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Image: Time Out

18 life-changing kitchen tools, according to top chefs

Refresh your arsenal with these tried-and-true gadgets that chefs use at home.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen

We've all been spending a lot more time in the kitchen over the past year and a half – whipping up loaf after loaf of banana bread, trying our hand at viral TikTok recipes and, when all else fails, baking dozens of chocolate chip cookies. Now that you've leveled up your skills, it's time to upgrade your kitchen gear. We pinged some of the world's best chefs to ask about the at-home tools that changed their lives. Their answers provide a checklist of must-have gadgets that range from super simple utensils to bigger investment pieces. Along the way, they share tips on how to get the most out of these tools, so you might even discover something new to try with an appliance you already own. Take a look at the life-changing kitchen gear that chefs swear by then, upgrade your own arsenal accordingly.

Craving more insider insight from the world's best chefs? You're in the right place. Talk to the Chef! is a new weekly food series that will tap into the minds of culinary leaders around the globe. The conversation changes just as often, and we'll chat with chefs about everything from podcasts and kitchen equipment to travel and trends.

Life-changing kitchen tools to buy

Chef’s knife
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1. Chef’s knife

“Good sharp knives. I'm not one of those chefs who cooks with a lot of equipment, but too often I get into my friends kitchens and their knives are blunt. Having good, regularly sharpened knives makes the prep for cooking any dish—meat or veg—so much easier.” —Nornie Bero, owner of Mabu Mabu in Melbourne

Pasta roller
Photograph: Shutterstock

2. Pasta roller

“I used to be that guy who rolled each and every dumpling by hand. Bad idea when your partner wants a quick lunch and you fail at feeding him anything at all. The pasta roller allowed me to make many variations of pasta dough, dumpling wrappers and even sheets of mochi. The pasta roller also changed my waist size—I now have too much time on my hands and sheeting out too much dough that I unfortunately have to eat alone due to COVID.” —Chanthy Yen, founder of Touk and chef of Parliament Pub & Parlour in Montreal


3. Milk frother

“Honestly, the $3 IKEA hand frother. I never thought they worked, but now I use it for everything—even in the professional kitchen.” —Timon Balloo, chef-founder of Sugarcane in Miami

Cast iron skillet
Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Cast iron skillet

“It’s been about eight years now, but it’s still the cast iron skillet. It has made making steakhouse-quality steaks out of my tiny NYC apartment a reality. I’ve tried to work with stainless steel for steaks and chops, and there is no competition—the cast iron is the only way to go.” —Richard Zaro, owner of Cutlets Sandwich Co. in New York City

Photograph: Shutterstock

5. Microplane

“My favorite kitchen tool is the microplane. I think every kitchen needs one. Mostly because my favorite ingredient is lemon, and I’ll add lemon zest to everything I possibly can.” —Colette Robert, owner of The General Store in Cape Town

6. Rubber spatula

“I think the rubber spatula is the most versatile tool. I have a small one at home that I use for everything. I use it to sauté with so I don’t scratch my nonstick pans and am able to scrape everything out—I hate waste. And in my kitchen, a restaurant, it’s a tool I use to remind my team that when you become an owner, you spend your own money in building out your dream. Every ounce from a container or carton is important. Respect the person making the sauce and the person cleaning the sauce container.” —Thai Dang, chef-owner of HaiSous and Thai Dang at Time Out Market in Chicago

Tamagoyaki pan
Photograph: Shutterstock

7. Tamagoyaki pan

“My wife, Yoshika, has this beautiful little square copper pan for making tamagoyaki. I love to use in the morning to cook these square-style omelettes for her as well as my kids, Lucas and Emika. Super nifty and cute.” —Agustin Ferrando Balbi, chef-founder of Andō in Hong Kong

8. Clay pot

“A clay pot is my favorite at-home tool. I love a bit of slow-cooked food. To me it’s the best, as it's a really easy way to cook meat perfectly, and it manages to pack in so much flavor, too. To get a better result—a little bit more like a pressure cooker—I seal the lid to the pot with a mix of plain flour and water. C'est magnifique!” —Loic Leguay, head chef at Bone Daddies in London

Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Probe

“A must-have tool for anyone that cooks is a probe. It takes the guesswork out of cooking any protein. You will never overcook another steak or undercook chicken ever again.” Khanh Nguyen, head chef at Sunda in Melbourne

10. Thermomix

“I am evangelical about my Thermomix—it has captured my heart as well as my kitchen. It’s like having an indispensable kitchen helper. It’s whizzily multifunctional, but what makes me particularly devoted to it is its grinding prowess. I make a lot of spice blends and pastes, and love how it makes such light work of even the coarsest ingredients, powerfully blitzing them into fine powders or smooth pastes.” —Ravinder Bhogal, founder of Jikoni in London

Mandoline slicer
Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Mandoline slicer

“The mandoline changed my life. I nearly only use it to cut fruits and vegetables, as it allows me to have a very neat, regular result to simplify cooking.” —Alessandra Montagne, chef-owner of Nosso in Paris

12. Wooden spoon

"Growing up, I learned from my Italian Nonnie how to cook every single thing with a wooden spoon. As an adult, I have upped the stakes and spent too much money on all shapes and sizes, with my favorite being really beautiful carved driftwood spoons with flat ends to help with my risotto. I know, it’s nothing fancy, but I firmly believe in the importance of a really wonderful wooden spoon." —Cara Marie Nance, executive chef of Lower Mills Tavern in Boston

Vegetable peeler
Photograph: Shutterstock

13. Vegetable peeler

“Chefs and cooks spend a lot of time together debating everything from knives to the best brand of mayonnaise. One thing that is never up for debate is what we’re peeling our vegetables with. Okay, I once worked with a guy who favored the long-handled peeler that my grandma passed down to my mom, who attempted to hand it down to me. Sorry, Mom, the Kuhn Rikon is efficient, colorful and, best of all, can be had with a couple clicks on Amazon for a very reasonable price. It’s not the sexiest tool, but I don’t know what I’d do without it.” —Chris Willis, chef-owner of Pammy's in Boston

14. Wire cooling rack

“The CIA 23304 Masters Collection wire cooling rack has been a great help in one of the more subtle arts of steak grilling: the resting period. You don’t want to let the meat sit in its own juices immediately after you remove it from the heat source, and you want a durable rack to hold up when you’re serving the thick T-bone steaks I’m a fan of. You put so much work into cooking a perfect steak, and resting it with the right tool helps you finish the process strong.” —Pat LaFrieda, CEO of Pat LaFrieda Meat Purveyors in New York City

Stone grinder
Photograph: Shutterstock

15. Stone grinder

“One of the tools that every Indian household used to have was a stone grinder. Now, people have access to mechanised stone grinders, but I remember watching my grandmother grinding spices and herbs on a black stone metate with her hands. It was hard work, but she never preferred the modern mixer grinders—she always insisted that it didn't taste the same. If someone asks me this question now, I say the same. The whole idea of her grinding fresh herbs and spices for the food preparations changed my perception of the way food is cooked.” —Manav Tuli, chef de cuisine at CHAAT in Hong Kong

16. Coffee maker

“Probably my Siemens coffee machine. As every chef will tell you, we need multiple cups each day, given that we spend such long hours on our feet. The machine is super simple to use and makes the perfect cup in seconds. I doubt I would be able to get out of bed every morning without it. It also makes a great espresso, which makes for a fantastic affogato with a scoop of good vanilla ice-cream.” —Matt Manning, chef-owner of Grub & Vine in Cape Town

Hand mixer
Photograph: Shutterstock

17. Hand mixer

“I constantly use my handheld kitchen mixer to do most of the baking at home. You don't get a lot of space in NYC apartments, so it just didn't make sense to have a bigger, bulky KitchenAid mixer at home. Most of my baking recipes call for a whisk attachment, so it definitely does the job.” Emily Yuen, executive chef of Bessou and Bessou at Time Out Market in New York City

18. NutriBullet

“I think the NutriBullet has been the most recent game changer. Originally bought for a healthy phase in the Tish house—juices, smoothies and the like—it's so good for quick, fine blending and pulsing, from spices and purees to quick salsas. It’s easy to clean, put together and take apart.” —Ben Tish, chef-owner of Norma, London


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