The most essential kitchen non-essentials


Maybe I watch too many cooking shows, but it seems like TV chefs have the best tools and gadgets. Of course, they have the same essentials that most of us have in our kitchens, like pots and pans, knives, colanders and blenders, but it’s the items that aren’t essential that make cooking easier and more fun. Those are what catch my eye and make me run out to the store. Now I don’t see how I lived without them.

Mise en place bowls

A French culinary term meaning “everything in its place,” mise en place bowls help you separate and organize your cooking ingredients. They free up room on your cutting board after you’ve done all your chopping, and having those little bowls holding all your ingredients actually makes it easier to follow recipes. Another advantage: Your kitchen counter becomes Instagram-ready. (Set of eight at Williams-Sonoma, $24.95)

Microplane zester/grater

Would you believe these graters originally were used by woodworkers to smooth wood? Now they grate lemon and lime zest, ginger, garlic and even hard cheeses in seconds. (Target, $14.95)

Salt cellar

Instead of constantly pouring kosher salt from a big box every time a recipe calls for it, use a salt cellar to store your salt. Its small profile takes up very little room on your kitchen counter, and salt is always conveniently at hand. Just spoon out a little, or grab a pinch as needed. (Acacia salt cellar at Crate & Barrel, $9.95)

Silicone garlic peeler

You already may know the trick of peeling garlic cloves by smashing them with the flat blade of a chef’s knife, but if you want to keep your cloves intact without being crushed, a silicone garlic peeler is a miracle worker. Just place a clove in the silicone tube, roll the tube with your hand, and the peel comes right off. (Penneli garlic peeler at Amazon, $9.03)

Silpat baking mat

A must for baking cookies or anything gooey or sticky, this silicone mat provides better results than lining a cookie sheet with foil, and you don’t even have to grease the pan. And here’s a bonus idea: When I’m rolling pastry or pizza dough on a piece of parchment paper, I place a Silpat mat underneath the paper to keep it from sliding. (Bed, Bath & Beyond, $24.99)

Plastic food-safe gloves

Now here’s something I wish more TV chefs would use. Notice how they’ll chop a raw chicken and then, without washing their hands, move on to something else? How do they not get food poisoning? To avoid cross-contamination, I always wear disposable plastic gloves that are rated safe for food handling. They also come in handy for tossing salads and massaging kale leaves.  (Smart & Final, $9.99)


Jonathan Fong is the author of “Walls That Wow,” “Flowers That Wow” and “Parties That Wow,” and host of “Style With a Smile” on YouTube. You  can see more of his do-it-yourself  projects at jonathanfongstyle.com.

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