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Whether you are a novice cook stocking your first apartment or a seasoned professional updating your tools, there are certain cooking utensils that are must-haves in a functioning kitchen. No matter where on the spectrum you fall, it is important to look for durable tools that will make cooking easier, and not clutter up your drawers. And, bonus if they are attractively designed, or come in fun colors to further decorate your cooking space.
Beyond what you need utensils for—a sometimes griller will benefit from different tools than a sometimes baker—you need to think about the material. Cooking utensils now often have silicone, metal, glass, and plastic options to choose from. Each has its own pros and cons, with some being higher-quality than others.
From a razor-sharp zester to a sturdy, versatile spatula, these are the best cooking utensils.
Best Measuring Cups: Pyrex Prepware 3-Piece Glass Measuring Set
What We Love: Durable, good range of sizes, versatile, affordable
What We Don’t Love: Measurement marks may rub off
I find myself reaching for these measuring cups often—they are durable, can be microwaved, and can even hold boiling water. Pyrex has been producing heat-resistant, high-quality glass measuring cups since 1925, and they are as reliable now as they were then. The nonporous glass easily heats my coffee when I let it get cold, and is a great vessel for boiling water to make bulgur wheat for tabbouleh when I don’t want to break out a saucepan. And, it doesn’t absorb odors or stains.
This set comes with three measuring cups ranging from 1 to 4-cup capacity. The heat-resistant glass moves from oven to microwave to refrigerator to freezer without fear of breaking. The red markings delineating cups, ounces, and milliliters make them easy-to-read and versatile, though to preserve the legibility only wash in the top rack of the dishwasher. There is also a 4-piece version that includes the 8-cup measuring cup.
Sizes included: 1-cup, 2-cup, 4-cup | Material: Glass | Dishwasher safe: Yes, top rack
Best Tongs: OXO 9-Inch Stainless Steel Locking Tongs
What We Love: Nonslip handles, thumb rests, easy storage, dishwasher safe
What We Don’t Love: Stainless steel may scratch nonstick surfaces
Tongs have a place on my list of essential kitchen tools—they can be used to grab roasted potatoes off a hot sheet pan, pull some pasta out of boiling water to check for doneness, flip chicken piccata, and so much more. The OXO 9-Inch Stainless Steel Locking Tongs are comfortable to grip, and won’t slip while in use.
The scalloped, angled head makes for a sturdy hold on whatever food you are grabbing. If you are short like me, they make excellent tools to reach those spices on the top shelf of your rack. These are also a favorite of our Senior Editor Cambria Bold who says, "A good pair of tongs is worth its weight in gold." They are dishwasher-safe for easy cleanup. When you're done, these lock for easy storage, and the loop on the end means you can store them on a wall hook. If you want an option for nonstick cookware, OXO makes a nylon-coated version.
Size: 9 inches | Material: Stainless steel | Dishwasher safe: Yes
Best Peeler: Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler
What We Love: Affordable, available in variety of colors, ergonomic design, ambidextrous use
What We Don’t Love: Must be hand washed
When it comes to peelers there are two main options: a swivel or Y-shaped model. The Kuhn Rikon Y-shaped peeler, which comes in eight fun colors, has a horizontal blade constructed from seriously sharp carbon steel. Often employed in restaurant kitchens, Y-shaped peelers make quick work of potatoes, root vegetables, and even citrus.
The design of a Y-shaped peeler makes it easier to use ambidextrously, and this model comes with a built-in potato eye remover. "A 'Y' shaped peeler can help you to have a better grip while you are peeling vegetables or fruits," says Gabrielle Draper, pastry chef and associate manager, R&D Technical Culinary Applications at Barry Callebaut. "How I prefer to peel something such as an apple is to start at the top and go in a circular motion around the entire fruit. A peeler such as this is ideal for efficiency."
To preserve its razor-sharp edge and functionality, this peeler must be hand washed and dried thoroughly after use. Treat it with the care you give your kitchen knives and it will last a long time.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 4 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches | Blade: Carbon steel | Dishwasher Safe: No
Related: The Best Vegetable Peelers
Best Spatula: Winco FST-6 6.5-inch Blade Fish Spatula
What We Love: Dishwasher safe, flexible turner, durable, affordable
What We Don’t Love: May scratch nonstick surfaces
Winco has been crafting commercial-quality kitchen utensils since 1992, and the 6.5-Inch Fish Spatula is no exception. This model has a wooden handle, a stainless steel turner, and wide slots to allow oil to drip off. Plus you can throw it in the dishwasher for no-fuss cleanup.
But, you may wonder when there is a world of spatulas, why a fish spatula? "Fish spatulas aren’t just for fish—they’re the key to pretty presentation when flipping anything delicate! Frying fritters? Flipping pancakes? Want to keep that golden crust intact on a juicy pork chop?" says Mary Fagan, recipe developer and founder of The Library Kitchen. "In each case, the fish spatula’s beveled shape and flexibility allows it to slide carefully under the food item and turn it over effortlessly. Look for one that’s made with durable stainless steel and a dishwasher-safe handle. This inexpensive tool might just become your most-used kitchen utensil!"
Unlike other models, the head is angled making for easy pickup of delicate foods, and it is flexible enough to gently ease those zucchini fritters out of the splashy oil without spillage or breakage. I’ve owned mine for two decades of pretty constant use—the handle is still crack-free, and the turner is going strong. And I am not the only one, it is also a favorite of Senior Editor Cambria Bold, who lauded it as her "cheap little kitchen workhorse!"
And, should you want to add a heat-resistant, silicone spatula to your collection, this one from Di Oro has a permanent home in my utensil crock. It is heat-resistant up to 600 degrees and has a reinforced s-core of internal stainless steel, all wrapped in silicone safe to use with non-stick cookware.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 11.25 x 3.1 x 0.6 inches | Material: Wood and stainless steel | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Best Can Opener: Zyliss Lock N’ Lift Manual Can Opener
What We Love: Locks onto cans for cutting, magnet can grab can lids, comfortable handle
What We Don’t Love: Lid sometimes falls into can
Every kitchen should have a can opener for those pantry staples that make weeknight cooking easier. Zyliss has been making them since 1951, and the Lock N’ Lift ensures a consistent, clean cut with its locking mechanism that secures the cutting wheel, and magnet to hold the top in place once cut. It is crafted from sharp stainless steel and designed for a comfortable grip.
The soft-touch handle will not slip while in use, and the easy turn of the crank is a bonus for anybody who suffers from weak grips or hand fatigue. The Zyliss Lock N’ Lift provides affordable, easy opening and disposal of can lids in a small footprint that is easy to store.
Blade Material: Stainless steel | Size: 7 inches | Dishwasher Safe: No
Related: The Best Can Openers
Best Zester: Microplane Premium Classic Series Zester/Grater
What We Love: Very sharp blade, effortless to use, easy to store, versatile. affordable
What We Don’t Love: Difficult to clean
I’ve sung the praises of the Microplane more times than I can count. I first used one working the pastry station in a restaurant to grate nutmeg, and I have been in love with this sharp, lightweight, versatile tool that can grate or zest pretty much anything, ever since. The blade is photo-etched of surgical-grade stainless steel, making it razor-sharp enough to handle everything from fibrous ginger root to hard cheese to softer garlic cloves with ease.
"I use my Microplane for grating spices like nutmeg, but it's also good for shaving Parmigiano Reggiano over pasta. When I make chocolate mousse, I grate chocolate with it," says Jeanette Hurt, recipe developer and author of 12 cookbooks, including "The Unofficial ALDI Cookbook." "Years ago, my cousin Julie gifted me with my Microplane, and she told me ‘Jeanette, you won't realize how much you're going to use it until you have it.’ And she was absolutely right!"
The handle is an ergonomically designed, soft-touch silicone that is comfortable to grip and comes in a bevy of beautiful colors to match any kitchen aesthetic. It has a built-in hanging loop for easy storage, and a protective sheath to slide on when clean and dry. It is dishwasher safe, but I always hand wash to preserve the sharpness of the blade edges and stave off rust. Be careful when using and cleaning—the blade is super sharp and you don’t want to grate any fingers.
Blade Length: 8 inches | Blade Material: Stainless steel | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
Related: The Best Cheese Graters
Measuring cups will always come in handy when least expected, and the Pyrex Prepware 3-Piece Glass Measuring Set (view at Amazon) has a place in any kitchen. If you are on the hunt for that one great spatula that can flip delicate fish while also boasting long-lasting durability, try the Winco Fish Spatula (view at Amazon) for flexible turning, sturdy stainless steel construction, and versatility.
What to Look for When Buying Cooking Utensils
Depending on the tool you are shopping for, the material is a top consideration. Silicone is a great choice if you use non-stick cookware. The pliable material does not scratch or mar the coating. Most silicone is dishwasher safe so easy cleanup and can be used for baking, mixing, and cooking. Be sure to select something with high-heat resistance to ensure it doesn’t warp or shred.
Durability is the hallmark of metals like stainless steel. It is built to last, and depending on the tool, maintains strong, sharp edges. The issue with metal comes when you are working with nonstick coating since it will scratch and sometimes chip the surface.
Look for hard, tempered glass when it comes to kitchen tools. You want something that can withstand swings in temperature, be reliable in the microwave, and clean up easily. Glass is the original eco-friendly material as it lasts for years without warping or degrading, but it is a fixed size to store. It is also nonporous so won’t absorb odors or stains.
Generally modular and less expensive, plastic can be a great option for cooking utensils. Always be on the lookout for BPA-free products to ensure quality plastic. And, if sustainable packaging is important to you, look for products that utilize recycled materials, and are recyclable.
When equipping your kitchen it is important to evaluate the ability of tools to perform more than one task. Even the largest kitchens have space limits so you don’t want to fill your drawers with single-use utensils. Look for items that can perform double-duty, like high-heat resistant silicone spatulas which can be used for stovetop cooking, as well as baking and mixing.
But it is not just spatulas according to cookbook author and recipe developer Jenna Radomski. "I use tongs to flip meats and roasted vegetables, toss salads, serve pasta, squeeze citrus, and reach the top shelf of my pantry," she says. "They are an essential kitchen item due to their versatility and price point. Most tongs have a locking mechanism, which is helpful for neat and tidy storage in a drawer or countertop utensil container."
Can you measure a teaspoon or tablespoon without measuring spoons?
If you don’t have a scale (my backup), an easy visual is to use your fingers as your guide. For a teaspoon, use your index finger. The tip to the first knuckle is roughly equal to a teaspoon. For a tablespoon turn to your thumb. Same idea, the area from the tip of your thumb to the knuckle is approximately a tablespoon. This is not as accurate as measuring spoons as everybody’s fingers are different, but in a pinch it should work.
When should you replace a kitchen utensil?
This is subjective to the utensil. The short answer is: if it is stinky, dull, or warped, it is time to replace it. For wooden spoons and spatulas, look for wear like chips or divots where bacteria can grow. If it is shredding, it is time. For rubber or silicone, same idea, look for wear. If they are melting, warping, or showing discoloration, replace them.
A good rule of thumb on inexpensive utensils with blades like peelers and Microplanes is annual replacement. This depends on whether you sharpen your peeler or only use the implements occasionally, but once a year is a good time frame, and most are pretty affordable updates.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Carrie Honaker is a food writer who owns an embarrassingly obscene number of kitchen utensils, including four from this list that all live in her gadget drawer. As a restaurateur and avid home cook, she has peeled thousands of carrots, and zested hundreds of lemons—she knows the importance of having the right tool for the job. Her work has appeared in many publications including Bon Appetit, Allrecipes, and Wine Enthusiast.
Read More: The Best Grilling Tools