Those who work in professional kitchens have a multitude of tools to get them through the daily grind. Some are workhorses — a heavy-duty mixer or a deep stack of small skillets, built to withstand high-volume use. The trick at home might be where to store them. Others are specialized — will you really use that sous vide machine next time you poach an egg?
When we asked Outer Cape chefs about the tools they use at home, they sent photos and told us stories that had little to do with fancy techniques. They cherish surprisingly simple, practical objects, especially ones that honor ingredients or spark memories of good times.
The Le Creuset Dutch Oven
Two cooks sang the praises of these heavy enameled cast-iron pots. They are hardworking, multitasking vessels that stand the test of time.
“The heftiness makes it perfect for even browning without scorching; the wide oval base gives plenty of surface area for searing; the tight-fitting lid is happy to go into the oven for a nice long braise; and the enameled cast iron is easy to clean and care for,” says Claire Adams of Salty Market in Truro.
Her aqua oval Le Creuset, she says, was “a splurge,” but, she adds, “I have had her for over 10 years, and she is no worse for the wear.”
J’aime Sparrow of Sunbird in Orleans loves her well-worn six-quart Le Creuset Dutch oven.
“This pot will never break down, and it brings me joy whenever I pull it out,” Sparrow says. To her, this timeless pot is about a different kind of cooking that doesn’t have to be about efficiency, consistency, and volume. “It reminds me of simple dinners with my husband, family get-togethers, and dinner parties with friends.”
The Dough Cutter
A simple wood-and-metal dough cutter is a favorite of Michael Ceraldi, whose restaurant in Wellfleet has gone online in the form of classes since the pandemic struck. It does so many jobs, you might want more than one. That’s attainable, says Ceraldi, since “it’s essentially a piece of square steel with a handle and is under $10.
“It’s great for scraping up after messy projects like making pasta,” Ceraldi adds. “Or for transferring prepped foods from my cutting board to the pan … or for dividing dough, hence the name.”
The Garlic Press
Finding a single-use tool that does its appointed job flawlessly can be a game changer. For Sarah Robin of Flying Fish Café in Wellfleet, a Swiss-made Zyliss garlic press is that tool.
“I was 16 when my stepmother and I were straightening up the kitchen and the garlic press went missing,” says Robin. “It was nowhere, and she was upset. She explained at length how she got it in Switzerland, it was the best one to buy, and on and on she went about it. Being your average 16-year-old, I thought she was being ridiculous.”
Recently, she went looking for her garlic press and when she couldn’t find it, immediately blamed her own stepdaughter. “It made me laugh to remember that moment, standing in the kitchen with my stepmother decades earlier, when the original press went missing,” Robin says. “I can now fully feel her pain.”
“I’ve spent most of my life staunchly opposed to single-use kitchenware,” says Rebecca Orchant of Pop + Dutch in Provincetown. “It’s important to know that because of what I’m about to tell you: my potato ricer changed my life.”
The ricer, she admits, “does one thing.” But it’s an important thing. “It mashes potatoes perfectly, consistently, and only once, every single time.” She says it eliminates the dreaded glueyness of over-mashed potatoes and means the topping to your shepherd’s pie will never get jammed in a piping bag.
Plus, she adds, “This tool is fun to use in a nostalgic Play-Doh extruder kind of way.”
A box grater is useful for many things — shredding cheese, slicing vegetables, and maybe taking off the tip of a finger. But the microplane is its just-as-versatile yet far more delicate sibling.
“My favorite tool at home, besides a knife and cast-iron skillet, is a microplane,” says Liam Luttrell-Rowland of Spindler’s in Provincetown.
Yes, you should put your Parmigiano Reggiano to it, he says: “Please take your food seriously, folks, and grate your own cheese!”
But Luttrell-Rowland also sees his microplane as a kind of culinary all-in-one, to be used to unlock all kinds of fresh flavors, from ginger to garlic to nutmeg to citrus zest — “the essential!” he says. “Try grating the peel of any citrus before you squeeze the juice. It will add a whole new dimension of flavor to enhance any fish, meat, salad, or dessert.
“We should cherish our tools and not take them for granted,” Luttrell-Rowland adds, “because they help honor our ingredients in the best way possible.”