Once upon a time, I was on a work crew building a new house. Our resident master carpenter told me, “Good tools and knowing the tricks of the trade are what separates you and me.” He was so right. As I got into cooking, I knew I was on to a good thing because there was a whole new set of tools to learn about, buy, and use. It’s a guy-thing, maybe. I almost always do a look-see at America’s Test Kitchen (ATK) product reviews when thinking about a new tool.

Dad’s Favorites

These tools are my must-haves and used regularly in my kitchen. There’s a story behind each choice—usually involving research, experiments, and price-checking. Note that the photos here may not be of the item I’m recommending. Click a link for a more complete description of any tool and even buy one if you’re so inclined.

Silicon spatula—My old rubber spatulas are still going strong, but this model is super: indestructible, nice stiff handle, perfect shape to get the last bit of batter out of a bowl. And it comes in colors!
Wooden spoon— I love tools designed to last a lifetime, like this wooden spoon. There’s something about the feel and workability of a wooden spoon and it’s impervious to everything but an open flame. Here’s a basic spoon for about five bucks, or less on sale.
Whisks—I once deemed this too fancy for the likes of me, but now know whisks as a better way of mixing. Great for all but the goopiest chores. There are balloon whisks and whips for fluffing egg whites. See this 11-incher for a great general-purpose choice.
Cast iron skillet—You just can’t go wrong with an everyday tool that lasts a lifetime and may cost as little as $19.99 at your local hardware store. I like my 10″ does-everything model or its 12″ big brother.
Chef’s knife—Find an 8 or 9-incher that feels great in your hand. I’m still using a knife we got as a wedding present even though it never makes the “cut” in TV tests. The one I’m choosing to recommend is inexpensive and a great choice.
Paring knife—I splurged on a top-end German model and haven’t regretted it one Euro. But you can get a best buy here.
Bread slicer—I put up with a lousy serrated bread slicer for years until I actually did my First Loaf of yeasty bread. Now, I couldn’t be happier with my new slicer.
Silicone mat—These make any pan non-stick and are really worth it when you bake or oven-roast for easier cleanup. Some people think these mats are an extravagance, but hey, we’re worth it!
Digital thermometerA game changer. Take the guessing out of guesswork. Everyone should use one of these for juicier meats and done-just-right quick breads and cakes. This is a new model with new features! Don’t you love gadgets?
Digital scale—When I started baking a lot during the pandemic, they said you must weigh your ingredients precisely for best results. Can’t argue with that. I’ve found that this scale is very accurate and has held up well for several years. ATK has a new fav that looks good, too.
Graters—I use a Microplane grater for citrus zest and finely-grated Parmesan. Watch those knuckles. Also, a box grater is really handy for coarser grating.
Dutch oven—Everything they said is true about my big orange pot from France. Great value after you get over the sticker shock. There are less expensive alternatives, but I haven’t tried them. No regrets about my Le Creuset.
Citrus juicer—All the rage a few years ago when they came out, mine is still squeezing away at lemons, limes, or oranges. I use the middle-sized lemon juicer for everything.
Baking and sheet pans—After going through pans over the years making my quick breads and meat loaves as well as sheet pan entrees and roasted vegetables, I happily recommend USA Pans, the non-stickiest I’ve ever used.
Metal spatula—The Pioneer Woman put me on to this great spatula. It’s totally versatile—don’t be fooled by “fish” in the name. Much more effective than the plastic types I already had.
Chaffle Maker—We have come to love these little guys—both the chaffles and the makers. Keto chaffles are a real treat. With two makers, we can whip up chaffles-for-two in no time.
Egg separator—Here’s a bonus to make a point. I appreciate versatility and agree with Alton Brown about avoiding one-purpose gadgets. So, here’s a tool you have with you all the time, does lots of tasks, and costs nothing. Carefully use your fingers to separate the white from the yolk into a bowl.

Dad’s Favorite Sources for Cooking Tools

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