Hey, everyone! Sara and I are HOME from Pinners Conference! Thank you so much for coming to our classes (if you want to check out the outline from our Holiday Gifts class, click here) and supporting our shop–it was SO FUN to meet so many of you!
I’m kind of flip-flopping our regular posting schedule this week and posting a scoop-ish post today (just in time for Thanksgiving prep!) and I’ll post a recipe on Thursday. Today, we have a new guest contributor, Catharine. She is a culinary school grad and in addition to being a rockstar in her kitchen at home, she’s worked in many commercial kitchens as well, so she knows what she’s talking about (if you want to read more about her, scroll to the bottom of the post.) Today, she’s sharing 10 tools chefs love!
So let’s talk STUFF.
When I first started culinary school, a sharp-looking chef at the door into orientation on the first day handed me my schedule, along with a school supply…”list”.
It was 3 pages long.
As I scanned through the list, I realized hadn’t even heard of most of the stuff before. I had spent a bit of time in the industry, but it still never dawned on me that I’d need anything else but knives for culinary school. Chefs are minimalists…right? Their whites are always clean and professional kitchens are always huge and beautiful and they never swear ever. (Boy, was I wrong about that one).
So I went out and bought my way through the list, and started my classes. As time went on, I realized how awesome some of the required supplies really are. There are way too many kitchen “gadgets” out there that only have one use, and personally – they drive me crazy. (I’m specifically thinking of this and this). Don’t get me wrong, these gizmos can be really helpful at times. For me, though, if I’m going to spend my money on something, I want to make sure it has a wide variety of things I can use it for.
So, we decided to put together a little list of the best kitchen tools that chefs couldn’t live without in a professional kitchen. I find myself turning to these over and over again at home, so maybe you will too!
(Go ahead and just send this post to the person who is in charge of your Christmas presents. Done and done.)
1. Microplane: So at first glance, you’re probably like…”Well what does this do besides zest stuff?” But it does so much more! I like to grate toasted nuts on top of whipped cream, or I use it when I only want a little sprinkle of cheese on top of soup (because, let’s face it, when I grate cheese using an actual grater, I end up eating most of it. Who doesn’t?)
2. Heavy-bottomed pots and pans: I’ve been so spoiled rotten with good quality pots and pans throughout my life. So when I went off to college and bought myself a “pot” for $3 not knowing any better, I couldn’t figure out why everything was either a) burning – even if it was medium heat and b) was warped after just a few uses. It didn’t take me long to see the difference of the high quality pots and pans I used at school, vs. the ones I used at home. Heavy bottom pots are great, because they transfer the heat more evenly, and don’t dent or warp. So I chucked all of my randomly sized pots and pans that were thin and warped, and invested in 3 good quality pots (a stock sized, a medium sized, and a small), and 2 good quality pans (large and small). DONE.
3. Flavor Injector: I use this puppy to inject marinades, stocks, and juices into meat a few times a week, but you can also use it in a ton of other ways, like filling cream puffs. If you don’t like dry meat (okay, who does), you’re going to want one of these. My only tip with this particular injector is to wear oven mitts when you are using a hot liquid…I’ve burned my hand one too many times!
4. A good set of knives: Chefs use big names like Victorinox and Wüsthof for their go-to knives at work, but for me personally, I actually have this set from Chicago Cutlery for home use (it was a wedding gift). When I first opened the gift, I’ll readily admit that was a total knife snob about it. Over the years, though, I’ve realized that they are actually great knives for the price. Kate and Sara both have a set of really gorgeous knives from New West Knife Works that they basically guard with their lives. When she doesn’t want to pull them out, Kate also loves these cute and colorful guys, and for good reason–because they are awesome, too! When I need the big guns, I whip out my work set. I’d recommend going to a professional cookware shop and seeing what’s the right fit for you – some knives are pretty heavy, and I’m a small person, so I prefer a lighter knife. Regardless though, you need at least one larger, quality knife. You can scrape by with just a pairing knife (and I know many who have…the horror!), but trust me – your eyes will be opened when you get used to a chef’s knife, and you’ll never go back!
5. Knife Sharpener: Okay, I’m almost off my soap box about the whole knife thing. Knives are only good if they are sharp, so if you invest in a good set of knives, you’ll need a way to keep those babies sharp and all of the “teeth” aligned. (Ya – knives have teeth. Creepy). You can use a sharpening stone or an automatic sharpener. Stones are fun, but kinda intense, so if you’re just using the sharpener at home, you’re probably best going the automatic route. Dull knives are more dangerous than sharp knives (they slip a lot more), so it’s not a thing to really ignore. Trust me – it will make a world of difference.
6. Soft bowl scraper: Rubber spatulas are great, but I love my soft bowl scraper, especially when making dough. I can really get my hand in the bowl, dig around, and get every last drop.
7. Circle cutters: Honestly people – SO many uses. Cookies, biscuits, molds, crab or rice cakes…the list goes on and on. Sometimes, when I’m making hamburger sliders, I lay out my mixture flat, and then use these puppies to cut out the patties (kind of like you’d make sugar cookies). I find more and more uses for them all of the time. The variety of sizes is really nice, too – it gives you tons of options.
8. Immersion blender: I looooooove my immersion blender. It’s perfect for puréeing s
oups, sauces, or whatever. Sometimes I even stick it in jars of salsa or canned sauces when they are just a bit chunkier than I’d like. Voila! Perfect consistency with no extra dishes (okay, so you have to wash the stem of the blender, but you get the picture.)
9. Portion scoops: The best way to use these is for ice cream – of course. (Because ice cream is never a bad idea). However, they are perfect for lots of other uses, like scooping meatballs, cookie dough, drop biscuits, perfectly portioned mashed potatoes or rice, and the list goes on. I also use them for times like putting muffin batter in the baking tins, so I don’t have to guess every time I drop batter into the pan, and everything comes out consistently the same size.
10. Dough Cutter: I use my dough cutter just about every day. Okay, correction – I use one of my dough cutters almost every day. I have two – one for cleaning, and one for actually using to cut dough. Cleaning? Yep. They are everywhere in the professional industry, and for good reason – they allow you to get crud or spilled food off of your work area without your hands touching it. Rags are gross, paper towels are expensive. A dough cutter you buy once, doesn’t spread germs like rags do, can scrape like nobody’s business, can be thrown in the dishwasher, and lasts forever. Wins all around.
That is it, my friends! I hope I have made your life a teensy tiny bit easier. Or – grown your wish list by an absurd amount. Either or. If you have a little in your life, be sure to check out Sara’s Newborn Favorites or take your bod up a notch with these Fitness Favorites.
The first time my husband saw me, I had whipped cream all over my face, and chocolate smothered all over my chef whites. He asked me out right then and there, and he didn’t even know my name! Five beautiful years, two incredible kids, four teensy apartments, and a darling home later…he still sweeps me off my feet everyday! Prior to marriage, I was a sweaty ESL teacher in Indonesia, a dirt-covered farm hand in New Zealand, a meandering backpacker, and a hungry culinary student. I am a true lover of music, vintage fashion, classic literature, my faith, and midnight baking.