In this excerpt from Andy Baraghani’s upcoming cookbook The Cook You Want to Be: Everyday Recipes to Impress, Baraghani discusses the kitchen tools he reaches for again and again.

People think I’m a fussy person. And I am fussy about how my T-shirts fit, playlists for long car rides, and my skincare routine. But when it comes to cooking, my tools are relatively minimal. With fewer tools, I can focus on the dish and the project at hand. I wear my worn-to-death sneakers and an old white T-shirt in the kitchen. When I’m cooking for myself, I don’t typically use measuring cups or spoons. Gadgets take up space and cloud your judgment. You don’t need a tomato knife; you need a sharp knife. You don’t need a juicer; you have hands. Use them. Less is more.

The kitchen tools I do use aren’t super-fancy, they’re all less than $20 (minus the Thermapen and mandoline), and they’ll ensure consistency. Frankly, these tools will enable you to cook with confidence and also elevate your cooking, as they did mine.

The Cook You Want to Be: Everyday Recipes to Impress

This tool shouldn’t be called a fish spatula. I use it to flip fillets of fish, yes, but I also use it to turn crispy potatoes on a cast-iron griddle, scraping and flipping ’em and pretending I work at an old-school diner with a cigarette smoke–stained ceiling. Use this spatula to flip roasted vegetables on a baking sheet or to transfer them to a plate. A fish spatula is incredibly versatile and gets under there in ways a rubber spatula or wood spoon physically can’t—but don’t use it on a nonstick surface or it’ll scratch the coating.

The Benriner. Always. It’s lightweight plastic. Fancier mandolines have multiple parts that confuse the hell out of me. This tool is fast, efficient, and consistent in ways that the greatest chef’s knife can’t be. I use it to slice perfect rounds of radishes and cucumbers. Use a mandoline for dense, stubborn-to-cut ingredients—beets, carrots, daikon, fennel, potatoes—all robust vegetables that can quickly dull your knife.

Benriner Mandoline Slicer

A mortar and pestle is my most beloved tool. (You should see my collection!) I don’t even know how many I have at this point. My love for the mortar and pestle started at home because my mother had a tiny brass one she used to break down saffron to make saffron water for rice. At Chez Panisse, we used them for pulverizing herbs, crushing nuts, and turning garlic into paste to stir into aioli. At Estela, we ground chile flakes to release all their oils. There’s no other tool in the world that requires the cook to be so active, and that so completely breaks down an ingredient, and there’s no electricity required. The best food processor can’t do what a mortar and pestle does.

Greenco Mortar and Pestle Set

I’m sorry to say this but I have to: Don’t trust your oven. It doesn’t matter how new or old it is. I’ve learned the hard way many, many, many times. I get so many DMs from people about how recipes they’ve cooked took longer/shorter than what I wrote. That’s your oven’s fault. And every oven is calibrated differently. Invest the few dollars in an oven thermometer, hook it onto the center rack, halfway back, and let it just hang there. It’s accurate and it’ll give you peace of mind (and an accurate reading) the next time you go to bake, braise, roast, or toast something.

Thermoworks Oven Thermometer

Rubbermaid Stainless Steel Oven Thermometer

These are essential for your roasting and baking needs, which is why you’ll want to invest in more than one. Go for a large baking sheet (known as a half-sheet) and make sure it has a rim or lip, so things don’t slide off. I use the quarter-size pans for toasting things such as nuts and coconut flakes, and the bigger pans for slow- roasted potatoes, fish, and chicken.

Nordic Ware Baker’s Half Sheet

Photo by Alex Lau

Nordic Ware Quarter-Sheet Pans, 2-Pack

I grew up using the peelers that look like pens, which give you these short little peels. The Y-peeler is, you know, shaped like a Y. Buy a pack of three. You get long strips of whatever you’re peeling in broad strokes. It’s so much more efficient. Why was I using that rubber thing before?

Kuhn Rikon Y-Peeler, Set of Three

This will completely. Change. The. Way. You. Cook. IT’S SO EXACT. It’s about time to stop with the guessing game. And when you’re inserting the long, sharp probe into a big cut of meat or roast, don’t jam it down in there so it touches bone—you want it in the center.

Thermoworks Thermapen ONE

If there’s one, Uh, Andy, why you gotta be so extra? tool, it’s the Kunz spoon. It’s the perfect spoon, with the perfect bowl, for ladling a pool of sauce or broth. I use this spoon to taste everything I cook. This spoon also happens to be the ideal size to collect foamy melted butter to spoon over steak or pork chops when basting. It costs about $20. Order it now.

Kunz Sauce Spoon

Pre-order Andy’s book. Then go make his zucchini and leek kuku:

Kuku Kadoo

Serve this spring-y Persian kuku, full of tender leeks and zucchini, with warm flatbread or on a sandwich.

View Recipe

Reprinted from The Cook You Want To Be. Copyright © 2022 Andy Baraghani. Photographs copyright © 2022 Graydon Herriott. Published by Lorena Jones, an imprint of Random House.