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7 Essential Kitchen Tools, According to Our Test Cooks

The underestimated but vital tools we rely on in the kitchen day after day.
By Published Dec. 13, 2019

Despite what some informercials might have you believe, you don't need every gadget under the sun in order to make weeknight cooking easier. In fact, all you need are a few trustworthy tools that will help you get the job done well and fast. Our test cooks spend a lot of time in the kitchen developing recipes, so we went straight to them to find out what their go-to tools are. Here are the seven kitchen tools our test cooks rely on at work and at home, and what you should look for when you’re stocking your own kitchen.


Thermometers take the guesswork out of knowing when foods are done. In the test kitchen, this is vital for ensuring success—especially when we’re working on more than one recipe at once. If you want to stock your kitchen well, invest in an instant-read thermometer, an oven thermometer, and a clip-on probe thermometer for cooking meat, deep-frying, and candy-making.

Winning Traits

What To Look For When Buying an Instant-Read Thermometer 

  • Digital model with automatic shut-off
  • Quick-response readings
  • Wide temperature range (-40 to 450 degrees)
  • Long stem that can reach interior of large cuts of meat
  • Water-resistant

Winning Traits

What To Look For When Buying an Oven Thermometer 

  • Clearly marked numbers for easy readability
  • Large, sturdy base
  • Large temperature range (up to 600 degrees)

Winning Traits

What To Look For When Buying A Meat Probe/Candy/Deep-Fry Thermometer

  • Digital model
  • Easy-to-read console
  • Mounting clip (to attach probe to the pan)


We use a chef's knife for just about everything, from breaking down tough squash to butterflying a roast. A sharp, comfortable chef's knife is the most important tool in your kitchen, and using it properly is essential. So before cutting into anything, make sure your knife is sharp. A sharp knife is a fast knife, and a dull knife is an accident waiting to happen.

Winning Traits

What To Look For When Buying A Chef's Knife 

  • High-carbon stainless-steel knife
  • Thin, curved 8-inch blade
  • Lightweight
  • Comfortable grip and nonslip handle


We love a bench scraper in the test kitchen for cutting clean edges into baked goods, but we also use it for a variety of other kitchen tasks. It’s a great tool for cleaning up your station, and gathering and transporting ingredients easily to a pan.  

Winning Traits

What To Look For When Buying A Bench Scraper

  • Sturdy blade
  • Ruler marks (for easy measuring)
  • Comfortable handle with plastic, rubber, or nylon grip


Although they're not a necessity, we like to keep a few squeeze bottles on hand. They’re perfect to use for oils bought in a bulk. Pour some oil into a squeeze bottle and refill them to your liking. We do this in the test kitchen with our winning olive oil, California Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Squeeze bottles are especially great for recipes that call for slowly drizzling oil into a vinaigrette, because they make it easy to control the flow and speed of the oil. Many of our test cooks use this handy appliance at home to store and serve sauces neatly—making beautiful designs on plates to impress guests for get togethers.


A heatproof silicone spatula is one of the busiest tools in our kitchen and can’t be beat for certain tasks. It’s very durable—withstanding high heat in a skillet or oven. Our winning spatula, Rubbermaid 13.5” High-Heat Scraper, even has a clean-rest feature that keeps the blade from touching countertops, reducing the possibility for cross-contamination.

Winning Traits

What To Look For When Buying Silicone Spatulas 

  • Wide, stiff blade with a thin edge that’s flexible enough to conform to the curve of a mixing bowl
  • Heatproof


It will be a dark day in the test kitchen if we ever run out of plastic wrap. We rely on plastic wrap to help store and freeze food. Our test cooks also use it for pounding cutlets and making logs of cheese, cookie dough, or compound butter.  

Winning Traits

What To Look For When Buying Plastic Wrap 

  • Clings tightly and resticks well
  • Packaging with sharp teeth that aren’t exposed (to avoid snags on clothing and skin)
  • Adhesive pad to hold cut end of wrap


Tongs have so many uses in the kitchen: handling and frying tortillas, rotating and transferring a roast, stirring and portioning angel hair pasta, dredging and frying chicken-fried steaks, and lots more. This tools grip comes in handy for grabbing and transferring just about everything.

TIP: If you ever find yourself without a bottle opener, open a bottle by sandwiching the cap between the handles and gently pulling to pop it off.

Winning Traits

What To Look For When Buying Tongs

  • Scalloped edges
  • Slightly concave pincers
  • Length of 12 inches (to keep your hand far from the heat)
  • Open and close easily


Many of our test cooks are working on more than one recipe at a time and as we know, timing is everything with recipes. That’s why we rely on our trusty kitchen timer in the test kitchen. With our winning kitchen timer, OXO Good Grips Triple Timer, we’re able to track the time of up to three different things at once and easily tell them apart with individual unique alarm sounds.

Winning Traits

What To Look For When Buying A Kitchen Timer 

  • Lengthy time range (1 second to at least 10 hours)
  • Able to count up after alarm goes off
  • Easy to use and read
  • Able to track multiple events

 If you’re looking for some new gadgets to add to your personal collection, browse our newest kitchen equipment reviews. And for more articles on our test cook's favorites check out the articles below: