A common misconception is that better tools make for a better cook. And while every home chef enjoys a premium knife set or the sturdiness of a quality pot, sometimes a bit of craftiness is all you need to get the job done. You’d be surprised to find that some of the most famous chefs in the world of cooking prefer the unlikeliest of kitchen tools.
Underneath the success of television household names and mastery of Michelin-starred legends are people not that different from you. While quality over quantity is a common saying, sometimes quality doesn’t mean expensive, it just means capable. You can easily waste your money on kitchen tools, and any famous chef will tell you that one good knife is better than a full set of knives you rarely make use of.
Some cookware can last a lifetime, whereas you’ll swap other favorites for a fresh one each year. Whether due to a kitchen tool’s versatility, its sentimental value, or plain old effectiveness, there are many reasons to love it. In honor of your go-to, must-have, always reliable kitchen tool, we’ve compiled a list of those beloved by some of your favorite famous chefs.
Alton Brown’s brain is his favorite tool
Celebrity chef, T.V. personality, and author Alton Brown has taken a lap or two around the culinary world. As the creator and host of popular shows like "Good Eats," "Iron Chef," and "Cutthroat Kitchen," he’s considered a trusted voice on the topic of food. Equipped with an outspoken flare that’s passionately informative, Brown has carved a special place in the hearts of cook show fans worldwide.
Notoriously known for hating what he calls "unitaskers," Brown’s favorite kitchen tool, while unexpected, might actually come as no surprise: The brain. Now at 60 years old, the food brainiac admits that he hasn’t paid much attention to his brain throughout life. The milestone pushed him to take a closer look at how it works, what it’s made of, and what he can do to ensure its long-lasting health.
Brown shared, "People ask me today, ‘What’s the most important tool in the kitchen?’ I say, ‘Number one is your brain. Number two is the kitchen table where you sit down and break bread with people.’ I know that sounds… hokey, but I know a lot of people who are still living great lives in their 80s and older who do that and make time for that."
Ina Garten makes prep easy with a microplane
In 1978, Ina Garten made a life-changing transition from The White House to purchasing her own specialty food store in The Hamptons. Having no prior experience in the food business, she took a leap of faith with the support of her husband, hoping to lead a more creative and exciting life. As faith would have it, The Barefoot Contessa was born. After much success, over time the nuclear policy analyst turned business owner added best-selling cookbook author and television show host to her resume.
Despite an impressive resume, when it comes to her favorite kitchen tool, Garten opts for simplicity and prefers a Microplane. Sleek, affordable, and multifunctional, Microplanes will quickly change the way you approach cooking. If you’re looking for an easy way to shred or shave foods, this handy tool is grate at the job. Garten is well known for using it on her T.V. show "Barefoot Contessa" and loves the citrusy zest of fruits, as well as finely grated garlic.
Michael Symon keeps a bench scraper handy
Michael Symon is credited with reviving his hometown’s culinary scene. A Cleveland native, he’s founded several critically acclaimed restaurants locally and around the United States. His exuberant charm made him a standout on "Iron Chef," leading to successful shows like "The Chew" and "Burgers, Brew & ‘Que." Now choosing his humble backyard in place of a big production, "Symon’s Dinners Cooking Out" shares the chef’s grilling know-how.
Whether scooping up herbs for delicious meatballs or clearing cutting boards of remaining ingredients, Symon always keeps a basic bench scraper nearby. It’s the kitchen tool that he calls the greatest. Underestimated and underused in many kitchens, it was originally made for cutting dough, scraping dried chocolate, and removing sticky leftovers. Bench scrapers are actually all-around useful tools that extend beyond their baking origins.
Its wide surface is more efficient at transferring ingredients than your knife; it’s also a great way to smash garlic bulbs or potatoes. Furthermore, you’ll worry less about accidental cuts. When it comes to bench scrapers, affordability meets usefulness. In fact, Chef Symon actually prefers the cheaper kind over fancier options. He says he buys them by the dozen and gifts them to friends.
Cutting boards are foundational tools for Thomas Keller
This wildly successful chef got his start in kitchens working under his mother, who was also a restaurateur and chef. Throughout the course of his life, he apprenticed at several Michelin-starred restaurants and now owns his own, two of which hold 3-star ratings. A fun fact about Thomas Keller is that he consulted on the popular Pixar movie "Ratatouille" in 2017, helping to create the signature dish. Prestigious accomplishments aside, when it comes to beloved kitchen tools, Keller believes a cutting board is the foundation for all food prep.
For an essential tool, not everyone is aware that certain cutting boards are better suited to select tasks, or that, for better results, there are things you should do before using your knife. Keller not only considers cutting boards foundational for prep, but also for parts of the cooking process. As mentioned, with several cutting board options, each with its own advantages, he says it’s important to assess your needs. Having at least two is recommended: One for meats and the other for vegetables.
Rachael Ray’s garbage bowl keeps things organized
One of the most successful Food Network alumni, Rachael Ray’s down-to-earth approach has made her an inspiration to home chefs around the world. Cooking has always played a role in her life, starting with her family’s restaurants in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where she helped out during childhood, according to Brittanica. Later, an inventive approach to cooking class called "30-Minute Mediterranean Meals" would launch her television career. With an endless list of accolades, it’s safe to say that the rest is culinary history.
Ray’s lively personality is only matched by her modest way of presenting recipes, which focuses on simplifying cooking at home. One of her favorite ways to simplify things and be a more organized home cook is by using a garbage bowl. As the name suggests, a garbage bowl is used for discarding leftover ingredients, and Ray considers it a must-have kitchen tool. It’s a great way to maintain a clean prep area by quickly and easily transferring waste to compost or trash. While a garbage bowl may seem like a no-brainer, sometimes the most obvious tools are overlooked.
Gordon Ramsay stays sharp with a chef’s knife
Intimidating is one way to describe celebrity chef, restaurateur, and T.V. personality Gordon Ramsay. His fiery personality is the stuff of legends. For example, many hopeful chefs had to learn how to take the heat if they wanted to survive his aptly-named show: "Hell’s Kitchen." Despite the television antics and his temperamental veil, Ramsay has always sought to teach others. The Michelin-starred chef has many interesting tips that will improve your cooking skills.
As a living, breathing, encyclopedia of cooking tips, Ramsay often emphasizes the essentials. When asked by social media food influencer Eitan Bernath what his most essential kitchen tool is, Ramsay responded, "The sharpest knife on the planet." He believes the secret behind keeping a sharp knife is to sharpen it before and after you use it. They’re also safer, while dull knives can potentially slip and cut you. Whether a professional or home chef, it’s definitely one of the basic knife skills you need to know.
Giada De Laurentiis enjoys a dutch oven for long cook times
Known for her modern take on traditional Italian classics, Giada De Laurentiis’s homely persona and culinary skills have helped make her a household name. From her family’s kitchen to Le Cordon Bleu, Laurentiis was seemingly born to cook. A discovery in Food & Wine was only the beginning of an impressive career that includes such popular shows as "Everyday Italian" and "Giada At Home." Something she has in common with others on this list is a love for simplifying recipes. Her approachable cooking style is especially great for pasta lovers, like this simple trick for silky carbonara.
One of her most beloved kitchen tools, a Dutch oven, is heavyweight and perfect for even heat distribution. According to CNN, De Laurentiis considers it fantastic for recipes that require longer cooking times: soups, stews, sauces, and ragu, for example. The sturdy and long-lasting kitchen tool also happens to be a stovetop mainstay at her home. Another fun thing about Dutch ovens is that they’re available in many color options that can perfectly complement any kitchen.
Robert Irvine gets into the mix with a blender
Robert Irvine picked up his cooking chops from a surprising place: UK’s Royal Navy. Carrying his support for members of the military throughout his career, Irvine regularly donates through his "Robert Irvine Foundation," and even owns a restaurant called "Fresh Kitchen" at The Pentagon. Along with being a successful restaurateur, he’s probably best known for his no-nonsense attitude and a long list of T.V. shows like Food Network’s "Restaurant: Impossible." Unlike the title, for world-class Chef Irvine, getting the job done in the kitchen is anything but impossible.
Out of all the kitchen tools someone of his caliber is expected to have mastered, there’s one gadget he can’t live without: A blender. He’s even released a signature Robert Irvine blender called "Blend Anything." In a YouTube video, he demonstrates how effective it is at blending anything from chicken burgers to ice cream. He considers it the perfect kitchen tool for a wide array of food prep tasks.
Ree Drummond loves a versatile baking sheet pan
As one of the most down-home celebrity chefs in the game, Ree Drummond is appropriately known as the "Pioneer Woman." The nickname has become synonymous with her brand, which revolves around living on a ranch and making family-friendly comfort food. The former California city girl turned a move to Oklahoma into a cooking empire that includes T.V. shows, books, and products. Unlike many mentioned on this list, Drummond didn’t come from a culinary background. It all started with a blog she created to share her married life.
Her homely charm even extends to the kitchen tools she likes to use. In an interview with Closer News Weekly, Drummond reveals that the one kitchen tool she can’t live without is a baking sheet pan. Whether savory or sweet recipe plans, they’re a must-have. Super versatile, it only gets better with age, helping brown foods better. That’s why it’s recommended that you keep your old baking sheets.
Marc Murphy simplifies cutting with Japanese mandolines
Throughout his childhood, celebrity chef Marc Murphy lived in many cities around the world. Experiencing cultural diversity at a young age would give him an advantage later in life as he pursued a culinary career. His background in French and Italian cuisine has been molded through years of schooling, apprenticeships, and owning several critically acclaimed restaurants. He’s now famously known as a judge on the hit television show "Chopped," along with a slew of notable network appearances.
While French and Italian cuisines are his forté, you may be surprised to find that the kitchen tool Murphy can’t live without actually originates from Japan: The mandoline. Its blades are particularly sharp, and the cut size can be adjusted to easily slice ingredients. For those that haven’t sharpened their knife skills, it magically cuts julienne-style like a pro. In an interview with Food Network, he says the beloved tool "turns everything into dust!"
Though dust may not be the best choice of word, the blade is in fact so sharp that accidental injuries are common. Fortunately, there’s such a thing as cut-resistant gloves that protect your little piggies. At any rate, with any sharp instrument, it’s always advised to be careful.
Food processors power Tabitha Brown’s cooking
Vegan food influencer Tabitha Brown has been gaining a following with her humorous and infectious personality. One of the few celebrity chefs that specializes in vegan cuisine, her recipes have been a culinary bridge for people interested in a plant-based lifestyle. A viral video reviewing the vegan BLT from Whole Foods Market launched her career. The company had taken to Brown’s charm so much, that they hired her as a brand ambassador. That initial stint would snowball into a massive social media following and burgeoning television career.
If you’re newer to eating vegan, a plant-based diet often requires inventiveness to ensure sufficient caloric intake. In an interview with Well + Good, Brown shared that when it comes to making delicious vegan recipes, the kitchen tool she recommends most is a food processor. It’s the best tool to quickly and easily chop, slice, shred, and purée most ingredients. Brown uses it to turn pecans into vegan taco meat, which is a great plant-based substitute for ground turkey or beef.
A wok makes outdoor cooking easy for Guy Fieri
Guy Fieri began earning his restaurateur stripes at the tender age of 10, running a pretzel stand with his father. His energetic demeanor, wrapped in a tattooed rockish aesthetic, makes him one of the most standout celebrity chefs in the world. Fieri’s iconic bleached-blonde hair is only matched by his voracious appetite for eye-popping diner foods. On his most popular show "Diners, Drive-ins, & Dives," he’s taken fans on a culinary road trip around America.
As someone that spends a lot of time traveling the states for delicious eats, the self-proclaimed mayor of "Flavortown" knows the importance of cooking on the go. To make sure he’s prepared to satisfy any hunger needs, Fieri takes the perfect portable cooking tool everywhere: A wok. Originating in China, woks are awesomely versatile bowl-shaped pans.
Fieri would take a wok over a grill any day, according to Food Network, where he says, "The wok is one of my favorite things to work with when I’m camping. Outdoor cooking is not just about hot dogs and hamburgers. There are so many styles of food you can make."
Bobby Flay says hand tools are must-haves
One of the original competitors on the popular cooking show "Iron Chef America," Bobby Flay would turn his win into a winning career. Evidenced by a lifelong passion for cooking, in hindsight, Flay’s celebrity status, restaurant empire, and an array of cookbooks probably come as no surprise. He specializes in Mexican and Southwestern cuisines and brings recipes to life with experience and his outgoing personality.
Besides an obvious love for food, he loves his daughter Sophie Flay, whom he shares the show "Bobby and Sophie on the Coast" with, and a Spotify podcast called "Always Hungry Bobby Flay and Sophie Flay." The shows not only highlight their sweet father/daughter dynamic, but they also give Flay an opportunity to show his audience the cooking lessons he’s shared with Sophie. Growing up in the household of a master chef, one must get access to the best cooking tips: From recipe hacks to essential kitchen tools.
For example, Flay keeps a long list of necessary items to stock your kitchen with. At the 3:01 mark in their podcast, he says a container of hand tools, kept right next to his stove, are the things he uses most. The container is typically filled with two spatulas, a wooden spoon, a zester, a couple of whisks in different sizes, long and short tongs, brushes for glazing, ladles, a spider, and more.
David Chang doesn’t cook without a microwave
David Chang didn’t awaken his passion for the culinary arts until adulthood when he enrolled in the French Culinary Institute. In 2004, he opened his first restaurant in New York named the Momofuku Noodle Bar. Six Momofuku-branded restaurants, an expansive television career, and numerous awards later, Chang is considered one of the most well-known chefs in the world.
Funnily enough, somehow atop his mountain of accolades sits what Chang considers "indispensable" to his cooking: A microwave. He’s even released a collection of microwave-safe glass dishes called "Anyday" that were built to survive the rigors of prolonged heat. Usually, regular foods are distinguished from microwavable foods, yet Chang uses them for the most unexpected things.
In an interview with Architectural Digest, he said that "soy-marinated salmon and rice topped with nori and sesame seeds has been a go-to dish along with a side of vegetables, usually bok choy or Brussels sprouts, plus Momofuku Chili Crunch." Clearly, if anyone knows whether or not it’s safe to cook raw shrimp in a microwave, Chang’s the guy.