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The Daily Dish Food and Drinks

Chefs Say You Need These 11 Must-Have Gadgets in Your Kitchen — Or You're Doing It Wrong

Chefs reveal home cooks' most underrated kitchen tools.

By Maggie Shi
Curtis Stone Would Take This One Kitchen Utensil to a Deserted Island

You've got a knife, a pan, and a spatula. What more do you need? Well according to chefs, not a whole lot — but we got them to reveal the one underrated tool every home cook should be using in the kitchen. Two gadgets were named more than any other among the pros we spoke to, so if you haven't been putting them to good use, it's time to dust them off (or time to invest).

1. Microplane

“I wish every home cook had a microplane. It is the best. Easy to find and buy and I use it for everything. You can zest citrus, grate fresh nutmeg, make clouds of parmesan cheese, or work up a garlic and ginger puree. Clean-up is a cinch too, since you just need to wash it. No need to break it apart or separate pieces of machinery. The microplane is super versatile.” —Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins, Executive Chef of El Jardín in San Diego, CA and Top Chef cheftestant

“The most underrated kitchen tool would have to be the microplane. Most use it simply for grating citrus zest, but it’s also perfect for cheese, fresh ginger, nutmeg, chocolate, truffles, and more!” Chef Giuliano Matarese of Mille Lire in Dallas, TX

“A simple zester or microplane are definitely underrated! These really help bring out the essence of citrus and allow you to utilize the peel, zest, and natural oils. They also really open up the ingredients and help their flavors bloom. Pro tip: they’re great for shaving nutmeg into oatmeal!” —Chef Tom Dynan of Unleavened Fresh Kitchen in Dallas, TX

2. Mandoline

“Hands down, the mandoline slicer is the most underrated tool. They’re not just for restaurant chefs! For perfectly cooked vegetables or potatoes, you want them cut to the exact same size and thickness. A mandoline is just a fixed blade on a plastic plane with an adjustable thickness. You run your ingredients over the edge of the blade, perpendicular to the mandoline, and the result is flawless, uniform slices that are ideal for stir fry, roasting, potatoes au gratin, and more. Most also come with sets of different blades that allow for thin julienne cuts (perfect for super crunchy, thin French fries!). If you’re not the most confident with your knife skills, the mandoline is the tool for you and will allow you to achieve perfectly cut ingredients in many different ways!” Chef Nick Harrison of STIRR in Dallas, TX

“A Chinese mandoline is an inexpensive tool and great for slicing ingredients very thin and great for garnishing plates.” —Chef Patrick Martin of Kitchen 335 in Healdsburg, CA

3. Rice Cooker

“I have a small four-cup rice cooker, and it could not be easier to make absolutely perfect rice. It frees me up to worry about the main dish. It’s also great for those family members who are less than self-sufficient in the kitchen. All they have to do is add rice and water, push a button, and voila, they have hot food!” —Chef Katy Smith of Puesto in Irvine, CA

“The one kitchen tool I would suggest for every home cook is a rice cooker. I have a small one but it makes plenty of rice for a home meal and the rice comes out perfect every time. I’m not a big gadget guy but this one works. I actually make rice more often at home now because it’s so easy and so good.” —TV personality, author, and barbecue expert Ray Lampe, aka Dr. BBQ

4. Immersion Blender

“The immersion blender is an awesome tool to replace all the cleaning, washing, and finding all the parts for your blender. We use it at home to buzz soups in the same pot you cooked it in. It also makes smoothies, yum. Some of them even have a whisk attachment that can save your arm if you are making whipped cream or a sabayon.”Chef David Baron of Salt Wood Kitchen & Oysterette in Monterey, CA

5. Spoons (Duh, But Take a Good Set Seriously)

“Spoons! Spoons are a cook's best friend, along with his/her chef knife, of course. Kitchen spoons aid with the most important of cooking, tasting!!!” —Chef Brandon Kida of Hinoki & the Bird in Century City, CA

6.  Serrated Paring Knife

“Every cook should own a small serrated pairing knife. Outside of a sharp chef knife, this little tool is really versatile and can be used for so many projects in the kitchen.” —Chef Philip Pretty of Restauration in Long Beach, CA

7. Rubber Spatula

“I think a lot of kitchen tools are overrated, and there are too many items that aren't good at multitasking. Aside from my knife, if I have a good rubber spatula, tongs, and a spoon, I can make almost anything. A rubber spatula is my number one tool in the kitchen, I ask all my line cooks to purchase their own. When you scrape a frying pan, mixing bowl, or anything, the rubber spatula will get every little bit out.” Chef Yosuke Machida of Chambers Eat + Drink in San Francisco, CA

8. Cutting Board

“A decent cutting board! People cut on all kinds of crap, but one should really invest in their kitchen and buy a Boos!” —Executive Chef Taylor Kearney of DISH in Dallas, TX

9. Microwave

“I don't have a microwave at my new home, but all professional kitchens in America and Europe have one. We use it for fast solutions (not for regular cooking), but I think that is one of the best machines if you know how to use it properly. You can use it to bake and steam with perfection, even more precisely than what we're used to with more traditional equipment.” —Chef Oscar Cabezas of Telefèric Barcelona in Walnut Creek, CA

10. Cake Tester

"A cake tester. This little guy in indispensable in the professional kitchen. It assists in determining doneness, as it mimics the tooth. It's a quick and less invasive way to tell if food is hot, tender, etc. It's very, very tough to cook almost anything without it; it's definitely not just for cakes." —Cruz Goler, Executive Chef of La Pecora Bianca in New York, NY

11. Waffle Maker

“The most underrated kitchen tool is the waffle maker — this tool allows you to think outside the box, as so many things can be 'waffled.' One of our restaurants opening this winter, Victor at Parq Vancouver, will offer the ultimate comfort food indulgence—a Mac & Cheese Waffle. After the mac and cheese is cooked and cooled, we give it a quick breading, then cook in a waffle iron until it's golden on the outside and gooey on the inside.” —Elizabeth Blau, founder and CEO of Blau + Associates based in Las Vegas, NV

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