Written By: Chef Peggy Aoki
When I look around my kitchen at the tools and gadgets I’ve acquired over the years, a handful stand out as items that truly made my cooking journey more flavorful, easier, and convenient. These are the items that never get culled out when I need to clean the drawers to make more space, the tried and true. These are the only 6 items you need to master your home cooking.
A microplane grater with a comfortable handle is essential for grating citrus zest, nutmeg and hard cheeses like Parmesan. There’s no better way to get a pan full of creamy cacio e pepe pasta than starting with a mountain of fluffy microplaned Romano cheese. Ginger grating is made simple, too. I picked a colorful version so I can spot it easily in my utensil drawer.
Cast Iron Hand Grinder
Grinding whole spices is the flavor upgrade most people think is too difficult or time consuming. With a cast iron hand grinder, it’s really no problem. From a few peppercorns for that cacio e pepe pasta, to a handful of spices for a delicious Indian-inspired curry, a hand grinder makes quick work of reducing spices to a powder. The simple silhouette of the grinder is beautiful on the counter too, making it easy to reach for. I leave it out near the stove so I can easily grind fresh flavorful spices into my creations.
A good garlic press makes quick work of the tedious job of chopping garlic. It’s an instrument I use at home that I never used in a commercial kitchen (we chopped volumes of garlic in a food processor instead!), but I love the way it crushes the garlic to release more aroma. I like this one from Dreamfarm for the way it holds multiple cloves and cleans easily. Never use that inferior pre-chopped jar of garlic again!
A fast and accurate cooking thermometer can make the difference between a delicious batch of toffee and an over or under cooked mess of sugar. Learn to make steaks and other meats at exactly the doneness you love by using this probe thermometer. I use it with every batch of jam and caramel I make, and it’s always nearby when I’m grilling.
A simple metal bench scraper like this one does so much in the kitchen. Use it to transfer chopped vegetables from your cutting board to your cooking pot easily, and put it to use scraping bits of dough and flour off your baking surface. You’ll see cooks use their knife to do those tasks, but it’s not safe, and very bad for the edge of the knife. I use it to divide bread dough and cut off plump gnocchi as I make them (and then to transfer those gnocchi to my pot of boiling water!) If you choose a scraper with a measuring edge, you’ll never need to wonder about how big a “¼ inch dice” is- you’ve got a handy way to check.
Finally, never underestimate the importance of a good quality knife in improving your cooking experience. If you’re using a cheap knife without a good sharp edge, you’ll be frustrated as you cook, and that never adds to the flavor of a dish! You don’t have to invest many hundreds of dollars, there are many great entry-level knives like one of my favorites, Miyabi. You can find a beautifully styled blade and handle with easy to care for Japanese steel for under $200. Don’t forget to get a good diamond steel to keep the edge sharp!
This short list of equipment will help your favorite cook (and you!) learn to cook better and enjoy the process even more. You’ll see our chefs use items like these in Fēst Cooking online cooking classes - they are essential tools that accomplished cooks reach for over and over again. We look forward to seeing you reach for them too!