A sharp knife. A sharp one is much safer than a dull one as a dull knife is much more likely to slip. Here in the Vancouver WA area, I recommend going to Patron Saint of Knives for professional sharpening, but you can also sharpen at home with a whetstone, a honing rod, or one of these good ol’ knife sharpeners. A honing rod is not to be used for sharpening dull knives, however, but rather to keep the sharpness of a knife up between more intense sharpening.
As for knives, I personally prefer Japanese knives. They are sleek and lightweight – I bring my Mcusta Zanmai to all my clients homes when meal prepping. You can also get a European-style knife, which tends to be heavier but also more robust. I recommend getting a quality one as this will be your most used kitchen tool, but don’t be afraid to go for a cheaper one to start. The important thing is that it’s comfortable in your hand (and sharp!).
A wood cutting board. A sharp knife getting slightly stuck in a plastic cutting board is not only uncomfortable (akin to nails on a chalkboard if you ask me), but it’s also not good for the knife. Bacteria can also grow in the cuts knives leave on plastic cutting boards. That being said, I do keep a couple of plastic cutting boards on hand for times when I just need to cut something quickly and want something easier to wash. I’ll do another post on how to properly care for your wood cutting board, but in the meantime, I love cutting boards from Etsy. I recommend having a few on hand in different sizes – a huge one is a great kitchen workhorse, but small ones are perfect for slicing that lime. Having a dedicated raw meat and fish board is also a good idea.
A Microplane. I absolutely love my Microplane! I use it for grating parmesan over pasta, grating garlic and ginger for curry, and grating citrus for muffins. It’s a serious workhorse in my arsenal.
An ice cream scooper. This isn’t just to be used for ice cream. The small one is great for scooping meatballs that are the perfect size (and all the same size, hard to achieve otherwise) while the medium one is excellent for scooping batter into muffin tins or scooping cookie dough onto your prepared cookie sheet.
A pastry brush. Besides the obvious – brushing egg onto prepared pastries for that perfect browning while cooking, it’s also great for brushing marinade onto meats or my personal favorite, brushing oil onto a pan when you need just a thin layer (I’m looking at you, quesadillas).
Tongs. I love tongs for flipping shrimp, getting bacon off the pan, tossing spaghetti, tossing salad, etc. They’re a tool you’ll find yourself reaching for again and again. I like having a thinner pair and a thicker pair on hand.
Runner-ups: a peeler, silicone spatula, metal spatula, and a wooden spoon.