There are no gear testers more rigorous than the commercial chef. Can openers, skillets, thermometers, mixing bowls and all manner of other essential gear are put through the wringer night in, night out. So when chefs talk about the gear they couldn’t cook without, we listen. Here are the kitchen tools four pro chefs can’t get enough of.
David Lee is the executive chef and co-owner of Planta,a chain of plant-based restaurants located in Toronto, Florida and New York. After cooking in Toronto fine dining restaurants, Lee opened Planta to expand the population's ideas on plant-based food and to make food that is sustainable for the earth and for the human body. From glass straws to a $1,000 countertop pizza oven, these are the Lee's must-have tools for the kitchen.
Oxo Good Grips Tabletop Spiralizer
"A spiralizer is actually how I got my daughter to start eating more fruits and vegetables. Zucchini, carrots, squash, cucumbers and beets all make for excellent spiralized produce, and the colors are more vibrant when prepared this way."
Alessi Squirrel Nutcracker
"As the executive chef and co-owner of a collection of plant-based restaurants, a good nutcracker is essential. Nuts are incredibly versatile and can add depth and texture to a dish. Alessi's Squirrel Nutcracker is definitely on the more expensive side, but its tabletop feature is sturdy and keeps hands safe. I always say you know an item is worth it if you can get it down to $1 a day, or less! I use this several times a week, plus the squirrel is cute. "
"Unless you have a brick oven, a wood-fired bubbly pizza is near impossible to achieve at home. Traditional home ovens don't get hot enough to produce that chewy, bubbly crust. Enter Breville's Smart Oven Pizzaiolo. We entertain at home a lot, and pizza parties are a weekly occurrence. This oven is amazingly compact and reaches higher temperatures than normal home ovens, so our family pizza projects have taken on a distinctly restaurant-worthy quality the last few months."
Alink Glass Straws
"At Planta, we strive to implement sustainable practices across our operations and that's a mission I bring home with me too. These glass straws are sleek, come with cleaning brushes, and instantly elevate any beverage.
"Mason jars are another great way to make your kitchen a little greener, especially because they're so versatile. I use mine as water or wine glasses, and to store homemade jams, vinaigrettes or other salad dressings."
Petra Paredez, head baker and co-owner of New York's Petee's Pie Company, has mastered the three F's of pie: flour, fat and fun (or filling). Since opening her first pie shop in the Lower East Side of New York city in 2014, she also opened Petee's Cafe in Brooklyn where she serves pies, cocktails and natural wine. We caught up with Paredez who shared the kitchen essentials she uses to make some of New York's best pies.
OXO Silicone Pastry Mat
"This thing is great because it has multiple uses: it keeps your counter clean as you roll out dough, the handy guide helps you measure as you roll, you use it to transfer delicate dough into a pan without breaking, and it’s oven safe so you can line a baking tray with it to catch drips when the pie filling bubbles over. It's super easy to clean, too."
Norpro Silicone Basting Brush
"I always brush the top crust with egg wash before baking. Natural bristle pastry brushes are hard to clean thoroughly and the egg wash can stick to the bristles and make them clump together. This brush is easy to clean and super gentle, which is great for a tender, delicate dough."
"Pie crust bakes consistently in the commercial convection ovens in my bakery. In a regular home oven, though, the edge crust can cook a lot faster than the rest of the pie. This pie crust shield is perfect for my delicate butter crust because it’s lightweight enough that it won’t crush the edge."
Ozeri Touch Waterproof Digital Kitchen Scale
"All of my recipes use weight instead of volume to measure ingredients such as flour and fruit. Having a scale that is easy to clean and you don’t have to worry about spilling on is a must."
Breville Control Grip Hand Blender
"We use massive commercial immersion blenders at Petee’s to make enough filling for, say, 100 pumpkin pies at a time. At home, though, the Breville immersion blender is pretty perfect. It doesn’t take up much space, and it can do many of the same jobs as a stand mixer, food processor and standard blender. I use immersion blenders to make smooth pie fillings (everything from sweet potato to chocolate chess), to whip cream or meringue with the whisk attachment and to make purees."
When Saul Montiel moved to the United States from Mexico, he took up a job as a dishwasher in New York City. Between guidance from the chefs he worked with and culinary skills he picked up working at his family's restaurants in Mexico, Montiel found work cooking food instead of washing the plates it came on. He's now the executive chef at Cantina Rooftop, a Mexican restaurant in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, and these are his tools of the trade.
Avantco Rice Cooker
"I would normally use a Caldero, but I would always need to keep any eye on it. I can admit that I’ve burnt my fair share of rice, but with this commercial rice cooker, my worries are a thing of the past. It cooks it perfectly every time."
"It’s a simple tool but it’s the most effective way to make tortillas at home or work in my experience."
NoTrax Cutting Board
"This cutting board is normally used in commercial kitchens, but I personally use it at home. It's antimicrobial, which helps prevent bacterial growth. It also doesn’t dull my knives, and it is made from rubber that won't crack, splinter or peel. It helps prevent the knives from slipping or bouncing."
Imusa Double Burner Griddle
"Most restaurants have a flat grill due to its versatility. I personally have owned this griddle for the same reasons. I can cook pancakes, burgers and even grill tortillas for tacos."
Williams Sonoma Molcajete
"It’s a very helpful tool when making guacamole, blending spices and making sauces."
Khoran Horn opened Stripp’d Juice, a Philadelphia-based juice spot, a go-to place for its fruit-based food and drinks, which spawned a second location in Wilmington, Delaware. In 2017, along with chef Gerald Allen, Horn founded Blvck, which is described as "a culinary collective for the culture combining food, design, visual art and education to encourage dialogue and inclusion in our everyday worlds." He's currently working on opening the Guardhouse Cafe, which will essentially be an all-day hangout spot. Amid the work of getting ready to open the Guardhouse Cafe, Horn let us in on the four things he can't live without.
"I don’t leave home without it, a very small, but powerful circulator that allows me to cook a protein or vegetable (or anything!) to perfection. It also has an app, and is super easy to use."
Le Labo Tonka 25
"Before a shift or after — if I make it back to the car — I give this a spritz or two. Now, if you know this brand, everybody goes for the Santal 33. It’s damn good, but I can’t walk around smelling like the next hip chef. Tonka 25 gives me that extra 'what’s that?!'"
"The only footwear I’ll cook in. They're comfortable, and at the same time firm and non-slip. Cork bed wears like fine wine over time. My current pair is a navy suede."
Jeep Gladiator Alpine Wireless Speaker
"I can’t cook without music. Period. Take away the days of a classic French kitchen that’s so quiet you can hear a harmonious “yes, chef” and nothing else. With me, you’re going to hear Jodeci or Benny the Butcher."