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10 Most Useful Food Prep Tools and How To Use Them

Updated on July 20, 2008

Moms and Their Fetishes for Kitchen Gadgets

Over the years, my love and interest of cooking have resulted in the collection of a great many kitchen tools, gadgets and do-dads. Many were given to me by my dear, late mother, who had a fetish for the latest and greatest kitchen gismo. She absolutely HAD to have every single one of them, and made sure I did too.

So, I've managed to accrue a great many kitchen tools. Many I can live without. But, there are those few, the most simple, and the most basic of any and all kitchen tools that I cannot part with. I simply can't function in the kitchen if I don't have them.

This hub was inspired as a result of my recent trip to my daughter's house in Rhode Island. Since she just had a baby two weeks earlier, I came out to take charge of the cooking, at least for a few days. I was so excited. To cook for others is one of the ways that I express my love for them. I would make a few of her favorite things, like potato salad, grilled chicken, flank steak, and black bean enchiladas.

So all I could think of during the weeks leading up to my trip were menu plans and ingredient lists. The first thing I wanted to do after landing in Providence was go to the grocery store. Pretty pathetic, I know.

But this time, I knew that my daughter really needed me to be there for her in this way. I was more than ecstatic to once again have the chance to play the role of caregiver at this very significant time of her life.

While my daughter is so wonderful in so many ways, cooking isn't really her thing, and her kitchen was missing many of my personal-must-have kitchen tools. Trying to do many food prep tasks without many of my everyday kitchen tools made me appreciate my "top 10" so much more!

Before I left Rhode Island, and like my mother did for me, I made sure to stock my daughter's kitchen with at least 8 of the tools from my list. Right now, I'm working on sending her #9 and 10!

Using a Knife for Slicing an Onion (:39 sec)

Spatulas and Whisks (4 mins)

No Electrical Power Required!

1. Sharp Kitchen Knives

First and foremost, a good set of chef's knives can be your best tools in the kitchen. Some years ago, my father got me my first really "good" chef's knife, a Wüstof brand premium knife, and I've been hooked ever since. Pricey, yes. However, if you take good care of them, premium knives will last forever.

Safety First. For knives to be useful and safe, they must be sharp. Dull knives can slip off the onion or whatever you are attempting to slice, and can do some serious damage to anything in the way. Keep them sharp by using a sharpening steel after each use. When I notice that the blade is getting especially dull, and is inefficient while slicing, I use an electric knife sharpener.

How to Care for Knives. Clean them thoroughly after using. While some brands may state that their knives are dishwasher safe, I always wash mine by hand, using a mild liquid detergent and a dishrag. Clean them especially after slicing citrus fruits. The citric acid can be corrosive if left on the knife. Store in a knife block, on a magnetic rack, or in a knife case. Don't just throw them in a drawer.

2. Wire/Silicone Whisk

Before I discovered the joys of whisking, I used a fork for beating eggs, and a wooden spoon for making gravy. After my hard work, I usually got flat scrambled eggs and lumpy gravy.

Whisking during food prep really helps to fluff things up a bit. Whisking introduces air into the product to make it light and fluffy. Silicone whisks resist heat, so it can be used while stirring on the stovetop, which work especially well for blending gravies, sauces, soups and stews.

3. Silicone Spatula

I don't even use the regular white plastic spatulas anymore. Not since I melted half of it by leaving it in a hot pan by mistake. Silicone can tolerate heat up to about 400°, so it is very useful for sauteing. Also, its thickness and durability make it useful for scraping batter from bowls.

4. Tongs

A very versatile tool that is good for handling raw meat when you don't want to use your hands. While cooking over an open flame, you definitely need to keep your hands and fingers out of the heat. Tongs are like extensions for your fingers. They allow the cook to have some dexterity while grilling various types of tricky foods, such as onions and peppers.

5. Salad Spinner

After washing lettuce and other greens, plot them into the spinner, and let centrifugal force dry them off. It's much quicker than using paper or kitchen towels, and the leaves get almost completely dry. No more slimy lettuce.

6. Vegetable Peeler

Many a chef can chip the peels from vegetables in lightening speed using a knife. I know. I watch the Food Network Challenges. But I have neither the time, nor the desire to learn this type of skill, and I would probably turn a giant potato into a nugget anyway.

So I have the standard peeler that makes quick work of carrots, potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini or apples. By starting at one end of the fruit or vegetable, and running the peeler down its length, the peeler will take the top skin off, with little waste of the usable product. If you want to get creative, you can use a peeler to make think "ribbons" of vegetables to go in salads.

7. Flat Spatula

How else would you flip hamburgers or grilled cheese sandwiches?

8. Pasta Spoon/Server

Great for taking lengths of pasta out of the cook water and into another pan to sauté together with the sauce or other ingredients. Then, use it to serve the pasta into pasta bowls.

9. Potato Masher

I prefer a hand masher over using an electric mixer because, first, you don't have to drag out an electric appliance. Second, mashed potatoes will tend to gum up if you whip them too hard or too long. This gadget is also good for making guacamole. Yum.

10. Soup Ladle

A big ladle serves a bowl of soup in one or two dips. It sure beats using a gravy ladle!


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    • Pam Pounds profile image

      Pam Pounds 9 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest!

      Thanks so much, Sally! Glad you enjoyed. A vintage hand ice crusher - very cool. I'll bet that holds a special place of honor in your kitchen!

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 9 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      Fantastic Hub! This is the first of yours I've read, and I'm looking forward to reading all.

      About kitchen gadgets. My aunt Katie is a gadget freak, has been all her life, and she's well up into her eighties now. Whatever's new on the market, she's got it.

      My all-time favorite of hers was a hand-cranked ice crusher from the 50s. My best friend knew about my love for this thing, and gifted me with a *vintage* one not too many years ago.

      The tools on your list are also my most essentials, with a few tiny differences. For one, my knife choice is Sabatier, the carbon steel, not the stainless. I agree that the cost up front is worth it.

      Now, about the potato masher and the avocado. YES! You can mash that green thing with a fork, but a good hand-wielded potato masher does the best job.

      Thumbs up!

    • profile image

      RUTHIE17 9 years ago

      Excellent set of tools and, I agree, a must for every kitchen.

      One little gadget I've found to use on my gas range is a heat defuser. The burners on the new range were smaller than my old one and it seemed that everything was burning right in the very center of my pans, no matter how low I turned the flame. This does just what it says and spreads the heat evenly over the whole bottom surface of any pan I use. I don't cook without it!