10 Pieces of Cookware That Turned Into MVPs During the Pandemic, According to Chefs

Professional chefs know a thing or two about cookware quality, and while stuck in their home kitchens during the pandemic, the chefs we interviewed found plenty to love about these 10 items.

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A variety of kitchen tools on a yellow background
Photo: Allrecipes

For professional chefs, the pandemic represented (and, in many areas, continues to represent) a very challenging time for their industry and for their livelihoods. Restaurants were shuttered, take-out service dominated orders, the cost of cleaning supplies skyrocketed.

But whether they were quarantining in their homes or cooking at their restaurants with limited staffing and ever-shifting expectations, many of these chefs, cooks, and recipe developers discovered a new appreciation for the tools and appliances available in their own home kitchens. We asked a group of culinary pros about the specific pieces of cookware that became their "kitchen MVPs" during the pandemic, and they provided us with 10 items well-worth adding to your own kitchen wish list.

Ninja MegaKitchen System and Blender

Ninja BL770 Mega Kitchen System and Blender on a white background

For a blender set that's a dynamic multitasker, look no farther than the Ninja MegaKitchen System. It comes highly recommended by dietician and recipe developer Jessica Mason of Kitchen Habit, who tells us, "The Ninja Mega KitchenSystem and Blender was one of my most used kitchen appliances during the pandemic. It is a blender and food processor combined, and it can even make dough and cake batter."

Mason greatly appreciated the all-in-one aspect of the Ninja MegaKitchen, insisting that "it is a great space saver. Since getting the Ninja MegaKitchen System, I got rid of my blender, food processor, and even my mixer. It is great having one product that does everything."

She also celebrates the size of the MegaKitchen System's pitcher: "The 72-ounce pitcher is large enough to prepare meals for the whole family, and now that things are opening up, it is very handy if you are entertaining. It can make up to two pounds of dough in 30 seconds, and because the mixture is not being pounded for a long period of time, it creates a light and fluffy texture.'

Buy It: $160; amazon.com

Beautiful Quart Touchscreen Air Fryer by Drew Barrymore

Beautiful Quart Touchscreen Air Fryer on a white background

Air fryers had been rising in popularity even before the pandemic, but their ability to create crispy fried foods without the use of oil held even more appeal during stay-at-home orders. Cookbook author and magazine editor Danny Seo especially loves the air fryer made by Drew Barrymore's Beautiful brand (available for purchase at Walmart). "There are so many things to love about an air fryer, from both a cooking and an environmental aspect. I love my Beautiful Quart Touchscreen Air Fryer by Drew Barrymore because it's energy efficient, it quickly crisps up food without any excess oil that needs to be disposed of, and it's a real time saver in the kitchen. It's so easy to use and it's ideal for anyone looking to add more plant-based meals to their diet," Seo explains.

Buy It: $89; walmart.com

Related: This Air Fryer Keeps Selling Out — and Now I Know Why

Libertyware Granite Mortar & Pestle

Libertyware Granite Mortar & Pestle on a white background

Stone mortar and pestle sets boast serious longevity in the kitchen-essentials category, and food blogger and recipe developer Eva Yavorkovsky of Eva Shares Food used her Libertyware Granite Mortar & Pestle to fully embrace a slow-food ethos during the pandemic. "For most folks, a mid-pandemic priority was choosing activities that took up as much time as possible. We breathed new life into cooking projects, and for me, I turned to my mortar and pestle: specifically, this one from Libertyware. Only a few minutes of TLC stood between me and homemade Thai curry paste, perfectly emulsified pesto, and my own garam masala blend. Rough, hefty granite is the ideal material for pounding herbs and spices, and the small size meant it was perfect for cooking for two," Yavorkovsky tells Allrecipes.

Buy It: $24; amazon.com

Kyocera Ceramic Y Peeler

Kyocera Ceramic Y Peeler on a potato

Sometimes, the simplest tools can prove the most valuable in the kitchen. For executive chef Steve McHugh of Cured and Landrace in San Antonio, Texas, a Kyocera Ceramic Y Peeler delivered remarkable efficiency and reliability throughout his pandemic cooking experiences. "Originally a gift to me from another chef, the Kyocera Ceramic Peeler is one of my all-time favorite kitchen tools. It doesn't rust because it's ceramic, and after all these years, it's still as sharp as when it was new. I recently tried taking it to work one day, and my wife said "Nope, you're leaving it here," says McHugh.

Buy It: $12; amazon.com

Elgood Reusable Dishwashing Gloves

Elgood Reusable Dishwashing Gloves on a white background

Due to travel restrictions during the holiday season, many folks found themselves prepping festive meals for their households, rather than visiting family or enjoying restaurant dinners. For chef/owner David Guas of Bayou Bakery Coffee Bar & Eatery in Arlington, Va., last year's Thanksgiving dinner inspired him to make a kitchenware purchase he'd never considered in the past: dishwashing gloves. "I used dishwashing gloves for the first time during the pandemic," Guas tells us, citing Elgood Reusable Dishwashing Gloves as his tools of choice. "After Thanksgiving, since I was cooking and washing all the dishes, my fingerprint disappeared, and I could no longer use it on my Mac for access."

Buy It: $13; amazon.com

Classic 13" Microplane

Classic 13 Microplane on a white background

Microplanes get a lot of love in the chef community, thanks to their ability to finely grate vegetables, herbs, fruit, and other food items. Chef Devan Cameron of Braised and Deglazed found the 13-Inch Microplane immensely useful during the pandemic, telling us that "I absolutely love this tool because it can make a quick puree out of garlic, ginger, or chili and is great for adding fresh citrus zest to foods. During the lockdown, I used the Microplane to quickly puree garlic, ginger, and chili, which I added to practically all of our sautéed vegetables. It saved a lot of time compared to chopping these ingredients, and it's a lot easier to clean."

Buy It: $16; amazon.com

Instant Pot

Instant Pot in a white background

Speaking of multitasking, the mega-famous Instant Pot functions as a pressure cooker, a slow cooker, a rice cooker, a steamer, a yogurt maker, and a warmer. Its impressive functionality made it a pandemic kitchen staple for executive chef Chris Lusk of Peacock Room at Hotel Fontenot in New Orleans: ""During the pandemic, the piece of cookware that got me through was the Instant Pot; I use it both at home and while curating the menu at Hotel Fontenot. The Instant Pot has a myriad of uses in the kitchen that came in handy during the pandemic. I use my Instant Pot primarily as a pressure cooker to cook duck gizzards before frying and beef tendons to make beef cracklins."

Buy It: $99; amazon.com

Le Creuset Dutch Oven

Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Round Dutch Oven, 7.25 qt., Cerise

The Le Creuset line of enameled cast iron pots and pans regularly tops lists of desirable cookware, and both its high levels of performance and its aesthetic beauty contribute to its abiding popularity. Chef and recipe developer Jason Goldstein of ChopHappy gives a special shoutout to the Le Creuset Dutch Oven for its pandemic usefulness, explaining that "during the pandemic, my Le Creuset Dutch Oven was so valuable! It was great to make big batches of meat sauce, short ribs, and chilis. Also, I could cook, store in the fridge and reheat it all in the same pot — less mess. I love how it retains heat for a great sear on meats. Also, mine is orange, so it made me happy."

Buy It: $320; lecreuset.com

Lodge Cast Iron Skillet

Kitchen Home Appliances on Amazon
Courtesy of Amazon

When it comes to American heritage cookware brands, it's tough to think of a more relevant and beloved example than Lodge Cast Iron. Lodge's cast iron skillets can be found in countless home kitchens and restaurant kitchens, and co-owner and chef Josh Lee of Lake & Oak BBQ in Atlanta tells us exactly why he found these pans so indispensable during the pandemic: "We use Lodge Cast Iron pans at our restaurants and at home. During the pandemic, the versatility and durability of cast iron came into play. There are so many uses for cast iron pans. You can use them to braise meat or to make reductions and au jus. You can — and should — use Lodge Cast Iron to make cornbread and peach cobbler, as we do at Lake & Oak BBQ. But beyond the utility of cooking, you can also use Lodge Cast Iron pans for family-style servings and presentation. The best part about it and what made it useful during the pandemic, aside from its versatility, is that Lodge Cast Iron pans are very durable and consistent."

Buy It: $18; amazon.com

Staub 10" Grill Pan

STAUB Cast Iron Pure Grill on a white background

As pandemic shutdowns caused restaurants to cease operations or to majorly decrease their food output, chefs often sought out ways to prep their signature dishes at home, without access to professional-scale equipment. One such chef, chef-owner Jay Espinal of Tasca in New York City, says that the 10-inch grill pan made by elite French cookware brand Staub helped him to maintain restaurant-level quality when cooking a lower volume of food at home. "This grill pan allowed us to continue to cook dishes just like the restaurant, but on a smaller scale. It suited our needs for grilled veggies, meats and fish in our home kitchen. We love it so much we have gifted a few as housewarming gifts," says Espinal.

Buy It: $219; amazon.com

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