Kitchen Gadgets Every Home Chef Needs, According To Professional Chefs

We asked culinary experts to dish on the kitchen tools that are an absolute must-have for mastering cooking at home.

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We asked chefs and culinary experts to dish on the kitchen tools that are an absolute must-have for cooking at home.
We asked chefs and culinary experts to dish on the kitchen tools that are an absolute must-have for cooking at home.

Cooking is a way to nourish your body, express yourself and, for many, it’s a love language all about bringing people together. Even during times when we can’t exactly be together.

You’ve probably been on social media and seen a lot of people sautéing, grilling and baking their way through social distancing (especially bread). Cooking has become a means of survival, entertainment and stress relief when restaurants are closed, ordering takeout can be challenging and sitting down for a good meal feels like the only thing that’s still normal in our lives.

If the closest you’ve come to cooking is whipping up a PB&J, there are plenty of online classes you can take through programs like Bluprint, Udemy and Masterclass. (And even if you’re not typically a home chef, you may have stack of cookbooks collecting dust on your coffee table, like Alison Roman’s cult-favorite “Nothing Fancy.”)

Some people are putting their culinary skills to the test with exciting new recipes, while others are struggling to cook at home for the first time. Whatever your reason or skill level, there are few essentials you’ll need. We asked two culinary experts to dish on the absolute must-have for cooking at home.

You're cooking at home more these days. Here are the kitchen essentials chefs agree you need to have on hand. 
You're cooking at home more these days. Here are the kitchen essentials chefs agree you need to have on hand. 

Get your kitchen in order

Organizing your kitchen is the first step to your cooking journey, according to Barry Tonkinson, the director of culinary research and development at the Institute of Culinary Education.

Organize your cupboards and utensils, keeping everyday items close at hand. Most importantly, have a clean working space with sharp knives and a solid cutting board.

Master the basics

Good food doesn’t mean going overboard, Tonkinson said.

“Good flavor comes from solid, precise technique and not an overabundance of flavors,” Tonkinson told HuffPost Finds. “Learn how to master the basics: roasting, sautéing, frying and braising.”

If you’ve just perfected the art of boiling water, it might be best to stick with simple dishes that only require a few ingredients, said Kelly Ruben, a private chef based in New York City. She recommends one-pan recipes for beginners, and working your way up to more complex recipes.

You're cooking at home more these days. Here are the kitchen essentials chefs agree you need to have on hand. 
You're cooking at home more these days. Here are the kitchen essentials chefs agree you need to have on hand. 

When in doubt, turn to the experts

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the number of recipes out there, Ruben has a good hack for deciding what you want to cook.

“The best way to ease into an at-home cooking routine is by narrowing it down to one blog, Instagram account or cookbook that seems approachable,” she said.

Ruben recommends watching video tutorials to master complicated techniques that often get left out of written recipes, like how hot a pan should be when searing a steak or how thick to roll out a certain type of dough before baking.

Make sure you have the right tools

There are two essentials Tonkinson and Ruben agree are necessary for a well-prepared kitchen: a sharp knife and decent-sized cutting board. Together, they can make all the difference when preparing meals.

“Choose recipes that fit to your kitchen and not the other way around.”

- Barry Tonkinson, director of culinary research and development, Institute of Culinary Education

But remember, as with most things in life, kitchen products are about quality over quantity.

“If you look at the recipe first and then have to buy the equipment for it, you could end up hoarding an enormous amount of cookware that you rarely use,” Tonkinson said. “Choose recipes that fit to your kitchen and not the other way around.”

If you’re not sure what tools you might need to become a burgeoning master chef, Tonkinson and Ruben shared the gadgets they swear by in the kitchen.

Take a look below:

1
A multifunctional microplane
Target
Both Tonkinson and Ruben agree that a microplane is one of the most essential — and underrated — tools of the kitchen. Ruben uses one "every time I a make a dish that requires grated garlic and/or zested citrus," while Tonkinson said it's, ahem, grate, for "cheese, zesting citrus and shaving nutmeg.

Find this one for $15 at Target.
2
No surprise, a KitchenAid stand mixer
Sur La Table
Both chefs agreed that a KitchenAid stand mixer is essential to a well-prepared kitchen. It's great for baking, but Tonkinson also uses it for "making meatballs, making mayonnaise and making my own butter." Ruben said it helps "speed up any recipe."

Find this one for $380 at Sur La Table.
3
A set of stainless steel mixing bowls
Target
No kitchen is truly useful without a good set of mixing bowls in a few different sizes. They can be used for tossing ingredients, whisking sauces and food prep. But why stainless steel?

Ruben said stainless steels bowls are ideal for proofing dough and even using as a double boiler for melting chocolate: "They maintain heat and/or cool temperatures better than plastic bowls and aren’t as heavy as glass."

Find this set for $20 at Target.
4
A bread-baking book for beginners
Barnes & Noble
A beginner cookbook might be all you need to get going in the kitchen. If you're new to baking with yeast, Tonkinson recommends "Flour Water Salt Yeast."

Find it for $30 at Barnes & Noble.
5
A nice set of nonstick skillets
Bed, Bath & Beyond
Nonstick is the way to go, according to the chefs. "A good-quality nonstick pan can be used for just about anything and they make for a very easy cleanup," Ruben said.

Find this set for $60 at Bed Bath & Beyond.
6
A Vitamix
Vitamix
Tonkinson said the Vitamix is "the blender of all blenders," and is well worth the price. "This is an unrivaled piece for your culinary kit, which will be able to handle all of your culinary challenges," Tonkinson said.

Find it for $350 at Vitamix.
7
A trusty set of pots and pans
Le Creuset
Le Creuset is the premium cookware of the culinary world. "I have a set of Le Creuset pots and pans, and I love them," Tonkinson said. "They retain heat and are durable and reliable during cooking."

Find this set for $525 at Le Creuset, or this slightly more affordable dupe from Caraway for $395.
8
A guide to Italian cooking for beginners
Target
Looking to perfect your pasta and finesse your focaccia? Tonkinson recommends "The Silver Spoon" as a guide to Italian cooking for beginners.

Find it for $40 at Target.
9
A multipurpose silicone spatula
Sur La Table
No kitchen is complete without a few silicone utensils. "These are great for baking, stirring soups and sautéing vegetables. And you can leave them on the side of a hot pot without the risk of them melting," Ruben said.

Find this one for $12 at Sur La Table.
10
A heavy-duty cast-iron skillet
Target
If you're a carnivore, your kitchen might benefit from a cast-iron skillet. "Cast-iron pans are great for searing meat because they hold a high heat very well," Ruben said.

Find this one for $23 at Target.
11
An immersion blender
Amazon
Soup season might be on the outs, but you'll use a stick blender for much more than that, Tonkinson said. Look for one with mulitple capabilities like blending, aerating, whisking and frothing.

Find this one for $179 on Amazon.
12
A cookbook for those with a more scientific mind
Target
In the end, isn't cooking just an edible version of chemistry? Tonkinson recommends "The Food Lab" as a fundamental cookbook for beginners that looks at cooking through the lens of science.

Find it for $31 at Target.
Kitchen Essentials For Cooking At Home