The ZENB Guide to Culinary Tools, Part 1

A basket of whole lemons and a wooden cutting board, with cut and sliced lemons and a knife on the board

Just like an artist needs her brushes and watercolors, and a potter needs his clay and kiln, so too do home cooks need great culinary tools!

But shopping for kitchen tools can be intimidating. There are literally thousands of gadgets, gizmos, and accessories out there, but what do you really need to stock your kitchen with? 

We believe less is more. It’s the philosophy we apply to our plant-fueled products, and it’s our approach to outfitting a home kitchen. It’s best to invest in a handful of high-quality, versatile tools that can empower you to create thoughtful, elevated dishes.

Not to worry! We’re here to walk you through the kitchen tools you need to enjoy fun, stress-free meal prep every day.


There are a lot of kitchen gadgets that you can do without, but a sharp, well-made knife is an absolute must.

The chef’s knife is the rock star of the kitchen. With its large, 8- to 10-inch sloped stainless steel blade, this all-purpose workhorse can do everything, from spatchcocking a chicken to chiffonading fresh basil, to slicing and dicing an entire farmers market haul of produce.

Like a good pair of boots or a pair of glasses, a chef’s knife is something worth investing in. Think about it: Over the course of the next decade (a good one will last as long), you’re going to use your knife so many times, so spring for the best quality you can afford.

We suggest shopping for a chef’s knife in person. Each knife has a unique weight and balance, and not all knives will feel equally comfortable in your hand, so you’ll want to pick up a bunch to test them out! Also, look for a chef’s knife that is “fully forged,” meaning it’s made from one piece of metal and will be more durable.

Purchase a blade cover for storing your chef’s knife, and always hand wash and dry it after every use to prevent dulling. Hone your blade at home with a knife sharpener after every few uses, and bring it to a kitchen store once a year for a professional sharpening.

In addition to a chef’s knife, every kitchen should have a serrated bread knife and a small paring knife.

The serrated bread knife, usually measuring between 7 and 10 inches, features sharp grooves that easily slice through crusty baguettes, soft sourdough, and dense bagels. You can also use bread knives to slice melons and tomatoes (we guarantee this works better than a chef’s knife!), as well as other baked goods, like flatbreads and cakes.

A paring knife is a small, short-bladed knife (think 3 to 4 inches) that gives you lots of control for kitchen tasks like peeling or cutting fruits and veggies. Its petite size lets you be nimble and dexterous, perfect for delicate foods or tedious tasks like removing seeds.

Cutting Boards

Don’t even think about cutting food on your nice countertops! A cutting board is the other truly must-have kitchen tool, and you’ll use it every day. A good cutting board keeps your knives sharp, your prep area tidy, and your countertops looking like new.

The most common materials that cutting boards are made from are plastic and wood. Each type has its benefits and drawbacks.

Plastic’s main positive attribute is that it’s non-porous, so it’s a great option for breaking down raw meat or prepping anything that’s especially juicy. Plastic cutting boards are light, easy to clean, and quick-drying. On the downside, they aren’t usually especially attractive, they don’t last for long (toss them at the first sign of cracking, warping or flaking), and they can be hard on knives.

If properly cared for, wooden cutting boards can last a lifetime. They also are beautiful and special, with their unique wood grain patterns. Buy an artisan-made wooden cutting board, and it will double as a serving platter or cheese and charcuterie board! Always hand wash wooden cutting boards with mild soap and warm water, and allow them to air dry. After every few uses, rub down a wooden cutting board with mineral oil to keep them in good shape.

Ideally, your kitchen will have one plastic and one wood cutting board, both rectangular and measuring between 12 and 20 inches.

Look out for Part 2 of ZENB’s culinary tool guide coming soon, where we’ll focus on cookware and utensils. With these helpful resources, plus our ever-growing collection of tasty, healthy recipes, you’re well on your way to becoming unstoppable in the kitchen!  

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