Cooking Tools You Need
for Perfect Parties
What’s the most dangerous knife in a kitchen?
Answer: “A dull one.” You don’t need cooking tools that don’t work. Cooking tools are tools, which need to be safe and effective, comfortable and affordable.
Party time means more food prep than normal. You’ll be counting on your gear to get it done. Get the good stuff!
Start Planning - Our site's info is free for your personal use.
Buy the best? Party time or any time is a good time to get quality cooking stuff. You don’t need the absolute best, but you can’t risk using the super cheap either. Party Recipes and Ideas has suggestions for you based on our recipes, but you’ll always be smart to have the right tools in your kitchen - for everyday cooking too.
Where to buy? Shopping for kitchen tools? First shop for ideas, hands on, at local shops. Try them on and see what you like. Then shop on line, at discount stores, shopping clubs and at a commercial restaurant supplier (where you’ll get good ideas and see things you won’t find elsewhere.)
Safety First. Is the handle strong, the metal sturdy, the fabric thick… Is it a brand name with a safety rating? Do you feel confident and safe with it? Even if you plan to use it only once, never sacrifice safety. That always turns out bad…
Quality. A kitchen’s tools are like passengers on a plane: A few are first class, a few more go business class, but most fly coach. Base your decisions on use. Daily use gear? – especially knives and hand tools – go first class. Not used so much? – back of the plane.
What do I need: First choose your menu, and then start your list. Here are some basics you’ll need. Be sure to write us with your questions.
Knives: We recommend having a few,(not lots of) high quality knives for food prep. Look for high carbon stainless steel, full tang, riveted quality handles, and warranty. Don’t – just don’t buy cheap knives.
Our 'Fab Four' - we keep it simple. It's hugely tempting to buy enough knives to outfit the Swiss Army, but you won't need them.
French chef’s knife – 8 inch
Serrated bread knife – 10 inch
Small paring knife – 3 inch
Serrated boning knife – 6 inch
Check out two things: First - the small paring knife has a rounded, blunt end - not a point. We did that ourselves with a file. You'll stab yourself more with that point than you actually need it. Second, the white handled boning knife has a super thin, narrow blade - you'll love it.
You'll use the two Henckels knifes much more than the others, so spend the bigger bucks on them.
Sharpening Stone: We keep our knives sharp with stones, not steel. Hold the knife at a 30^ angle and use a rotating motion, equally on both sides.
Get a nice simple stone. You'll find that there are "miracle" knive sharpeners out there (and miracle knives too!), but you don't need super-powers to keep your knives sharp.
Get a "combination" stone, with different grits on each side. Keep lubricating it with mineral oil when using.
How sharp is sharp? It's about control and pressure. If you have to put so much pressure on the knife to cut, then you lose control. So, your knife is sharp when you can easily cut without forcing it through the food.
Pots and Pans: Don’t go super cheap, no matter what the ad claims…
This set by KitchenAid is both quality and value.
Sautee/Frying Pan – heavy bottom, 12”, good handle, good quality, with lid.
Sauce Pans – heavy bottom, tight fitting lids, good handle, 2 quart, 4 quart and 8 quart.
Stock Pot – medium bottom OK, tight fitting lids, 8 quart.
Skillets – medium bottom OK, tight fitting lids, 8 & 10 inch.
Double Boiler - medium bottom OK, tight fitting lids, 3-4 quart. (This is not included in the set.)
The disadvantage of non-stick cookware are the special tools and care needed not to scratch. Sets like this are available in a polished steel surface if you want.
The great thing about this Cuisinart Double Boiler is that is will fit in just about any pot.
It's good to have a double boiler, but sometimes you need to build one instead. Do this by placing a stainless steel bowl over a smaller pot of hot water.
You can also make a circle or ring of aluminum foil and make a gasket or seal to use a larger pot on the bottom.
We've even made aluminum foil balls, put them in the hot water of the lower, larger pot, and then positioned the smaller pot on top of them.
One way or another, use the heat of the water to do the work.
Half Sheet Pan:
It’s like a serious cookie sheet with sides. A “half” sheet pan is approx.18”x13”x1”. They fit into most home ovens, fridges, etc. We use them for lots of things, baking, stacking, to put under other things to carry or cook, and even to serve (with a couple of doilies.)
One cool thing is that they have a layered surface with an airspace – tap the bottom with your finger and it will sound like a snare drum.
The airspace acts like an insulator, so foods don’t burn, that's why restaurant cookies have nice bottoms. Home cookie sheets are usually solid, and tend to burn.
Cover them with aluminum foil and spray with vegetable spray.
There is a larger size, 26" long - but that is usually too big to fit into most home ovens. The "half" pan should be just fine.
Cutting Boards: Wood or plastic, keep separate board for separate tasks: Chicken, meat, fish, vegetables – each should have boards assigned to them. Plastic boards make this easier, because you assign a color to each type of food.
These bamboo boards are hard and food safe. Choose the type of board you like.
Wash after each use and sanitize.
Stirring Spoons – One with slots (holes for draining, and one without)
Flippers – One big and rigid, one smaller and flexible
Whips – One big, one little
Tongs – Stainless steel, 12 inch
Ladles – Like a soup thing, long handle with a 12 ounce cup
Spatula – soft kind, heat resistant
Veggie Peeler – get a good one or two with a comfortable handle
Piercing Food Probe
–50 to 500°F = MUST HAVE!!
The days of serving foods that "look" done are gone. Meats, fish, dairy and more need to be cooked, served and stored at proper temperatures.
Piercing thermometers (or probes) remove guesswork, assuring food-safe temperatures are correct.
Taylor makes a fine product, digital and waterproof, dishwasher safe and easy to use.
Hang this refrigerator thermometer in your fridge. It should read 40°F.
Put one in the freezer too, which should read 0%degF.
When you're moving cold food from one place to another, put one of these into the picnic cooler or storage container you're using.
You'll be surprised what the actual temperature of your oven is.
Just because you set it to 350°, don't think it will be there.
Hang one of these from an oven rack and know what temp you've actually got.
– Disposables -
Party Recipes and Ideas uses “half pans” – the kind that are 12” X 10” x 2”. These are part of the “Hotel Pan” system used by caterers and restaurants everywhere. They fit into ovens, warmers, steam-tables, etc. They work for us because they hold around five pounds of food each, are easy to heat and cool, easy to store, cheap, and fit into the chafing dishes we/you use to serve.
We use these for cooking, baking, serving and storage. They go right from freezer to oven and back, also working for serving cold foods like salads. The trick is to spray them very well with vegetable oil spray, or "food release" (cater-speak) especially in the folds on their sides. Sometimes we can wash them, and sometimes not. But at 30/50cents each for the half pan size, no big loss. Buy them at shopping clubs or a restaurant supplier, cheaper there.
Read the Food Warmers section of our site, and make sure you get the right sizes. We suggest that you use the “full pan” size, the 12 x 20 x 3” for holding water and serving salads. We love the full pan because it’s easy to decorate and serve salads, but with hot foods it’s just too big and heavy and too hard to heat. So we use the half pans for hot foods.
We suggest that you calculate how many half pans you’ll need, then double the number when you buy. They’re cheap enough, and (like us) you’ll use them for lots of things. We use them at home too.
Spices – the essentials:
Garlic (granulated, not powdered)
Food Spray or Release: We use Canola or Vegetable Oil SprayDon’t Forget:
Linens: As needed, see our section on RentingGadgets and Gizmos:
Aprons – We use the “bib” kind, especially for frying.
Kitchen towels – Not the “Terri-cloth” kind because they are too flammable
Pot holders – Full size, best quality. We seldom use insulated gloves.
Strainers – 2, big and little capacity, with course and fine mesh
Colander – One biggie
Stainless mixing bowls – a five or seven bowl set
Measuring cups and spoons - mostly metal, one glass for the microwave
OK, we admit that we’ve fallen prey to them – they seem to call out to us from shop shelves as we walk by…. I guess we’re just like kids next to the candy at the supermarket’s checkout, only bigger…
Resist!! Don’t buy what you don’t need. (This is what we say to each other when shopping.) Good luck...
Half Sheet Pans. Can't think of something we don't use these for
Tool Kit – hammer, screwdrivers – little bit of everything
Extension cords – the heavy kind, short and long
Trash Bags – the big(50+gal), thick(1.5+mil) ones
Duct Tape, and clear Packing Tape – let’s stick together!
Aluminum Foil. Shopping Clubs sell “standard duty” and “heavy duty” foil, both 18” wide, (household foil is often 12”)
Film: We use 18” quality film
Zip Lock Bags – the one gallon size - we don’t use plastic bowls with lids too much. You can squeeze all the air out with zip locks, and they take up a lot less room
Wine Opener – get a good, basic one
Kitchen Timer – pick one you like and can operate easily
Got the Big Gig going on? Check out Catering 101, especially the renting section. More ideas there about stuff you might need, especially if it seems like half the planet is coming to your party….
Bet you’ve got some questions. We’re here. Ask a Caterer is free:
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Best Food Warmer,
our most popular,
home party perfect!
Our favorite knife - we use
it 85% of the time. Cheap
knifes should be illegal.
Party Food MUST! Food
safe and savory, have
one in my pocket now.
Great occasional use,
best all purpose size,
with lid, priced right.
Caterer's use real Bases
for sauces, soups and more.
Amazon has all the
This disposable chafer
is ugly, but it works
great, especially back
in the kitchen.
THE best caterer's cookbook
ever, for serious party food.
Written for devoted cooks
there's nothing better.
Believe it or not, you
can stir 350^ oil with
this spatula. We use