test kitchen staff picks: tools that rule

Every passionate cook has that favorite kitchen tool or gadget—the cast iron pan that's been handed down through generations, or the spurtle that works...
By: Anna Becker / 01/26/2017 /

Our favorites? Long chopsticks and an electric tea kettle! Scroll all the way down to see how we suggest using a few tools in this week's recipes!

Grace - Senior Culinary Editor: An e****lectric tea kettle is probably the most used gadget in my kitchen. Rehydrating chiles, sundried tomatoes, or dried fruit; Topping off a pot of pasta water that's boiled down; adding to risotto, grits, or polenta at the end to loosen; peeling peaches and tomatoes.

A melon baller is another single use item that can be used for much more than decorative melon art. It's great for removing seeds from halved tomatoes or chiles. I use it to remove capers from the jar—the hole allows the brine to drain.

Lauren - Culinary Freelancer: I have this lightweight aluminum Italian hot plate that a chef friend gave me in Florence. It has grates and perforated holes so as it warms over an open flame, it makes the most delicious, slightly charred toast or tortillas. It's super rustic and looks cute in my kitchen! Also very important to me is my **wine fridge—**usually stocked with my favorite cab sav :)

Laura - Culinary Assistant: Tongs! When I'm cooking, they quickly become a heatproof extension of my hand, and they can do everything: flip, toss, stir, scoop, etc.! Plus it's nice having extra long hands!

Jennifer - Culinary Director: A fish spatula is probably the chicest kitchen tool—long and lovely, slim and sexy. It is an ultra thin slotted spatula that slips easily underneath even the most delicate pieces of fish. It also works great for anything else that requires flipping. It's lean and flexible.

Sanae - Culinary Assistant: I love long chopsticks, plus they're cheap at any Asian store. I like how precise they are for turning small pieces of meat or vegetables and for scrambling eggs.

I also like to use a ceramic knife for peeling vegetables or fruits. Because it's so light and sharp, it's easier on my wrist when I'm holding a fruit in my hand. Yes, ceramic knives are fragile, but if you store yours carefully, it'll last a long time. Don't try to pit an avocado with a ceramic knife!

Theo - Junior Culinary Editor: The microplane has multiple uses in the kitchen and is a real work horse. It’s great for grating hard cheeses like Parmesan, zesting citrus and avoiding the bitter pith, and it can also be used for grating garlic and ginger. It takes a fraction of the time compared to finely chopping with a knife. There’s also some pretty neat history behind the microplane.

Here's how we're using them in this week's recipes. Click here or se****lect any recipe to get $30 off your first box!

Chickpea & Red Pepper Soup with Cheesy Pull-Apart Rolls Rich and creamy, this chickpea and roasted pepper soup comes together in minutes, though it tastes like it cooked for hours. Don’t fret if you don’t have a blender. This soup is perfectly yummy more chunky. The rolls are the star of this dish. Sliced and stuffed with cheese, these are like Hasselback potatoes in bread form. Tool Tip: Use microplane to zest lemon and finely grate cheese.

Cheesy Miso Udon Noodles with Crispy Broccolini In this dish, we’re using udon in an untraditional way. Think mac & cheese with an asian twist. The udon is finished in a cheesy, buttery sauce that has an added boost of umami with the help of miso paste. Broccolini is roasted in the oven with Parmesan until crispy and it’s all served with a bright tomato salad to balance it out. Tool Tip: Use long chopsticks to gently toss noodles in sauce.

Andouille Sausages & Bean Stew with Caramelized Fennel & Kale SaladThis is the perfect recipe for a cold winter day. Smoked pork sausages are browned and served tucked into a stew of cannellini beans and sweet carmelized fennel scented with rosemary. It’s almost like a quick, deconstructed cassoulet meant to warm you from the inside out. The bright kale salad on top is the perfect complement. Tool Tip: Use tongs to toss fennel and to transfer sausages from pan.

Crunchy Tortillas and Shrimp with Black Beans and Lime YogurtTostadas—toasted tortillas—are usually deep fried. We cooked ours in a lot less oil, just enough to get that same golden crispiness. These get topped with adobo-marinated shrimp and a refreshing bean salad. We whipped up a quick lime yogurt to spread on the warm tortillas for a layer of creaminess and to help the toppers stick to the crunchy base. Tool Tip: Use fish spatula to remove shrimp from pan while draining any excess oil.