The best, I mean the very best and most useful kitchen tools, are almost always the simplest. Yes, you’ve got the kitchen workhorse, the standing mixer, the food processor (I almost never use mine), the hand blender (my favorite small appliance). But really what I love most?

Two really sharp knives. A thick flat hard surface that gets really hot. A heavy wood cutting board.

And these: Rocks and sticks.

Point is: fewer rather than more, simple rather than complex.

(One clarification in the video that I failed to make clear at the time. For testing the temperature of frying oil, I use the chopsticks I save from Chinese take out, not really nice ones.)

Once again, many thanks to Todd Porter and Diane Cu. I called them saints among us in the last “something to say” video. That was wrong. They’re angels. Stay here!

If you liked this post on I Had Something to Say, check out these other links:

© 2011 Michael Ruhlman. Photo © 2012 Donna Turner-Ruhlman. All rights reserved


69 Wonderful responses to “Great Kitchen Tools”

  • Nancy G.

    My favorites are a couple of very good knifes, cast iron skillet, Viking stand mixer, nesting CIA stainless bowls, flat edged bamboo spoon, and my hands.

  • Julie

    I love my Forschner workhorse chef’s knife and a couple of cast iron pans that I use for everything. I even upgraded the Forschner to a Wusthof a few years ago, but can’t seem to stop using my old favorite. And the hand blender? Best invention since the bread slicer.

  • Andrew

    Your open sky listing for the m & p says the depth of the bowl is 5 inches. Is that right? Looks to be about half that from the photos. Maybe diameter is 5 inches?

    • ruhlman

      i’m not at home but that sounds right, it’s plenty deep. And it’s by far the best mortar and pestle I’ve used, love this thing.

  • Clay

    I agree on the two knives, but I find a bread knife more useful than the paring — not just for bread but for tomatoes, peaches, etc.

    Appliance wise, my Vitamix is my favourite.

    Michael, do you use your food processor for pie dough? I only have a mini-fp.

    Oh yeah — I also love grapefruit spoons — good for so much more than grapefruit!

  • Vicki

    Hi Michael, It looks like the mortar and pestle you are holding in your video is different from the one you are selling on OpenSky. Can I order the one you show in the video — LOVE that one!

  • Mantonat

    I bought my mom a cast iron mortar and pestle a couple of years ago and wish I had bought one for myself. It wasn’t very big but had good heft and a rough texture that made quick work of the hardest seeds and spices. Other tools I love in my kitchen: a pot rack above the stove and a wall magnet for my knives. Leaves tons of counter and cabinet space available.

  • Shannon

    Mr. Ruhlman, you choose kitchen tools based on whether they look good on your windowsill? Seriously?

  • Vicki

    Can you tell me where to get the mortar and pestle in your video? It is different from the one on Open Sky….

  • Natalie Luffer Sztern

    chopsticks are my favorite. I eat everything with chopsticks for a few reasons which have little to do with cooking and everything to do with eating – chopsticks allow for time between bites and makes eating at the table longer- means kids can’t run away and stomach get to enjoy the first bits of food before the next bite. I have packaged wood chopsticks in the lazy susan on my kitchen table. I refuse porcelain as they can’t pick up as easy as the wooden ones.

  • pat

    your advertising to much an not blogging about food , real food , whats up with that!! i don’t mean to be butthead but i been following you an chef john an david lebovitz an poineerwoman for yrs now get back to cooking everyday please i think you losing what got you where you are now ! you all seem to be 🙁 um you all taught me alot but why stop now please keep it about the food 🙂

  • Toni @ Boulder Locavore

    ‘Touche’ on the ‘shoving metal in your mouth’; you are right, wood is much more civilized. I’ll confess, I realized through this ‘mI stuck in a mortar and pestle box using them only for the most obvious tasks. You have effectively released me and I’m promoting them to official multi-purpose kitchen tools. And chopsticks….so smart. Love the tone of the video too. Very funny.

  • E. Nassar

    hmm…odd Mr. Ruhlman. A thermometer is way more useful than chopsticks for measuring oil temperature. My hands and/or a nice sturdy silicon spatula are also better to mix any kind of dough. I guess, I do not buy the whole chopsticks are one of the most useful tools argument at all. I do agree on the mortar and pestle though. I bought my granite ones from a Thai grocery store years ago and they will, I am sure, outlive me. They really are awesome tools and look great.

    Now, seriously, you rarely use a food processor? It’s a toss up between that and the KitchenAid mixer. Very few tools are as useful as far as I am concerned. Maybe because I make peanut butter at least every other week I suppose…

  • JP

    We have a big knife block full of every kind of stainless steel knife (and scissors) on the market. They are all pretty much collecting dust since we purchased a set of 3 ceramic knives. These ceramic knives have very sharp blades which hold their edge for a lot longer time than steel. Also they don’t stain or rust or transfer odors.

    A wooden block is much easier on knife blades than those made of other materials and are also more sanitary than their their non-wood counterparts. Bacteria are absorbed into the grain of the wood where they either die or are too far removed from the surface to affect any food being processed.

    Thanks for your tip on using chop sticks to check the temp of oil.


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