Tools for Culinary Success
To produce amazing results in your kitchen, you don’t need fancy, top-of-the-line equipment. You do however need reliable tools to make the job done easier and more efficient, saving you time and effort.
On this page you will find the culinary tools that I use in my own kitchen and recommend to others. I will update these lists as I update the tools in my kitchen. They are subject to change and availability. Some links are to the most current model available from the brand I trust and may look slightly different that the older model I currently possess. If you are looking for information on how I stock my pantry, sign up for my Sunday Spotlight newsletter and I’ll send you a PDF guide with a printable shopping checklist.
For recipe specific recommendations, look just above the recipe box on each individual post. If you have a product you think belongs on this list, please contact me with more information at [email protected]
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This list will continue to grow and change as my kitchen changes. Thank you for being a part of Renee Nicole’s Kitchen.
Food Prep Tools
For chopping, peeling, and otherwise preparing food to cook, having the right kitchen tools always makes a difference. These are the tools I am constantly using on a daily basis. I wash most of these by hand, because of how often I use them. Wash knives and anything else with a blade by hand to keep them sharp. You should never place wooden items in the dishwasher. The heat can cause them to dry out and crack, making them hard to clean in the future.
A chef’s knife is a versatile knife that can handle most food prep jobs. I keep two in my kitchen, but you really only need one. Look for one with a straight edge and use a honing rod to extend the time between professional sharpenings. I use Cutco knives and send them off for sharpening once a year.
At around $4 a piece, this is probably the cheapest way to upgrade your kitchen. Lightweight and easy to use, this style of peeler makes peeling any vegetable quicker. Made from carbon steel, you must be wash and dry them immediately in order to keep their edge sharp.
I have 8 different cutting board, but the ones I use the most are the my large bamboo boards. The bamboo is durable, but needs to be hand washed and conditioned at least twice a year with cutting board or butcher block oil. I use them for everything except animal proteins like meat, fish, and poultry. For those I use plastic, but am so in need of an upgrade that I don’t currently have a recommendation.
When it comes to upgrading your food to restaurant quality, a microplane zester makes a big difference. It enables you to quickly do little things that can add big flavor to your food. From grating hard cheese in seconds to zesting citrus for a flavor burst, this tool is my favorite secret weapon.
Measuring Cups and Spoons
Liquids should be measured in glass or plastic cups and Pyrex is the brand I trust to be consistent. A set of three: 4 cup, 2 cup, and 1 cup, will cover most of your needs. Use dry measuring cups and spoons for dry goods, like flour and spices. To measure, scoop and scrape these goods into the correct size cup or spoon for accurate results. Mine are by Norpro and oblong shaped, which makes it easier to fit into jars and canisters. The spoons are still available, but the shape of the cups is slightly different.
While many Americans don’t keep scales in their kitchen, having a basic scale makes baking much more accurate. Additionally, it makes it MUCH easier to measure things like cheese grated straight from the block or ginger. It’s not something I use every day, but I do use it often when creating recipes.
Bring on the Heat
Having cookware and bakeware that can perform well under fire is so important to getting great results. Cheap pans won’t heat up evenly and won’t convey that heat to food properly, but they are better than nothing. High quality cookware can be an investment that will last a lifetime, but can be expensive. Start with something you can afford and invest in better quality tools as they need to be replaced.
The cookware in my kitchen is a four year old, non-stick set by Cuisinart. Some of the pieces already need replaced, but the set has been discontinued by the manufacturer. Non-stick was a great initial investment as I learned my way around the kitchen. However, knowing how to properly use a stainless steel pan is key to advancing your skills. I’m gradually shopping for stainless steel upgrades for most of those pieces, but haven’t yet decided on a replacement brand. The truth is, those aren’t the pieces I use most often, so the replacements will take a while.
Most days I’m grabbing my Lodge 13.25″ cast iron skillet or 6 quart dutch oven. Cast iron provides a sear that is unmatched by non-stick or stainless steel surfaces. It is versatile enough for use on the stove top or in the oven. In fact, you can use raw cast iron over an open fire or on a grill without damaging the pan. They do require special care, but are heirlooms you can pass down to your grandchildren. I also own a few other cast iron skillets, but if I were to buy more I would buy Lodge.
My bakeware is a combination of non-stick with a dark surface and Pyrex tempered glass. They both have their place in the kitchen and can be used for different dishes. The basics include a 9″x5″ loaf pan for breads, 9″x13″ pan for cakes and roasting, standard muffin pans for muffins and cupcakes, and half size baking sheets for cookies and roasting. I also have a 9 1/2″ ceramic pie pan and a 10 1/4″ dual handled cast iron skillet that I use for a variety of pies, crumbles, and cobblers.
Tools to Mix, Stir, and Scrape
Unless you want to get your hands and countertops really messy, you’ll need to have a variety of mixing bowls and cooking utensils. When shopping for these tools look for items that are durable enough to stand up to wear and tear. Consider whether you intend to hand wash these items or use the dishwasher. Not all utensils and bowls are dishwasher safe so buying accordingly can keep overall expenses down.
Owning non-stick pans forced me to find silicone cooking utensils that were durable enough for the heat, while also being gentle enough to not scratch the pans. Once I found Tovolo’s tools I knew that I finally found something that wouldn’t need replaced in 6 months. I’ve had mine for over 4 years. The only visible damage was caused by me – not by wear and tear. (I sliced part of the silicone off one of my tongs while slicing a hot roast – oops!)
They work so well that I use them on my non-stick, cast iron, and stainless steel pans. The only metal cooking utensils I use are metal turners, but I won’t recommend them by name. The pieces I can’t live without are the silicone tipped tongs (I own 2), spatula (I never realized how versatile this could be), stirring spoon, slotted spoon and slotted turner.
Mixing Bowls and Such
There is no such thing as a bowl that is too big, but there is definitely such a thing as one that is too small. No matter what you are making, you want plenty of room for the food to move around to be thoroughly mixed. I have this set of 6 metal mixing bowls and typically use the three largest ones most often. I also have this set of nested glass bowls and a set of antique pyrex dishes that belonged to my grandmother.
Small Kitchen Appliances
Some things done in the kitchen by hand can be therapeutic, but sometimes it’s so much better to let an electronic appliance do the hard work for you. These kitchen tools can be expensive, but often they are things that you won’t buy repeatedly. Look at these items as investments and look at purchasing them around holidays when you can find them on sale.
If you love to bake you should consider investing in a KitchenAid stand mixer. Mine is the 5qt. artisan mixer in pistachio. It’s not the professional line, but it is still a work horse in my kitchen. It makes creating batters and doughs a breeze, but also saves a lot of effort when it comes to making meringues, whipping cream, and creating homemade icings. With so many attachments on the market, this machine is an investment that can grow along with your cooking skills.
Another great option is a food processor. Not only does it make excellent pastry dough, it also makes quick work of large batches of dip and grates tough vegetables or cheese in no time. Food processors are also key in making things like homemade baby food, pesto, and homemade dressings.
For smaller batches of dips, dressings, and soups my go to is my immersion blender with mini-chopper attachment. Mine is by Calphalon but it’s been discontinued. This one by KitchenAid has been recommended to me, but if you decide to shop around make sure you go with one that is stainless steel instead of plastic. My immersion blender is the most used small appliance in my kitchen and you’ll see it recommended in many of my recipes.
A culinary torch isn’t a kitchen tool you’ll need often, but it sure is fun to use. No, it’s not just for melting sugar on a creme brulee. There are many more uses for a culinary torch. You can use it to roast peppers, melt cheese, toast a crumb topping, or glaze a ham. Use it to fix uneven browning on a roast without having to put it back in the oven. A kitchen torch may not be specifically required for many recipes, but once you become familiar with it you’ll find many more ways to use it.