When Foodista on Twitter sent out the question “what is your favorite kitchen tool” I thought about it for a moment. My first response is somewhat obvious — my hands — and the next obvious answer, my chef’s knife, aren’t particularly original answers.
In short succession, I thought of the rest of my must-have items: kitchen tongs (and plenty of them), heatproof spatulas, steel bowls from huge to small, whips and various spoons. The other knives I keep close are the thin-tipped boning knife, a paring knife (expensive) and knife with a serrated blade (cheap).
There were things I used as a working cook, years ago, that I learned to love – then learned to live without when my cooking was confined to my home kitchen. A huge, copper pot that had its bottom replaced several times was my love in an Italian kitchen I worked in. I loved the heavy, workhorse buffalo choppers and stacks of indestructible sauté pans we’d fling around on the line each night.
As a home cook, I’ve found that more of interest now are the unlikely things that have found their way into my kitchen — some almost by accident.
I’d never seen much use for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, for instance. If I wanted to whip up eggs or knead pasta dough I could jolly well do it on my own power, I told myself. Then, early one December, I started making biscotti and could not stop. I was obsessed. As the days went by I went from chocolate hazelnut to almond to dried cranberry orange peel — it suddenly occurred to me that I could make so many more versions if I just had a stand mixer. Suddenly, there it was. I am happy I have it still, though the biscotti frenzy did come to an end.
The world’s smallest melon scoop is in the kitchen drawer full of other small, specialty tools. I rarely use it, but would never get rid of it. First of all, I bought it in a famous chef’s shop in Paris. My one and only trip to Paris. The inspiration for buying it was a salad I’d had that consisted of a bowl full of cool, fresh watercress garnished with caramelized onions and tiny rounds of cucumber, all perfectly dressed with a Champagne vinaigrette. I had to recreate it, and I did. And, found out how long it took to scoop out all of those little tiny pearls of cucumber. It is a special-occasion salad for sure.
I recently realized that I’ve been using another unlikely item almost daily — to the point that I’m wondering how I’d gotten along so many years without it. I don’t even remember how I came to have it.
This is a battered but sturdy, 16-inch pizza pan. I’ve used it for making pizza, of course. But it’s come to play a larger role. It is perfect for ferrying prepped food from counter to stove, or meat from kitchen to outdoor grill; for holding pecan halves or slivered almonds, spread out for toasting in the oven. It’s handy for taking food from the freezer to counter, and holding it while it defrosts. It is there when I need a flat, heat-proof surface on top of the stove to hold foods I’m frying or sautéing in batches, like a stack of softened tortillas for enchiladas.
It’s more versatile and useful, easy to clean and is pretty much indestructible. It will probably stay close at hand in the kitchen for the duration, while shinier, more expensive implements sit unused in a back drawer. Utility, in the end, is what it’s all about.