Top Cooks’ Tools

When serving family and friends, it’s usually the finished meal – along with your culinary talents – that gets the credit for impressing them. Mouthwatering aromas and flavors produce immediate excitement, and with good reason. But, in reality, a large portion of what you do to produce an incredible feast takes place behind the scenes. Food prep has a huge effect on the appearance, taste and texture of everything from a green salad to a yummy dessert. At Williams-Sonoma, we want to provide you with top cooks’ tools that are durable, useful and save you time. Here are a few tools you’ve probably always wanted, and what makes them so awesome.


Do you love using fresh herbs and bold flavors in your recipes? In that case, a mortar and pestle might be exactly what you’re looking for. The idea behind a mortar and pestle is to extract as much of the natural oils and aromas as possible from ingredients. Chopped basil, for example, has a nice peppery, sweet and almost minty essence. Adding it to Italian dishes at the end of cooking gives them a freshness that’s hard to resist. Now enter the mortar and pestle. Instead of strips of basil, these tools squeezes out every drop of concentrated oil, releasing a heavenly odor that infuses sauces and stews to their core.


How do they work? The mortar is a concave bowl that holds any ingredients you choose. The pestle is a heavy macerating cylinder with a rounded end. By using both together, you can grind herbs and pretty much anything else you want. It helps you create powerful flavor combinations too. Add herbs, garlic, lemon juice, distinctive oils and other liquids to create incredible marinades, sauces and vinaigrettes.


Another benefit of a mortar and pestle is that it turns crunchy ingredients into paste very quickly. True, a food processor can do the same thing – and may be a better option if you deal with hand pain – but a mortar and pestle gives you very fine control over the texture you’re looking for, and also brings you into close contact with your favorite flavors. The end result is almost therapeutic.


There are many types of mortar and pestle to choose from. Some are made of clay, wood or stone. Marble mortars and pestles are excellent for cooking and look like works of art too, brightening up your kitchen work space. What you use depends on your personal preferences, as well as how much hardness versus weight you’re looking for. Mortars and pestles – and other top cooks tools – make beloved gifts for friends.


A complete set of mixing bowls – glass ones look very chic, but stainless-steel work well also – is a big help in cooking quickly and precisely. Many TV chefs have each ingredient separated neatly into a different bowl. That way it’s easy to add different veggies at exact times so they have the precise texture you want. Broccoli, carrots, potatoes, zucchini and other ingredients taste amazing when cooked perfectly. Another advantage is that it keeps your food prep space organized, so your creative juices have plenty of room to improvise. Afterwards, just pop them in the dishwasher and you’re done.


Consider adding a touch of zesty lemon or orange to a meal. It has a big effect on everything from home-cooked Italian to Middle-Eastern cuisine. Desserts also pop thanks to a little bit of acidic freshness to balance out chocolate and other sweet elements. There are a couple of ways to obtain zest. An all-purpose grater works well if you prefer. Sometimes, you don’t feel like getting a large grater out just to add some lemon peel. Plus, the large grater takes up more space alongside your cutting board or mixing bowl. One solution? A rasp grater. It’s small and lightweight. Best of all, you just hold it in the air over any container and, viola, instant zest!


Of course, rasp graters can handle more than just lemon peels. You can use them to decorate and season everything from salads to roast potatoes. Thin strips of zucchini, carrot, red pepper, bleu cheese and more provide both bright colors and subtle flavor notes.

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