the foodie, rows of gleaming electric meat smokers,
mandolin slicers and sous vide machines call out like a
siren song, but many kitchen gadgets that promise to
make food prep easier or deliver restaurant-quality
results end up in the back of the kitchen drawer.
professional chefs can and do use some of those machines
in their restaurant kitchens, many professional chefs
say serious home cooks would be surprised to know they
lean heavily on just a couple of key tools and use them
in multiple ways.
me a lot of gadgets and tools are created as a
replacement for cooking skills to help a home cook. Ö
If you want to be chef-y, you need to learn to cook like
a chef, not buy the tools that you think will make you a
chef," said Jonathan Deutsch, professor of culinary
arts and food science at Drexel University.
Acheson, chef, author and judge on TV show "Top
Chef," concurred that many serious home cooks havenít
explored the versatility of what they already own.
you want to up your game, use the tools in your kitchen
for what they can be used for," he said.
serious home cooks looking to invest in equipment, chefs
recommended four key tools.
cooks may have a multitude of knives, but the chefís
knife is the workhorse of the kitchen, said Kevin
Schrimmer, chef instructor at Kendall College.
chefís knives can replace a multitude of gadgets, such
as garlic presses, peelers and food processors, said
Brian Frakes, executive chef of The Pfister Hotel in
some time at a store that specializes in cutlery to try
different sizes and styles, Deutsch said, and consider
taking knife-skills classes.
really about what fits right in the hand, whatís
comfortable. Most people get serious about cooking and
buy a 10-inch chefís knife, and itís ungainly
because their hands are small," he said.
said the right knife makes a world of difference."
Youíre trying to cut tomatoes with a crappy knife, itís
going to make your life much more difficult than it
needs to be," Frakes said. "The thing that
changed my life, and Iíve had a lot of good knives,
was my Michel Bras knife. Ö It stays sharp
brands recommended by the chefs included Korin on the
high end, and Victorinox and Mercer for frugal foodies.
all knives dull from use, making chopping a chore. Lisa
McManus, executive tasting and testing editor at Americaís
Test Kitchen, said cooks usually put off taking their
knives to be sharpened or do so rarely.
theyíll get some fancy whetstone that they feel like
they donít really know how to use," she said.
"Get a good simple manual sharpener that lets you
touch up your knives in a few seconds and go back to
choice is the Chefís Choice Pronto Manual Diamond Hone
Asian Knife Sharpener.
was a revelation when I finally used a truly sharp
knife. And now I canít go back to dull knives,"
or cast-iron cookware
raved about the heat retention and even cooking surfaces
of stainless steel or cast-iron cookware. In the
stainless steel category, every chef interviewed said
cooks who can afford it should choose the All-Clad
brand. Cast iron cookware ó whether its premium pots
by Staub or Le Creuset, or more budget-friendly
companies like Lodge Manufacturing ó is the alternate
All-Clad Stainless Tri-Ply skillet really changed my
life ó you can do anything at all in that thing. Aside
from the usual frying and sauteeing, itís also great
for baking ó we bake pot pies, fruit pies and more in
it ó and even roasting," McManus said.
manufacturers make a combination skillet-Dutch oven,
which gives cooks two versatile pans in one.
one piece of equipment I canít live without is my
8-quart round enameled cast iron Dutch oven. Itís
incredibly versatile. I use it to bake bread and
brownies, pop popcorn, braise meats, cook one-pot-meals
like stew, steam rice, bake casseroles, deep fry, make
jam and jelly, and Iíve even used it camping,"
said Heather Terhune, executive chef at Tre Rivali in
foodies might seek out cast iron pans from defunct cast
iron manufacturer Griswold, which could increase a
"cool" quotient in the kitchen, Frakes said.
Schrimmer said beat-up Griswold pans found in secondhand
shops are worth buying and taking to get refinished.
home cooks know that a thermometer is a must-have.
McManus said everyone on the Americaís Test Kitchen
testing team voted for Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4.
youíre cooking a lot, and cooking a lot of meats or
things where you need to know the temperature for
precision, invest in something like Thermapen. They are
amazingly fast thermometers, amazingly accurate. Itís
a really simple design that is bulletproof," he