As every home chef knows, a great gadget can help cut down the time you spend in the kitchen while also adding flair to your dishes. An egg slicer can thinly slice not just eggs, but also strawberries and avocados for salads that look like they came from a high-end restaurant. A 2-in-1 oil mister can help you create a simple, perfectly balanced homemade dressing.
My own favorite kitchen apprentice is a chopper — like this one — specifically designed for onions, mincing them into tiny, perfectly uniform squares. It eliminates those onion-inducing tears, allowing me to retire my snorkel mask from the kitchen, where it worked overtime guarding my tear ducts. (Seriously.)
But, while there’s a plethora of gadgets out there bidding for your attention and promising to save you time, you only have so much countertop and drawer space. So, we asked top chefs which gadgets they consider the pièce de résistance in their own kitchens. Here’s what they had to say.
Chef Mark Grimes from Che Figata: Microplane
Whether in his home kitchen or at Che Figata, his Italian restaurant in Naperville, Chef Mark Grimes zests with a microplane. The hand gadget is a go-to for his Italian cuisine, whether he’s shredding cheese to top a handmade pasta dish, zesting lemon to add a citrus kick to chicken or pork marinades, or making a sweet limoncello. His favorite part? The microplane not only saves time, but it also helps reduce food waste and adds a dash of extra flavor to dishes.
Chef Diana Dávila from Mi Tocaya Antojería: Hand blender
Chef Diana Dávila, the chef/owner of Mi Tocaya Antojería in Chicago, says she’s always reaching for her KitchenAid hand blender, both at home and at her Mexican restaurant in Logan Square. “It’s great for pulsing quick marinades, making chunkier salsas, and adding a last-minute buzz to a velvety salsa,” she says.
Buy it: KitchenAid 5-speed hand blender
Chef Martial Noguier from Bistronomic: Japanese mandoline
Japanese mandolines, which can thinly and consistently slice and shave your veggies, are a chef favorite. Martial Noguier from Bistronomic, a Chicago restaurant with modern cuisine rooted in French culture, says he uses his mandoline to make dishes like a celery root remoulade and a salad with shaved vegetables. “I use it all the time, and I take it everywhere I will have to cook — even on vacation,” he says. “It makes all dishes so much nicer aesthetically. Everything is well cut, fine, and you can slice so many different kinds of vegetables and fruits beautifully.”
Buy it: Benriner Mandoline Slicer
Chef Jeff Vucko from Travelle Kitchen + Bar: Microplane grater and zester
While it’s not a go-to tool like a great chef knife, Chef Jeff Vucko from Chicago’s Travelle Kitchen + Bar says he can’t live without his Microplane zester. “Citrus zest does add a lot to food,” he says. “The oils in the peel really make food pop.” The versatile gadget can also be used for shaving cheeses very finely to add to salads, eggs, burgers, or pasta, he says. And don’t forget dessert! “If you shave little chocolate curls onto a dessert, you will look like a pro.” You can also use it to add spices like nutmeg or cinnamon to a dish.
Executive Chef Michael Reich of JW Marriott Chicago: Splatter screens
Dread clean-up after a big meal? Invest in a splatter screen, suggests Michael Reich, executive chef at JW Marriott Chicago. “I love my splatter screens,” Reich says. “All winter indoor grilling and searing gets a screen placed on top of my cast iron skillet. It makes clean-up so much easier.”
Buy it: 3-piece splatter screen set
Chef John Hong (aka Chef Kappa) of Hidden Fish: Cooking torch
Not only is a cooking torch fun to use, says Chef John Hong (aka Chef Kappa), but it can also add complexity to fish dishes. “Once I brush that homemade soy sauce on top of a fatty fish and sear it, the smokiness of the soy sauce and seared fat from the fish makes a great combination,” says Hong of Hidden Fish in San Diego. The omakase, timed dining restaurant features the chef’s homemade fish broth soy sauce. His personal favorite dishes to sear are shellfish and any fish with high fat content.
Corporate Chef Andy Wittman with Pizza Patrón: Vitamix blender
The Vitamix blender is super versatile, says U.S. Pizza Patrón’s corporate chef Andy Wittman. No only does it make smoothies and puree soups, but it can also flex its skills with other kitchen tasks. “Need a quick hollandaise? Use the Vitamix. Any other emulsification, ditto,” Wittman says. You can even grind your own fresh flour with grains using the high-end blender, he says.
Buy it: Vitamix 5200 Blender
As you prepare your next meal, take a moment to remember that some aren’t sure when or where their next one is coming from. Feed your stomach, then your soul by joining the fight to end world hunger.
More from Make It Better:
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- 12 New Chicago Restaurants to Check Out (Plus 5 More on the Horizon)
- Chrissy Teigen’s Everything Bagel Cream Cheese Breakfast Bake Recipe From ‘Cravings: Hungry for More’
We were not paid to write this story. The products and services mentioned above were selected independent of sales and advertising. However, Make It Better may receive a small commission from the purchase of any products or services through an affiliate link to the retailer’s website.
Brittany Anas is a freelance writer who specializes in health, fitness, and travel writing. She also contributes to Men’s Journal, Women’s Health, Trip Savvy, Simplemost, Orbitz, and Eat This, Not That! She spent a decade working at daily newspapers, including The Denver Post and the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colorado, and she is a former federal background investigator. In her free time, Brittany enjoys hiking with her gremlin-pot belly pig mix that the rescue described as a “Boston Terrier” and coaching youth basketball. She also works with domestic abuse survivors, helping them regain financial stability through career coaching. Follower her on Twitter and Instagram.