The 7 Tools I Bought for My Kitchen After Graduating from Culinary School

updated Oct 7, 2021
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Credit: Tara Donne

I always knew that I wanted to go to culinary school, and after graduating high school I was lucky enough to study at The Culinary Institute of America where I learned how to make mother sauces, break down meat, and cut vegetables with ease. Now, nearly 10 years later, one of my biggest takeaways is that having a solid collection of tools can make cooking at home infinitely easier. Sure, learning how to do these things is important, but having the tools to actually accomplish those tasks is equally as important! The moment I graduated, I bought many of the tools I grew to love in culinary school and they have since become staples I turn to every day.

From mandolines to cake testers, these are the seven tools that I bought for my kitchen after graduating culinary school.

1. Metal Cake Tester

At first glance a cake tester might look like a unitasker, but it was actually one of my go-to tools in culinary school. Beyond testing if cakes are done, we were also taught to use cake testers to check the doneness of vegetables, scallops, and fish. For vegetables, if the metal can easily pierce the flesh, the vegetables are done. For seafood, we would insert the metal into the thickest part of whatever you’re cooking, remove it, then check if the metal is warm. It’s not a fool-proof method of checking doneness, but it can help you feel more confident if you don’t own an instant-read thermometer.

2. Mandoline Slicer

A mandoline is the ultimate tool to get paper-thin slices of veggies. It’s great for thinly slicing cucumbers, radishes, potatoes, and more. Culinary school stressed the importance of proper knife skills, but there are some things that only a mandoline can achieve! I use mine almost every week and turn to it anytime I have to slice a large amount of veggies.

3. Metal Sizzle Platter

Sizzle platters are one of those tools used in restaurant kitchens and culinary schools but rarely home kitchens. They’re perfect for roasting individual pieces of meat (like a salmon fillet or chicken breast) or anything else you want to quickly prepare without dirtying up a whole sheet tray. The best part is that you can both cook and serve on them, making cleanup a breeze. I stocked my kitchen up with a stack of these and use them often.

4. Y-Shaped Peelers

The only peelers worth buying are these colorful Y-shaped ones. They’re sturdy enough to tackle peeling hard items like squashes, but delicate enough to shave off only a thin layer. I’ve had the same peeler since graduating college and it’s still just as reliable as Day One.

5. Fish Spatula

I learned about fish spatulas during my very first class in culinary school and have been a fan ever since. They’re perfect for flipping delicate items like fried eggs, pancakes, and (of course) fish without damaging them. The metal blade is thin and flexible, so it’s able to get underneath finicky foods without tearing them. I use mine to flip burgers, transfer cookies onto cooling racks, and for just about anything else a regular spatula can be used for.

6. Bench Scraper

Bench scrapers were one of the most versatile tools I used in culinary school. They’re great for cutting doughs, transferring cut veggies off of your cutting board and into a pot, and scraping off bits of food that get stuck to bowls, cutting boards, and other work surfaces. I keep one on my cutting board at home and it makes cleanup so much easier.

7. Mini Offset Spatula

Mini offset spatulas are great for frosting cakes and other treats (of course), but are just as helpful for smearing savory components like hummus, butter, and cream cheese. I would keep one in my jacket pocket at all times during culinary school and found myself using it for all kinds of unexpected things (like flipping scallops and prying stuck cookies off of sheet pans). After culinary school, I bought myself a few different sizes and I use them all almost every week.

What are the kitchen tools you can’t live without? Let us know in the comments!