8 Things I Bought for My Home Kitchen After I Started Teaching at Culinary School

published Feb 3, 2022
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As a food writer and recipe developer, I always had a well-equipped home kitchen — or so I thought. When I started teaching at the Institute of Culinary Education, I realized there were gadgets taking up drawer space in my home kitchen that shouldn’t be. More importantly, I also learned there were tools that could make me a better, more efficient cook that I, *gasp,* did not own.

Of course, I changed that! I got rid of some things (but that’s a different post!) and I bought up the things I was missing. Here’s what was on my shopping list.

1. Plain, cheap kitchen towels

I keep nice kitchen towels draped over my oven handle at home, but rarely use them for fear of ruining them. Instead, I keep stacks of these terry towels around, and they also help me cut back on my usage of paper towels (hello, earth-friendly reusables!) They don’t last forever, but that is part of their beauty: I feel no need to worry about whether they get stained or just gross from whatever I use them for. I throw them in the washing machine and keep them alive until they start to shred, at which point I might invest another $8 for a pack of six.   

2. Citrus juicer

For years I used a traditional wood reamer, and may have even been a little snooty about people who use gadgets to juice. Now that I teach in culinary school and have my own commercial kitchen, I see what a time- and wrist-saver these citrus squeezers are. I love that my students with arthritis or other hand weakness issues find them much easier to use, and that I can squeeze large quantities of lemons or limes with ease. 

3. Mandoline

Want to slice a potato super thin and evenly for a gratin or to make your own baked or fried potato chips? Use a mandoline. Want to make perfect matchstick-pieces for a beautiful salad or stir-fry? Use a mandoline. A quick apple crisp or pie? You guessed it: The mandoline is an indispensable kitchen tool that helps cooks of any skill level get perfect, even cuts. While these used to be the (expensive) province of high-end kitchens, they are now accessible to home kitchens, thanks to models like this one from OXO (I keep one at home and one in my commercial kitchen).

4. Sizzle platter

These inexpensive metal platters can go into the oven and under the broiler, and are just big enough for one or two portions of meat, poultry, or fish. When you need to stick one portion of something back in the oven (like when one person wants their meat more well-done), or one piece of chicken didn’t get quite brown enough, this is the perfect way to do it. A sizzle platter is great any time you need a smaller-than-a sheet-pan flat surface, like when you toast nuts and seeds. It’s also the perfect resting place for dirty spoons and spatulas you’re still using.

5. Multiple measuring spoons and cups

Nothing slows me down like having to stop in the middle of cooking to wash out my cup measures. I didn’t realize this until I was teaching at Institute of Culinary Education and had baskets full of measuring tools at my disposal. In my own kitchen, it is so worth the real estate to have a couple (okay, a few) sets of each so that I can keep cooking. Also, when you have multiples, you can often leave ingredients right in the cup measure until you need them, rather than transferring them to several individual bowls. 

6. Fish spatula

If you have ever had the experience of cooking a piece of fish perfectly, only to have it break when you take it out of the pan, you will understand the need for a fish spatula. I have watched countless students learn this lesson when they try to turn a piece of fish over using a standard square-ish spatula. A good fish spatula easily slides under the fish, and its length allows you to support the entire filet. And don’t just use it for fish: The flexible turner is a gentle way to transfer a poached or fried egg and other delicate items. 

7. Offset spatulas

You don’t know how useful offset spatulas are until you have them in the kitchen. Seriously, you will find yourself reaching for them all the time. They are often called “icing spatulas” because they are great for frosting a cake, but they also slide under and into places where nothing else can. I use mine to help lift that first piece of pie out without having it fall apart; to place shrimp just where I want them on a platter; to loosen cookies on the cookie sheet; to gently pry up the corner of something stuck to my pan, and so much more. 

8. Flat parchment paper (instead of rolled)

I used to have a small roll of parchment paper in with my plastic wrap and foil, and found that I would only use it when necessary. It seemed precious in that small roll: like an ingredient one might dole out carefully. In culinary school, there was a large flat box in every classroom, and I got used to using it with abandon. And once I did, it seemed there were always more and more uses for the stuff: I’d use it for the typical pan lining and to separate layers of food I need to stack (like dried lettuce leaves for wraps) and more. The big flat box sits right at home on top of the refrigerator, and I love that I can easily pull out just one sheet at a time. An added benefit is that I have learned parchment paper is incredibly useful in many non-culinary ways, too. (I place it between stored picture frames so they don’t get scratched, line boxes, and more). 

How many things on this list do you have?