your chicken breast to check if it is cooked through, use a food thermometer to guarantee you’ve reached the appropriate internal temperature of your protein. Pro tip: you can calibrate your food thermometer by filling a glass of cold water with ice cubes (let it sit for three minutes), then inserting your food thermometer without touching the sides of the glass. It should read 32°F (0°C). Record the temp and offset your thermometer as necessary.
If you ever walk into a restaurant kitchen, you will likely find that the chef (along with all of the cooks) will have a sharpie stashed in their uniform jackets. This simple tool is used to record important information on prepared foods or stored ingredients like the date, type of item, and who made it for efficient kitchen organization. To do this at home, simply take a small piece of masking tape and scribble away any useful information, then affix it to the storage container for the next time you’re in the kitchen. This will help ensure you won’t forget the date that you opened your chicken broth container (so you can make sure to use it before it expires).
Though a sharp knife can be an intimidating aspect of cooking, the truth is that a sharper knife is a safer knife. A sharpening stone is a professional chef’s tool of choice to maintain sharp knives that will easily glide through food requiring less physical effort that oftentimes leads to unwanted kitchen accidents.
By far one of the most important tools (especially when it comes to baking) is a digital food scale. This tool makes the most precise measurements for following recipes and eliminates the guesswork in measuring dry ingredients accurately.
A quality, sturdy spoon is without a doubt a must-have kitchen essential. You’ll want to invest in a chef cult-favorite spoon like a Kunz spoon that will serve as your cooking tool workhorse used to baste food, plate sauces, taste food, transport delicate items, and so much more.
When cooking, one of your most invaluable tools is your palate, but it is important to not risk cross-contamination while taste testing. That’s where tasting spoons come into play and are a great tool to test your food safely without double dipping. Set aside two separate containers––one for clean spoons and one for dirty, used spoons to avoid any confusion.
Sheet pans can do much more than just bake a tray of cookies. This highly versatile tool can be used as a makeshift lid for your pot or pan, a tray for holding your favorite tools while cooking outdoors, or even a way to organize your mise en place before you start cooking. Quarter-sheet pans are especially useful for making different sides simultaneously in your oven.
Sure, you can use a toothpick or a knife to test the center of your cake for doneness—but a cake tester can do that and much more. Instead of creating unappetizing puncture wounds in the center of your flawless cake, use a thin cake tester that will minimally disturb the surface of your food. Additionally, this reusable and easily washable tool is perfect for checking if your veggies are fully tender.
If your knife skills aren’t your sharpest area of expertise, a Japanese mandoline will be your greatest friend in the kitchen. The super sharp blade helps create even, paper-thin slices of veggies or fruits like radishes, onions, potatoes, or apples. Just be especially mindful of your fingers—even the pros use the mandoline with extra caution.
This inexpensive tool is the perfect go-to for quickly peeling your fruit and veggies in seconds. The horizontal sharp blade and wide grip makes handling the tool especially comfortable, as you're able to start from the bottom and peel the skin towards you in one swift motion. After mastering this technique, your prep work will soon become therapeutic (and dare I say enjoyable).
Marble or granite mortar and pestles are ideal for mashing and grinding spices or herbs, thanks to their heavy and sturdy structure. Instead of over-processing your ingredients in an electric food processor, this tool lends the cook full control over the final texture and consistency. Whip out your mortar and pestle the next time you’re making fresh guacamole, grinding spices for your top secret spice rub, or making pesto.