25 Restaurant Smallwares Every Kitchen Needs
Smallwares are not glamorous. They don’t have any buttons to push, don’t light up, don’t make noises and can’t be programmed. When looking at the big picture of starting a new restaurant or restocking/updating an existing one, these restaurant supplies are often overlooked. But every kitchen, professional or home needs these essential pieces to be successful. Frankly, not much can happen without them.
We've assembled a list of 25 essential kitchen tools and supplies that every back of house requires. They are in no particular order because they're all necessary and important to run an efficient and profitable foodservice operation.
For prep, mixing and use on the line, mixing bowls are indispensable tools for chefs and cooks. Stainless steel bowls range in size and every kitchen benefits from having a variety and multiples of optimum sizes available. Because they nest, the amount of space they take up when stored is negligible so stocking each station won’t compromise workspace. When in doubt, put it in a bowl. A simple, safe and practical place.
Maybe you call them bun pans, sheet pans or cookie sheets or mix them together to get baking sheet pans. Whatever you call them they can bake, roast, thaw, portion and store - they more than carry the load. These workhorse multitaskers can be stacked and racked for easy access.
Check out our Bun Pan and Rack Buying Guide for more details.
3. Food pans
In case you haven’t noticed, there is a theme to the list. Multitaskers. Food pans (also called insert pans, hotel pans, steam table pans) are no exception. Designed to hold food hot for service in steam tables and chafers, these pans are also used for food prep, baking, roasting and poaching. Perforated versions are useful for draining, steaming and quickly cooling down foods.
Because of their multiple sizes and ability to move from fridge to prep line, to holding cabinet and on to service, stacks of these should always be in your kitchen ready to be put into action.
Check out our Stainless Steel Food Pan Buying Guide for more details.
Taking the heat over and over, shift after shift, pots and pans get it done. Material, size, shape and features should match your operation’s needs. Review your recipe yields and the ingredients used. And remember the lids. Lids can sometimes be used for multiple pots, but if you are using all of the pots at once, you should have a lid for each on hand.
Stir, mix, serve, scoop and cook with the right spoon. For each task, there is a spoon there to help. Solid bowls for stirring and serving when you want some of the liquid. Perforated or slotted when you want to scoop just the solids. Stainless steel, plastic, wood, long handles, short handles and colour coded – having a variety of spoons available is kitchen smart.
An extension of a chef’s hand, tongs get into everything in a foodservice kitchen. We mean everything. Hot, cold, wet, dry, small or large. So, it makes sense to have the right tongs for the task. Not all tongs are created equal or are meant to be used for all situations. Length, spring vs one piece, grip, colour, material and style – utility, salad, pastry, Pom, panini, spaghetti. With a large selection, your staff can grab what they need.
No back of house is complete without knives. Slicing, chopping and dicing through prep, day after day. Cutting edge (pun intended) styles and types, find the best kitchen cutlery blade to match your food style. Choose from chef knives, Santoku knives, paring knives, bread knives, box cutters, scissors and shears and all the tools needed to keep your blades sharp and safe.
Which leads to the next item essential in every kitchen.
Cutting boards are paramount in commercial kitchens - they must stand up to the rigors of repeated use (and sanitization). Professional grade cutting boards, in various sizes and colours, will protect your counters, provide stable cutting surfaces and provide other features to ensure you meet food safety protocols. Ensure the sizes you choose fit in your sinks or dishwashers and on your counters and workstations.
Efficiently strain and drain ingredients with colanders and strainers. Depending on their use and the ingredients you regularly prep, look for colander features like footed bases to elevate for better draining and keeping off the bottom of the sink, handles for a better grip and hole size. Switching to or also having strainers on hand you can handle smaller sized ingredients. Size does matter and having a selection on hand means you can rinse delicate strawberries but also drain pasta for 100.
A spatula can have a variety of shapes. A flat, narrow, flexible metal blade (sometimes offset) is used for spreading icing. A wider, square or rectangular blade for turning foods. Or even made of rubber and used for scraping bowls while mixing. Keep in mind the temperature these kitchen hand tools will be working in. Have a selection at each workstation.
Wet and dry ingredients and prepped mixtures require proper storage to prevent contamination and minimize food waste. Match size and shape with what you are storing – a tall deep container will crush raspberries but is great for large quantities of liquids or flour. Remember the food storage lids! Other features like graduated measurements make inventory status simple.
12. Measuring cups and spoons
Every drop and grain and granule and speck counts, so ensure you are measuring properly with the right cups. A variety ensures having the correct sized cup for more accurate measurements. Wet ingredients, dry ingredients or even those tricky ingredients where you need to measure only the solids and not the liquids we have your cup. Spoon after spoon, you will be adding just the right amount to your food service creations with a choice of measuring spoons.
Time is money, so don't let the minutes tick away. With our selection of mechanical and digital timers in different sizes and multitasking timers with loud alarms, you can manage all your kitchen projects down to the second.
Whether you prefer grams or ounces for weighing, we have your scale. Precise digital portion scales to large mechanical scales to digital shipping and receiving scales, we can take a weight off your shoulders no matter how heavy.
Your kitchen needs to keep an eye on the temperature - of ovens, grills, fridges, freezers, delivered ingredients and holding temperatures. You also need to know the temperature of your foods for quality and safety. High tech to low tech there is a thermometer to meet your needs. Infrared guns, digital, high temp, low temp, floating, dials and even wipes.
Mixing, whipping and fluffing like no other kitchen tool, whisks (and whips) are essential for any commercial kitchen. The type and size you need depends on what you are making and the bowl (or pot) you are using it in. A 10” French whip won’t be effective in a 40 qt pot.
17. Squeeze Bottles
Squeeze a little or squeeze a lot with a selection of squeeze bottles. Available in various flow rates and bottle sizes, your staff will have a convenient way to dispense products well beyond just condiments. Have a selection available at cook stations and assembly stations to keep things flowing.
A serving tool but also convenient and effective for prep, dishers, also called portion control dishers or scoops are spring-loaded scoops used to portion anything from cookie and muffin dough to truffles or even mashed potatoes. A selection of various sizes, easily determined by handle colour, you will always get the perfect portion.
Separate solids from liquids with ease using skimmers. A versatile kitchen tool that can be used to remove bits and pieces from deep fryers, remove food from poaching liquids and easily scoop out perfectly cooked dumplings while staying safely away from the steam. Mesh size, handle length and bowl size should meet your kitchen’s (and ingredient’s) needs.
Serve your soups, stews, chilis, sauces and salad dressings one ladle at a time. From moving creations from pot to container or even serving bowl to scooping and spread sauces with ease, a selection of portion sizes, handle lengths, styles and materials should be at every station in your kitchen.
21. Can Openers
The only way to open a can – safely and without making a mess – is with a can opener. Choose the right type and size depending on how many cans your operation opens on a daily basis.
From hard cheeses and spices to potatoes and carrots, a selection of box graters and rasp or etching graters can get the job done. Shred or grate the perfect texture.
23. Frying Pans
From a perfectly seared tenderloin medallion to a fluffy omelette, frying pans get it done. Fry pans, also called skillets, ranging in sizes from 7" to 15.75" to ensure you get the perfect fit. The material it’s made of is an important feature to consider when you are stocking your restaurant kitchen. Between aluminum, stainless steel, non-stick and French style you can meet all your frying needs .
Peel the skin off fruits and vegetables or get whisper thin slice cheeses with a selection of hand peelers. An option of styles and ensuring both left and right-handed staff can grab what they need to get to the heart of carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and more.
25. Kitchen Carts
Restaurant kitchens are constantly moving – full pots of soup, constantly rotating stock, dirty dishes, clean dishes. Or sometimes just you need just a bit more space. Materials, sizes, number of shelves and weight capacities are key considerations. Take a load off your staff with utility carts, casters and cart accessories.
When it comes to restaurant hand tools during a slammed service or catering prep, it’s better to be looking at it than looking for it (and need to wait on the dishwasher).
Your kitchen can be big, your kitchen can be small. You can be haute cuisine chefs or novice bakers, you can run a bar or only do meal kits. But we bet, no matter who you are, you can’t live (or work) without these 25 essential kitchen smallwares.