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Most food writers worth their Maldon sea salt will say you really only need three tools in your kitchen: a chef’s knife, a skillet, and something to boil water in. Well, sure, that’s what you need. But variety being the spice of life and all, we think it’s worth dressing up your basic kitchen with as much international verve as you can, both in the spice rack and with our favorite utensils from kitchens around the world.
More commodious than a slotted spoon, less cumbersome than a colander, the bamboo skimmer is the unsung hero of the spoon jar. Scoop a few beans or a piece of pasta from that bubbling pot to test for doneness. Skim the skin off a boiling pot of soup. Fish the floating gnocchi off the top of the water while you wait for the rest to rise. Whatever needs sampling, separating, or dipping in, the skimmer has you covered.
French tapered rolling pin
You probably already have a rolling pin. But a tapered rolling pin does more than most: It gives you a light touch for thin doughs, has superior maneuverability and grace, and really puts you in touch, you know, with the sensual aspects of cookie baking – the Ferrari to your conventional American rolling pin’s Ford.
On its face, there are few things more useless to the home cook than a pasta machine. After all, how many times a year can a person possibly make fresh pasta? As it turns out, quite a few! And it’s not just for Italian food either; pasta machines happen to be the best tools for rolling out super-thin dumpling wrappers, pierogi dough, and even Chinese noodles. It’s like the grown-up equivalent of one of those Play-Doh kitchens: a little messy, sure, but a whole lot of fun.
Vietnamese caramel-braised fish, super crispy crusted breads, roasted veggies, crusty-bottomed Persian rice, and the best damn roast chicken you’ll ever have – the clay baker can do it all. Soak it in water beforehand for a little sneaky steam-roasting action, the closest you can get to a convection oven without shelling out for a brand-new range.
Mortar and pestle
Imagine making the smoothest garlic paste of all time, ginger so pureed you can throw a whole root into your curry without getting stuck picking strings from your teeth, and the freshest spice blends pounded up in the privacy of your own home. Plus, there’s the pure satisfaction of coming home from a long day at the office and bashing the heck out of something tasty, pretending it’s the pile of emails you’ll have to go back to tomorrow.
The humble kitchen scale probably doesn’t rank high in your estimation, but as any avid baker knows, the British don’t cook without it! The reasons for this are tangled up somewhere in the complicated history of the metric system, but the results can’t be argued with: precise, fuss-free baking with deliciously consistent results, and the fun of feeling fancily high-tech when you press all those buttons.
The smoothest sauces. The creamiest custards. The lightest dusting of sugar over the top of your latest baked creation. The chinois is an instrument of refinement, the tool you bust out when you’re aiming to impress your dinner guests with some next-level culinary jiujitsu, creating classical French-style sauces that’ll elevate the most basic weeknight protein into something special.
The smooth feel of the wood handles, the meditative back and forth motion of the blade, the mezzaluna is the tool to reach for when you want a little Zen in the kitchen. Paired with a sturdy wooden bowl, your mezzaluna will chop basil to the perfect pesto consistency, smash aromatics for curry paste, and chop nuts for your grandma’s famous pecan praline.
Woks have an undeserved reputation for being the albatross of the kitchen cabinet, a bulky space waster that people ambitiously request as wedding gifts and never use once. But give this neglected workhorse a chance; its thin metal and high sides make it the perfect tool for everything from scrambling eggs to frying rice.
Tiffin-style lunch box
With everyone avoiding plastic like the plague these days, we’re long overdue for a lunch box reckoning. Tupperware is a no-go, glass is too bulky, and most conventional lunch boxes look like something out of fourth grade. The solution? A tiffin-style lunch box: Stackable, adaptable, and surprisingly sleek, it’s the perfect container for all the leftovers you’ll be cooking up.