If you take good care of your kitchen tools—think cookware, electric appliances, gadgets, and cooking tools—it's obvious you'll extend their lifespan (and by taking good care of them, we don't mean cramming just about anything that will fit into your dishwasher). But most kitchen tools, except maybe grandma's cast-iron skillet, aren't meant to last generations and will need to be replaced eventually. That's where this helpful guide comes in.
"For a majority of kitchen tools, when you need to replace them depends on your usage and upkeep," says Tracy Wilk, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. But we're here to say it's also totally fine to upgrade when you simply want a cooler model with more features, especially when it comes to electric appliances. Here's looking at you, past-its-prime mini food processor.
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Keep reading for advice from chefs and other kitchen professionals so you can learn exactly when it's time to replace some of your most frequently used kitchen tools.
These are essential in any home kitchen, especially if you love to cook foods like eggs, but nonstick pans also have a short life span, notes Qi Ai, chef de cuisine at Travelle at The Langham, Chicago. "When your Teflon nonstick pans start to show a lot of scratches, or when your food starts to stick more than usual, it is time for a change," Ai says. "Beyond just the annoying factor of having to spend extra time scrubbing your pans clean, scratched pans can actually start to leach harmful chemicals." she adds. In other words, if you notice any scratching or peeling, it's time to get a new nonstick pan ASAP.
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Stainless steel pots and pans
"This is one of the most durable cookware options out there," says Jeff Malkasian, president of Clipper Corporation, which makes Viking Culinary products. "I know people who still cook on stainless steel cookware they bought over 50 years ago."
Any water spots or discoloration due to heat on your stainless steel pans shouldn't impact their ability to cook food since those marks are usually only on the surface, but if a handle on your cookware vessel comes loose, that's a different story. "If you can't tighten it, look into a new one that has handles riveted or welded to the vessel," Malkasian advises.
But how do you know when it's time to take the plunge and purchase a new blender? If you buy an inexpensive blender and try to mix things that are too thick for it to handle, the motor can burn out quickly. If your blender is leaking from the bottom, struggling to blend, or emitting a burning smell, you know it's time to get a new one. "Investing in a high-quality blender, such as a Vitamix, should last a lifetime," Tubero adds.
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"The upkeep on these is fairly simple, but eventually they will just stop working," says Wilk. You may notice your electric kettle is starting to go when it begins to take longer to heat up, or not heat up at all. But generally speaking, as long as you take good care of your kettle and remember to clean it well, it should last for several years.
The main culprit that can shorten the lifespan of your toaster? Crumbs. "These can eventually cause a toaster to not function well, because they aren't the easiest to clean," notes Wilk. Many toasters do have trays you can remove to dump out crumbs, but some can still get stuck inside and impact your toaster's ability to work properly.
So when is it your toaster's time to go? If your appliance is toasting unevenly, taking a lot longer than usual, or showing signs of rust, it's a good time to upgrade. Many newer toasters have a lot of fun and useful new features—such as this model with an LED screen and a memory function to save your toast settings—so investing in a new toaster every few years can upgrade your cooking routine in more ways than one.
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"If you are careful with washing and always make sure the pieces are dry before putting them away, you can keep your food processor for many years," says Wilk. To keep the blade on your food processor as sharp as possible, Wilk recommends always washing it by hand. However, if your blade seems dull and isn't chopping or grinding as efficiently as it had been, it's likely time to invest in a new appliance.
OK, so this appliance doesn't typically need to be upgraded that often, but there are so many new coffee makers out there with all the bells and whistles, it's tempting to want to swap yours out on a regular basis. You should also consider getting a new coffee maker if you notice changes in how your java tastes. "You may want to get a new one if you notice your coffee isn't as flavorful as you want it to be," Wilk says.
If you suspect that your coffee isn't as bold as it once was, try descaling solutions to clean your coffee machine first, and see if that gets your cup of Joe back up to par. If not, consider purchasing one of these machines for your kitchen.
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"This is an indispensable tool for grating things like garlic, ginger, and aged cheese, but one downside to a microplane is that it can't be sharpened," says Kristen Hall, executive pastry chef and co-owner of The Essential and Bandit Pâtisserie in Birmingham, Ala. "It's time to replace yours when it starts to become dull. It should always be razor sharp," she adds. If you find that your ingredients take more pressure to grate or are slipping on the surface of your microplane, that's a telltale sign it needs to be replaced.
Wooden cooking tools
Who doesn't love a great wooden spoon? "These are perfect for stirring long-simmered sauces and soups, and give us all the warm and cozy feelings of nostalgia," says Hall. However, you should replace any wooden tool—including wooden rolling pins—as soon as it begins to crack or warm. "Those cracks and crevices can hold onto food and bacteria," Hall points out.
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The same advice for wooden tools holds true here. "When you start to notice your rubber spatulas breaking or cracking, let them go," advises Kelsey Barnard Clark, chef and owner at Eat KBC in Dothan, Ala. "You don't even want to know the germs hiding in those crevices."
We all know a dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp one, because dull knives can lead to potential slips and cuts. "While knives can usually be sharpened rather than replaced, if the handle on yours has worn out, or if sharpening techniques are no longer working, it's time to replace your knife," says Pietro Aletto, executive chef at Loreto Italian Kitchen & Bar in Brooklyn, N.Y. He recommends investing in a top-quality knife (instead of an inexpensive one), which can easily last over a decade if it's kept in good condition.
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"These handy, inexpensive gadgets are similar to razors—after so many uses, they just get dull and need to be trashed," says Clark. If you're looking for a vegetable peeler that boasts long-lasting sharpness, Clark recommends the Kuhn Rikon peeler, which she notes will get the job done.