I’m no kitchen pro but I can spot a great recipe a mile away (hello, cookbook collection) and good food is a necessity. As my sons both groan on occasion, “You’ve ruined restaurants for us!” They are well on their way to ruining restaurants for others, too. I’m so proud.
When I read the Food & Wine article dishing out the five kitchen essentials according to Courtney Storer, or Coco, the culinary producer of The Bear — I kept thinking about it. I thought it might be fun to break down her list of must-have kitchen stuff and compare notes.
The Bear, in case you haven’t watched it yet, is a fantastic fictional FX TV show about a James Beard chef taking over the dysfunctional family restaurant in Chicago. This ain’t your typical restaurant-themed TV show. You can almost smell what’s cookin’.
Look. I’m not a culinary producer, a trained chef, or an untrained chef.
I’m a deputy editor by day and about two years into being the single parent to two teen sons (14 and 18) while truckin’ away on this website. I make mistakes. I drop cakes on the floor, breaking out the powdered sugar is an almost guaranteed shit show, and I occasionally burn the bejeebus out of things.
So, what are my must have kitchen items? The gadgets and tools I consider indispensable? And, no, a paper towel holder will never make this list. I’m talking real things you need for your kitchen. The “can’t live without” stuff.
Let’s take a look at the awesome things Courtney Storer is doing first, check out her list of kitchen gotta-haves she shared with Food & Wine — and then I’ll discuss my favorite kitchen gadgets and tools for everyday cooking. It should make for a comprehensive list.
Who Is Courtney Storer and Why Should You Care?
Courtney Storer, or Coco, is the culinary producer of The Bear. She’s the sister of The Bear’s series creator, Chris Storer. But that doesn’t mean she was handed the job. For one thing, Courtney has mad kitchen chops, yo.
Watch just one episode of The Bear and you’ll see what I mean (really, you need to watch three to get the idea).
That tough kitchen experience, that maybe occurred at Verjus in Paris (it appears to be the restaurant outlets continually mention when sharing Courtney’s resume highlights) likely came in handy during the tough, emotionally-charged scenes in The Bear.
Courtney didn’t have a typical sibling relationship either.
What is a culinary producer? I muled (yes, muled, not mulled) over that, Googling a bit before discovering I’m not the only person curious about the term.
What Is a Culinary Producer?
I assumed everyone else knew the term “culinary producer.” Nope. It’s a newer job description, which is surprising, given the long-time popularity of food shows.
Not every TV show keeps it real like The Bear. Courtney insists on authenticity.
Professional kitchens don’t look like home kitchens. They don’t work like a home kitchen either.
Let’s dig into what Courtney does to help keep The Bear’s actors believable.
Speaking of the actors in The Bear, here’s a quick rundown:
- Jeremy Allen White as Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto
- Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Richard “Richie” Jerimovich
- Ayo Edebiri as Sydney Adamu
- Lionel Boyce as Marcus
- Liza Colón-Zayas as Tina
- Abby Elliott as Natalie “Sugar” Berzatto
- Edwin Lee Gibson as Ebraheim
The job of a culinary producer is wide-ranging. Teaching people how to cook can be a job in and of itself. But combining cooking and acting? It’s a whole different animal.
It takes work to make a TV set look and feel like a pro kitchen. That’s another way Courtney shines. You forget these people are actors as they maneuver through the tight space.
Courtney keeps it real.
The food in The Bear looks amazing. It’s one of those shows that make you hungry — even if you already ate.
I crave my grandma’s spaghetti gravy and meatballs when I’m watching The Bear for reasons I don’t understand. Just writing about the show has me craving it (it is my top 5 go-to comfort food), but it’s also only 8 AM.
I was born in Chicago (we moved two weeks or so before I entered Kindergarten, so it’s not like I was a Chicagoan, Chicagoan), but growing up in northwest Indiana (and rooting for Chicago sports teams) meant something different food-wise.
It meant Chicago-style buns in the grocery store, Chicago-style Italian beef at restaurants, and Chicago-style pizza in abundance. It also meant Cipriani’s angel hair egg vermicelli manufactured in Chicago Heights, Illinois (where we had lived).
It’s the Midwest — so think “meat and potatoes,” too. When the cold of winter hits, you naturally want those belly-warming foods and not the fresh stuff California is known for.
We have that in common, Courtney and I.
Cooking and baking are connectors. Spending time in the kitchen with someone is a helluva memory-maker. I’ve stirred, whisked, and, one memorable Christmas at my friend’s, removed seeds from a sauce by using a teeny tiny little strainer.
Courtney Storer’s Five Kitchen Essentials
That variety of cooking methods led to a list of Courtney Storer’s kitchen go-to items.
Food & Wine includes the following items:
- Bamboo Wood Cutting Board, $30
- 9-Inch Kitchen Tongs, $14
- Kitchen Tweezers, Set of 4, $22
- Culinary 7-Pocket Knife Roll Storage Bag, $49
- Amazon Echo Show 15, $280
Let’s take a moment to understand why Courtney includes these items on her essential kitchen toolkit list.
Bamboo Wood Cutting Board
A wood cutting board makes sense — even in a home application. While you can’t use a wood cutting board when you’re handling meat (juices could leak into any cracks or crevices and contaminate your board with dangerous bacteria), it is a handy thing to have when you’re slicing into homemade bread, chopping up vegetables, or need a simple way to serve meat and cheese.
This is a great essential item. I have gorgeous wood cutting boards I use for plating cheese and sausage made by a former neighbor and one from a friend that’s perfectly sized for homemade bread.
9-Inch Kitchen Tongs
Gracefully plate? It’s not that I don’t like cooking and baking, but sometimes, it’s a race to get things on the table before I either die of exhaustion or my teens keel over from starvation. Using kitchen tongs to artfully scoot things around a plate is a cute idea but not an essential kitchen tool.
In my dollhouse kitchen, I tend to go for practical. Storage is always a concern. Or follow Courtney’s lead if you’re able and willing to up your plating game.
Courtney Storer believes, “most home cooks could benefit from a pair of their own, especially if they’re interested in serving more elegantly plated dishes at home. She recommends using them to twirl pasta or for tasks that require a little more finesse, like picking up herbs and greens for a garnish.”
I lack finesse. When my sons and I make homemade sweet and sour chicken, I don’t have specific kitchen utensils for such jobs — we tend to use chopsticks.
I’m probably not adding a garnish to our plated dinners, either. If you, however, want to up your “serve it and wow ’em” garnishing game, kitchen tweezers may be the answer you’re looking for.
Culinary 7-Pocket Knife Roll Storage Bag
I see no knife slicin’ and dicin’ emergency where I need to grab the incredibly sharp, high quality chef’s knife my oldest bought me as a gift and tote it around somewhere. Or anywhere for that matter.
TV show chefs? Yes, absolutely. It makes sense Courtney would need a way to carry her knives without risking injury to herself or the material. As for me and mine, portability is not a concern.
If you are attached to your paring knife (is a paring knife used anymore? I love my OXO vegetable peeler), go camping, cook at the homes of others, or are a culinary producer, too, then there you go.
Tote around your Kuhn Rikon or Wusthof knives in a knife storage bag in style (and safety).
Amazon Echo Show 15
We’re a Google home. While I use Google to set reminders and timers and to play music via Spotify all day, I prefer a paper planner for everything related to general life and my job (which is funny since my handwriting is horrific).
From meetings to juggling freelance writers to jotting down topic ideas to which teen has what thing when, I’ve used a few versions of this custom planner and in different sizes, but the planner pictured above is absolutely my favorite.
If you like my paper planner, I have a code for 10% off your first purchase of $30 or more. Send me an email using my contact form — and I’ll email the discount your way.
Essential Kitchen Tools According to Little Indiana Bakes
I’ve moved more times than I’d care to remember. Some of those moves involved partially storing my kitchen items. I had to get smart about what I could fit in the kitchen and what I couldn’t.
I condensed down to the kitchen items I knew I couldn’t live without. It made this list slightly easier to make when I considered the items I’ve toted with me from place to place — the things that made a strange kitchen feel like my kitchen once I had these essential items unpacked and put in their place.
My list is a little longer than Courtney’s five, but I went with it anyway. Why not?
Multiple Measuring Cups and Measuring Spoons
You have a set of liquid measuring cups and a set of dry ingredient measuring cups. Sometimes, in a pinch, you’ve used one type of measuring cup for the other rather than wash it once again mid-bake. My life-changing advice is this: get a second set of both.
After I learned Pyrex changed the glass in their liquid measuring cup, I started snatching up vintage versions wherever I saw them: yard sales, thrift stores, and consignment shops. My sons are on the lookout now, too, pointing them out when they find one.
Yes, it’s a lot of measuring cups. Bake a big dinner, try your hand at meal prep for the week ahead, or whip up a fancy dessert and you’ll use more than you think. If you have a couple of dirty measuring cups in the dishwasher, it’s not a big deal.
To save time and avoid taking up all the space in my dishwasher, I rinse my measuring cups unless I measured brown sugar or something else messy, dry, and put them away. Same with measuring spoons. Even so, if you bake or cook a lot, in the interest of saving time, it’s worth having an extra set.
Cookie Dough Scoops, or Dishers
You know those picture-perfect cookies you see on social media everywhere? The uniformity in size is thanks to the use of dishers, or cookie dough scoops. If you make cookies often, this handy kitchen tool will speed up your cooking baking.
Cookie dough scoops feature simple one-handed dough scooping. Still using a wooden spoon for that? A disher is much faster than using your wooden spoon or two teaspoons. This essential kitchen tool comes in a variety of sizes. I use a a 1 1/2 teaspoon size scoop and a 3 Tablespoon scoop the most.
Electric Bread Knife
I’m bread’s biggest fan. Homemade bread commonly appears as a nice dinner side or breakfast “hello” in my home. If you’ve been using a serrated knife (bread knife) on your homemade bread loaf, an electric bread knife will change your life.
Slicing through homemade bread with the serrated teeth of a bread knife hacks up the bread, leaving jagged edges. Through some magic I don’t understand, an electric bread knife cleanly slices a homemade loaf of bread.
Primitive Rolling Pins
My first rolling pin belonged to my grandma. After the cute red-painted ends snapped off, I paid more attention to rolling pins. I’m enamored with chunky, clunky primitive rolling pins.
I have three vintage rolling pins. When I pull one of mine out of the drawer, I wonder, as always, who made it? I like to think it was made with love and care for someone special.
They aren’t as easy to find now but if you look well at thrift stores, consignment shops, and yard sales, you may stumble upon one. Pass over any with cracks or gouges. Look for a smooth surface.
Colorful Whisks and Rubber Scrapers
When you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, it’s nice to see bright blips of color. Bold and bright whisks, spatulas, and turners make every process feel a little bit more fun. I like the kitchen towel and dishcloth to be bold and bright, too. Just remember you get what you pay for.
You can find high-quality, fun kitchen equipment at all kinds of places. Anthropologie, Williams-Sonoma, Crate and Barrel, Sur la Table, Le Creuset, and World Market offer great options. You can find a gadget wall at the usual suspects, too, such as Target.
If you choose a printed spatula, you’ll want to hand wash it to avoid messing up the print. Yes, I am speaking from experience here.
If you’re still using two knives to blend ingredients for a pie crust or biscuits, a pastry cutter or blender will change everything. It’s fast and efficient.
Don’t skimp on quality or the metal tines of your pastry cutter will bend, scoot to the side, or snap. Choose a real, trusted brand. I like OXO products in general, but I have the Williams-Sonoma stainless steel pastry blender (nonaffiliate link).
Tip: chunking up cold butter before you dig in with your pastry blender will help keep the metal from bending.
KitchenAid Electric Stand Mixer
This is tough. There is more than one small kitchen appliance I use often (the coffee maker, aka the love of my life, doesn’t count). Of course, if you asked my sons, they’d put the waffle maker, quesadilla maker, our nonstick pan (it’s square and only used for pancakes), and the air fryer pretty high up that list (they use the air fryer for everything).
Well, I’d hate for my food processor to feel left out. It’s great for more than chopping vegetables at lightning-fast speed. You can use it to make certain cookies or salad dressing.
But, there’s only one particular bit of kitchen gear I cart around — and that’s my KitchenAid stand mixer.
I remember the shock I felt when I first used my new KitchenAid 17 or 18 years ago. Now, it takes no time at all to combine anything and everything, such as peanut butter and other ingredients for my favorite peanut butter coffee cake.
That efficiency is a boon, saving countless hours over the years as I whip up pizza dough, Chocolate Malted Milk Cookies, or cakes.
What Are Your Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets and Tools?
Is it a kitchen appliance? Cooking utensils? Everyone is going to have different kitchen tool favorites. I’m sure my needs are quite different from the people behind shows or websites of The Food Network, Bon Appétit, or America’s Test Kitchen.
You might not be able to live without your cast iron skillet, sheet pan, pasta maker, or Nordic ware Bundt pan.
I could easily make this list of essentials for the kitchen significantly larger. There are so many things I use and love on an almost daily basis, such as my vintage and new serving platters, colorful mixing bowls (and that one red bowl with a handle), or my zester (another great time saver).
Maybe that’s an article for a different day. Like my favorite cookie cookbooks, I can’t choose just one.
What is your favorite utensil, small appliance, or other gadget? I’d love to know. Send an email or leave a comment below.