People always tell my wife she is so lucky to be married to a chef. They seem to think I throw together high end meals nightly, that we eat like kings. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Not because I don’t want to, but there is a huge difference between cooking in a professional kitchen and your home kitchen.
That being said, I do cook at home. The meals are simpler, and while I have to do my own dishes, my 4 year old gets to help, which is actually more entertaining than helpful, but still worth it. I don’t have all the cool toys and equipment I have in my professional kitchen, but I wouldn’t want to try cooking at home without these items.
Citrus Juicer Nothing brightens a dish or a component of a dish quite like fresh lemon juice. I use lemon juice much the same way I use salt, to enhance the flavor of a dish, therefore, I go through a lot of lemon juice. You can also buy one of the upright, lever arm presses. They do a great job extracting as much juice as possible but are a little bulkier to handle and store.
Buerre Mixer Pureeing is an essential part of my repertoire. I really don’t use butter or cream for sauces because I want my food lighter. I prefer to use reductions, juices and purees. A good quality buerre mixer (hand blender) keeps me from having to clean extra dishes like a blender, plus it’s mobile, I can go from pot to pot with it.
Chinois Thomas Keller may have said it first, but it’s something every chef worth his salt already knew. EVERYTHING gets passed through a chinois, a fine mesh strainer that will remove the tiniest of particles from your soup/sauce/whatever. I use it for everything from stocks to hollandaise and everywhere in-between. They are not cheap, but well worth the price if quality is your first concern.
Wooden Spoon I use wooden spoons for a couple of reasons. First being I like the feel of it in my hand. It’s easier to handle rapidly than a large metal spoon and the second reason is it does much less damage to your cookware. There is also something ‘organic’ about using a wooden spoon.
High Temp Rubber Spatula Chefs hate to waste anything, a flexible rubber spatula lets you squeeze that one last portion of sauce out of your pan or bowl.
Digital Scale If you write down your recipes or cook from recipes, a digital scale is the most accurate way to portion your ingredients. Much more accurate than volume measurement, it will take some getting used to but definitely a must have for me in all my kitchens.
Mortar and Pestle As convenient as a spice/coffee grinder is, they are difficult to keep clean and invariably it’s easy to contaminate spices with remnants from your grinder. A mortar and pestle allows you to pulverize your spices with less heat to affect the oils in your spices, it’s easy to clean and is great for herbs as well.
Ricer (Food Mill) Not just for potatoes, a ricer is great for making smooth purees out of tomatoes, squash, and other tender vegetables whether for use in a soup, sauce or even on their own.
These items definitely are not necessary, but they do make the job a little easier. I would guess I use at least 4 of the 8 for every meal I cook at home. What are the ‘must haves’ in your kitchen?