A good bench scraper is one of those tools people don't think they need until they start using it. We use it for everything from transferring chopped vegetables or herbs from one place to another, to portioning dough, to giving our cutting boards a quick clean.
Tom Colicchio's Think Like a Chef is not one of those inflated coffee-table chef books. Instead it helps you think of cooking in broad stroke techniques: Roasting. Braising. Blanching. Stock-making. Sauces. Sure, you'll make dinner by following a recipe, but, as Colicchio tells us, cooking isn't about learning to follow recipes to the letter, just like real art isn't created by following a paint-by-numbers coloring book. Get bogged down in the minutiae of a recipe, and you lose sight of what really matters: the food that results.
If you're following our advice to buy someone julep cups, you might as well go all the way and grab a canvas Lewis bag as well: It's used to smash ice into a fine powder with a mallet.
To store tools like spatulas and whisks, a good old crock will do the trick. We like this ceramic one, which looks extra pretty on the counter. Keep it right next to your stove so your most-used tools will be at an arm's length whenever you need them.
Few things get us as excited as a good raw bar, but most of the time, we eat far too little because after the first couple dozen oysters it just gets to be too expensive. That's even truer when the oysters are top-notch, like the briny little suckers from Island Creek up in Massachusetts. But you can order their oysters online by the 50- or 100-count for much less than they cost at most restaurants for an at-home shucking extravaganza.
While the usefulness of a vegetable peeler should be obvious to anyone who's ever cooked, the necessity of a Y-peeler may not be quite as clear. But trust us: They are categorically better than those swivel peelers a lot of people use. And they're cheap!
There are countless great books on American regional cooking, dozens of them on the South alone. But Lewis's tribute to Southern cooking is particularly important because it goes beyond just great recipes to tell her story of growing up in Virginia in a farming community founded by freed slaves.
Not only can you cook perfect plain rice in this traditional Japanese clay pot, but it doubles as a vessel for flavorful one-pot stews and hot pots, and an infinite variety of noodle and rice dishes. Anyone interested in Japanese home cooking should have one.
For decades, Spain stood in the gastronomic shadows of France and Italy, not receiving nearly enough attention for its own amazing ways with food. Then the country's restaurant scene exploded with chefs like Ferran Adrià, and suddenly the rest of the food world was racing to catch up. To understand those chefs requires understanding the traditional Spanish foods that formed the basis upon which they experimented so wildly, and Penelope Casas's book is one of the best starting points to do so. Flip through its pages, and it won't take long to see that Spain has always deserved a more prominent place in the the eyes of the hungry world.
A good ice cream scoop is worth keeping in your kitchen utensil drawer. This one works for both right and left hands, and features a specially designed handle that transfers heat into the scoop, helping it slide into more solid ice cream without too much trouble.
Tackling all the food in China is no easy task, which is why we tend to gravitate more quickly to works that keep a more limited focus on specific regions and cooking styles. Still, a single book that provides a good overview is still extremely helpful when trying to get one's bearings. This book by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo does a laudable job at that, starting you out in the market with an introduction to shopping and ingredients, and then proceeding into the kitchen to cover basic techniques and classic recipes.
Grating ginger is a minor pain in the ass—rub it on a Microplane and the grater's holes quickly become clogged with the ginger's long, tough fibers, making the tool less effective and difficult to clean. A porcelain or ceramic grater, like this one from Kyocera, has tiny little pointy teeth that do a miraculous job of rapidly reducing the ginger to a purée, while separating out those annoying fibers. When you're all done, it's a lot easier to clean, too.
A good carbon steel pan has many of the qualities that make cast iron great—it's durable, it forms a completely nonstick surface if cared for properly, and it's inexpensive. But it's lighter and easier to maneuver, making it great for sautéing and searing everyday foods.
This is, arguably, the book that set the United States straight: Those burritos you've been calling Mexican food? Not so much. Kennedy was one of the first English-language authors to call out Mexican cooking as distinct from the Tex-Mex and SoCal versions that many had come to assume was the real deal. In this seminal book, she covers regional variations, ingredients, techniques, and more.
This hefty volume ranges from regional Mexican cooking down through the complex cuisine of Peru, over to Argentina's famed grilling tradition, and much, much more. If you want to understand how an empanada or arepa differs from one country to the next, this is the book to grab.
Shizuo Tsuji's masterwork on Japanese cooking is as useful today as it was when it was first published more than two decades ago. He takes you through essential equipment, cooking techniques, ingredients, recipes, and the philosophy that underlies it all. Reading this book doesn't just help you learn to cook Japanese food, it helps you to understand and appreciate it far more, too.
Basic stainless steel kitchen spoons are useful to have, but sometimes their long handles get in the way more than they help. That's where professional sauce spoons come into play. This perforated one has a nice large bowl that can scoop up generous mounds of beans, vegetables, and pieces of meat from their cooking liquid or sauce, and a short enough handle to make wielding those ingredients easy instead of clumsy.
What is there to say that hasn't already been said? This is the original work that exposed countless Americans to classic French cooking, forever changing the course of this country's cuisine. Never mind if some of the recipes are a bit labyrinthine. You should own it. Both volumes. Period.
Rarely found in the home but extremely common in restaurants, sizzle platters are one of the most useful pieces of kitchen gear around. We reach for them any time we want to cook or reheat small portions of food, like one or two pork chops, chicken breasts, or steaks. Even small roasts, like a pork tenderloin or lamb shoulder roast, will fit on one, saving you from having to use larger pieces of cookware (and clean them up) for jobs that don't require them.
Eight-hundred recipes. Yes, you read that right. Really, it shouldn't be surprising, given that this definitive work by Claudia Roden encapsulates so much of the Middle East, a region with such diverse cooking styles that each one could inspire a thousand books. Persian food? Check. North African food? Check. Turkish cooking? Check. Everything else? Check, check, check.
These shears set the bar for excellent heavy-duty scissors. They're strong enough to cut out a chicken back without hesitation, they're sharp enough to snip chives as cleanly as any pair of shears could ever hope to, and they come with all the accoutrements a good pair of kitchen shears should (even if you never use half these things): bottle opener/lid lifter, flathead screwdriver head, nutcracker, jar opener, bone notcher, and more.
This versatile cocktail jigger features two primary measures for one- and two-ounce pours, but what makes it especially useful are the etched markings inside each cup indicating 0.5, 0.75, and 1.5 ounces, so that you don't have to get out multiple jiggers just to make a cocktail.
This book is, and possibly always will be, the go-to English-language source on regional Italian cooking, and for good reason: Hazan was deeply knowledgable, exacting, and opinionated, as all good Italian cooks should be.
We don't often recommend single-function items, but for the cocktail enthusiast, a couple of julep cups really are fun to have. There's nothing like holding that metal cup frosted with ice on a blisteringly hot summer day. If you don't have an ice crusher, check out our Lewis bag suggestion as well.
An otoshibuta is, in essence, a lid; the original ones are made of wood. But it's not just any lid: It's submergible. That means you can set an otoshibuta directly on the surface of the food you're cooking, which is handy for simmered foods and pickles that require keeping everything covered in liquid. Since they're not made of metal and fit a variety of diameters, they're also really handy as bowl covers when you're reheating food in the microwave.
There are so many classics cookbooks out there but for a beginner James Peterson's Essentials of Cooking is comprehensive without being overwhelming. Color step-by-step photos walk you through basics like roasting a chicken, prepping vegetables, making sauces to next level techniques like butchering a fish.
If her first two books are any indication, Nancy Singleton Hachisu is poised to become the Julia Child of traditional Japanese home cooking. In her second book, she tackles the deeply fascinating world of Japanese preserving. From easy pickles made by packing foods in miso (kabocha squash! eggs! apple pears!) to homemade miso, salt-rubbed vegetables, and air-dried fish, this should be the next frontier in all your home preservation undertakings.
Unlike so many chef cookbooks, this one features simple, honest recipes for classic regional French dishes. No crazy flourishes or flights of fancy, just solid French country cooking from a master.
Larousse is the serious food encyclopedia for the serious cook. Its focus is mostly on French preparations, though more recent editions have attempted to remedy that with some more international entries. Arranged alphabetically, Larousse offers up historical context, recipes and cooking instruction, and definitions galore.
When we tested bread knives earlier this year, we were absolutely blown away by the cutting quality of Tojiro's bread knife. It surpassed every other serrated knife, cutting beautifully clean slices of even the most tender bread, and making quick, neat work of ripe tomatoes. It's a must-have for any kitchen.
This cookbook is a great guide to learning how to use a donabe cooker. It offers a wide range of recipes to help give you an idea of just how many one-pot dishes can be made using a donabe, plus background on the history and variety of donabe cookers.
This small, quarter-cup liquid measure from OXO is indispensable in the kitchen, making all the awkwardness of measuring something like one and a half tablespoons a thing of the past. You can use it at your home bar, too: Its fluid-ounce markings make it a handy stand-in for a cocktail jigger.
Madhur Jaffrey has become one of the foremost authorities on Indian cooking since she published An Invitation to Indian Cooking in 1973. It and her subsequent books helped introduce American cooks to a cuisine that, at the time, was hardly known here at all.
Paring knives don't need to cost a lot to do their job—questions of balance and build quality matter less in a knife that fits almost entirely in the palm of your hand. Of all the ones we tested, this inexpensive blade from Wüsthof came out on top, with a razor-sharp edge and comfortable grip. This is our new go-to paring knife, and we already have several of them at work and home.
There are enough coffee-brewing devices on the market to drive a person crazy, but it's hard to beat a quality pourover brewer like this Japanese one. It's compact and solid, making it ideal for home or the office, and it brews a mean cup of coffee. It claims to make two to four servings, but we find it's perfect for a full 12-ounce single cup, too (note that you need these filters for it).
You could use any old spoon to stir a cocktail, but a bar spoon is best suited for the job. Long and slender, it can reach to the bottom of a tall mixing glass packed with ice, without getting stuck on the way in or out. Its twisted handle isn't just for aesthetics, either—it's designed to spin gracefully in your fingers as the spoon goes round and round, minimizing the jostling of the contents with the spoon bowl and reducing splashes and spills. Plus, it just looks cool.
This 400-page guide to meat may be focused on sustainability and local eating, but that doesn't make it any less comprehensive. Krasner goes deep on all the basics of meat, including beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and more, offering anatomy charts, buying tips, basics on animal husbandry, and, of course, plenty of recipes.
A great mandoline will rapidly make photo-worthy cuts of your favorite vegetables, whether thin slices of radishes for a salad or potatoes for a gratin. The OXO slicer has four thickness settings and a fold-down stand allows this slicer to either be set on a cutting board (with the legs down) or perched over a bowl (with the legs up).
Basic stainless steel kitchen spoons are useful to have, but sometimes their long handles get in the way more than they help. That's where professional sauce spoons come into play. This one has a nice large bowl that can scoop up generous dollops of yogurt, a heap of cooked grain, or a serving of sauce, and a short enough handle to make wielding those ingredients easy instead of clumsy.
A staple of American kitchens for close to a century, Joy of Cooking continues to be a valued resource for all the basics, from pancakes and waffles to casseroles, stews, and roasts.
This electric kettle has an elegant gooseneck spout that makes pouring a thin, controlled stream easy—very helpful for Chemex and other pourover coffee methods—and a base with controls that allow you to set a specific temperature and hold it there.
Peterson has long been the master of writing comprehensive works on major subjects. In Sauces, he breaks down sauce-making in all its intricacies, starting with stocks and leading you through the classics of French and Italian cuisines and beyond.
Magnetic knife strips are not only space-saving but they also look pretty badass hanging on your wall. They'll keep your knives from rubbing up against other utensils, which can make them dull (and can be dangerous, too).
Many of the milk frothers out there do a poor job of emulating the thick, creamy foam produced by a good espresso machine's steaming wand, over-aerating the milk to the point where it gets a light sudsy texture. Nespresso's frother is different—it whisks the milk but manages to get much closer to the ideal cappuccino-foam. Plus, it has a nonstick interior that's easy to clean, and a hot/cold setting for hot or iced drinks.
In this book, Peterson not only explains the most important cooking methods for various kinds of fish and shellfish, but also provides an abundance of recipes to try them out, along with very useful step-by-step color photographs of how to prep, clean, and fillet just about anything you can imagine, including eel.
There's form, and then there's function. The aprons from Tilit are great on both fronts. Made from waxed cotton, they offer breathability along with water resistance, but they're also damned handsome.
We've used many oyster knives as Serious Eats staffers and the R. Murphy Duxbury knife is our hands-down favorite. It has a fat, grippy handle that's easy to wield, and a short blade that tapers to a point and always manages to find the sweet spot on an oyster's hinge. The slightly sharpened blade edges make slicing through the muscle and removing the top shell as smooth as butter.