I Develop Recipes for a Living — These Are the 10 Tools I Use Every Single Day

updated Mar 2, 2022
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Credit: Patty Catalano

Working in recipe development is nothing short of a dream, but it’s not all cupcakes and whipped cream. After 15 years on the job, I’ve learned that having the right tools can really make or break your time in the kitchen. (Heck, I probably knew that after a day and you also probably know that.) I’ve also tried practically every slotted spoon, skillet, and grating gadget out there. But I always come back to the same 10 tools.

If you want to stock your kitchen like a pro, here are my picks.

1. Narrow Measuring Spoons

Measuring spoons are some of the most-used tools in my kitchen. I own no fewer than four sets, but this set of spoons is the holy grail. Unlike plastic spoons that can melt or warp (ask me how I know), this set is made of sturdy stainless steel with ends that are narrow enough to slide easily into spice jars. The best part? The set includes both 1/8 and 3/4 teaspoons for easy measuring.

2. Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Lodge’s cast iron skillets are the workhorses of my kitchen. I own two sizes (10- and 12-inch options) and think you should too. Not only are they relatively inexpensive, but these skillets can also do it all, including stovetop cooking, oven braising, and even cooking on the grill.

3. OXO Good Grips Triple Kitchen Timer

Keeping track of the prep and cook times for every recipe I write is a major part of the job. It’s not uncommon for me to have a half-dozen timers ticking when I’m deep into recipe testing. This specific timer is a newer addition to my toolkit, and so far I’m impressed! The numerical keypad makes setting the time a snap and it’s easier than I anticipated to keep track of which timer goes with what. Bonus: The timer is angled and backlit so it is easy to read in a rush.

4. Kitchen Scale

A good scale is as important as any other tool in the kitchen. I pull out this scale to weigh and measure flour for cakes, cheeses for casseroles, meat for meatballs, and more. This scale — which I own in red — goes up to 11 pounds and includes a tare/zero function. Plus it has a smooth surface, which I cover with plastic wrap before weighing sticky ingredients or raw meat to make cleanup easy.

5. Prep Bowls

Any time I’m testing someone else’s recipe, I always start with the same two steps. First, read the recipe all of the way through before touching a single ingredient. Second, I measure, chop, and slice every ingredient in advance (aka mise en place) so that, once I turn on the heat, I don’t have to avert my attention. This set of glass prep bowls is perfect for organizing prepped ingredients.

6. OXO Soap Dispenser

One of the less glamorous parts of recipe developing is all of the dishwashing that comes along with it. This soap dispenser holds a lot, so I don’t have to refill frequently. After shattering a glass dispenser last year, I upgraded to this sturdy plastic option. Luckily, it has a sleek design that I don’t mind seeing on my counter.

7. Restaurant-Grade Baking Sheet and Wire Rack

I reach for baking sheets and cooling racks every single day. There’s no room in my kitchen for flimsy pans that warp or racks that don’t fit, and that’s why I rely on commercial-grade baking sheets paired with perfectly fitted wire racks. While you can buy them (in sets!) online, also seek out your local restaurant supply store for purchasing everyday rimmed baking sheets and smaller 1/4-sheet pan sizes (perfect for nachos and snack platters).

8. KitchenAid Oven Mitt Set

Grab a hot pan with a damp towel one time and you’ll never make that mistake ever again. (It hurts!) While leather or silicone pot holders are all the rage, I prefer these heavy-duty fabric mitts. I find myself using the square ones the most and I like that I can slide my hands into the pocket — or not. They also double as trivets if I need to protect my counters from hot pots and pans.

9. OXO Mini Angled Measuring Cup

I own liquid measuring cups of all sizes, but this miniature measurer is my favorite. With the smart angled design of OXO’s other measuring cups for easy overhead reading, the capacity for this cup is 4 tablespoons. It’s the perfect tool for measuring small amounts of liquids and oils without dampening spoons needed for portioning dry ingredients.

10. John Boos Block Maple Wood Edge Grain Cutting Board

This big, beautiful cutting board never leaves my countertop. It’s large enough that my knife never slips off of the edge and I can pile ingredients as I prep them.

What are your most-used kitchen tools? Let us know in the comments.