Everyone has seen the late-night infomercials hawking must-have kitchen gadgets that will slap-chop, air-fry, and squeeze-dry your food in ways you never imagined. Before you add “the next big thing” to your shopping cart for your foodie-friend’s stocking stuffer this year, think about whether a professional chef would ever be caught dead using it? Through roughly two centuries of professional restaurant cooking, even though kitchens have gotten shinier and smarter, very little has changed in terms of equipment that a chef relies on every day that you would use at home. I have used knives and ovens worth more than a year’s salary, aerated foamy sauces with repurposed aquarium bubblers and immersion-circulated espumas of all kinds, but I could do-away with all of them without a tear, as long as I have these essentials:
- Victorinox chefs knife 8-10”, Victorinox pastry knife, cheap paring knife
- Stainless steel means it will hold up to household use, and the occasional trip through the dishwasher, classic shape and handle have made it the go-to for years. Get a simple pull through sharpener and use it every week or so to keep the edges in good shape.
- Plastic, thick enough that it won’t warp in a hot dishwasher. Avoid wood or absorbent materials that can potentially carry cross-flavours or split when soaking wet.
- Always use a damp towel, or wet paper towel underneath your cutting board to keep it secure
- Lodge Cast Iron, 9” or larger. The best tool for searing and roasting meats to get “restaurant” quality at home. Heavy-metal acts as a heat sink, allowing great browning from any type of stove, campfire, or BBQ. When buying pans in general, weight or heft is a decent indicator of quality. Never buy a pan with a plastic handle – so many great recipes, and almost all restaurant cooking, starts with a pan on the stove, which is then slid into a hot oven to finish. Metal pans need metal handles for this reason, use a dry cloth to protect your hand from the heat!
- Don’t waste money on expensive non-stick pans, as the coating has a limited shelf life, no matter if it was a $30 or $300 pan. Get something cheap and cheerful (with a metal handle) and replace it the second you notice the surface deteriorating (black bits coming off, food sticking). There’s great satisfaction in frying the perfect egg or piece of delicate fish in a fresh non-stick pan!
- Zest your citrus, or shave mountains of parmesan onto your pasta. Indispensable for bar or kitchen.
- Pro chefs exclusively use these side-peelers, as they are ergonomic and fast. Resist the urge to get the soft-touch handle, or the cute shape with serrated teeth, and trust the opinion of the folks who peel 50lbs of carrots or potatoes at a time.
- Really inexpensive way to get precision cuts, especially for salads, garnishes, and anywhere you want even cuts. A real force-multiplier for prepping vegetables for dinner; but watch your fingers as these have caused more cuts & scars to even experienced chefs than any other piece of equipment.
- Only two needed, a silicone “spoonula” for sauces, liquids, & non-stick pans, and a sharp fish-spatula for turning proteins on the heat or scraping.
- The king of kitchen spoons. Made by a chef, for chefs. The most used tool on a daily basis for a lot of pro-cooks.
- It also will improve your cooking dramatically to pick up a whole pile of cheap spoons from a dollar store and keep out next to your stove in a cup for tasting what you are cooking. Taste frequently, before and after you add seasoning so you can taste what is happening in the pan before it gets to the plate. Have a lot of spoons on hand to keep tasting, and avoid gross double-dipping.
- The queen of kitchen scissors. Skip all the specialty shears for poultry, fish etc. These babies will cut through lobster shells or chicken bones and still be delicate enough to snip tender micro-greens.
- Best way to touch and turn steaks and sizzling bacon in the pan. Forget the locking hinge, coated tip, or inverse tweezer types and get a professional sprung pair. Should feel a solid in your hand, and is very satisfying to “click” together.
Nothing on the list is over $50, and most will last a lifetime of heavy professional or home use. Buy it all, clean out your utensil drawer, and start cooking like a chef!
We wish you great food, great health, and great times together soon.
Director of Culinary Operations