Kitchen tools

Andy Baraghani’s essential kitchen utensils

In this excerpt from her forthcoming cookbook The cook you want to be: everyday recipes to impressAndy Baraghani discusses the kitchen utensils he uses over and over again.

People think I’m a difficult person. And me a m picky about the fit of my T-shirts, my playlists for long car rides, and my skincare routine. But when it comes to cooking, my tools are relatively minimal. With fewer tools, I can focus on the dish and the project at hand. I wear my worn-out sneakers and an old white T-shirt in the kitchen. When cooking for myself, I generally don’t use measuring cups or spoons. Gadgets take up space and cloud your judgment. You don’t need a tomato knife; you need one sharp knife. You don’t need a juicer; you have hands. Use them. Less is more.

kitchen utensils I do the use is not super fancy; they’re all under $20 (minus the Thermapen and Mandolin), and they’ll provide consistency. Frankly, these tools will allow you to cook with confidence and also elevate your kitchen, as they did mine.

The cook you want to be: everyday recipes to impress

This tool should not be called a fish spatula. I use it to flip fillets of fish, yes, but I also use it to turn crispy potatoes on a cast iron griddle, scraping and flipping them and pretending I’m working in a restaurant in the old one with a ceiling stained with cigarette smoke. Use this spatula to flip roasted vegetables on a baking sheet or to transfer them to a plate. A fish spatula is incredibly versatile and gets below in a way that a rubber spatula or wooden spoon physically cannot, but do not use it on a non-stick surface or it will scratch the coating.

The Benjaminer. Still. It’s lightweight plastic. The fancier mandolins have several parts that confuse the hell out of me. This tool is fast, efficient, and consistent in a way the best chef’s knife can’t be. I use it to slice perfect rounds of radishes and cucumbers. Use a mandolin for dense, stubborn ingredients to cut – beets, carrots, daikon, fennel, potatoes – all tough vegetables that can quickly dull your knife.

Benriner Mandoline Slicer

A mortar and pestle are my most beloved tool. (You should see my collection!) I don’t even know how many I have at this point. My love for mortar and pestle started at home because my mother had a tiny brass one that she used to break down saffron to make saffron water for rice. At Chez Panisse, we used them to pulverize herbs, crush nuts and turn garlic into a paste to incorporate into aioli. At Estela, we grind the chili flakes to release all of their oils. There’s no other tool in the world that requires the cook to be so active, and breaks down an ingredient so thoroughly, and there’s no need for electricity. The best food processor can’t do what a mortar and pestle can.

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Greenco mortar and pestle set

I’m sorry to say this, but I have to: Don’t trust your oven. It doesn’t matter if it’s new or old. I learned the hard way many, many, many times. I get so many DMs from people about how the recipes they made took longer/less than what I wrote. It’s your oven’s fault. And each oven is calibrated differently. Invest the few bucks in an oven thermometer, hang it on the center rack, halfway through, and let it hang there. It’s accurate and it will give you peace of mind (and an accurate reading) the next time you go to bake, braise, roast or grill something.

Thermoworks Oven Thermometer

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Rubbermaid Stainless Steel Oven Thermometer

These are essential for your roasting and baking needs, which is why you’ll want to invest in more than one. Go for a large baking sheet (called a half-sheet) and make sure it has a rim or lip so things don’t slide around. I use the quarter-size pans for toasting things like nuts and coconut flakes, and the larger pans for slow-roasted potatoes, fish, and chicken.

Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet

I grew up with the pen-like peelers, which give those little short peels. The Y-peeler is, you know, shaped like a Y. Buy a three-pack. You get long strips of whatever you peel in broad strokes. It’s so much more efficient. Why did I use this rubber thing before?

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Kuhn Rikon Y-Peeler, set of three

It will be completely. THIS IS SO ACCURATE. It’s time to stop the guessing game. And when you insert the long, pointed probe into a large cut of meat or roast, don’t jam it in there so it touches the bone – you want it in the center.

Thermoworks Thermapen ONE

If there is one, Uh, Andy, why do you have to be so extra? tool is the Kunz spoon. It’s the perfect spoon, with the perfect bowl, for pouring a ladle of sauce or broth. I use this spoon to taste everything I cook. This scoop is also the perfect size for scooping frothy melted butter to pour over steak or pork chops when basting. It costs around $20. Order it now.

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Pre-order Andy’s book. So go make his zucchini and kuku leeks:

Kuku kadoo topped with herbs in an iron skillet

Serve this springtime Persian kuku, filled with tender leeks and zucchini, with warm flatbread or on a sandwich.

See the recipe

Reprinted from The cook you want to be. Copyright © 2022 Andy Baraghani. Photographs copyright ©2022 Graydon Herriott. Published by Lorena Jones, an imprint of Random House.