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Professional Chefs Recommend Five Key Kitchen Tools You Might Not Have But Definitely Need
At least two you definitely don't have.
Whether you’re a total kitchen novice or an avid home cook with lots of know-how, you’re not serving up dozens or hundreds of delicious plates all day long. (Which is fine! Neither am I!) Professional chefs get a lot of time back when they optimize in the kitchen.
So in the spirit of improving my own kitchen tool library, I talked to several chefs—each with impressive resumes and who are working today in professional kitchens around the country—to find out what simple kitchen tools they think are completely crucial to their work kitchens but aren’t the sort of things that you may already have at home. These tools are what they use all the time, and recommend to any home cook, beginner or total in-home pro.
Anna Clare Frumes, manager and chef at The Borland House Bed & Breakfast says a Danish bread whisk (sometimes called a Dutch whisk) is an underrated tool for bakers. These whisks are basically just wooden handles with a couple of metal hoops, originally designed for the bread-making process, but with applications for so much more.
“Trying to perfectly mix doughs and batters without over mixing is essential for perfect baked goods,” Frumes told me. “This whisk blends any flour and wet ingredients very easily and quickly without a huge mess. It’s also super easy to clean. Try this for anything you’d normally use a wooden spoon for and you won’t look back.”
“Most of the time you think [if] your knife is dull, it just needs honing,” says Kevin Barry, in-house chef for Preg Apetit! says, but in actuality, “the honing steel should be used before you use your knife every time.”
Taking an extra step every time you use your knife might not sound like a time-saver, but if you make it part of your cooking routine a few quick passes with that honing steel will straighten out the edge and improve a blade’s cutting ability. Barry says he simply “runs the blade of the knife from bottom to top at a slight angle on the honing steel a few times” and he’s good to go.
A quick primer to remember why a honing steel works: a sharpener removes metal on the blade to create a new V at the edge; a honer makes sure that V is pointing straight up and down.
“There’s nothing more important to a chef than a good knife set,” admonishes Wayne Sharpe, executive chef for Jrk!, a modernized, health-conscious Jamaican restaurant. You still have to take care of a good knife, but a quality one will stay sharper longer—and hopefully rest better in the hand.
Chef Wayne recommends the Kutara knife sets to anyone who is interested in the culinary arts, noting “the sharpness, the glare off the blade, the firmness of the handle” all provide an added confidence as he cooks. Kutara sets are available in five, eight, or ten pieces, and are crafted to get you a perfect cut every time. For those who are ready to upgrade their knife sets but can’t quite swing the Kutara prices, this set is similar and highly reviewed, at a more casual-cook budget.
Anyone who cooks is likely to have a cutting board somewhere in the kitchen. But be honest: is your cutting board a beat-up old piece of plastic covered in knife gouges? If so, it might be well past time to upgrade. Chef Erik Pettersen, owner and executive chef of Evo Italian recommends any cook has a cutting board they feel good about, as it’s such an oft-used and important kitchen tool. Make sure it’s food safe, and opt for wood (especially hard wood like maple) over plastic whenever possible. This is important because despite the nature of plastic making it slightly easier to sanitize, sturdy wood boards hold up better without getting grooves, which is where bacteria ultimately clings. He notes these qualities “will save you time and provide you with a consistent protected surface for cutting safely.”
Yes, you have a spatula in your kitchen. But I’ll bet most of you don’t have a cookie spatula. And that’s where Anna Frumes says you’re making a big mistake. She calls this tool “the easiest and least expensive way to change your kitchen game,” and with praise like that it’s hard not to be convinced. These spatulas have a unique shape and size—yes, optimized for lifting cookies off a tray—but in practice, good for anything from omelets to fish, scallops, pie, and just about anything you can put your chef mind to, says Frumes. It’s the only spatula used in the professional kitchen she runs, and that’s about all I need to know to go buy one immediately.