Kitchen Equipment: Favorites (Hand Tools) Continued

Posted by johngl

I can’t believe I have been at this blogging thing for nearly three years now.  Way back on March 9, 2008, I did a post on my favorite kitchen hand tools. In that post, I said I would do a follow-up. It only took two years and four months, but here it is.

First though, an update.

Two stage corkscrews

Obviously, these are cork screws.  They are of the two-stage variety (as was my previous favorite) but these also have a bottle opener and are a bit lighter.  When we are traveling, these come along for the ride.

And here is an addition to my thermometer collection. This baby works beautifully for testing the temperature of a pan (for searing) or oil (for frying).

infrared thermometer

Just point and shoot. It only takes about a second to register a temp. It’s easily worth the $60 (?) I paid for it.

Then there are these things referred to as spyders:

Along came some spyders

I suppose the whole spider analogy comes from the sorta spider-web looking pattern of the one in front. I use these all the time when I am deep fat frying. I also use them to scoop out bones and other detritus when I am making stocks.

Below, are some of the most used hand tools in my kitchen:

These are tongs

These are tongs. Most of them are made by Oxo. I have two of each size, one all stainless and the other heat-resistant nylon-tipped (as not to damage non-stick pans). The stainless tipped ones get used a lot outdoors on the grill as well as indoors. The nylon-tipped ones are most often used indoors with my non-stick cookware.

paella scoops

I’ve got these paella tools mounted over my stove.  They add a nice touch, don’t you think?  I’m trying to find a johngl coat of arms to go with them. You won’t find these tools anywhere else because I made them.  No, I didn’t forge the metals, but I did adapt the metal pieces to accept the long wooden handles which come in handy around the fire pit when those big paella pans are in use.

Paella pans

Yep, these are paella pans.  Both are 22″ across and won’t fit any cooking surface I have in the kitchen. Consequently, paella gets made over an open fire. It’s really kinda fun.  Check it out.

While we are on the subject of pans, these De Buyer “mineral” fry pans are some of my favorites ever.  Made of 99% iron, they perform like a cast iron skillet with the advantage of a more normal handle. Once these babies are seasoned, they are virtually non-stick with any of the dangers associated with Teflon-based surfaces. Below is a collection of a 14″, 12″, 10″, and 8″. The 14″ pan is only about $80.

De Buyer

If those weren’t enough, I picked up a pair of De Buyer “chef’s” pans, too.

Chef's pans

These look a lot like a wok with a long handle and a flat bottom and you could use them that way if you wanted.  These too are 99% iron and perform wonderfully when you need a deeper pan. I can’t say enough good things about these De Buyers and even the most glorious spousal unit approves of them. You can’t get better than us actually agreeing on kitchen equipment.

And speaking of agreeing…

Santoku knives

Don’t laugh.  These are from NapaStyle, a company created by Chef Michael Chiarello, and are made in China. I picked up the set of three on sale for $29.00. Once I opened the pack and used them, I immediately went back and bought several more sets.  I’ve given away two sets as gifts and one of those recipients tracked down an unopened set on eBay as a gift for his mom after she used them at his house and really liked them.  Naturally, they aren’t even available from NapaStyle any longer so I’m holding my last set in reserve in case I do something horrible to these. The set is made up of an 8″, 10″, and 12″ Santoku style knives. For those that don’t know, santoku means “three virtues” since these are good for fish, meat, and vegetables.

These knives are the go-to knives for both most glorious spousal unit and me. I love the grip, the shape, and the assorted sizes.  They also hold an edge as good or better than knives I have that cost literally 10 times as much. All my knives are washed by hand, so there is no problem with the rubberized handles. If you are too damn lazy to wash a knife by hand, well, that is just pretty damn lazy.

more on knives

This is a somewhat eclectic collection of knives.  On the top, is a nikiri bocho knife made in the Tokyo style. This one is made by Kai, the parent division of Shun. This nikiri is another knife I got on sale for less than $10. I can literally shave with this thing. The high carbon steel (not stainless) is coated to help keep it from staining, but some discoloration is bound to occur anyway.  The high carbon steel is a snap to sharpen since it is softer than stainless alloys and it holds an edge pretty well. I tend to use a sharpening steel a lot anyway, so that isn’t any sort of hassle.

The next knife down, the long, thin, one-side beveled yanagi ba (willow blade) is made by a company out of Brazil called Mundial and I use it to cut fish for sushi and sashimi. Make no mistake, Mundial knives are not cheap knock-offs. The company was formed in the 1930’s in Germany and I’d put them up against their German-made counterparts. Dollar for dollar, Mundials are a better deal.

The third knife down is Shun’s “ultimate chopper”.  This baby is 32 layers of SUS410 stainless steel. It can be had for about $100. It’s amazingly sharp, holds an edge for a long time, and even can be used to cut bread (in a pinch) due to the serrations on the tip. It gets used for all sorts of stuff, from chopping carrots and onions to spreading mayonnaise.

And finally, on the bottom, is another nikiri style knife made by Sabatier, a French company. It has a little more heft than it’s considerably smaller and lighter Kai cousin and is somewhere between the standard nikiri and a cleaver in usefulness. I primarily use this knife to chop onions and carrots but I’ve also used it to chop up a chicken or a rabbit.  The wide blade also comes in really handy when smooshing garlic cloves.

microplane graters

Here a few of my microplane graters. The top one is ultra-fine and is great for hard cheeses like Parmesan or even nutmeg (note: nutmeg is not a hard cheese). The middle one shaves off some nice curls (think chocolate). The bottom one works for grating about anything you want (okay, maybe not anything).

Before these became popular, I used to use a shaver called a Sureform made by Stanley to grate cheese. They just worked better than standard (and dull) cheese graters available at the time. I “discovered” them back when I used to do body work on old cars (that are now antiques). Just before bondo (auto body putty) hardens fully, you can shave it down and shape it with a Sureform. I also used it when I was working construction and hanging drywall. One day, whilst working on a car and hanging drywall simultaneously,  I needed some grated cheese for tacos and the rest is history.

When I saw that someone finally started making them out of stainless steel for kitchen use, I was really quite pleased with myself for having used the idea long before they ever came out as kitchen tools.  However, I did feel a little stupid for not trying to capitalize on it. Silly (and poorer) me. Such is life.

Pizza peels

If you hadn’t noticed, I use kitchen equipment as wall art. These are pizza peels. I used them indoors and out for, uh, well, pizza.

Nuff said.

woks, steel and cast iron

Speaking of wall art, across (and above) the door next to the peels is a collection of Lodge cast iron pans. I have several differently sized pans lined up the brick wall.  The Lodge cast iron wok (top on brick wall) is a wonderful thing.  That big shield-looking thing above the door is a 24″ diameter wok that I use for deep fat frying just about anything. I put it over my 36,000 btu propane burner– located outdoors in my patio kitchen for a reason — fill it with about a gallon of oil, and fry away.  It heats up the oil in minutes and there is no drop in temperature as it cooks. It’s wonderful yet incredibly dangerous. If you forget about it, you’ll have your very own version of the Olympic torch right quick.

Pepper mills

If you think these are pepper mills, you would be correct. The large brass one is loaded with a mix of white, black, green, and red peppercorns.  The reds aren’t really peppercorns, but ignore that for this post.  The little brass one is white pepper only.  The wooden one is full of large tellicherry peppercorns I get from Penzeys (great for finishing dishes). The one on the far right is my personal pepper grinder. I have one at work and keep it handy at home.  I use this to tweak my pepper content once the food is on the plate.

And finally — for this post anyway — is a collection of hand tools that get a pretty good workout.


At the top is a lemon/lime juicer. Cut a lime in half, put it cut-side down in the curved bottom bowl, and give it a squeeze. That is pretty much all it does except brighten up the inside of my utensil drawer.  I honestly never lose this particular implement.

Below that is my cherry and olive pitter.  It pits olives and cherries. It’s cheap and made of plastic and I have had it for at least five years.

And then there are my “Y” peelers. I use these all the time for peeling Ys.

Not really. Carrots, parsnips, and potatoes are the primary victims, although I have used them on peaches, mangos, and grapes.  I peel grapes for the most glorious spousal unit nearly every night.

Sure I do.

So, this post has (at last) come to a close.  I won’t promise one on power tools (though that might be fun) or another one on my array of hand tools I haven’t covered yet;  I wouldn’t want to leave you dangling for a couple of years again.

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About johngl

A bit of a wildman, John hails from the Midwest: A land of corn, cows, pigs, and a host of other healthfully meaty pursuits. Born on a dark and stormy night in late Fall, John grew up as the son of a meat cutter. There was always plenty of meat at hand. While not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, his family certainly ate well. According to his father, that was the whole point.

5 thoughts on “Kitchen Equipment: Favorites (Hand Tools) Continued

  1. I agree about the Napastyle knives. I have a set and absolutely love them. They hit a niche in terms of size, heft, and sharpness that nobody else seems to match.

  2. I own a couple of those napastyle knives.. I acquired them in pieces and never was fortunate to find a whole set. I’m a professional chef and those are some of the best knives I’ve ever owned. I’d love to get a hold of a whole set including the sheaths. Would you’d be willing to sell them or direct me to somebody who would?

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