Ina Garten Says These Three Essential Kitchen Tools Will Make You a More Confident Cook

Even after decades of cooking, The Barefoot Contessa host still calls on these gadgets to ensure her recipes are perfect every time.
By Kimberly Holland
December 09, 2020
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Ina Garten wearing a purple scarf in her kitchen
Credit: Allrecipes Illustration / Photo courtesy of Ina Garten

Ina Garten has been a stay-at-home heroine for many of us in this deeply unusual and trying year. She started by giving us permission to really enjoy happy hour with her oversized cocktails and free-willing spirit, and she even released a mid-pandemic cookbook that has fed our families for weeks when we reached absolute recipe fatigue.

Now, Ina is sharing her best tips for becoming a more confident cook, something each of us can use even if we've been cooking for years and years. Indeed, in her recent interview on the Allrecipes podcast, Homemade — available for free at Apple PodcastsSpotify, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts beginning December 9 — Garten told host Martie Duncan about three kitchen tools she reaches for regularly.

"Are there one or two things that you can recommend doing every time you walk in before you begin, or something like that that will help give them a little confidence to cook more?" Martie asked Garten in the podcast.

Ina's first recommendation: a ruler, "so that when you're measuring the pot size or the pan size — I can't tell you, almost every time I make a recipe, I end up pulling that ruler out. And I have like a 24-inch ruler, like from the drafting store."

Indeed, keeping a ruler, like this cork-backed stainless steel option from Amazon, on hand will help you verify that your pie plate really is nine inches (if it doesn't say so on the bottom) or that the hand-glazed bakeware dish you picked up at the art show is large enough for the casserole you normally cook in a 9-x-13 casserole dish.

Her second must-have kitchen tool for boosting kitchen confidence? "A food scale," the Modern Comfort Food author says. "I'm always measuring things that, you know, it sometimes says a pound, but I've got a three-pound bag of it. And so I don't know what exactly a pound is."

But you can use a kitchen scale for more than weighing your food for accurate portions. Garten says she uses the device to make sure her baked goods, like the Boston Cream Pie she recently shared on Instagram, are as perfect as they can be.

"If I have a cake that, you know, batter makes two cakes, I want to make sure that both of them are exactly the same size. I weigh the pan and the batter and then I can make sure," she says. "So, a scale is something, it's very accessible. And yet I think it makes everything you do a little more professional looking."

The average food scale measures up to 11 pounds, which is typically enough for any home cook. This classic Escali food scale ($25; amazon.com) meets that number and comes in nine fun colors. But this larger Escali glass food scale ($44; amazon.com) can tally totals up to 22 pounds if you need that larger capacity.

Lastly, Garten says an oven thermometer is something every cook can call upon to help them feel more confident and turn out perfectly cooked foods at every recipe. "It's even more important than the other two," she emphasizes. "Everybody thinks that the oven is exactly the temperature it says on the dial. And it's never. It's anything but that."

She goes on to explain how she uses it so she knows the oven's temperature and can be a more informed cook: "Every single time I turn on the oven, I put a thermometer in to see what the actual oven temperature is. And it doesn't take five minutes to get there. An oven guy explained to me once that most ovens, if you set it at 350 [degrees Fahrenheit], the temperature goes all the way to 400 and then back to 300, and then it goes to 375. And then it goes to 325. And after about 15 or 20 minutes it settles at 350," Garten says.

With those temperature swings, Garten says preheating really is such an important step in any recipe: "You can't just turn it on and think it's going to get to 350 and stop. So you really need to give it time to preheat."

This stainless steel oven thermometer, which is just $7 on Amazon, is all you need. Keep it in your gadget drawer so you're not digging to find it each time you turn on your oven. You can also buy a two-pack ($12; amazon.com) and share one with a friend or neighbor who adores Ina and knows her tips, like recipes, are supreme.

Listen to Allrecipes "Homemade" podcast to hear more from Ina Garten!

Download this episode of Homemade for free at Apple PodcastsSpotify, and anywhere else you listen to podcasts beginning December 9.

Acurit Stainless Steel Ruler Cork Back Measuring Ruler
Credit: Amazon

Buy it: $20.48; amazon.com

Escali Primo P115M Precision Kitchen Food Scale
Credit: Amazon

Buy it: $25; amazon.com

pecula Oven Thermometer
Credit: Amazon

Buy it: $7; amazon.com