As I test my way through recipes for a new book (more on that later), I realize that I have  essential and indispensable tools in the kitchen that make life easy, making cooking extra fun, and make food delicious. They’re often simple things, but they’re essential and I thought it was time to give you an update.  Here’s a dozen essential kitchen tools I can’t live without.

My first list of essential tools are tongs, fish bone pullers, strawberry hullers, a small “spider” for skimming everything out of boiling water, from blanched vegetables to pasta. Multi-sized ladles, and a wide vegetable peeler are vital, and of course copper pots are nice to have.  And don’t forget the hearts and little messages.  They make everything taste better.

Hanging tools

All the things that can hang

You may not think of them as essential kitchen tools but tasting spoons are so handy – these sit near the stove and go into sauces, soups, stews, custards, jam…anything that needs a quick taste to get it right.  My favorite are wood spoons handmade in Konya, in Turkey. They don’t absorb flavors, they do get just the right amount.  Any soupssoup spoon do, though.

I can’t cook without pastry brushes.  They work for brushing egg glaze on a tart, brushing butter or oil on fruit or vegetables before they hit the grill, brushing flour off of pastry before filling it, brushing bread with oil before toasting it…and then there is the Peugeot pepper grinder.  It is a lifetime investment that won’t let you down. The pepper inside? Voatsiperify, from Madagascar, the very best.

pastry brushes and pepper

Pastry brushes and pepper

Chopsticks and miscellaneous wooden utensils come in handy all the time.  Somehow, a chopstick is the perfect tool for stirring chocolate, mixing spices into rice, breaking up pasta in water.  And all those spoons – they’re for mini tastes of everything and the wooden spreaders work for making sure that jam is smooth on the bottom of the tart, or the chicken liver pate is perfectly presented, or the aioli looks just right in the bowl.



Chopsticks and miscellaneous wooden things

Finally, a big mortar and pestle is indispensable in my kitchen. I use it to make pesto, aioli, hummus, spice mixtures for marinating meat and poultry, nut butters.  I love looking at it too, it’s regal.


If you have a mortar and pestle, here is a great pesto recipe from Nuts in the Kitchen (William Morrow, 2010).


Print Recipe
Nut and Olive Pesto (PESTO AUX NOIX ET OLIVES)
NOTE: To pit the olives, place them on a work surface, cover them with parchment or waxed paper and whack them firmly yet gently with a rolling pin. This splits them open, making the pit easy to remove. In general, olives are salty so the additional salt isn’t necessary. When looking for olives, if you cannot find those mentioned below, use a generic French olive.
Nut and Olive Pesto (PESTO AUX NOIX ET OLIVES)
Nut and Olive Pesto (PESTO AUX NOIX ET OLIVES)
  1. In a mortar, pound the garlic with the salt until it is a fine puree. Add the olives, the nuts, and the basil and mix until the mixture is homogeneous but still has much texture. Slowly mix in the oil. Season to taste with salt if necessary, and serve.
Recipe Notes

Little fun nut fact:  If you find two nuts in one shell where there should be only a single nut (almonds, brazil nuts, hazel nuts, etc.), eat one of them and throw the other over your head as you make a wish. After you have made your wish, you should not speak to anyone until you can answer "yes" to a question, or your wish won't come true. (England)

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2 Responses to A Dozen Essential Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without

  1. Cathy says:

    Fabulous choice of tools. I really love my silicone brushes and I never have to worry about the bristles falling off. LOL

    • Susan says:

      Cathy – funny, I just don’t “get” silicone brushes. I feel like the liquid falls off, and it doesn’t get brushed on right. I’ll give them a try when in L.A.

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