This now-ubiquitous kitchen tool, made by Microplane, was originally adapted from a woodworking rasp. But now, savvy cooks know that it's the best way for grating hard cheeses, chocolate, ginger and nutmeg.
Bonus tip: Use it to grate cloves of garlic for any recipe that calls for minced or finely chopped garlic.
Practice good sanitation in the kitchen by using a different color mat for different cutting tasks: blue for fish, yellow for poultry, green for vegetables. Best of all, it's easy to transport cut-up food to a bowl or pan; just hold the mat by the edges and tilt to funnel the food into the pan or bowl. A set from Progressive International comes with four different colored mats, plus two white mini mats for small chopping jobs like garlic.
Bonus tip: Use the reverse side of the green (vegetable) mat as a pastry mat for patting out biscuit dough.
For baking and other tasks that require numerous carefully measured ingredients, this clever adjustable measuring cup will replace your entire stack of dry and liquid measuring cups. A twist of the base adjusts the cup to the proper measurement line, and you can push the base up to remove sticky ingredients. The cup has measurement markings in cups, ounces and milliliters. The company makes 1-cup and 2-cup sizes and even a mini size that measures tablespoons and teaspoons.
Bonus tip: Measure dry ingredients first, then liquid ingredients, and you won't have to wash the cup between measurements.
This small knife does everything a paring knife can do, and then some. Use it to mince shallots and garlic, hull cherries, slice mushrooms and avocados and peel fruit like apples. Henckels' Twin Four Star II knives are forged from high-carbon stainless steel and have a sturdy polypropylene handle.
Bonus tip: Buy a plastic shield for this knife, or keep the cardboard sleeve it comes with, and tote it along on a picnic for slicing cheese or pate.
This utensil may very well replace all your other spoons and spatulas; it's the only one you'll need for stirring, sautéing, scooping, scraping and more. Made by silicone kitchenware specialist iSi, the tools are heat resistant up to 600˚F, and have a springy steel core extending through the handle, which makes them strong yet flexible.
Bonus tip: While most silicone tools come in different colors, consider buying a red one—it won't show stains from using with strongly pigmented ingredients like tomato sauce.
Keep a pair of shears in a kitchen drawer exclusively for cooking use. From snipping twine to cutting open packages to trimming vegetables and meats, a sharp pair of shears is indispensable. Chicago Cutlery's Insignia2 Kitchen Scissors have a few bonus features— the ends of the handle have a bottle opener on one side, a screw driver/box opener on the other, and a row of teeth between the handles can grip bones or crack lobster or crab legs. Find even more ways to use your shears with 10 Ways to Use Kitchen Shears.
Bonus tip: Instead of chopping herbs with a knife, use a clean pair of kitchen shears to easily snip them straight into the pot.
7. Granny Fork
A granny fork is an old-fashioned tool (with an equally nostalgic name) that deserves a Renaissance. With a no-slip wooden handle and tines that are sharper than a dinner fork, you can use it for beating eggs, whisking liquid or dry ingredients, or spearing a piece of meat. Cutlery company Lamson & Goodnow makes versions with two and three tines, and in different sizes.
Bonus tip: A granny fork makes a cute, rustic serving utensil for a platter of cheeses or cold cuts.
Professional chefs keep their cool by using a practice called mise en place (translation: set in place). It means that before they start cooking, they prep and measure all of their ingredients so everything is ready and within reach when they fire up the stove. A set of glass custard cups, like these Pyrex 6-ounce versions, can organize measured quantities of minced garlic, chopped herbs, olive oil, vinegar and other small amounts of ingredients. You can also use them for serving crème brulee or puddings, or for holding condiments at the dinner table like dipping sauces, flaky sea salt, or grated Parmesan cheese.
Bonus tip: Inverted, a custard cup is just the right size to punch out rounds of biscuit or cookie dough.
With a reliable kitchen timer, you'll never again burn a tray of cookies. And even though most microwaves and ovens now have timers that can be used independently, a separate timer can be carried into other parts of the house, or can be used even when the microwave is being used for other tasks. Mastrad's colorful Dual Timer allows you to time two different dishes at once.
Bonus tip: Use your portable timer outside when you're grilling to ensure you don't burn that steak.
Freshly ground pepper tastes much better than the preground kind you can buy at your supermarket. The Chef'n pepper ball allows you to grind pepper one-handed, a boon if your other hand is wet or if you're using it to stir a pot of sauce. It's easy to refill, and the coarseness of the grind can be adjusted with a dial at the base of the mill.
Bonus tip: Buy two pepper mills and keep one filled with black pepper, one with white pepper. White pepper can be used in mashed potatoes, cream sauces and other light-colored recipes.