Spoon #1_6
 
Photo by Donna

The best tools are the simplest tools.  The above spoon sat around among my stove-side utensils, lonely and forlorn, seldom used.  Just a spoon, after all.  A biggish spoon.  Didn't fit in the silverware drawer, so it hung out with the A-team, the flat edged wooden spoon, the perforated spoon, the slotted spatula.  I believe I was trying to baste a chicken roasting in a cast iron pan, and couldn't get a useful angle in the tight space, so I bent the bowl of the spoon up by about 30 degrees.  Suddenly I heard a choir singing.  I'd hit some kind of golden mean. The entire nature of the spoon transformed.  Suddenly I wanted to use it for all kinds of tasks, from stirring to saucing and, of course, basting, lots of basting, hot seasoned butter over pan-roasting meats.  I've got two of them now, and sometimes, when I'm cooking, I'll reach for one of them and they'll both be in the dishwasher and I'll think "shit"—this large soup spoon does the job like nothing else, and every other choice is a compromise.  Sometimes I just like to look at it.  Look at that line, the curve of the stem to the bowl, there's an elegance to it that somehow is conveyed into the food. That's a damn good tool.  These people who make fetishes of Sub-Zero fridges and 48-inch Viking ranges and sets of copper sautoirs hanging in an unused designer kitchen, I honestly believe if they learned the power of a great spoon, they might actually start to cook. …Then again maybe it's just me.

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50 Wonderful responses to “Favorite Kitchen Tool: Spoon”

  • Patrick Warczak

    I get it…maybe not the whole “just look at it” bit, but the “nothing else will do” appreciation of the perfect, usually cheap tool. I have love for a wooden “spoon”…the slotted type with the flat end. Sauté? Only that will do. Dirty? “Shit.” Wife destroys it in the blender, making a smoothy? “Now what will I do?” (It happened. The replacement is okay, I guess.). I totally get it.

  • Richard

    One of my favorite kitchen tools that I rarely use, but grateful I have it when I need it, is my “stick” that is used for kneading kolache dough. It is an old hatchet handle, that has been used so much all the sharp edges are now smooth curves. I have no idea how old it is, but I know it is the perfect tool for kneading a sticky dough. Who would have thought a “stick” could be the perfect kitchen tool.

  • carri

    All the best tools are elegant in their form and function…it’s easy to get attached to the perfect thing. I have one chefs knife at the bakery that everyone loves that also happens to be the first knife I ever spent money on, when a young cook was using it one day, I had to to remind him that knife was older than he is, better take care of it…a good tool is everything

  • MikeV @ DadCooksDinner

    My “crap, it’s in the dishwasher” tool is the flat-edged wooden spoon I got with a cheap wok set about 15 years ago. I’ve bought lots of different flat edged wooden spoons, trying to find a backup, but they just don’t feel the same.

  • Victoria

    MR,

    I love a small sterling silver Old Colonial spoon that I found in my father’s silverware drawer after he died. I don’t know how it got there; I never saw it before I was cleaning out the house I grew up in many years after I had moved out. The bowl on the spoon is lovely because it is beautifully fluted. I use it every morning to stir my first cup of tea.

    Congratulations on Ad Hoc at home. It is WONDERFUL. How lucky that is available in time for Christmas.

  • Cali

    I have a special tool, too. It is a serving spoon that belonged to my grandmother. It’s a heavy 18/10 stainless and very unusual in shape. It’s almost a perfect circle, about four inches across and probably a little less than half an inch deep. The handle is much flatter than the one on your special spoon. It is the perfect spoon for basting, skimming anything or serving sauces straight out of the pan. All in all, a fabulous spoon.

  • Captaink

    One of my favorite tools is a large-sized soup spoon. I’ve had it so long, I no longer know where it came from, but I believe it was from an Army mess kit (it has “US” stamped into the handle).

    I use it for basting, I use it to mount butter in a sauce, but mostly I use it to eat my soups (I make a LOT of soup).

    When its in the dishwasher, I reluctantly use one of the so-called “soup spoons” from my flatware set.

  • Prix Fixe

    MR-
    I have three spoons that sit in my knife roll that I could never do without. Two larger ones and a small once that I found with a somewhat pointed tip, which is great for plating.

    I’d go crazy if I lost those spoons, because frankly I highly doubt I could ever replace them.

  • Tut

    Now thats a bend to be Proud of,Like the inuit you have polished a soapstone an taken away everything that wasen’t a polar bear,this spoon is no longer a compromise at best spoon its a functioning work of art in the clockwork of your kitchen,I commend you!!

  • cybercita

    my friend’s mother, who is the very definition of a good plain cook, uses a spoon like that for basting when she roasts chicken. i have watched her do it many times and it always strikes me as being simultaneously elegant and practical. i think i threw out my rubber turkey baster when i got home after seeing her do it the first time.

  • Wilson

    We all have our favorite tools in the kitchen. I really like big wooden cutting boards.

    The hardest part of living with someone “wife” that doesn’t understand the importance of being able to find those tool when you need them. For some reason the meaning of Mise en place escapes her when the dishwasher is open. I find things where they have never been before!

  • NYCook

    I LOVE MY SPOONS! They are like paintbrushes for the profesional cook, and I could never live without mine. I keep 5 in my knife roll at all times; a big Gray Kunz, a little Gray Kunz, a flat edged, a perferated flat edged, and my over sized soup spoon also bent at an angle for hard to reach spots, that NEVER leaves my back pocket when I’m at work- except to taste and eat family. This doesn’t even count the numerous spoons kept al around my appartment that drive my girlfriend crazy, but she is front of the house so what does she know about spoon love? Although at Babbo they use spoons to crumb tables. My other favs are my immersion blender, fish spat, and my cheap plastic “corn” as we call them in my kitchen. Short for corner scraper. A small stiff plastic tool great for passing farce through a tamis and picking up little brunoise without them spilling all over the place. Long live the spoon!

  • ashley

    thank you. this is brings me back to why i love to cook so much. it’s the simple things in the kitchen that really make it home for me. sometimes it’s easy to forget that when there are all of these new gadgets to play with. so thank for bringing me back to the little things that i love so much in the kitchen.

  • Chef Gwen

    Obviously you can write (and well — with awards to prove it), but sometimes I wonder why you didn’t become a chef?

    Lots of chefs pick the spoon as favorite kitchen tool (after their knives, of course).

    I know one chef who has a small “collection” of spoons, one from every place he’s ever worked.

    Great post, Michael.

  • cory

    there is a spoon.

    this spoon makes the greatest one handed ice cream quenelles the world has ever seen.

    There is a spoon.

  • Natalie Sztern

    The greatest spoon I ever owned was rounded with a slight lip to the left of it which allowed me to pour with it and spoon with it. I lost it.

  • Matthew Pennington

    We went through more than a spoon a minute when I cooked at Au Pied de Cochon. By far, the most used, most necessary, and most desired piece of kitchen equipment.

  • Andy Coan

    Wonderful simplicity. But what is the more important: the tool (spoon), or the technique (the bend)?

    Or maybe cooking actually happens somewhere in between?

  • Rhonda

    I second the spoon love.

    In fact, in one of your last posts (in addition to Carri’s stunning jelly), I was completely smitten with the spoon in the photo. Perfectly suited for the job and beautifully crafted.

    Of course, that particular spoon is not one I would take to work with me but I admire it for its beauty.

    Oddly enough, somewhere in time, I acquired these very small handmade silver spoons in Turkey that are not suitable for tea coffee, espresso, jam, etc; but oddly enough are perfect for scooping out bone marrow. Who knew! Wasn’t my intention when I bought them but it worked out great.

    They are my favorite spoons. Not exactly the workhorses of the kitchen in this case but they too do their job perfectly and are worthy of admiration.

  • craig

    I have 3 favorite spoons that I keep in my knife kit. One is large with a notch cut out of either side of the bowl, the other is also large and oval and the third is a Frugal Gourmet brand spoon that has a square bowl. A pretty strange looking spoon but perfect for saute and plating veg and sauce. I’ve caught other cooks trying to ‘borrow’ it from my mise several times. VIVA LA CUCHARA!

  • luis

    My mother always used forks for cooking…forks.. She could cook a feast with a couple of pots and a fork.
    I got her some tongs but she only used them to sort of please me…One fork one spoon and lifetime of experience. I am down with that.
    The more you cook.. the more you know and learn.. the easier it gets. That’s how it works.

  • Darren

    Got Ad Hoc today. Good stuff sir. For those that don’t know it shows love for the simple spoon as well.

  • Sue

    Forks are my go-to utensils. A regular dinner fork is fabulous for beating a roux and adding in that first bit of milk. I use a big serving fork for stirring pasta and a salad fork for separating anchovies and spearing olives. My Viking is pretty great too.

  • Heath Putnam

    My company sells meat to chefs in a mostly uncut form. We do this because it is optimal; there’s less waste in a good kitchen than a slaughterhouse.

    Our product (Mangalitsa pork) is such that there’s little lean meat, so the customer has an incentive to debone them carefully.

    People in Europe use a special set of techniques and a tool (rib puller) to achieve that.

    Rib pullers aren’t well known in the USA, so we’ve started to give them to customers with pointers to videos showing how to use it:

    http://woolypigs.blogspot.com/2009/07/seam-butchery-rib-pullers.html

    Chefs like the tool enough – and the fact that we care about their utilization of our product – that are ordering them in bulk to give out.

  • Peter

    You shouldn’t make fun of people with fetish/designer kitchens with viking stoves and copper pans hanging from a rack. That’s your demographic. Look at the picture on your “about” page.

  • Maria, Fresh Eats

    Not just you. Nope. I, too, have attachments to inanimate kitchen utensils. A couple of my favorites: my petite All-Clad serving spoon (perfect for small hands) and my grandmother’s simple, yet elegant, Oneida teaspoons. One love is for the utility and design, the other, purely sentimental.

  • Kathleen Flinn

    I couldn’t agree more. My list of required cookware for my students roughly approximates the one you listed in Elements of Cooking — a spoon, a bowl, a heavy stainless steel saute pan, sturdy measuring tools, a whisk and a decent chef’s knife.

  • Bob delGrosso

    I was thinking that a chef’s knife would be the more useful kitchen tool until I realized that, unlike that bent spoon in the photo, you can’t cook heroin on a knife.

    “The previous statement is intended to be a wry observation and should not be construed to be an endorsement of the use of illegal substances.”

  • Wilma de Soto

    I’m with Sue. Forks are MY kitchen workhorse. I think nothing of whipping up a bechamel or a double batch of chocolate chip cookies with a simple dinner fork.

    Maybe it’s a female thing.

  • luis

    Wilma, you and my mom… four pots and the oven going ….food to die for and one fork and one crummy knife on the counter. Maybe a spoon too. Precious.

  • luis

    Bob, I think the term chef knife is used too loosely these days. I never knew what a real knife was till I stepped up to the ten inch vitorinox french chef knife.

  • Rhonda

    Umm, Chef delGrosso;

    I think JunkyPOS was making a “play on words”. He was attempting humour which is sometimes lost on geniuses.

    As you missed this, your comment which amused me to no end all day today, now suddenly scares me.

    You really, really thought about this, didn’t you?

    Now, I realize that you were completely serious (as always).

    How can a man who has 19 year old (can’t remember exact date) breast milk in his freezer be so serious?

    Plus, surely you cannot miss the irony of the commentor’s moniker.

    Lighten up!

    As always, with Respect,

    Rhonda
    xxx

  • Bob delGrosso

    Rhonda
    I knew JunkyPos was joking but “forgot” to respond in kind. I must have gotten distracted.

    BTW, the breast milk is 13-14 years old.

  • carri

    Spoons…the gateway tools, before you know it you have an out of control addiction to Japanese knives…crazy, man!
    BdG…I see your 13 year old breast milk, it’s right next to my girlfriends frozen placenta! LOL!

  • Theresa

    I too have a “spoon” or rather an ex-spoon. Years ago my father took it upon himself to flatten a very nice spoon. Why? Who knows? After my mother and I yelled and screamed “what the F! were you thinking???” it turned out that it became an excellent little spatula. It’s perfect – I would certainly miss it if I no longer had it and whenever I use it I chuckle bringing back memories.

  • Glenn Kutner

    My grandmother had a large spoon with an extremely ornate handle that she used for everything cooking project. She would give me tatstes of her concotions when I could barely see above the stove top. I remember it being too large for my mouth back then, but it was probably a tea spoon….

  • Juday

    My baby brother was born when I was 13. He was hell on wheels as a toddler. In fact, Granny called him “tornado”. When he did something particularly heinous, we would wail on his butt with a stainless steel slotted spoon. Hence the threat — “Do you want the spoon?” Great tool, totally different application…

  • luis

    Heath, I look forward to being able to buy a cut of Mangalitza pork over the internet. I am happy you are off and running and the Manga’s are becoming established in the marketplace.

  • Brian S

    Aside from knives, my most used cooking implement are chop sticks. I can stir, flip, poke, prod… basically anything except baste. I’m still looking for a favorite spoon. With this inspiration maybe I’ll succeed soon.

  • Salty

    I know several chefs who have a love affair with their spoon. I wasn’t brought up that way so I don’t get it. It seems alot of young chefs imagine themselves hunched over a plate with his favorite spoon making beautiful food.

  • Chef Martin

    Spoons are great. One of my #1 rules in the kitchen is to tail never dump from a sautee pan onto a plate. ALWAYS use a spoon for plating.

  • acai berry

    I have read the whole article based on the favorite uncommon tools.From the given information,I can’t believe I haven’t thought of that. My favorite tool in the kitchen is my wife.

  • r4i

    Spoon is so useful in our kitchen and any where when we take the food.It’s basic need of the kitchen.With out spoon we can not take any thing from the vessel.