Compared to the average home cook, who might make dinner several nights a week (at their peak!), cookbook authors and recipe developers spend most of their days leaning over the kitchen counter. So while some of us are smitten with shoes or rugs or table linens or headbands, these people tend to have a menagerie of kitchen tools—and strong opinions about which are the best. The rest of us need that info! So we asked the cooks and writers responsible for the recent roster of particularly creative and beautiful cookbooks to name the piece of kitchen equipment (big or small) that they can’t imagine a day without, that they drag to the rental house when they go on vacation.
These are their kitchen crutches, their dependable go-tos for when they’re developing a recipe, powering through a busy dinner service at their restaurant, or just feeding their family. Get one for yourself and you might not realize how you survived without it, either.
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I can’t live without my fish spatula. I use it for everything (not just fish). Flipping vegetables on a sheet pan, eggs in a skillet, transferring basically everything from sheet tray or skillet to cutting board or plate. It’s flexible and perforated in a way classic spatulas are not, which makes it insanely versatile. —Alison Roman, author of Dining In: Highly Cookable Recipes
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If I had to pick just one, it would be the wire mesh infuser. I use this gizmo when making Korean soups and stews in order to easily dispense the intense flavor-boosting ingredients like dried anchovies, garlic, and small pieces of kombu.… I also use it as a bouquet garni when making braises: Just stuff the infuser with all kind of herbs, Parmesan rind pieces, lemon peels, etc. It’s so inexpensive, and dishwasher-safe to boot. I love this little gadget! —Sohui Kim, author of Korean Home Cooking: Classic and Modern Recipes
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There are some common chef things that I can’t live without, like a Microplane, OXO vegetable peeler, and a good blender, but my less expected staples include tea filter bags that I use for a bouquet garni or other whole spices when flavoring soups and stews; round biscuit cutters, ranging in size from 1½ to 3 inches; and, my top pick, high-heat rubber spatulas. They’re perfect for scrambling eggs, stirring sauces, and scraping the last bits out of bowls and jars. —Carla Hall, author of Carla Hall’s Soul Food: Everyday and Celebration
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I once had a mini meltdown when I had to zest an entire case of soft Meyer lemons and not one of the six or seven microplanes we had at [my restaurant] Annisa was sharp. It was very stressful, and maybe I could have had a heart attack or an aneurism? I know that’s a stretch but, in a way, I literally might not be able to live without a sharp Microplane . After that incident, I hoarded one in the office for just my own use. —Anita Lo, author of Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One
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The Persian rice cooker, which I affectionately refer to as my "cheat pot," is our weeknight secret weapon. Persians have elevated rice-making to an art form, and this rice cooker saves harried dinners, and lowers stress levels, on a weekly basis. It guarantees fluffy, long, fragrant grains of rice and a crunchy tahdig—the crispy, saffron-hued grains at the bottom of the pot—every time. —Naz Deravian, author of Bottom of the Pot: Persian Recipes and Stories
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I love these affordable small measuring cups because they make my work developing and testing recipes accurate and easy. They’re designed very simply and very smartly, with an angled surface marked with measurements on the inside that let you see how much of a liquid ingredient you’re adding while you’re adding it. This might not seem like much, but it counts (no pun intended) for a lot. —Julia Turshen, author of Now & Again: Go-To Recipes, Inspired Menus + Endless Ideas for Reinventing Leftovers
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One thing I can’t live without, in the restaurant and at home, is a spice grinder. We use an electric one at the restaurant for speed and volume, and at home I tend to use my Peugeot Olivier Roellinger Pepper Mill. —Matt Hyland, co-author of EMILY: The Cookbook
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I have many favorite kitchen tools, but one that I return to again and again is a small offset spatula. I order them in bulk from Webstaurantstore.com because we use them for many tasks at the bakery. They work perfectly for icing shortbread cookies, applying a layer of cream cheese to the bottom of a pie crust, and smoothing the tops of unbaked brownies. The smaller size makes the tool like a helpful extension of your hand. —Lisa Ludwinski, author of Sister Pie: The Recipes and Stories of a Big-Hearted Bakery in Detroit
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My favorite thing to use in the kitchen is a kawali (a.k.a. a wok). It may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an “all-in-one” tool, but it’s extremely versatile for different types of cooking techniques, from frying to braising to steaming. I use one all the time, both in my restaurants and at home. —Miguel Trinidad, co-author of I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook
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My bench scraper feels like an extension of my body in the kitchen—for scooping up massive piles of chopped greens, scraping sticky counters clean, divvying pizza dough or scones into even portions. When my standard-issue plastic-handled one from culinary school finally fell apart, I upgraded to this more durable, handsome guy, and we’ve become even closer. —Kristen Miglore, author of Genius Desserts: 100 Recipes That Will Change the Way You Bake
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My Vitamix blender: Not only can I blend and prepare marinades and sauces with speed and precision, but I can also use it to grind down seeds and spices. It’s also a wonderful for whipping air into condiments like mayonnaise. —Nik Sharma, author of Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food
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A good pair of large, sturdy shears might be one of my most beloved tools in the kitchen, and it’s hard for me to believe that I ever went without them before my Korean mother-in-law introduced them to me. You can use them for everything from snipping chewy japchae noodles into shorter pieces to cutting galbi in the pan as it cooks; they’re also perfect for slicing pizza, snipping a roll of dough into pieces, "chopping" scallions when you’re too lazy to get out a cutting board, de-veining shrimp, the list goes on. I’d be lost without them! —Cynthia Chen, author of A Common Table: 80 Recipes and Stories from My Shared Cultures
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