Our favorite actually useful kitchen tools you didn't know you needed

Mackensy Lunsford Todd A. Price
Nashville Tennessean
What are the essential tools in your kitchen?

Every home cook should have a few basic tools: knives, wooden spatulas, big spoons. But there are less common tools that can make cooking at home so much better. Mackensy Lunsford, a chef turned food writer, and Todd Price, an untrained but avid home cook, can't live without these items in their kitchens. Most of the tools cost around $10, so there is no reason not to add them to your kitchen toolbox.

Offset bread knife: Not everyone likes the feel of an offset bread knife, but I love the way it handles. Offset means that the blade is lower than the handle, which I feel gives me better leverage and keeps my knuckles free and clear of the cutting board. Not only is this serrated knife great for slicing through baguettes without smashing the interior, it's perfect for cutting sandwiches, overly ripe tomatoes and tender baked goods. Mackensy Lunsford

A thin fish spatula can be used for all kinds of food.

Fish spatula: In general, I avoid single-use tools, which is part of the reason it took me years to buy a fish spatula. And besides, I thought my regular spatula was fine at flipping fish. First, my regular spatulas were not up to snuff for fish — I just didn't know it. And second, a fish spatula has so many uses. Long, triangular and slotted, the fish spatula slides easily under anything flat, like a a pork chop, a pancake or even a chocolate chip cookie. I use mine almost daily. Todd Price

A cheese knife is the perfect tool for cutting though a soft cheese like brie.

Cheese knife: I have quite a few knives, including a big, bad Japanese cleaver, a paring knife, a boning knife and other assorted blades. My cheese knife is perhaps my most frivolous, single-use slicer. It has no other use but to slice through soft cheeses. But if you're a cheese person like me, you'll wonder how you ever lived without this knife to effortlessly slice through creamy bries and other soft cheeses without ending up with all of that precious stuff stuck to the blade. Lunsford

Wooden spatulas: During the pandemic shutdowns, I bought some frivolous tools I never would have purchased if I was still spending money out and about at restaurants. I bought a trio of thin, wooden spatulas made out of fancy wood and stamped with the logo of my favorite band, Phish, when they were broadcasting the Dinner and a Movie series. Yep, that's nerdy, but these little tools are so multi-use. They're perfect for scraping pans, stirring beans, flipping meat and mixing batter. I, rather unexpectedly, love them dearly. Lunsford

A simple offset spatula is an indispensable tool for baking.

Small offset spatula: The miniature, bent mental spatula is the perfect tool for leveling off a pan of batter or smoothing the frosting on a cake. I only use it when baking, and I don't bake a lot, but no other tool works as well. And it takes up hardly any room in a drawer. Price

Spring-loaded tongs are essential cooking tools both inside and outside.

Spring-loaded tongs: I absolutely cannot live without at least three of these because I use them for so many things. I have long-handled, spring-loaded tongs for the grill, and smaller ones for turning things in the pan and other silly things, like pulling hot things like toasted tortillas out of the oven. How most people don't have several of these hanging on their oven is a mystery to me. Lunsford

A chef uses small tweezers to make "tweezer food." Big tongs, however, can be useful to the home cook.

Tweezer: Among restaurant writers, tweezers are often part of an insult. "Tweezer food" means precious dishes, where every micro green and edible flowers is arranged with the care of a jeweler. Big, 12-inch tongs are not precious. Think of them like chop sticks on a hinge. You can lift foods large and tiny. You can stir and toss with them. And yes, you can even use them to plate your green beans in neat little rows — but why would you do that at home? (Yes, I did that once.) When I switched from tongs to tweezers, it was like changing out mittens for leather gloves. Price

Email Mackensy Lunsford at mlunsford@southernkitchen.com. Reach Todd Price at tprice@gannett.com.