Have you ever wondered why your finished culinary masterpiece may not look quite like the reigning Iron Chef’s winning dish? While you may have a while to go before entering your submission to challenge Chef Morimoto, there is an easy way to instantly amp up your chef skills. It may sound way too obvious, but having the right tools of the trade can make a big impact on your final product. Like all professional artists, Chef’s understand the value of investing in quality tools to reimagine what is possible.
6 Chef “Must Have” Tools
How is an apron going improve my cooking, you ask? It isn’t; but it will protect you from serious mishaps when working with some fun stuff, like open flames. It’s hard to stay still and focused when doing detailed sugar work, if you’re worried about a sugar bubble bursting and sticking to your skin like napalm. I’m not talking about a thin, decorative waist apron. The kind of apron I recommend is a bib apron that protects chest to knee with a dense, fire retardant cotton or poly. The more ambitious the project, the more likely you’ll want to wear an apron designed for professional use.
Almost every chef’s knife collection includes a chef knife and a bread knife. The utility knife is what you might call an unsung hero. A smaller and lighter version of a chef’s knife, the utility knife is perfect for the types of jobs a chef’s knife would butcher. This versatile knife is perfect for peeling, seeding, slicing, scoring, and even food sculpting.
Speaking of knives, a Saya is a must have when it comes to protecting a chef’s most precious tool. Unlike plastic or generic covers, a Saya is usually custom made to fit your exact knife. This is important, as it prevents the friction and blade wear typically experienced when using other covers. Nothing will degrade your knife faster than having to constantly straighten the blade or sharpen out nicks.
You may be surprised to know that when asked what the most dangerous thing in a kitchen is, the response is almost always, “a dull knife”. Dull knives not only slip and slide on food more easily, they also require you to use more pressure when cutting, thereby making injuries more serious. A well sharpened knife will easily cut through its mark with little movement or slippage. Now a sharpening stone is not a honing blade, which is used mostly to straighten a blade. This is a separate piece of equipment used to shave the blade and make it sharper. For more information on the difference between a honing blade and sharpening stone, click here.
Thermometers are not just a great way to avoid hacking into a piece of meat to see how “done” it is. They also provide the ability to be incredibly precise when working with sugars or tempering chocolate. Rather that eyeballing when it looks melted or incorporated, you can use a thermometer to be sure. After all, the culinary field is one of science, and precision is the name of the game. You can also use a thermometer to make sure your oven or refrigerator is working properly. Many chefs use it to make sure a hot item has cooled enough to be put into a refrigerator or freezer. There’s a reason most chef coats have a sleeve pocket just to hold one of these.
Cast Iron Skillet
Aside from acidic foods, the cast iron skillet is a great option for almost any type of cooking. If you only had one cooking pan in your kitchen, it should be the cast iron skillet. The cast iron skillet provides a great even temperature and is a great heat conductor. There is no better pan to get a beautiful sear on a piece of meat or fish. You can fry an egg, crisp up bacon, and do flapjacks all in this one pan. It’s also a great vessel for some baking. Not to mention it’s easy to clean and you don’t have to worry about Teflon flakes in your food. And unlike other incredibly versatile pans, cast iron skillets are pretty inexpensive.
Whether you’re a seasoned vet or just starting to explore your culinary skills, adding these items to your professional toolbox will serve you well for years to come. Discover more must haves from the most renown chefs in the country.