13 Tools Our Test Kitchen Staffers Can't Live Without
These are the kitchen tools Food Network test kitchen staffers have fallen head-over-heels in love with.
As members of the Food Network culinary team, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen, both at home and at work. Like an invaluable coworker, we’ve all got our go to kitchen tools that we wouldn’t want to cook without. Like a true love story, everyone has their “meet cute” moment and has a list of reasons why won’t break up with this tool. Some of our team are so committed that they have more than one back-up on hand, so they’re never without it — a bold move in our tiny New York kitchens. Here are the tools we swear by, and think you will too.
I discovered the OXO Silicone Flexible Turner while running a recreational cooking school. This tool was everything I’d ever wanted. The turner-end of the spatula has a flexible metal core that is still rigid enough to lift a burger patty or scrape a pan, and thin enough to wriggle under any cookie or pancake. You don’t have to worry about damaging your pan because the surface is completely encased in a high-heat resistant silicone.
I've gone all-in on this spatula — I own three. We also have a bunch in the test kitchen, and when I travel to film a cooking show I make sure we have a couple there too. Too much you say? Wait till you try it.
— Michelle Warner, Food Stylist
I add a splash of citrus to finish off at least one dish a day, which means that I always had some combination of a reamer, a strainer, and lemon seeds in my sink, along with a slightly squeezed lemon half in the fridge.
This juicer has streamlined the whole process! I first discovered it after I kept seeing it pop up when my favorite food personalities made cooking videos. It eliminates all the other tools and gives me a place to keep the juice that I don’t use. Plus, now that I have decided that I am also a mixologist (thanks, quarantine), I use this to measure the citrus for my cocktails. Everyone wins.
I should probably buy a couple more just in case (though I will say, it is surprisingly sturdy). I can’t go back to the slightly squeezed lemon halves in my fridge. I’ve seen the other side. I won’t go back.
— Larisa Alvarez, Managing Culinary Producer
I first discovered the small offset spatula in culinary school when we entered the pastry portion of my program. However, I quickly realized that this tiny tool is incredibly useful in savory cooking as well. Once I started working at a restaurant at the end of school I immediately purchased one of my own; it’s been true love ever since.
It’s obviously great for frosting a cake or easing a pastry from its baking dish. However, I also love using my offset spatula for shmearing soft goat cheese on a crostini and flipping small ingredients, like tofu in a frying pan. It’s flexible for sliding under delicate pastry dough, but sturdy enough to slice through chilled butter. I guarantee you’ll find uses for this tool in many different aspects of cooking.
I actually own at least three now, so I’m good to go if one of them walks away...
— Amanda Neal, Recipe Developer
The first time I met this magical peeler was in culinary school. My chef instructor was using it during a demo in a knife skills class and it was as if he was on an infomercial. Right after that class, I picked one up and never looked at another peeler again!
The swiss peeler allows full control of how thin or thick you want your peel to be from a fruit or vegetable. When making a curl of citrus zest I am able to easily remove it without too much pith, which can be quite bitter. I can peel a potato with one swift motion. Last but not least, I can use this to create thin ribbons for a quick and easy salad with a carrot and zucchini!
This love is true; I always purchase a three pack so I have two for backup. Also, I have gifted one to every member of my family so they too can understand the wonders of this peeler. Plus when I cook in their home, I have one handy!
— Vivian Chan, Culinary Producer
I grew up in a household where everyone used chopsticks to eat. As I grew older, I saw my mom cooking with them almost exclusively. They are so versatile, you can whisk, stir, flip, hold anything! We never even had tongs in my house because these were all we needed.
As a food stylist, I love to use them on photo shoots to style food. They are great when trying into reach into a tight shot and adjust a plate to look it’s best.
They're pretty easy so find, so you never are at risk of being without them.
— Jackie Park, Food Stylist
I’m sure I used tongs growing up on our home grill, but it wasn’t until culinary school and then working the line in restaurants that I fully understood why a good pair of tongs reign supreme.
A good pair feel like an extension of your hand. You can easily grab hot pans from the stovetop or oven, turn vegetables or meat on the grill, toss and serve pasta and (my favorite as someone who is 5’3”) grab things off a high shelf.
But not all tongs are created equal. These OXO tongs lock and unlock confidently and smoothly, and open wide enough to grab large items. The rubber lining on the side of the tongs are comfortable and prevent hand fatigue as you use them. The stainless steel tips are also great for grabbing small items, like a single stalk of asparagus, or large items like a whole chicken. I even have used them instead of a spoon to stir in a large pot.
— Melissa Gaman, Recipe Developer, Food Network
I came across this mini whisk in the kitchen of the family I worked as a private chef for. I found myself using it so much that I ended up going out and buying my own to add to my tool kit.
It’s great when you need to mix things of small quantity, like a sauce or a vinaigrette. A lot of times I like to make a dressing directly into a measuring cup or mason jar and a regular whisk or rubber spatula is just too big. I also use it when I make a stovetop sauce or even a ganache because its easy to handle and is small enough to get in all the nooks and crannies of a pan or bowl. And lastly, its small to store and can be cleaned with the rest of the silverware in the dishwasher. No fuss!
I can’t live without it! I own at least three. That way if one is in the dishwasher, I have a clean one on-hand ready to use!
— Jessica Widmer, Recipe Tester
Before culinary school, I only ever used the large grill tongs outside in the summer months, on the grill. During culinary school, I was introduced to using the small OXO metal tongs. I use them for moving and flipping meat whilst searing, frying, boiling, braising and grilling! It is a true extension of your hands.
If and when my trusty tongs ever break or malfunction, I have two more backups in my kitchen tool drawer!
— Matthew Skrincosky, Food Stylist
I first discovered the fish spatula when I started working in restaurants in the late 1990s — basically forever ago. The combination of being incredibly thin with a slight curve at the tip makes it so easy to slide the spatula under so many things for flipping not just fish. I also use it for pancakes, burgers, frying eggs. It’s wide, but not too wide, so it is also easy to maneuver around a crowded pan and for dislodging things like roasted potatoes or removing cookies from a baking sheet, the possibilities are endless. Don’t get caught up in the fish part of the fish spatula. Super versatile!
— Steve Jackson, Food Network Magazine Test Kitchen Director
I met this amazing tool at my first restaurant job. I worked pastry, but figured out early on that after their knives, all the line cooks prized their Peltex fish spatulas, even the guys who didn't cook fish.
I don't cook a lot of fish, so don’t be mislead by the name. This tool is the perfect trifecta of skinny and flexible and sharp. That means it's perfect for sliding under EVERYTHING you are frying, sauteeing, roasting on a sheet-pan: If your latkes need to be removed, those wide holes will let the oil pass through, or if your roasted vegetables are sticking to the pan a bit, the sharp front edge helps you chip of the sticky part, then continue to slide under, lift and flip or toss while draining the aforementioned fat.
I love that it’s small and lightweight with a short handle which makes it is easy to maneuver and gives you a lot of control without choking up. You can also get the right angle to flip a burger or piece of fish in a little high-sided pan. And yet...the spatula part is long enough for perfect lifting and turning longer fish fillets.
This tool is everything and more to me. I've owned my fish spatula for 10 years. Even now as I reflect I can’t believe I don’t have a back-up and I will be purchasing a second immediately.
— Miriam Garron, Senior Director, Food Network Kitchen (The Place Not the App)
I first discovered the Gyuto Chef Knife when working with chef, Michel Nischan. While I was deboning chicken thighs for an event. He handed me his honesuki, Japanese boning knife, also made by Nenox, telling me to use it and walked away. As silly as it sounds, it was like an awakening. That day would have blended into any one of our many days cooking together, but this moment stood out because a good knife is a game changer.
I had thought I had a nice knife, but this was different. It was as if I was holding a cleaver and a scalpel at the same time. A Nenox knife is an investment for sure, but when I reached the point I could afford it, I decided to level up my work in the kitchen and get the Nenox Gyuto 8-inch chef knife.
— Richmond Flores, Food Stylist
I first discovered this handy tool while working at the Rachael Ray Show – Rachael is so obsessed with this item that she created her own version of it in her cookware line. I pretty much exclusively use this tool to grate garlic. Any time a recipe calls for minced garlic, I whip this grater out and it works like a charm. No more stinky cutting boards or super garlicky hands. It provides a quick and easy way to get perfectly small cuts of garlic. I make sure I always have one home and when I’m at work and I even got my mom one too. This ones a keeper!
— Kim Klatzkin, Food Stylist
I was gifted this spoon by a friend in culinary school. It’s the perfect-size spoon, while the handle is easy to hold because it is shorter than the average serving spoon, it has a large scoop so you can use it right in a pan to baste a steak or flip a filet of fish. You can also use it to form a perfect football shaped scoop of whipped cream or ice cream to top some pie. I also have a slotted version of the same spoon, which makes a great partner to this guy.
— Rebecca Lucarelli, Purchasing and Events Coordinator
I met this superhero at my first restaurant job, because how can a prep cook survive without one? Now I give them out like stocking stuffers to my culinary students.
I love how versatile it is, while taking up very little drawer real estate. In my NYC Kitchen, I have ONE drawer only! The thin bench scraper can shovel, scoop, measure (mine is the nerdy kind with a ruler edge), work dough, cut pasta, scrape dumplings… the options are endless! I also use it to clean my cutting boards and counter top. From small bits to large jobs, this tool provides great bang for the buck!
— Dana Beninati, Managing Culinary Producer