Infomercials may promise that space-age technology and three payments of $39.95 are all you need to become a master in the kitchen, but luckily, that's not the case. For professional chefs, quality and simplicity often trump flash when it comes to kitchen tools. If you've already got the basics, a few new items can make cooking dinner a little bit easier and tastier. In our quest to find the right gear to elevate our culinary efforts, mental_floss chatted with Jill Santopietro, a cooking instructor and recipe developer who has tested recipes for superstar chefs like Michael Pollen, April Bloomfield, and Alex Guarnaschelli. She acknowledges that while there’s no replacing years of hard practice, investing in a good set of tools can make life in the kitchen easier. “It's like driving a Nissan versus a Maserati,” says Santopietro. “Having better tools makes cooking a more enjoyable experience … it makes it fun.” 

Santopietro shared some of her most beloved pieces equipment that she uses in her kitchen at home. Even if these tools make you feel like Julia Child, the skills required to use them unfortunately aren't included. 

1. WOODEN SPOON

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Wood has the benefit of being strong and yielding at the same time. Wooden spoons can be used to stir thick mixtures without scratching the bottoms of your pots and pans, and the material isn’t as easily affected by high heat as metal or plastic, which means you don’t have to worry about it melting or getting super hot to the touch. Santopietro prefers spoons with a square edge so she can easily scrape caramelized bits of food from the bottom of her pans. Wood also has a nice feel in your hands, and using it makes you feel like a classically trained French chef even when you have no idea what you’re doing. Buy at Amazon

2. VITAMIX BLENDER

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While many great tools are simple, a little innovation never hurt, either. If you're looking to invest in a fancier piece of gear, a good blender should rank high on your list of splurges. Cheap blenders are easy to come by, but a quality model can revolutionize your cooking life for years to come. Santopietro owns a Vitamix, which is powerful enough to blend sticky dough, nuts, and whole fruits and vegetables. The 2-horsepower device moves so quickly that it can puree your soup and use friction to heat it up at the same time. Santopietro uses hers to make pestos, aioli, and even baby food.  Buy at Amazon

3. SPIDER

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Though it doesn’t sound like something you’d want in your kitchen, the spider is embraced by chefs all around the world as an essential cooking tool. Traditionally used in Asian cooking, this skimming utensil uses a wire-mesh basket to retrieve things like fried dumplings, vegetables, and pasta from hot oil or water. Its wide, shallow shape makes it gentle on delicate foods like ravioli and poached eggs, and the long bamboo handle keeps chefs far removed from any spitting-hot oil. The mesh is also fine enough to catch small bits of food like puffed grains.  Buy at Amazon

4. MISONO KNIFE

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For professionals, the importance of a good knife in the kitchen can’t be overstated. Not only does it make the cooking process easier, it makes it safer as well. Cooks tend to press down with more force when cutting with a dull knife, which can lead to slippage and injury. A well-maintained, quality knife saves a lot of pain and frustration in the long run.

Santopietro uses a Misono knife which is made from super-sharp stainless steel that’s been forged by hand. The factory is based in the Seki, a Japanese city with a 750 year legacy of crafting knives.  Buy at Amazon

5. PEPPER MILL

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A pepper mill is an essential tool for any serious home cook. Freshly ground pepper lends dishes a distinctive texture and spice that the pre-ground stuff just can't replicate. Santopietro recommends keeping a large pepper mill at home. That way you can grind to your heart’s content without having to refill it as often. Buy at Amazon

6. OXO PRECISION TONGS

For some home cooks, cooking with big, clumsy tongs is an unavoidable part of daily life, but it doesn't have to be. Santopietro opts for OXO precision tongs, which are precise enough to lift a single strand of spaghetti from a pot of boiling water. They’re also great for handling bacon, thinly-sliced vegetables, and hard-boiled eggs. Buy at Amazon

7. CAST IRON SKILLET

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While it may be low-tech, the cast iron skillet is another tool that most professionals swear by. A cast iron skillet will last a lifetime with proper care, and the more you use it the more it develops layers of flavor-imparting seasoning. Cast iron is durable enough to get "screaming hot" which makes it the ideal choice for searing steaks or pan-frying vegetables. It also distributes heat evenly, which is important when cooking meat. After using your skillet to make dinner, you can fill it with cake batter and toss it in the oven to make dessert. That makes every other pan in your arsenal look lame in comparison. Buy at Amazon

8. SHARPENING STONE

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If you decide to follow Santopietro’s suggestion to invest in a good kitchen knife, a sharpening stone should be your next purchase. You can pay to get your knives sharpened by a professional, but Santopietro does the majority of her sharpening herself at home. As long as you use proper technique, doing your own sharpening saves you money in the long run, and you’ll never have an excuse to let your knives get dull. Buy at Amazon

9. WOODEN CUTTING BOARD

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Nothing compares to the look and feel of a quality wooden cutting board. The sturdy-yet-soft surface is easier on a knife’s edge and results in cleaner cuts. Santopietro uses a plastic cutting board for things like chicken that might contain harmful bacteria, but wood is a great choice for firm veggies and cheeses.  Buy at Amazon

10. DIGITAL THERMOMETER 

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For some recipes, a few degrees one way or the other can make or break the whole dish. An instant-read thermometer determines the temperature of what you’re cooking in just a few seconds, which could mean the difference between luscious liquid caramel and a pot of burnt sugar and cream.  Buy From King Arthur Flour