8 Dinner-Saving Tools You Don’t Realize You Need Until You’re Halfway Through a Recipe

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

If, like us, you’ve been spending more time cooking over the past nine months than you have in your entire life, you’ve probably realized you don’t have all the kitchen tools you really should. A recipe calls for a hand mixer and you only have a fork; or a dish requires a deep Dutch oven and you only have a skillet. Though we never expected to be here, the renewed focus we’ve found in making food at home has been fun and, dare we say, therapeutic? 

But as we look ahead, as most of us do as the New Year approaches, we’re considering new healthy recipes, fun dinnerware, and oft-overlooked items that, in actuality, would make our lives a lot easier—and our meals a lot better. To understand exactly what we’re missing, we spoke with a wide range of culinary experts—chefs, cookbook authors, recipe developers, and food stylists—to learn about their go-to gadgets: the ones they reach for every time they’re in the kitchen. In this moment they might not seem necessary, but in three months when you’re reading the steps of the next recipe you can’t wait to make and realize you need a microplane, well, don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Phyllis Grant, Author, Everything Is Under Control: A Memoir With Recipes

A granite mortar and pestle has been the most-used tool in my kitchen for the past decade. I use it to quickly bash just-toasted nuts for a salad. I pestle anchovies, garlic, and salt into a paste and then whisk in crème fraîche, olive oil, and lemon juice to make a Caesar-ish dressing. I swoosh together salsa verdes, romescos, and white bean purees. It’s a functional and beautiful vessel of efficiency and action. Its uses are infinite.”

Tara Thomas, Chef and Food Activist

“What makes cooking joyous beyond feeding folks is making creations in peace. For me, when I use my blender for healthy smoothies or my food processor for sauces, I like to make sure I get every last bit without a fuss. This blender spatula has the ability to reach and savor every flavor. I use mine for everything!”

Sarah Glover, Chef

“I cherish my microplane, mostly for grating cheese over my dishes. It makes clouds of fluffy white cheese all over what I’m making. It’s so inviting; sometimes I just get a slice of toast with butter and microplane cheese over it for the thrill.”

Diana Yen, Food Stylist and Recipe Developer

“I couldn’t live without my Vitamix Explorian. It’s a smaller version of the classic and just as powerful but takes up less space. I use this daily, whether it’s for smoothies, soups, or making nut butters and vegan cheese.”

Odette Williams, Author, Simple Cake

“Do you know what kitchen tool I have been using a lot? A simple plastic spray bottle. It’s so handy to have in the kitchen, and it’s amazing when you need to spritz something like homemade pasta, brisket, or other slow-cooked meats; anything that might be drying out a little too quickly or in need of light hydration, it’s got you covered.”

Maria Zizka, Cookbook Author

“I love an olive oil cruet with a long pouring spout because it’s perfect for drizzling and doesn’t leave any oil rings or drips. You can buy olive oil in bulk, saving some money, and decant it into the cruet for everyday use. Plus it looks gorgeous on your kitchen countertop!”

Kasey Fleisher Hickey, Cofounder, Turntable Kitchen

“My husband and I never start our day without coffee, and he loves the precision of the Chemex for our pour-overs. If you haven’t yet experienced the magic, I highly recommend it (and a pound of light roast beans, preferably from your favorite local roaster).”

Lani Halliday, Owner and Baker, Brutus Bakeshop

“My favorite items for a one-two punch of amazing baking are a digital scale and portion scoop. I love seeing my private-class clients bloom in consistency and quality when they invest in a scale for measuring ingredients, and a portion scoop for satisfyingly uniform dough portioning. Recipes will turn out exactly the way they’re intended, and each piece looks as gorgeous as its sisters. These two items are an absolute must!”

Catherine Dash

Contributing Editor

Catherine Dash is a freelance design editor and prop stylist based in Oakland, California (a recent transplant from NYC). When she’s not testing new products and writing about interior trends, she’s likely on set sprinkling her styling fairy dust for clients like Nate Berkus and Chairish, perusing blooms at the flower market, or wrangling her charming, yet wily, 2.5-year-old toddler Coco.