18-16: Basic Kitchen Tools

Finishing out the month with a Cooking School entry that’s been in my queue for OVER A YEAR. I took the pictures for 18-16: Basic Kitchen Tools at the same time as 18-3: Good Kitchen Knives, 18-6: Basic Pots and Pans, and 18-15: Basic Kitchen Utensils, but somehow just never got around to actually producing the entry on it. Well, better late than never, I suppose.

My plan for this entry is pretty much going to be like the ones I linked above that are similar to it–a few quick blurbs about each of the tools, and perhaps a few shots of some of my own gear that corresponds to the pictures. It’s going to be a wild ride.

SpatulasThe term spatula often refers to a few different things–the tools you see in the picture above (sometimes referred to as turners instead of spatulas) or the tools you see two pictures below this one. I don’t know if that’s a regional thing or just what you get used to, but it can be confusing.

My picture above shows 3 different types of silicone spatulas that I own–I like these more than the metal ones because I don’t want to scratch up my pans. However, if you’re grilling or working over direct flames, go with a metal one.

Whisks: Different whisks have different uses–more balloon-type ones (like A) are good for incorporating air into something (like whipped cream or meringue), while narrower ones (like and C) are better for mixing things together, like a soup or cake batter.

I don’t use the long whisk (C) a lot, but for those rare times when you’re working in a big, deep stock pot, it’s nice to have a long whisk so that you don’t have to get in elbow-deep to stir it up.

I had ambitions to label all of these pictures like this one, but at this point you get what you get (and you don’t get upset). Once a teacher, always a teacher.

Rubber (or plastic) spatulas: See? Also called spatulas. Very confusing. My favorite one here is the one with the red handle–that’s a restaurant-supply one and can handle VERY high heat without even a hint of warping. It’s super strong and won’t bend or break on you. I have like 6 or 8 of them in varying sizes, and have been replacing all my other regular ones with those over time

My mother swears by the silicone ones (like the one with the wooden handle and green head), but I dislike how thick it is–I like spatulas to be thin enough to stay out of the way but thick enough to get the job done. That one pictured barely gets used–it’s probably going in the next donation pile (if I haven’t put it there already).

In the very back of the picture, you can see a bowl scraper–essentially a spatula without a handle. Good for scraping out the last bits of batter from a bowl or cleaning stuck-on dough off of a counter. When I ran an early education center’s kitchen, I used to give extras of those to the teachers for cleaning Play-Doh off of tables and floors. 🙂

Wooden tools, ladle, & spoon: My wooden tools are pretty much confined to spoons at this point, and I use them for the same reasons that Simply Delicious suggests–they’re much easier on your pans and they stay cooler. Wooden tools are often frowned upon in professional cooking settings due to a perceived inability to sanitize them to restaurant standards, but a competent home cook who takes proper care of their tools shouldn’t have any problems. Plus, with the new (and already tired) trend of plating dishes on things like shovels, a wooden spoon is probably the least of their worries.

My ladle is #3 in the lineup above when looking from left to right, and I inherited it from my mother in my first set of “cooking things” she sent me off to college with. I love it, but as I mentioned with the long whisk above, it’s a bit of a pain if you’re working with a large pot–it’s a bit short.

I have a pretty decent collection of spoons, mostly plastic. My FAVORITE spoon is the second from the right–it’s PERFECT for serving but still having control of where the food goes since it has a tapered end to it. I think I inherited that one from my mom as well–an old Pampered Chef souvenir.

The backside of the card! And you thought you were almost done. Try halfway there–I’ve got SO much more kitchen crap to show you!

Potato peeler: Let’s be honest, these are much more than just potato peelers. These are carrot peelers, jalapeño pepper de-seeders, lemon peelers–pretty much anything you need to peel. I used the big yellow guy on the right to peel about 40 lemons the other day as part of making limoncello with my mom–she went through several peelers to find the right one and was still never satisfied. My yellow Y-shaped one however, was absolutely perfect for the job from lemon #1.

Can opener & garlic press: Here’s a bunch of stuff out of one of my tool drawers that doesn’t even include a can opener, because I use my electric one 99.9% of the time. My favorite can opener were the industrial-sized ones during my restaurant days–they’re mounted to the side of a table and requires use of your full body to open giant #10 cans. I do have one of the old traditional ones, but I mostly save it for in case the power goes out or if I’m feeling nostalgic.

Other things featured here (starting at the top left): turkey baster, garlic press (one of my husband’s few contributions when we merged kitchens after moving in together), two types of graters (regular and microplane), a lemon press, various zesters/corers, an egg slicer, a potato masher, and an old-school wine key/corkscrew. Most of the zesters/corers/mashers came from IKEA’s kitchen bins.

Thermometer: My favorite digital thermometer can be seen up near the front right of the picture, but I JUST bought a new pen one that I’m kind of excited about. Seeing as I took these pictures over a year ago, it wasn’t included. I have a candy one as well which looks a bit different, and has markings on it for different stages of candy making (hard ball, soft ball, etc.).

Other things featured here (starting at the top left): three different sizes of funnels, a few teensy strainers/sifters, a random set of measuring spoons, an icing/cake spatula, my cookie press (with set of discs), and a set of measuring cups with an ring mold for cooking eggs around the base.

Pastry brush and vegetable brushI mostly use silicone brushes (top right), but I do have a few regular pastry brushes (looks like a paintbrush). I tend to stay away from the regular ones because I feel like they’re hard to get clean, especially when you use egg with them. I don’t think I own a vegetable brush, but I don’t eat enough vegetables to justify buying one.

Other things featured here (starting at the top left): bench scraper (mentioned above), cake tester, tart stamper, gnocchi board (I haven’t even figured out how to use that), ravioli wheel, butter melter (since replaced with a newer, safer one), #2 scooper/disher (number has to do with the size of the scoop), and my old dollar store rolling pin. I have a newer, fancier one with measurements and discs that help ensure a uniform thickness, but this old one is good too if you’re working with a BIG piece of dough or just need to flatten something out quickly.

Scissors: Always have a set of kitchen scissors that are ONLY used for kitchen things, and can be detached in the middle for easy cleaning. Don’t use your craft scissors to open a bag of raw chicken or other things like that. My kitchen scissors can be seen in the top left, and my poultry shears (scissors on steroids) can be seen in the bottom left.

Other things featured here (starting at the top left): skimmer (known in the culinary world as a “spider”), mandolin, another skimmer, wooden mallet (which has since been replaced with a heavier-duty cast iron one), turkey forks, a carving fork, a wooden fork, pasta spoon, and a pizza cutter.

It may seem like I have a LOT of stuff (and that’s not even half my collection), but I really do use at least 95% of it, and every few years (or whenever we move), I try to cull down the stuff that’s not used. If I replace something with a better version, I try to donate the old one (if it’s safe/usable) to others that are still working on building their kitchens. 🙂