You’d be surprised if you stepped into my kitchen and poked around in the drawers. The latest tools and gadgets, right? The most expensive, high-end cooking equipment?
Nah, not so much. I outfit my kitchen the same way I tackle clothes: A few investment pieces, mostly classics, like a heavy-duty mixer and a single chef’s knife. A few cheaper fill-ins, like paring knives and vegetable peelers. Two sets of measuring spoons, one for wet and one for dry, because recipes are faster if you don’t have to stop and rinse things.
Then there are a few things that are so useful, they might as well not have a spot in the tool drawer. They’re either in the dishwasher or in my hand. Three that fit in the never-put-away category:
1. A fish spatula. Forget the name. It has a lot more uses than lifting a delicate piece of fish. A fish spatula is different than the flat metal spatula that’s sometimes called a pancake flipper. The metal blade is thin with open slots, which makes it a little flexible. The shape of the blade, with a wide lip and a narrow back, is perfect for maneuvering under things or scooting under meat without tearing the skin. You can find one for less than $15.
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2. Short locking tongs. Sadly, the best pair I’ve ever had, with a bulb-shaped handle you can open and close with a quick move of your palm, were given to me by a friend who works for OXO. OXO apparently made them for sale only in Japan, where people are really into short tongs. In America, we have to settle for the kind with a flat locking pin that’s not quite as easy to use. Still, the point here is shortness. Long tongs are great for grilling, where you need distance. At the stove, short tongs, 9 inches instead of 12 or 18, are the way to go. They give you ease of movement, so you can really grab things and move them quickly. The tongs usually cost about $12.
3. Bench scrap shovel. Bench scrapers are usually small and flat, designed for working with pastry dough. The one I love has a wide blade with edges, so I can scoop up big piles of diced vegetables without having them fall over the side. I found one at Sur La Table several years ago. It doesn’t turn up on the store website anymore, but there is a version made by the Harold Import Co. on Amazon.com for $15. Look for “bench scraper shovel and food scoop.” Rachael Ray Tools makes a similar style.
There you go, my three favorites. What’s yours?