ingenious design

The Most Ingenious Kitchen Tools, According to Chefs

Photo: Retailers

In honor of Ingenious Design Week, we asked chefs across the country about the clever tools that they can’t cook without and dug deep into our own back catalogue to uncover other sworn-by doodads that are truly worth making space for in your kitchen drawer. And while we typically ascribe to the Alton Brown rule of kitchen gadgets — single function is a scam — we found that there are some select unitaskers that will make life better, just as there are likely things lying around your kitchen that can be used in ways you never considered.

If you’ve spent any amount of time in a Waffle House, then you’ve seen a press at work, likely keeping a patty melt flat on the grill. But chef Gracie Nguyen of East Side Banh Mi in Nashville says not just any press will do. She swears by this one from Chef’s Press, because, unlike traditional presses, it features a smart vented design, meaning you’ll never accidentally steam your grilled-cheese sandwich. And you don’t have to be a short-order cook to find this handy. It weighs down meats and veggies “so they cook evenly and consistently,” Nguyen says. “It can also be used to help submerge artichokes while they are boiling or a fat pork chop soaking in brine. They stack so you can add a few on top of each other if you need a bit more weight. Brilliant!”

Parchment paper half-sheets are the Bounty Select-a-Size of cooking: exactly the kind of thing you’ll go from not knowing exists to being unable to live without. “I use these to line pans for easy clean up,” says chef Cassidee Dabney of the Barn at Blackberry Farm. “But I also use them to cover my cutting board if I’m cutting beets or garlic or anything that might stain with color or leave a flavor. They make a great piping bag, and you can go old school and use them to wrap food instead of using plastic. And they make a great cover during simmering to keep the splatters down.”

Though you probably don’t think you need a spaetzle maker, Mark Steuer, the chef-owner of Funkenhausen in Chicago insists otherwise. Even cooks who hate unitaskers will appreciate this made-in-Germany Goldspatz gadget for the sheer number of tasks it can take on, he says. In addition to using it for spaetzle, Steuer says, “It makes perfect mashed potatoes, presses garlic, and juices citrus.” It also happens to be dishwasher-safe.

With this clever tapered spout, never again will you attempt to drizzle a little olive oil into a pan only to have half the bottle come spilling out. Chef Katie Button prefers buying her oils in bulk, and these convenient spouts allow her to convert old wine bottles or regular olive oil bottles into custom pourers. “It’s been a game changer for me at home,” says the Asheville, North Carolina-based chef. “I’ve realized I could also put a spout on a bottle of vinegar and have the makings of salad dressing at any moment. Their uses are really limitless, and they are an awesome tool to have around.” And should you decide to do any at-home bartending, they’ll work for that, too.

Though bench scrapers have long been a must-have of pie-makers for their ability to divide dough and clear counter tops, you don’t have to be a baker to find this ergonomically friendly device indispensable. Chris Lewallen, the chef de cuisine at new Nashville spot White Limozeen, points out out that they’re much more effective at picking up minced garlic or chopped potatoes than the side of a chef’s knife. He also uses it to scrape every last bit of food out of bowls and off of cutting boards. “It is a handy multitool that I never go without,” he says. We’ve also found that it’s terrifyingly great at scraping built-up ice out of the freezer or cubing butter.