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Cooking utensils


Introduction

In general when you first start cooking, utensils don't seem to be that important. Thinking (like me at my beginning) "Well, a pan is a pan, it's all in how you use it". But it's not that simple.

Utensils are very important, almost like quality ingredients, because they allow you to make the recipe in perfect conditions, as the author intended. If you use poor tools and your recipe goes wrong, it will be almost impossible to know where the problem lay. And for your working comfort, it's much easier to work with good tools.

What's here?

On this page you will find information on tools that you can use when cooking. They are separate in two categories : the "10 essentials", those that I think you must have in your kitchen, and the others. For each one, there are explanations on its use, and some councils of purchase. See about buys the best addresses page.

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Last modified on: June 12th 2019

The 10 essentials tools (I can't do anything without them...)

Other tools


Apple-peeler

Here is a tool that I was sure was just some dumb gadget before my friends Eric and Pascale gave me one! It's an extraordinary tool that peels and removes the core of an apple in less than 10 seconds. The chore of peeling/removing the core is now a thing of the past, and making apple tart or cake becomes a real pleasure.

The only small criticism that could be made is that it is not fully stainless, so you must dry it carefully after washing.

If you intend to buy:

Get a stainless one, with a suction pad to fix it onto your work surface.
Apple-peeler
Apple-peeler
Recipes which use this utensil: 24, of which:

Araignée (spider)

A kind of skimmer, like a shallow wire basket on a long handle. It's ideal for removing something solid from a liquid, like vegetables in water for example.

If you intend to buy:

Get a stainless one, preferably from a professional catering supplier where you will find different sizes.
Araignée (spider)
Araignée (spider)
Recipes which use this utensil: 10, of which:

Baking sheet

This is a metal sheet or tray, covered with a non-stick coating, similar to the lining of an oven.

It can be used for cooking a wide range of things, but mainly small items to be cooked together such as rock cakes or profiteroles.

If you intend to buy:

Buy one made of steel or aluminium, but most importantly with a non-stick coating, otherwise you will always need to line it with cooking parchment, or grease with butter, then dust with flour.
Baking sheet
Baking sheet
Recipes which use this utensil: 189, of which:

Bannetons (bread rising baskets)

Once dough is kneaded and worked, it needs to be left to rise in a warm place before baking.

Turning the risen uncooked dough onto the peel for transfering to the oven can be a tricky moment, especially if the dough has stuck to the container. To avoid this, bread is traditionally left for its final rising in special baskets lined with a linen cloth, floured generously beforehand. These help the bread to rise evenly because the warm air can circulate through the sides, and the linen lining does not absorb the moisture from the dough. The French term for such a basket is "banneton".

If you intend to buy:

These are often made of willow, lined with a linen or cotton cloth.

They are available in different shapes, according to the kind of loaf you wish to make, from professional bakery suppliers. They are sometimes seen for sale in supermarkets, sold as table bread baskets (about 5-6 € each in 2005).

Bannetons (bread rising baskets)
Bannetons (bread rising baskets)
Recipes which use this utensil: 4

Blade

This is a sharp blade, used to slash the top of loaves (the "grignes" in French) to allow them to swell properly during baking.

This one is a razor blade screwed onto an aluminium handle.

You can also use a baker's blade with a plastic handle, but it's rather expensive.

Blade
Blade

Blender

A blender consists of a sort of "propellor" or knife blade, driven by an electrc motor.

Ideal for transforming a lumpy mixture into something smooth and homogenized.

There are two kinds: classic blenders with a goblet into which one pours the substance to be blended, and hand blenders which are cheaper and more practical, which can be plunged directly into a bowl or pan.

If you intend to buy:

Choose the hand blender if possible, with a power rating of at least 400 Watts, with a sharp blade. It is useful to be able to take the blender apart for cleaning.
On the other hand, having lots of different speeds serves no real purpose.
Blender
Blender
Recipes which use this utensil: 35, of which:

Bread crate

This is a large wooden crate for airing loaves after they come out of the oven, and where they cool more easily than on a table (air can pass all round the loaves).

Mine is 90 x 45 cm (35 x 16") with a handle to hang it for storage.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Bread crate
Bread crate

Bread dough at the right temperature

For bread dough to rise well, it should be left in a warm place, protected from draughts. Bakers use a special room, for this called a "chambre de pousse" (growing room). Difficult to do this at home...

Instead I use my kitchen oven (off) where I put a small light bulb of 15-20 watts. This light bulb gives enough heat to reach 81°F (27°C) inside the oven.

You need:

  • 1 lamp holder, E14 type
  • 1 light bulb, 15 watts
  • 1 length of flexible lighting cable (flex)
  • 1 plug
  • 1 magnet (optional)

Connect together lamp holder, flex, plug. Screw in light bulb.

You can improve the sytem, by sticking (with epoxy glue) a magnet on the lamp holder, so it can be fixed anywhere inside the oven.

If you intend to buy:

You can also use a more powerful light bulb (e.g. 25 watts) which will give you a higher temperature.
Bread dough at the right temperature
Bread dough at the right temperature

Brush

For coating or glazing with a liquid, water or beaten egg-yolk for example, or for gently removing excess flour or sugar.

If you intend to buy:

Get two: a small and a larger one with plastic handles, and food-quality bristles, which can go in the dishwasher.
Brush
Brush
Recipes which use this utensil: 100, of which:

Brush

For brushing the bottom of loaves, straight from the oven, to remove excess flour and any remaining bits of charcoal.
Brush
Brush

Cake and pastry moulds

For cooking all your cakes. Available in various shapes and sizes for tarts, cakes, madeleines, financiers, etc.

If you intend to buy:

Silicone cake and pastry moulds are available, which look like rubber, but are oven and freezer proof. It's absolutely great because cakes cooked in this kind of mould never stick. It is not necessary to butter and flour the inside.
Cake and pastry moulds
Cake and pastry moulds
Recipes which use this utensil: 10, of which:

Chinois

A chinois is a solid conical strainer. It's mainly used for extracting liquid from a mixture by pressing down hard onto it.

If you intend to buy:

Get a fully stainless one.
Chinois
Chinois
Recipes which use this utensil: 2

Chopping board

To cut safely, using your knives, on your work surface.

If you intend to buy:

Get a large one, no less than 30X40 cm. or 12X15 inches, in food-quality plastic. Contrary to a commonly-held belief, wooden chopping boards are not very good in the kitchen: it's quite impossible to get them completely clean, so germs stay on them, and when using with a sharp knife you end up making sawdust. See also this post about chopping board.
Chopping board
Chopping board
Recipes which use this utensil: 10, of which:

Cream whipper

The Gourmet Whip was initially intended for making whipped cream (like chantilly) by injecting a neutral gas. But now it is used for many other foams, in different flavours, savoury or sweet, cold or hot.

It was the Catalan chef Ferran Adria who started to use a Gourmet Whip to make his famous "espumas" (Catalan word for foams), sometimes hot, in surprising flavours.

If you intend to buy:

Don't get a "chantilly cream whip" which will be too limited. See the best addresses page for more informations.
Cream whipper
Cream whipper
Recipes which use this utensil: 9, of which:

Cutter

This is a ring (or other shape) with a sharp edge, which when pressed down cuts out shapes from pastry, doughs or other soft materials.

If you intend to buy:

These are available in metal or plastic, in different diameters, plain or "star" (toothed). I suggest you get a set of several sizes, in plastic, plain to begin with.
Cutter
Cutter
Recipes which use this utensil: 32, of which:

Dessert ring

Like tart rings, but taller (generally 4 cm ou 1.6 inches), dessert rings are used to keep preparations, usually cold, in shape during the assembly of a layered dish.

If you intend to buy:

Buy stainless steel ones.
Dessert ring
Dessert ring
Recipes which use this utensil: 6, of which:

Dough cutter

In plastic or metal, this tool is ideal for cutting a large lump of dough into smaller pieces.

Alternatively, when cooking it's very useful for picking up small items (e.g. diced vegetables) from the work surface.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Dough cutter
Dough cutter
Recipes which use this utensil: 2

Dough scraper ("corne" in French)

This simple piece of plastic is very useful, with its rounded shape, for collecting all the dough efficiently from the mixing bowl.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Dough scraper (
Dough scraper (

Dredger or shaker

For whenever you need to flour your work surface or sprinkle flour onto dough, pastry, etc.

It also allows you to add a little flour to a recipe, without having to use a sieve.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Dredger or shaker
Dredger or shaker
Recipes which use this utensil: 1

Electronic thermometer

When cooking it is frequently necessary to know the temperature of a preparation. Sometimes it's indispensable, like for recipes using cooked sugar or foie gras.

If you intend to buy:

The classic alcohol-filled thermometer is not precise enough and cannot be used at high temperatures (to mesure temperature of something in the oven). I strongly recommend an electronic one with a wire probe. You can get a very useful model with an alarm, which sounds when a precise temperature is reached.
Electronic thermometer
Electronic thermometer
Recipes which use this utensil: 42, of which:

Forcing bag

For filling small moulds, making small fancy items, shaping small cakes.

If you intend to buy:

The bag can be a nylon reusable one (washable), or single use (sold in multiple packs).

Nozzles (or icing tubes) are available in 2 different materials: metal (old fashioned, less practical) and polycarbonate (very hard plastic, more practical).
There are two main types of nozzle: star (toothed or ribbed) and plain (smooth). Star nozzles are used for decorative effects.
And finally nozzle diameters, usually given in millimeters: I advise you to get a set of several diameters (from 4 to 12 millimeters for example).

More details can be found on this dedicated page.

Forcing bag
Forcing bag
Recipes which use this utensil: 45, of which:

Knife

It's impossible to cook well without good knives. For cutting of course, but also slicing, chopping, etc.

If you intend to buy:

You need quality knives. Typically 3, let's say "small", "medium" and "large" (in French they have names according to their size : "couteau d'office" for the small one, etc.), stainless blade, plastic handle, not serrated, plus the steel (sharpening tool) to go with them.
Knife
Knife
Recipes which use this utensil: 6, of which:

Ladle

A ladle is like a large round spoon with a long handle, used particularly for taking liquids out of containers.

If you intend to buy:

Get one with at least the rounded spoon part in stainless steel, or better still, all stainless.
Ladle
Ladle
Recipes which use this utensil: 2

Mandolin

A mandolin is used to cut ingredients (fruit, vegetables, etc.) into very even slices or small sticks. It consists of flat bed with an adjustable blade (plus a range of additional different plates or blades) over which the items are pushed to and fro.

If you intend to buy:

Mandolins can be bought from catering suppliers. Professional quality ones are stainless steel, precise, and can be dismantled. They are perfect but rather expensive. Those that you find in the supermarket are generally useless.

The model you can see in the photos is usually sold at trade fairs and markets. It's a good quality tool (made in Germany) that I've been using for years.

Mandolin
Mandolin
Recipes which use this utensil: 45, of which:

Mixing bowl (of food processor)

Very useful for hard work that's difficult to do with your hands: kneading evenly.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Mixing bowl (of food processor)
Mixing bowl (of food processor)

Mop

Once ashes have been removed with the brush, you should finish cleaning the sole by passing the mop over it.

This can be done with a classic cotton fringe or rag mop, soaked in cold water.

Mop
Mop

Oven brush

Once the embers have been removed from the oven, the ashes missed by the rake need to be swept out, and for that you will need an oven brush.

If you intend to buy:

Use a coco fibre brush (no synthetic bristles which might melt) and screw it onto a long handle Soak the brush in water before use (to prevent it burning).
Oven brush
Oven brush

Palette-knife

For moving small items without breaking them, or lifting up pastry without making a hole it.

If you intend to buy:

Get one (or two: small and large), stainless with plastic handle.
Palette-knife
Palette-knife
Recipes which use this utensil: 24, of which:

Pan

The basic utensil in cooking, for everything that needs to be cooked, boiled, heated, etc.

If you intend to buy:

Basically you need a set of good quality pans. Quality means: stainless, with a thick base, if possible with either a removable or metal handle (which can be put in the oven). Avoid non-stick pans, it's not easy to see what's going on in them, with the black bottom.
Pan
Pan
Recipes which use this utensil: 20, of which:

Peel

This shovel-like tool, symbol of traditional bakers, is used to put dough in the oven and to remove loaves once cooked.

Ideally you should have 3 peels:

  • One round wooden, for round loaves.
  • One rectangular wooden, for long loaves.
  • One stainless steel, for pizzas.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Peel
Peel

Pique-vite (pastry pricker)

For pricking over the base of a tart, or sheet of puff pastry, to prevent bubbles during cooking. This is usually done with a fork, but this small roller does the same thing very fast and evenly. It's very cheap and useful.

If you intend to buy:

Get a plastic one.
Pique-vite (pastry pricker)
Pique-vite (pastry pricker)
Recipes which use this utensil: 36, of which:

Plastic film and cooking papers

See the page dedicated to plastic film and papers used in cooking.
Plastic film and cooking papers
Plastic film and cooking papers
Recipes which use this utensil: 23, of which:

Plastic sheet

Bread dough needs to be covered during resting and rising, and a damp tea-towel works well. (It needs to be damp so that it does not take moisture from the dough).

Another good solution is to use a plastic sheet (cut from a large plastic bag for example) which protects the dough well and, very importantly, maintains the moist atmosphere around it.
Plastic sheet
Plastic sheet
Recipes which use this utensil: 25, of which:

Plastic sheet

Bread dough needs to be covered during resting and rising, and a damp tea-towel works well. (It needs to be damp so that it does not take moisture from the dough).

Another good solution is to use a plastic sheet (cut from a large plastic bag for example) which protects the dough well and, very importantly, maintains the moist atmosphere around it.
Plastic sheet
Plastic sheet
Recipes which use this utensil: 11, of which:

Pommes parisiennes spoon

This is a metal scoop, half spherical in shape, used to cut small even balls of fruit or vegetables. Sometimes sold as a melon ball spoon.

If you intend to buy:

Different sizes are available from good cookshops and professional catering supplier. Buy stainless steel with a plastic handle.
Pommes parisiennes spoon
Pommes parisiennes spoon
Recipes which use this utensil: 12, of which:

Rake

This is a kind of metal scraper, used to move or remove embers and ash from the oven, especially just before closed fire cooking.

It's also useful for tending the fire, rearranging the woo, the embers....

Apparently in days gone by such rakes were often made of wood so as not to damage the fragile sole of the oven. For today's more robust ovens, metal rakes are more practical, given the high temperatures to which they are exposed.

If you intend to buy:

If you want to make one like this, you can start with a garden tool (a sort of wide hoe), then fix it onto a long metal handle.
Rake
Rake

Rolling pin

A rolling pin is a rigid cylinder which is used for rolling out all kinds of dough.

If you intend to buy:

Choose a simple, solid rolling pin (rather than with attached handles); the ideal is a wooden roller 45 cm long and 5 cm in diameter (18 inches long and 2 inches in diameter).
If you have a handy friend or relative who can make one like this for you, so much the better. Mine, for example, that you can see the photos, was made by my father from a piece of beech and is perfect.
Rolling pin
Rolling pin
Recipes which use this utensil: 23, of which:

Salad spinner

A salad spinner is a simple device: a kind of mesh basket which is spun by turning a handle on the lid.
As the basket turns very fast, any items in it are forced agaisnt the sides by centrifugal force, and the water (or other liquid) they contain is spun off and collects in the bottom of the container.

Of course, it's designed for drying salads, but it works well for other things, like cooked spinach for example.

If you intend to buy:

Choose a model that is robustly made, especially the handle, which has to withstand a lot of force.
Salad spinner
Salad spinner
Recipes which use this utensil: 14, of which:

Scouring pad

This sponge with one abrasive face is normally use to clean pans, but it's also very useful for scrubbing fruit or vegetables that are not going to be peeled like courgettes or potatoes.

If you intend to buy:

Keep one exclusively for this. Never use it for washing up, as it must not come into contact with soap or cleaning products.
Scouring pad
Scouring pad
Recipes which use this utensil: 2

Serrated knife

Unlike a classic knife, which is ground to produce a fine cutting edge to the blade, a serrated knife has teeth like a saw.

This kind of knife doesn't need sharpening, and cuts certain foods, bread and cakes for instance, more easily than a normal knife.

If you intend to buy:

There's no need to get an expensive one, just choose one which is stainless and has a plastic handle, as this is easy to clean.
Serrated knife
Serrated knife
Recipes which use this utensil: 5

Short-handled brush

This is a small hand brush with very fine bristles, used for gently brushing the dough during bread making, to remove excess flour. Very useful, indispensable even, for bread recipes where the soft dough has a high water content, like French baguettes.

If you intend to buy:

If possible buy it in a professional cookware shop.
Short-handled brush
Short-handled brush
Recipes which use this utensil: 1

Short-handled brush

This is a soft brush, used to brush dough gently during working to remove all excess flour. It's essential for working soft very hydrated dough like for French baguettes.

If you intend to buy:

See also the best addresses page.
Short-handled brush
Short-handled brush
Recipes which use this utensil: 1

Sieve

A sieve is a fine strainer, which can be used to filter a preparation thoroughly (a blackcurrant coulis for example), but also for solids to make them smoother (potato purée for example).

If you intend to buy:

These are avalable in the classic round form with a handle, or flat for thicker preparations.

Choose the form in stainless steel.
Sieve
Sieve
Recipes which use this utensil: 12, of which:

Silcon baking mat

Sometimes using a nonstick baking sheet is not enough when cooking items that stick well, such as macarons or coconut tuiles for example.

In this case it's possible to line the sheet with cooking parchment,but one can also use a silicone baking mat which is a flexible sheet with a silicone coating, more non-stick than any baking sheet. Nothing sticks to it, and above all can be reused after washing.

If you intend to buy:

Get one the size of your oven for the most efficient use.
Silcon baking mat
Silcon baking mat
Recipes which use this utensil: 1

Skimmer

Used for removing the froth that forms on top of some liquids during cooking like soups, stock, jams, etc.

Sometimes it's used for removing something from liquid, like vegetables in water for example, but this is not the ideal tool, it's better to use an araignée (spider).

If you intend to buy:

Get a large stainless one.
Skimmer
Skimmer
Recipes which use this utensil: 19, of which:

Soft spatula

This is a flexible rubber or plastic spatula, ideal for stirring a preparation that could stick to the bottom of the pan, or for completly emptying a bowl or a pan cleanly without leaving a drop.

If you intend to buy:

Get one with a hard plastic handle that fits well in your hand. Ideally you should have two, a small and a large one.
Soft spatula
Soft spatula
Recipes which use this utensil: 72, of which:

Steam machine

It's essential to have a lot of steam in the oven during baking to get lovely golden crusty loaves.

Bakers have a special steam control on their ovens which injects water at the start of baking. With a wood-fired bread oven a simpler system is needed.

I've try several systems and ideas, here is the best solution: The steam machine.

Steam machine

Strainer

Circular in shape and available in different gauges (size of holes). Very useful for straining something liquid or sieving a powder, like for example a raspberries coulis to extract all the seeds, or for sieving flour.

If you intend to buy:

Get a fully stainless one, with a plastic or stainless handle.
Strainer
Strainer
Recipes which use this utensil: 64, of which:

Tart rings, moulds or tins

For cooking tarts and tartlets, you can use classic moulds or tins (left photo), or rings (right photo) which are moulds with no base that are placed on a non-stick baking sheet for cooking. This is what pastry chefs use, because with no base, tart cook faster and more evenly, and it's easier to remove them from the ring.

If you intend to buy:

Use tins (better heat diffusion), preferably non-stick (easier to turn out). Rings should be stainless steel.
Tart rings, moulds or tins
Tart rings, moulds or tins
Recipes which use this utensil: 10, of which:

Tongs

For turning something easily during cooking (apple quarters for example), or removing something hot from a pan, and also for serving spaghetti.

If you intend to buy:

Take a fully metallic and stainless one.
Tongs
Tongs
Recipes which use this utensil: 7, of which:

Vegetable mill

Vegetable mills have been around for a long time, and are fairly simple: a revolving plate forces the vegetables (or fruits) through a grill plate (the size of holes varies).

Of course it takes a bit of effort and elbow grease, but unlike a blender - which pulverises everything - a vegetable mill acts as a sort of filter. It can produce very smooth high-quality soups and purées as it excludes everything that won't pass through the grill (seeds, pips, leaves, etc.).

If you intend to buy:

Choose a robust model in stainless steel that won't rust after washing (avoid the plastic ones).
Vegetable mill
Vegetable mill
Recipes which use this utensil: 2

Vegetable peeler

Very useful for peel fruit and vegetables, cuting chocolate or parmesan chips.

If you intend to buy:

Get one with a stainless blade and a plastic handle.
Vegetable peeler
Vegetable peeler
Recipes which use this utensil: 14, of which:

Weighing scales

With it you can weigh everything, even in small quantities (10-20 g, sometimes less).

If you intend to buy:

To be precise it should be an electronic one. The old-style mecanical spring scales are innacurate, especially for small quantities. It's worth investing in an up-to-date model with "add-and-weigh" facility, which will save you a lot of washing up.
Weighing scales
Weighing scales
Recipes which use this utensil: 5

Whisk

For beating (eggs) or whipping (cream) a preparation (like a sabayon for exemple), to mix thoroughly, and especially to incorporate air.

If you intend to buy:

Get a stainless one, quite large, with a stainless or plastic handle, also large. It should feel comfortable and you should be able to grip it firmly, otherwise if the handle is too thin you will not be able to work easily.
Whisk
Whisk
Recipes which use this utensil: 71, of which:

Wire rack

Mainly used for leaving items to cool (cakes, tarts, etc.), so that air can circulate around them, particularly underneath.

Generally metal utensils, rectangular or round as in the photo.

If you intend to buy:

Buy a large one, preferably stainless steel.
Wire rack
Wire rack
Recipes which use this utensil: 88, of which:

Wooden leaven spoon

For use when refreshing, mixing or taking out leaven. It must be kept exclusively for use with leaven, and never washed with soap or any chemical product (only hot water).
Wooden leaven spoon

Wooden spatula

To mix, to stir in a saucepan or frying-pan, etc.

If you intend to buy:

You'll need several, in wood or plastic. If they are wooden, it's worth keeping one for sweet preparations and another for savoury preparations, because wooden tools hold tastes and smells.

Note: A soft plastic spatula is called a "maryse" in French.
Wooden spatula
Wooden spatula
Recipes which use this utensil: 48, of which:

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