Home chefs often make the mistake of filling their kitchens with the latest tech gadgets and “As Seen on TV” offerings. In reality, all that’s needed to make restaurant-quality food at home are a few choice, precision tools — many of which are often overlooked. Sometimes the simplest tool in the kitchen can mean the difference between success and failure and edible and inedible. To find out which tools every home chef should have, we asked four top chefs from different cuisines and cooking styles, as well as one sommelier, what they couldn’t work without.
Matthew Rudofker, Executive Chef at Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003 | momofuku.com
Chef Rudofker became executive chef at Momofuku Ssäm Bar in 2013. Before that, he studied under Cornelius Gallagher at Oceana and Shea Gallante at Cru. Momofuku Ssäm Bar opened in 2006 as part of the David Chang empire and serves an inventive menu that is always evolving.
Gesshin Sharpening Stones:
“Having fancy kitchen tools is not what’s most important; you need to understand your tools and know how to maintain them. This is especially true for knives. I’ve owned well over 100 knives throughout my career and have learned that a true understanding of how to care for your tools is what takes their performance to the next level.”
“A cake tester is a great, multipurpose precision tool that allows you to check the internal temperatures of proteins, gauge the texture of vegetables as they are cooking, and, if it’s your thing, check if your cake is done. An added bonus: it may be one of the least expensive tools you can equip your kitchen with.”
Rare Tea Company:
“A kitchen can be a high-stress environment and one thing that I find that can help me calm down and refocus is warm tea. If you want some of the best and freshest teas, talk to Henrietta, founder of Rare Tea Company.”
A Good Metric Scale:
“Ditch cups and tablespoons. Instead, embrace the metric system when cooking. It’s all about grams and ounces when it comes to cooking. You will have far more precision in your cooking. Trust me.”
Jansen Chan, Director of Pastry Arts at International Culinary Center
462 Broadway New York, NY 10013 | internationalculinarycenter.com
After studying architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and working briefly in that field, Chan left architecture behind to follow his dream of becoming a pâtisserie chef. After studying pâtisserie in Paris, Chan made his way to New York where he worked at a number of world-class restaurants, including three-Michelin-star Alain Ducasse, Mix and Oceana. In his current position as director of pastry arts at International Culinary Center, Chan works to mold a new generation of world-class chefs.
Baby/Mini/Small Offset Spatula:
“Generally only four to five inches long, this handy tool is the sixth finger every pastry chef wishes he or she had. Fumbling hands can crush or mark a finished product. With a small offset, you can pick up small elements from underneath and provide a safe transfer from one place to another without disrupting the sides or top. And even if you do get those small nicks on a soft surface like frosting or mousse, they can be eliminated by a gentle graze by the metal side.”
“Most people mistake the disher for an ice cream scoop. It’s a dome on a handle with a windshield-wiper blade built on the inside. It’s ideal for portioning out stiff batters of cake or cookie dough. Being a perfectionist, it’s the perfect tool to repetitiously dish exact amounts to create identical sized cupcakes, muffins, or cookies. And with the handy blade there for release, you can do this fast and efficiently, meeting yet another pastry-chef goal. Dishers come in a variety of sizes to meet all portioning needs!”
Plastic Bowl Scraper:
“The simple invention of a stiff piece of plastic, with one edge lightly curved, is essential to working with the lightest foams to the densest bread dough. By holding the plastic in your hands, it becomes an extension of your arm, allowing you to fold, stir, or scrape with more control and precision. And because it’s light and thin, its secret storage spot is in my pocket, making it accessible at all times.”
Short Serrated Knife:
“Serrated knives are great for cutting delicate products — i.e., baguettes, sponge cakes, or croissants. The gentle sawing nature preserves the interior crumb (versus a chef’s knife that uses a straight-down force). With a short (five- to six-inch) serrated knife, you have the advantage of more precision with the blade, allowing for angled or curved cuts. If there’s a cake to carve, this is the knife to have. Extra bonus: this knife is great for peeling the skin off of citrus or pineapple.”
Patrick Cappiello, Sommelier at Pearl & Ash
220 Bowery, New York, NY 10012 | pearlandash.com
Cappiello is the Operating Partner and Wine Director of Rebelle and Pearl & Ash restaurants. He was named “Sommelier of the Year” in 2014 by Food & Wine, “Wine Person of the Year” in 2014 by Imbibe Magazine and “Sommelier of the Year” by Eater National earlier this year. He has worked at a number of top restaurants in New York including TriBeCa Grill, Veritas and GILT.
“This is a great tool to have for removing the corks from aged bottles of wine. In the industry we use the term ‘graham cracker corks’ for those that crumble while trying to insert a standard cork screw. The Durand makes it almost effortless to remove a soft, worn cork, which preserves the quality of your wine. No one wants to have bits of cork in their glass.”
“Riedel makes some very intricate decanters — some look like snakes, some look like swans. These make for gorgeous centerpieces, but as a sommelier my top goal is to make sure the wine is presented at its best possible state. A standard Riedel decanter does the trick. It allows for maximum oxygen exchange with the wine, which opens wine’s aromas and helps to soften the tannins, which makes it easier to enjoy.”
Zalto Bordeaux Glassware:
“The price tag on this stemware may be a bit cost-prohibitive, but these hand-blown glasses show the true expression of your wine and are definitely worth the money. Sure, these glasses may be dubbed Bordeaux, but they are really all-purpose. They can handle a range of wines: Rioja from Spain, Brunello di Montalcino from Italy and Shiraz from Australia. You can’t fail with this glass.”
Sean Brock, Chef and Partner at Husk
76 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401 | huskrestaurant.com
Chef Brock has held positions at a number of the South’s best restaurants, including the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, and the Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. Brock is an advocate for seed preservation and grows a number of heirloom Southern crops on his 2.5-acre farm. He uses the crops in a number of dishes at his restaurant, Husk — which was awarded “Best New Restaurant in America” in 2011 by Bon Appétit.
“I have a couple of induction burners scattered around my home kitchen and find myself using them more than the standard home stove I have. The accuracy is incredible and they don’t put off any heat. Plus, I make a lot of pasta at home and induction burners boil water five times faster than a home stove.”
“This handheld broiler is really useful. The broilers on home stoves can be unpredictable and intimidating. I use this to sear the outside of steaks and roasts as well as browning the top of biscuits and cornbread. A cool trick with the Searzall is using it to make the perfect sunny-side-up egg — it allows you to slowly set the white from the top while it cooks in the pan.”
Polyscience 300 Series Chamber Vacuum Sealer:
“Having this on my kitchen counter has been a blessing. I use it several times a day to help keep my fridge organized and fresh — just like the restaurant. It’s also great for protecting food in the freezer and, of course, for cooking sous-vide in my sink.”
Lodge Cast Iron Pans:
“I can’t imagine life without these pans. I store them in my oven, as the more you use them the better they get. My grandmother was obsessed with collecting cast iron and now I’ve started a collection of my own. The Lodge ones are fantastic because they come pre-seasoned and ready to go.”
Andrew Carmellini, Chef and Partner at The Dutch
131 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012 | thedutchnyc.com | Photo: Dustin Askland
Carmellini has held positions at a number of notable New York City restaurants including legendary four-star French restaurant Lespinasse, Le Cirque and Café Boulud. He is a two-time James Beard Award winner and operates a number of restaurants including The Dutch, located in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood.
“The best way to get thin, consistent slices and to easily julienne.”
Microplane Cheese Grater with Handle:
“A microplane is a great way to easily get flavor bombs into your cooking by finely grating ingredients such as ginger and horseradish right into whatever you’re working on. Bonus: it also makes snow-like cheese gratings.”
Victorinox Serrated 10 Inch Knife:
“The knife fetishists shun their noses at this one, but a good tool is a good tool. Best thing is to cut root vegetables without ruining your $500 Japanese knife.”