- Cooling rack for baking
- Dough scraper
- Flour sifter
- Ice cream scoop
- Kitchen twine/Trussing string
- Mixing bowl
- Palette knife/Metal spatula
- Passatelli maker
- Pasta ‘guitar’
- Pasta machine
- Pastry board
- Pastry nozzles
- Piping bag/Pastry bag
- Pizza peel
- Spaghetti server/Pasta fork/Pasta ladle
- Fish slice/Slotted turner
- Seafood crackers with tweezers/Lobster pincer
- Fish grill
- Basting brush
- Grill grid
- Smoking box
SPECIALITY PASTA, PASTRY, BREAD MAKING, FISH, AND BARBECUE TOOLS
SPECIALITY PASTA, PASTRY, AND BREAD MAKING TOOLS
Cooling rack for baking (Griglietta/Brillantiera/Griglia per glassare)
Best for: Cooling pastries, cookies, cakes, and breads.
How to buy: Cooling racks are made from metal and are made in single layers or multi-tiers. They can also come with a non-stick finish. Look for racks with a large surface area, that are easy to clean and stable, and whose grills are uniform and not too widely spaced.
Why buy one? Baked goods need to cool on a wire rack so that the air can circulate or else the food can become soft on the bottom and/or sides, and steam will condense inside cakes making them heavy.
How to use: Transfer the food to the cooling rack after baking and allow to cool.
Dough scraper (Raschietti da pasta/Foglia di plastica)
Best for: Working pastry and cleaning bowls and work surfaces, cutting dough and gnocchi.
How to buy: These come in plastic, silicone, and metal. They need to be stiff enough to give resistance to the mixture but flexible enough to meet the contours of the bowl. They can be straight or contoured and be smooth or have a grip. Some have a rolled or raised end for better grip. I prefer plastic or silicone which are contoured and offer good grip.
Why buy one? They are cheap and make life easy.
How to use: For scraping, line the curved edge up with the bowl or work surface and scrape. For working pastry scoop some pastry with the scraper, deposit it on the far side of the bowl, and scrape down the middle and sides to blend the ingredients, repeat.
Flour sifter (Setaccio)
Best for: Sifting flour, sugar, breadcrumbs, grated cheese, and cocoa powder, or puréeing vegetables and fruit.
How to buy: Flour sifters come in many forms. Traditionally they were wooden or metal rings with silk, nylon, or metal mesh on one side. The mesh varies in size from 3 mm for fruit and vegetable purées or sifting flour and sugar to 5 mm for flouring fish and sifting breadcrumbs and grated cheese.
Why buy one? You can use the fine wire mesh of your sieve, but some people prefer to have a separate sifter for pastry. I usually use my sieve but I do have a flour sifter, which I use when my three-year-old son is cooking as it contains the mess.
How to use: Fill the sifter and start tapping the sides to sift.
Ice cream scoop (Paletta da gelato/Porzionatore per gelato)
Best for: Scooping ice cream, potato purée, and vegetable purée.
How to buy: Ice cream scoops are made from metal or plastic and have a thick handle with a deep bowl on the head. Some have a metal blade that sweeps inside the bowl of the scoop to release the ice cream ball more easily. There are also scoops with defrosting fluid in the handle which heats with your hand to scoop hard-frozen ice cream (this should not go into the dishwasher). The handle should fit comfortably in your hand, the edge of the scoop should be thin to easily cut through the ice cream, and the head should be clean and round.
Why buy one? Using a normal dinner spoon will get you slivers of ice cream which melt relatively quickly. A scoop produces attractive balls of ice cream that do not melt as quickly, allowing you time to serve and enjoy it.
How to use: Dip the ice cream scoop into warm water, shake dry, scoop through the ice cream, scraping a few times to form a ball, and if your scoop has the blade, squeeze the handle to release the ball. Repeat.
Kitchen twine/Trussing string (Spago da cucina)
Best for: Tying up whole birds, rolled meat, and large cuts of meat.
How to buy: The string should be strong, un-dyed, and not coated with plastic. String sometimes comes in a container that lets you easily distribute the string without unravelling. Don’t buy string that is too thin as it needs to firmly hold the meat without cutting it.
Why buy one? You will need clean string that doesn’t taint the food to cook large pieces of meat or whole chickens or turkeys. Ask your butcher to do this, if you prefer.
How to use: See the how-to section on trussing.
Mixing bowl (Scodella/Bacinella bombata/Bastardella)
Best for: Mixing ingredients, marinating meat, stirring batters and dough, soaking vegetables, beating, cooking, and reducing cream, making mayonnaise, beating eggs, and using as a bain-marie.
How to buy: Bowls come in glass, ceramic, plastic, copper, stainless steel and wood. They vary enormously in size. Buy several sizes that nest inside each other for easy storage. It is best to have mixing bowls that are heatproof, ovenproof, deep; they should semi-spherical, non-porous (so they don’t absorb stains and odours), unbreakable, easy to scrape and stable so they don’t move around the countertop. Having two handles can make the bowl easier to use. Non-metal bowls can go in the microwave oven. Bowls with a silicone coating on the bottom can provide stability. You will also want a metal bowl that conducts heat for foods that need to be heated or cooled over water. I have a large assortment of bowls.
Why buy one? It’s difficult to mix ingredients in pans as they don’t have rounded bottoms. Bowls can also be used on top of pans to form a bain-marie.
Palette knife/Metal spatula (Spatola)
Best for: Icing cakes, spreading filling or glazes, or portioning food.
How to buy: Palette knives are made straight or offset. They have a handle with a long flat blade with a rounded tip. They range from 10 to 12.5 cm long and are 6-18 mm wide with dull edges.
Why buy one? They make these tasks easier.
How to use: Put some of the icing, filling, or glaze on the cake and use the palette knife to spread. For portioning, cut the food with a knife, slide the palette knife underneath to lift, and serve.
Passatelli maker (Ferro per passatelli)
Best for: Making passatelli.
How to buy: A passatelli maker is an artisanal instrument comprising a slightly curved tinned iron or stainless steel disc 15 cm in diameter with 4-5 mm perforations and two wooden handles on each end.
Why buy one? You don’t need one if you have a colander or a potato ricer with wide enough perforations to push the passatelli dough through.
How to use: Press the passatelli disc down onto the dough and use a dough scraper to cut the dough when long enough.
Pasta ‘guitar’ (Chitarra)
Best for: Making maccheroni alla chitarra (a square edged spaghetti from southern Italy)
How to buy: A pasta guitar is an instrument from Abruzzo and other southern regions for making a special type of pasta. It is a rectangular wooden frame with thin metal cords spaced 3-4 mm apart.
Why buy one? You will only need this tool if you want to make maccheroni alla chitarra.
How to use: Place your pasta over the cords and use a rolling pin to press the pasta down and cut it.
Pasta machine (Macchina per pasta/Tirasfoglia/Sfogliatrice)
Best for: Making fresh pasta of various shapes; can be used to roll pastry for croissants and puff pastry; and for dumpling wrappers, noodles, and flatbreads.
How to buy: The best are made from chrome-plated steel with stainless steel rollers ranging from 12-22 cm wide. Look for one of sturdy construction that attaches firmly to your work surface, turns easily and smoothly, has a comfortable, easy-to-grip handle, as well as many settings for rolling the pasta to different thicknesses. Make sure your pasta machine has an attachment for cutting long pasta. There are several varieties but generally 1.5 mm wide is for capellini, 4 mm is for trenette, and 8 mm is for tagliatelle. Pasta machines also are made successfully in electric versions.
Why buy one? Unless you are strong or have made fresh pasta regularly for years, it is difficult to make pasta easily without this machine.
How to use: Cut your prepared pasta dough into four pieces and roll it through the widest setting on the machine, fold over into thirds, turn it 90 degrees, roll it again on the widest setting, and repeat 6 times. Do the same on the next setting but 5 times, then do the next setting 3 times, and cut the dough in half. Roll all subsequent settings only once and do not fold. Keep all pieces of pasta under a damp towel so they don’t dry out.
Pastry board (Spianatoia)
Best for: Pasta, bread, and pastry.
How to buy: Pastry boards can be made of plastic, wood or marble. Look for a large surface which is cool, non-porous, smooth and easy to clean. They can be flat or have edges to provide stability on the work surface. They are not made to be chopped on. I have a marble board which is fantastic for keeping pastry cool. Pasta is often made on wooden boards.
Why buy one? You don’t need one but you will need a non-porous surface which does not absorb flavours. A surface to your pastry cold is helpful but you can also keep refrigerating it as you work.
How to use: Clean and dry the board and it’s ready to use.
Pastry nozzles (Bocchette)
Best for: Piping meringues or decorating cakes.
How to buy: Pastry nozzles are made in plastic or metal and come in a set with different sizes with round, star shaped, or flat zig-zag openings. I prefer the plastic as the metal rusts in damp climates.
Why buy one? They are great for decorating.
How to use: A nozzle is fitted to the opening in the tip of a pastry bag; the contents are added, and the large opening folded and twisted to apply pressure to extrude the contents.
Piping bag/Pastry bag (Tasca per decorazione/Sacca da pasticciere/Sac à poche)
Best for: Piping choux pastry, meringues, or decorating cakes.
How to buy: These are flexible cone-shaped bags made out of nylon, paper or fabric (usually coated with nylon or silicone). I buy either disposable paper ones or nylon as the fabric ones get mouldy in damp climates.
Why buy one? You can make these out of baking paper but they are much less stable and unlikely to hold a nozzle. See the ‘How to’ section.
How to use: A nozzle is fitted to the opening in the tip and the contents are added, and the large opening folded and twisted to apply pressure to extrude the contents.
Pizza peel (Pala piatta per pizza)
Best for: Making pizza and breads.
How to buy: A pizza peel is a flat paddle on the end of a long stick. The paddle is made of metal or wood but the stick is normally made of wood. The length of the stick is determined by the depth of the oven you are using. The very long ones are for brick ovens.
Why buy one? They help a lot in transferring pizzas without disturbing the toppings. You can, however, just place the pizza on parchment paper and move it that way, or use a floured upside-down baking sheet, though that is more awkward.
How to use: The professionals flour the peel, make the pizza, run the peel under the pizza, and shake the pizza off into the oven with a flick of the wrist. To remove the pizza from the oven, run the peel under the pizza, and transfer to cutting board. If the pizza sticks to the peel with the flour, use parchment paper with the peel.
Spaghetti server/Pasta fork/Pasta ladle (Mestolo per pasta)
Best for: Serving, separating, and tossing pasta.
How to buy: These are large perforated spoons with prongs radiating from the edges of the spoon to grab the pasta. They come in plastic, nylon, bamboo and metal. I prefer the metal one. Look for servers that are long enough to fish out pasta from your deepest pasta pot without letting your hand touch the boiling water. They should have large spoon heads and a comfortable handle that does not get hot.
Why buy one? Not completely necessary, but they make it easier to handle pasta, particularly long pasta. Pasta tongs are also good.
How to use: Grab some pasta with the spoon and toss or transfer it.
SPECIALITY FISH TOOLS
Fish slice/Slotted turner (Paletta con fori per pesce)
Best for: Turning and moving fish and transferring vegetables and pastry.
How to buy: Look for a well-constructed fish slice that won’t fall apart but has some flexibility in the blade to move delicate items. They come in lengths from 15-28 cm; shorter is better. Look for a handle that fits well in your hand and does not slip.
Why buy one? They make the job of turning fish easier as the fish is less likely to break apart.
Seafood crackers with tweezers/Lobster pincer (Pinza per astice)
Best for: Cracking and extracting the meat from lobsters and crabs, particularly the legs.
How to buy: These come in stainless steel and need to be heavy enough to crack hard shells. They should be comfortable in your hand and open and close easily. The pick or tweezers should be fine enough to fit into long narrow crevices like the legs with a fork on the end to help grip and extract the meat.
Why buy one? For serving lobsters whole or halved it is essential to provide this utensil so that diners can maintain their dignity while extracting the meat from the shell.
How to use: Place the lobster between the two arms and squeeze shut to crack the shell. Insert the pincer into the shell and pull the meat out.
Best for: Grilling and smoking food.
How to buy: The two major types are gas and charcoal. Gas is infinitely easier to use and clean but requires buying gas cylinders. Charcoal is messier, more difficult and time consuming, and requires a greater mastery of technique – but food cooked with charcoal tastes better. Look for a barbecue with a large grill surface so that you can make one side hotter than the other. It is better if the height of the grill can be adjusted and, if you’ve bought the charcoal type, has a hinge to make it easy to add more charcoal. Look for a lid that is deep and fits over the food to trap the heat and smoke. The lid should seal tightly to keep the smoke inside. Barbecues that have tabletops attached are very helpful when preparing food. A barbecue should also have an ash collector underneath that is easy to clean.
Why buy one? The taste of barbecued food is incomparable. It is also an enjoyable way to cook.
Fish grill (Griglia pesce)
Best for: Grilling fish on the barbecue so that it doesn’t stick and is attractively presented.
How to buy: Look for a fish grill that has a removable handle so it can sit flat. It should be able to accommodate the largest fish you will grill, and have heavy-gauge wire closely spaced so that smaller fish don’t slip out. Some have non-stick finishes.
Why buy one? It makes grilling whole fish so easy.
How to use: I salt the outside of the prepared fish first, place in inside the basket, close the basket, and lock it. Place the fish on the prepared grill (and remove the handle if possible) until cooked on one side and then turn it until cooked. Reattach the handle, pick up the fish grill and remove it to a platter. Open the fish grill and invert the fish onto the plate.
Basting brush (Pennello per condimenti)
Best for: Keeping barbecued meats juicy.
How to buy: Look for basting brushes with long handles to keep your hand cool and with flexible bristles which gently brush the food and evenly distribute the marinade. Bristles come in silicone, nylon, and boar hair. I like silicone because it doesn’t absorb the sauce and is easy to clean. Some basting brushes now come with bottle attachments for the handle to fill with your sauce so there is no need to dip the brush in a separate bowl. If you buy one of these, ensure the bottle is easy to squeeze but doesn’t spray.
Why buy one? You may want one to baste evenly while the barbecue is on and not burn yourself. You can use an ordinary brush (see above), but the handle may be too short for comfort.
How to use: Dip the brush in the sauce and apply to the food. If the brush comes with a bottle, fill it and squeeze while brushing the food.
Grill grid (Griglia/Gratella/Graticola)
How to buy: Grill grids come as interlaced wire to form a mesh or as a perforated plate or basket. They are made either from porcelain-coated metal or from stainless steel, sometimes with a non-stick finish. They can also come in the form of two grids which lock closed, a single grid, or a basket. I have the coated-metal mesh basket with a removable wooden handle but the perforated plate also works well. The handle should be comfortable to hold and not get hot; a removable handle is preferable.
Why buy one? It is really difficult to grill small food like sliced vegetables, squid, small fish, and prawns without one. You will lose half your food to the grill.
How to use: Arrange the food in the grid and place on the grill.
Smoking box (Affumicatore)
Best for: Smoking meat, fish, or cheese.
How to buy: Smoking boxes are usually made from cast iron or stainless steel. Look for one that is heavy-gauge and easy to fill, empty and clean. I have one in cast iron that smokes the wood chips well and doesn’t get too hot.
Why buy one? It makes it much easier to smoke food.
How to use: Soak your wood chips, drain, place in the smoking box, close, and place on your grill.
Best for: Spit-roasting meat.
How to buy: Spit-roasters are generally stainless steel rods with a plastic or wooden handle. Plastic can snap or melt and wood can scorch or catch fire. Make sure that the spit-roast attaches securely to your barbecue. Look for those that seem stable and sturdy, are easily assembled, and have an adjustable tray. Four meat prongs are much better than two for keeping the meat in place, balancing it, and spacing it. The motor can be either battery or mains powered (better if your barbecue is near an electrical outlet). Check what weight the spit-roaster can accommodate to ensure you can roast heavy joints of meat.
Why buy one? An excellent way to slow roast meat so it remains juicy. The cooking juices rotate with the meat, thus helping to keep the meat moist. Since the meat rotates itself it also frees you to work on the rest of the meal.
How to use: Set up your spit-roaster on the barbecue and prepare your fire. Thread the prepared meat through the prongs, attach the prongs securely to the brackets, and turn on.
How to buy: Look for tongs which are sturdy and open wide enough to handle a whole spatchcock chicken. They should open and close easily, be comfortable to hold in your hand, and lock closed for easy storage. The tongs should be long enough to keep your hands from the heat. Mine are about 40 cm long. Different tong tips exist: straight, serrated, pincers, and scalloped.
Why buy one? If you are barbecuing you need tongs.
How to use: Release the lock, open the tongs, place the tips around the food, squeeze closed, transfer the food, and open to release the food.