Though Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month draws to an end today, everyday is as good a time as any to learn how to cook Asian cuisine — and the right kitchen tools are a good start. We spoke to experts about cookware they recommend and found highly rated options to consider.
SKIP AHEAD Kitchen tools for preparing, cooking and serving
While shopping, keep in mind that Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent. Since various countries, regions and families have unique styles of cooking and eating, no one tool can cover it all. Thus, the list of cookware and kitchen tools below is by no means exhaustive. Rather, it can be used as a way to help you get started.
Cookware and kitchen tools for making Asian food at home
Beyond finding the right items to cook with, it’s important to learn from others, suggested Sonoko Sakai, a cooking teacher and author of “Japanese Home Cooking.” Cookbooks by AAPI-identifying individuals or specific to different Asian cuisines are one resource. But Sakai recommends attending an in-person or virtual cooking class, if possible, or finding inspiration and guidance from a professional or home cook in your community. Interacting with someone and watching them in the kitchen helps you pick up on different techniques, she said.
After talking to Sakai and other experts, we used their guidance to recommend highly rated cookware and kitchen tools for making Asian food at home, as well as those from brands we’ve previously covered in the cookware space.
Prepping Asian dishes
Victorinox Fibrox Pro Santoku Knife
Santoku knives are all purpose Japanese knives Sakai uses in her own kitchen. We feature a few different santoku knives in our guide to kitchen knives, including this option from Victorinox. The brand said it’s designed with a granton edge to prevent food from sticking to the 7-inch stainless steel blade, as well as a flat cutting edge. The knife also features an ergonomic handle that Victorinox said helps you maintain a tight grip while cutting. It has a 4.7-star average rating from over 1,300 reviews on Amazon.
Cole & Mason Mortar and Pestle
A mortar and pestle allows you to pulverize herbs and spices, turning them into pastes that can be added to Indian curries, Chinese sauces and more, experts told us. The Cole & Mason Mortar and Pestle is constructed from granite, a non-porous material that won’t absorb spices and oils, the brand said. It features an unpolished interior and pestle tip, which Cole & Mason said makes for more effective grinding. To clean the mortar and pestle, you must hand wash it, and the brand recommends seasoning it before you use it with white rice, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. Cole & Mason’s Mortar and Pestle has a 4.8-star average rating from over 170 reviews on Target.
Instead of mincing ingredients with a knife, Sakai recommended investing in a Japanese grater. It features sharp teeth that you use to grate ingredients like turmeric, garlic, ginger, wasabi and more. The grater is attached to a tray that collects the finely sliced food, including all the juices that would otherwise be left on your cutting board. Sakai also said Japanese graters allow you to grate ingredients horizontally, which she finds to be sturdier compared to grating vertically with other tools.
This grater is similar in style to the one Sakai described. It comes with two stainless steel grater attachments — one course and one fine — that you snap onto a storage container. As you grate food, the container catches it. The grater also comes with a lid. It has a 4.5-star average from over 50 reviews on Amazon.
Cooking Asian dishes
Made In Carbon Steel Wok
For those interested in learning how to stir fry, a wok can be particularly useful. “The deep round shape of the wok creates a natural shape perfect for stir frying ingredients at a high temperature,” said Daniel Su, an executive chef for hospitality company SBE’s Disruptive Restaurant Group. “It gives the dishes a unique flamed, smoky flavor different from a standard pan.”
Diana Kuan, a cooking teacher and author of “Red Hot Kitchen,” specifically recommends buying a carbon steel wok. Carbon steel develops a nonstick coating similar to cast iron over time, but it’s lighter, making it easier to maneuver in your kitchen. Carbon steel heats up and cools down faster compared to stainless steel, which Kuan said is easier for home cooks to maintain. When shopping for a wok, Kuan also suggested buying one with a flat bottom. Some woks used in restaurants have round bottoms, but Kuan said you need to pair it with a specific stovetop most people do not have in their homes. Woks with round bottoms can be used on stovetops most people have in their homes, however. Kuan said you should look for a wok with a single long handle rather than two shorter ones — she finds these easier to move ingredients around.
Made In’s Carbon Steel Wok checks off all the boxes Kuan recommended we look for when shopping. The brand said it’s oven-safe up to 1,200 degrees Fahrenheit and compatible with all stovetops. It’s 12.5 inches in diameter and the Made In said you should season it before use. The wok has a 4.8-star average rating from over 2,900 reviews on Made In.
TableCraft Wok Spatula
While you can use any utensil to toss food in your wok, Kuan said wok spatulas work well. They’re designed with a rounded edge instead of the straight edge on Western spatulas, which better fits the shape of the wok. The spatulas help you turn ingredients in the wok and scrape up food that gets stuck at the bottom.
This stainless steel wok spatula from TableCraft is 14.5 inches long. It features a bamboo handle and is dishwasher-safe, according to the brand, and has earned a 4.6-star average rating from over 1,700 reviews on Amazon.
All-Clad d5 Stainless-Steel Nonstick Fry Pan
In addition to a wok, a fry pan will come in handy while making many different Asian cuisines. If you’re stir frying vegetables in the wok, you can cook meat or fish, for example, in the fry pan. Anastacia Song, also an executive chef for SBE’s Disruptive Restaurant Group, recommended All-Clad cookware. She said the brand’s offers quality, consistent products and that the cookware is standard in the culinary industry. All-Clad’s d5 Stainless-Steel Nonstick Fry Pan features flared sides, which the brand said makes it easy to flip and toss food, as well as pour ingredients out. It’s made from stainless steel and aluminum, and the pan is compatible with all cooktops as well as oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the brand. All-Clad said the pan is also built with heat-resistant stainless steel handles. It comes in sizes ranging from 8 inches to 14 inches and has a 4.6-star average rating from over 430 reviews on Amazon.
Mister Kitchen 10-inch Bamboo Steamer
Bamboo steamer sets can come in handy when you’re making dumplings, steamed vegetables, fish, meat and more across cuisines, Kuan said. The steamers usually come with two tier baskets for you to place ingredients in and a lid. You place the steamer in a wok or pot with water, and they’re available in many different sizes, allowing you to purchase one that fits your cookware.
Mister Kitchen offers a 10-inch bamboo steamer. It comes with two tier baskets and a lid, just as Kuan described. The steamer also comes with 10 reusable liners to place at the base of each tier to help prevent food from sticking to the bamboo. Chopsticks and a sauce dish are also included. To clean the steamer, you must hand wash it, the brand said. The bamboo steamer has a 4.5-star average rating from over 1,300 reviews on Amazon.
Instant Zest Rice Cooker
“Most people in Asia that eat rice every day own an electric rice cooker,” Sakai said. It takes the guesswork out of how to cook different types of rice from short grain to long grain, or brown to white. Rice cookers come with different functions that adjust the appliance’s settings for you depending on what type of rice you’re making.
Instant Pot’s Zest Rice Cooker is featured in our guide to the countertop appliance, and it’s a more affordable option compared to other models — some high-end rice cookers can cost upwards of $500. The Instant Zest offers six customizable programs to cook white and brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal and steamed food like fish and vegetables. Its inner pot is dishwasher-safe and features a non-stick ceramic coating to prevent food from sticking, the brand said. The rice cooker has a 4.6-star average rating from over 8,500 reviews on Amazon and comes with a steamer tray, rice measuring cup and rice spoon. You can purchase it in two sizes: 8-cup and 10-cup.
Le Creuset Round Dutch Oven
Sakai often teaches those who attend her cooking classes how to make rice over the stovetop. She recommends doing so in a heavy bottom sauce pan or preferably, a Dutch oven. Sakai said to make sure the Dutch oven you purchase has a tight fitting lid to help trap steam inside, which is important to the rice cooking process. Duth ovens are available in a variety of sizes, something to keep in mind especially if you plan on using it to cook rice. Rice expands in volume while cooking, so you should use a Dutch oven that leaves room for it to do so.
We featured the cast iron Le Creuset Round Dutch Oven in our guide to this type of cookware. It’s available in sizes ranging from 2 quarts to 13 ¼ quarts and comes with a tight-fitting lid that helps circulate steam and return moisture back to food, according to the brand. Le Creuset said the Dutch oven is compatible with all stovetops and is oven-safe up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. It has a 4.9-star average from over 1,100 reviews on Amazon.
Serving Asian dishes
Material The Bap Bowl
In some Asian cuisines, it’s traditional to serve rice in small bowls, separate from a plate or larger bowl with the rest of the meal, experts told us. Measuring 4.5 inches wide and 2.25 inches tall, The Bap Bowl is a new product from Material and it’s about the size experts recommended looking for. Material said “bap” is the Korean word for rice, and the brand partnered with Hye Rin Yang, a Korean ceramicist and founder of Soil Baker, to launch these bowls. They come in a set of two and are available in two colors: Dune and Grotto. The Bap Bowl is dishwasher- and microwave-safe, Material said.
Hiware Asian Soup Spoons
Compared to the shallow bowl on western-style spoons typically used in the United States, Asian soup spoons feature a larger, deeper bowl. This allows them to hold more liquid and noodles, vegetables, meat or other ingredients featured in soups. Kuan said she finds Asian soup spoons easier to use overall.
The bowl at the end of these Hiware soup spoons can hold 1 ounce of liquid, the brand said. The spoon features a notch that helps you lean it against the edge of the bowl, and the end of the spoon has a hook you can place on the rim of your bowl to prevent it from slipping when you put it down. The soup spoons are dishwasher-safe, Hiware said. They have a 4.7-star average rating from over 2,800 reviews on Amazon.
Snow Peak Titanium Chopsticks
Reusable chopsticks won’t splinter like disposable wood ones, Kuan said. And while you can purchase them in materials from plastic to bamboo, she noted that stainless steel chopsticks are commonly used when eating and cooking Korean cuisine.
Snow Peak’s offer chopsticks made from titanium alloy, which makes them strong and rigid, the brand said. The chopsticks come with a carrying case and must be hand washed. They have a 4.4-star average rating from 27 reviews on Snow Peak.
Crate & Barrel Mini Black Bowl
Dipping sauces and other condiments that typically complement Asian dishes are usually served in small side dishes, Kuan said. Crate & Barrel’s Mini Black Bowl is made from stoneware and is dishwasher- and microwave-safe, according to the brand. Crate & Barrel also it’s oven-safe up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The mini bowl has a 4.9-star average rating from over 300 reviews on Crate & Barrel.
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