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/ Source: TODAY
By Alessandra Bulow

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Watching chef, author and cooking show host Ina Garten make her delicious dishes from her famous Engagement Chicken to roasted vegetables can be as mesmerizing as watching the way an artist paints a portrait.

But instead of brushes, Garten uses just a few kitchen tools to create her cooking masterpieces. On Monday, Garten stopped by the TODAY kitchen to share expert tips, pro techniques and delicious recipes from her new book "Cook Like a Pro: Recipes and Tips for Home Cooks."

She also revealed that there are three kitchen items that she thinks are essential for every home cook.

Garten told TODAY Food that "a good chef's knife, a half sheet pan and a saute pan" are her three must-haves — and the editors at TODAY Food couldn't agree more! Here are our tips about what to look for when choosing these items and our top picks for each.

1. A good chef's knife

Essential for breaking down a chicken and chopping up vegetables, an excellent quality chef's knife makes it easier to get the job done quickly.

J.A. Henckels International Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife, $55, Amazon

Available at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $35 and Target for $55.

Look for a heavy knife with an 8-inch blade. The knife should be made with one long piece of metal that runs the entire length of the knife. See those three little metal dots on the handle? That's a sign of a good knife because they are keeping the black handle attached to one long blade of steel in the center. J.A. Henckels makes great quality German steel knives that are super durable and extremely reliable. One TODAY Food editor has had her chef's knife made by the company for over 10 years.

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2. A half sheet pan

The Barefoot Contessa has been teaching people how to roast vegetables on a half sheet pan since the beginning of her career, but it never gets old to see her pull them out of the oven, beautifully browned, and say "how easy is that?"

Nordic Ware Aluminum Half Sheet Pan, $14, Amazon

Available at Walmart for $10, Bed, Bath & Beyond for $15 and Sur la Table for $20.

Since a full sheet pan will not fit inside a regular home oven, a half sheet pan that measures about 13-by-18-inches is the best bet for a home cook. Even though most sheet pans look pretty much the same at first glance, there are several attributes that the best ones have. The first thing that's really important it is on heavier side. Flimsy pans will buckle under heat, shift in the oven and not cook food evenly. The second is that it should be made of aluminum. Finally, it should be safe to go under the broiler.

3. A saute pan

Garten recently shared her trick for making amazing homemade croutons using up stale bread and it wouldn't be possible without her trusty stainless steel saute pan.

All-Clad 10-inch Saute Pan, $120, Amazon

Available at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $120 and Sur la Table for $155.

Whether frying eggs, sauteeing vegetables or creating a fabulous crust on a steak, this versatile tool can do it all. TODAY Food's editors especially like All-Clad's stainless steel pans which can withstand getting heated up to 600 degrees in an oven. They also have nice long handles that make it easier to maneuver in the kitchen.

There are 8-inch and 12-inch versions of the pan, but the 10-inch saute pan is just the right size for anyone who isn't a professional chef. Bonus: stainless steel is super easy to clean!

4. A zester

Garten's not alone on this one: Chefs from Giada De Laurentiis to Nigella Lawson to Andrew Zimmern agree that a Microplane zester is essential in the kitchen.

Microplane Zester Grater, $13, Amazon

A similar one with an easy grip handle is available at Bed, Bath & Beyond for $15.

5. A Dutch oven

Last, but certainly not least, is the Dutch oven. One Shop TODAY contributor has written an entire article dedicated to her love for one of Garten's essential kitchen tools, especially during cozy, comfort-food season. "They’re not just pretty to look at — they also heat evenly, retain a steady temperature and can easily go from stovetop to oven," the editor said.

Lodge 6 Quart Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven, $60, Amazon

This is available in multiple sizes and colors from Bed Bath & Beyond starting at $89.

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