The knife, fork, and spoon are what come to mind when you think about food utensils. However the word “utensil” is derived from the Latin word “utensilia” meaning “things for use.” A kitchen utensil can be any useful thing in the kitchen that you can hold in your hand.
What Are the Best Kitchen Utensils?
What you may consider to be the best kitchen utensils will vary depending on how you want to prepare and serve food. Some utensils are safe for using in high temperatures while others would melt.
How to Pick Kitchen Utensils
Picking the best kitchen utensils comes down to what works the best and looks the best in your kitchen that's within your budget.
For example, the safest cooking utensil for high heat cooking is silicone. Silicone is flexible rubber, highly resistant to melting, easy to care for, comes in many different bright colors, is low cost, and won’t scratch cookware. However, its flexibility makes it difficult for working with heavy foods.
On the other hand, nylon is a durable, cost-effective plastic that works well with all types of foods. Nylon utensils are easy to care for, won’t scratch cookware, and can withstand temperatures up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. But, Nylon can melt when left against hot surfaces—unlike silicone which can be used in the oven up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Nylon tends to only come in a few primary colors.
Warning: Before using, always read the labels and packaging on your cooking utensils to make sure that you will be using them correctly. Using utensils incorrectly can be dangerous. Take standard safety precautions.
Some common food preparation and serving utensils are measuring cups, spatulas, whisks, peelers, graters, tongs, skewers, mixing spoons, serving spoons, cutting knives, spreading knives, various shaped forks for carving and serving, and ladles for portioning.
While the cook on a budget can use a few utensils to cover most needs, the availability of utensils designed for specific purposes is expansive. No matter what kind you pick, knowing how to best care for your utensils will keep your kitchen operations running smoothly.
Basic Utensil Care
Caring for your utensils will depend on what they’re made of. The best kitchen utensil care follows the basic steps of cleaning, rinsing, sanitizing, and any necessary upkeep prior to storing away. Utensils made of silver or wood require additional upkeep steps that you can DIY using basic household supplies.
How to Clean Utensils
The USDA recommends a one-two punch to stop foodborne illness in the kitchen. Utensils should be washed in hot water with dish soap and rinsed with clean water. Different chemical solutions are available for sanitizing utensils.
A home dishwasher labeled NSF/ANSI 184 has received certification to meet sanitization standards using water that heats to a minimum of 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
DIY Sanitizing Solution for Utensils
1 tablespoon of unscented bleach per 1 gallon of water creates a 50-200 ppm sanitizing solution that can be used for soaking utensils. Soak your utensils in the solution for five minutes, rinse them with clean water, and let them air dry.
Warning: Never use scented bleach to sanitize utensils or any food contact surfaces. Never mix bleach with other household cleaners.
How to Care for Metal Utensils
Some metals, like stainless steel, are designed to be sturdy, resilient to rust, and easy to sanitize. Others such as silver need more care, but are practical for increasing a fine dining, or special occasion experience.
How to Care for Silver Utensils
It’s not recommended to wash silver or silver-plated utensils in a dishwasher due to the risk of tarnishing. Washing silver and stainless steel together can also discolor the silver utensils, or worse, lead to a pitting corrosion reaction in the silver.
Easy DIY Silver Cleaner in 5 Steps
For a homemade silver utensil cleaning solution,
1. Line a bowl with aluminum foil
2. Dissolve 1 tablespoon of baking soda into 1 quart (or 4 cups) of hot water
3. Pour your homemade cleaning solution into the aluminum foil lined bowl
4. Soak your silver utensils in this bowl of solution for about half an hour
5. Dry your utensils and buff them using a clean, dry cloth.
How to Remove Rust from Metal Utensils
Utensils that aren't made from stainless steel can rust. Prevent rust from accumulating not partially submerging your metal parts when soaking them. Wash and dry them immediately.
If rust occurs, add 1/2 a teaspoon of water to 1 teaspoon of baking soda slowly (add more water as needed) to form a paste. Apply the paste to rust spots on your metal utensils. Allow the paste to sit on the utensil for about 5-10 minutes. Crumple aluminum foil into a ball to use as a scouring pad to scrub the paste and rust stains.
How to Care for Wooden Utensils
The best wooden utensils for cooking and serving food will be solid and non-porous. Wood can absorb food and food smells. Sealing the wood with a food grade oil will stops unwanted absorption, and also prevent the wood from cracking and splintering. A dense wood like olive wood will be more naturally moist and require less oiling. Bamboo is not a dense wood and will require more oiling to prevent cracking. Both are solid and naturally deter absorption.
How to Seal Wooden Utensils in 3 Steps
Food grade mineral oil, almond oil, or coconut oil are examples of oils that can be used to seal your wooden utensils. The process is simple.
1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2. On an oven safe pan, wipe down your wooden utensils with the oil of your choice, and make sure to wipe off excess oil
3. Place the pan of wooden utensils in the oven for about 2 minutes
Remove the pan from the oven, and allow the utensils to dry completely before storing them.
How to Care for Plastic, Nylon, and Silicone Utensils
Utensils made from polymers such as plastic, nylon, and silicone all follow the wash, rinse, and sanitize procedure. Special attention should be paid to utensils made with multiple parts where either the tool-side or handle of the utensil is made of one of these polymers.
How to Care for Utensils Made of Multiple Parts
The small crevice where the tool side of utensil meets its handle can be overlooked, resulting in a reservoir for bacteria, rust, and deterioration. Spatulas, whisks, and knives are examples of utensils that often connect a separately built tool to its separately built handle.
Use a sturdy toothpick, q-tip, or small bristle-brush (like a toothbrush) to clean the small gaps found in these kinds of assemblies.
How to Care for Knives
Pay special attention to cleaning knives made from multiple parts. Next to keeping them clean, keeping knives sharp is the most important aspect of knife care. DIY knife care can save you a lot of money and the inconvenience of waiting for your knives to be returned.
No matter what your budget or preferences are, assembling a set of kitchen utensils and caring for them is easy once you learn a little bit about what kinds of cooking tools are best for your kitchen.