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The kitchen is often the most heavily trafficked room in the house. It’s a common site for quick snacks, bill-paying, children’s homework, and socialization. However, the kitchen’s primary use will always be meal preparation.

Of course, a kitchen is not a kitchen without certain large appliance. An oven and cooktop are necessary for most dishes. A refrigerator and freezer are also needed for cold storage. Adequate prep area and a sink, the larger the better, are also needed for any culinary undertakings. All of these items go without saying. For the cook who already is or desires to be a culinary expert, there are five basic tools that are necessary yet not present in every kitchen.

1. Mandoline
The fastest way to perfectly slice, dice, and grate is through the use of this handy contraption. The mandoline consists of a long, flat surface with a blade in the middle. A handheld slider lifts up and older the blade, keeping ingredients secure on one side while hands and fingers stay out of harm’s way. The best mandolines have interchangeable blades. This allows cooks to choose multiple slicing methods depending on their needs.

2. High Quality Knives
Like the mandoline, a set of knives are needed for perfect preparation. Few kitchens exist that don’t have knives at the ready, though many home chefs opt for inexpensive and ineffectual tools. High quality knives allow for easier work, more precise cuts, and are long-lasting. The cost of replacing knives that regularly break or the annoyance of sharpening blades that regularly turn dull should make any cook reconsider their choice to purchase poorly made knives.

3. Apple Corer
Apple corers make fast work of cutting up apples for their numerous dishes. However, apple corers have many kitchen uses that have nothing to do with apples. Apple corers can also be used to core other tree fruits. They can also make interesting shapes from melons for fruit salads or from pound cakes for petifours. Apple corers give cupcakes a boost by removing the middle section, which can then be filled with jam, whipped cream, or frosting.

4. Citrus Stripper and Zester
Many home chefs make do with a knife to peel lemons and oranges. They may chop the rind finely for zest or may even purchase a dried, inferior substitution to save time. Citrus strippers and zesters are inexpensive and make quick work of a much needed ingredient. Once the citrus stripper and zester has been introduced to the kitchen, the cook will be surprised and delighted by the numerous dishes that are improved with a bit of zest.

5. Potato Masher

Like the apple corer, a potato masher is a multi-functional tool. Any vegetable or fruit can be easily mashed for multiple uses. A high quality potato masher can also make an excellent meat tenderizer or can be used to make interesting patterns on cookies.

Written by Mark Lynch, on behalf of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Schools.