How to identify names & functions of kitchen utensils

Updated March 21, 2017

Learning what different kitchen utensils are named is not hard. New cooks can start becoming familiar with the names and functions of these tools by studying the pictures in a kitchen store catalogue or website. In naming kitchen utensils, it is important to know what the utensil's function is, what material the utensil is made from and what kind of food the utensil is designed for. While you can set up a basic kitchen using just a few utensils, most cooks rely on many tools.

Match the kitchen utensils you need to identify with pictures of similar items in the kitchen catalogue or website. The sizes, shapes, materials and colours of the utensils you have may differ from the pictures you find in the catalogue, but by comparing the two you will be able to sort your utensils into three simple categories that will help you identify their names and functions. Your categories should be sharp utensils, utensils for combining ingredients and utensils for separating ingredients.

Name sharp kitchen utensils by their function. The utensil that removes the thin outer skin from potatoes and carrots is a potato peeler. The utensil that grates cheese or vegetables is a grater. A serrated bread knife slices bread and tomatoes; a small bladed paring knife peels fruits and vegetables; a carving knife cuts up turkeys and joints of meat.

Identify kitchen utensils that combine ingredients like rolling pins, spoons and spatulas using a phrase that begins with an adjective describing what the utensil is made from (e.g., wood, silicone, metal) and ends with a noun that describes its function (e.g., rolling pin, spoon, spatula). Wooden spoons are used to stir, blend and combine ingredients before and during cooking. Rubber spatulas are used to scrape cool mixtures out of bowls and pans; use silicone spatulas with hot foods.

Label kitchen utensils that separate ingredients with a phrase that starts with the kind of food they are meant to be used on followed by the function the utensil performs. For example, an egg separator separates an egg white from an egg yolk. An "apple corer" is inserted into a whole apple to remove just the centre core. A lemon zester separates the flavour-rich outer skin of a lemon from the bitter white pith on the inside. A tea strainer is a small wire mesh basket into which you pour brewed tea to remove the leaves from the beverage. Experienced cooks often use a kitchen utensil that is designed for one task to perform other tasks, but the name by which these utensil are called is based on its original purpose.


Organise your kitchen utensils by hanging them up where they are easily reached when cooking or by storing them in a revolving caddie on a counter.


Do not use kitchen utensils that contain lead, BPA or rust. Wash all kitchen utensils as well as the surfaces used in food preparation thoroughly to avoid introducing bacterias into your food through cross-contamination.

Things You'll Need

  • Kitchen store catalogue
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About the Author

Lesley Barker, director of the Bolduc House Museum, authored the books "St. Louis Gateway Rail—The 1970s," published by Arcadia, and the "Eye Can Too! Read" series of vision-related e-books. Her articles have appeared in print and online since the 1980s. Barker holds a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from Washington University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Webster University.