Thomas Keller Calls This Kitchen Tool The Foundation Of All Food Prep

Great cooks, whether home enthusiasts or masters of Michelin-starred restaurants, are particular about their tools. While one may extol the virtues of the latest and flashiest sous-vide cooker, another might wax eloquent about their favorite chef's knife. The legendary Thomas Keller, whose Napa Valley-based French Laundry and New York-based Per Se have both earned three prestigious Michelin stars, explains his must-have kitchen equipment in material published for his Masterclass.

Keller's list includes much of what you'd expect, ranging from essential knives, like a chef's knife, paring knife, a long carving knife and a serrated bread knife, to more esoteric items, like a digital scale and a pastry card or bench scraper. Cast iron skillet, universal lid, and a range of sizes of sauté pans... everything a serious cook will need is on Keller's list. But there's a single item he calls "the foundation for all of your prep (and some parts of the cooking process, like resting meat)."

What is this humble piece of equipment?

It's the cutting board. Many people grew up with a single cutting board in the kitchen, used for everything from fish to carrot sticks. We have since learned that it's safer and more palatable to use certain cutting boards for certain purposes. For example, Ben Chapman, NC State food safety researcher, recommends using plastic cutting boards for meat and wooden cutting boards for everything else, like vegetables and bread. He also recommends cleaning those plastic cutting boards in the dishwasher to take advantage of super hot water as a sanitizer, replacing a cutting board when the grooves become too deep. He explains, "The more grooves it has, and the bigger they are, the more area is available for trapping moisture and giving bacteria a place to proliferate."

There's one improvement you can make on Keller's cherished cutting board, though, and that's to add a non-slip cutting board mat. These mats help prevent cutting boards from moving around while the cutting board is in use. They can be trimmed down to fit any sized cutting board and they are dishwasher safe. If Thomas Keller contends that a cutting board is a foundational item, it's worth investing in a few good ones.