Cook like a top chef
Austin's top chefs recommend best tools of the trade for your home kitchen
Technology, innovation and invention have taken much of the fuss out of today's kitchens. With the right tools and appliances, a mediocre home cook can be transformed into a modern-day Julia Child.
But with the circus of kitchenware and appliances in the marketplace, it can be downright frustrating trying to find the must-have tools for your kitchen. While it is hard to fight the compulsion to buy things like mango slicers, pancake pens, omelette pans and the endless assortment of other gourmand goods, there are actually only a handful of chef tools worth investing in.
Below, a host of Austin chefs weigh in on the gadgets and gizmos they think every savvy home cook should be using.
Seasoned cast iron skillet - "A Lodge cast iron seasoned skillet is great for a quick sear or saute. You can pop it in the oven as well, or even take it camping." - Meredith Beeman, Manager of Central Market Cooking School
Dehydrator - "A dehydrator allows fried garnishes to stay crispy and can also create different textures with fruit or bean purees. It is a key tool in achieving preserved items, such as forms of beef jerky or fermented citrus." -David Bull, Executive Chef of Congress, Second Bar + Kitchen and Bar Congress
A vegetable peeler and spoonula - "Both these tools are versatile. The peeler is great for shredding cheese, stone fruits and baked breads. And the spoonula can at one minute be used for eggs and the next for brownies." - Rick Lopez, Executive Chef of La Condesa
Benriner Japanese Mandoline - "I love to use it for slicing up vegetables in a hurry at home. It's also great for julienning veggies for salads or sauteeing. Just watch out for your fingers; this mandolin will bite ya.” - John Bates, Owner and Chef of Noble Sandwiches
"A must-have in my kitchen is a Benriner’s Japanese mandolin. I've found that the expensive, fancy brands are usually useless unless they are made with French stainless steel. I can’t imagine slicing vegetables without this mandolin." - Alma Alcocer, chef of El Alma Cafe y Cantina
A wood cutting board - "I would recommend a Bamboo cutting board for home cooking. Most people don’t realize that plastic cutting boards dull your knives. Bamboo cutting boards, on the other hand, aren’t as abrasive.” - Jeramie Robison, Chef de Cuisine of Uchi
Nonstick fry pan - "As long as you don't use anything abrasive to clean it, it will last a long time and can be very versatile. Eggs, seafood, chicken and grilled sandwiches can all be done in a non-stick, Teflon skillet. And one of the big health benefits is that you don't need to use a lot of oil or fat to cook in it." -Jason Long, Executive Chef of Sullivan's Steakhouse
Heavy bottom pots and pans - “If you use cheap pots and pans you will burn the food before it is cooked.” - Ted Prater, Head Chef of Banger’s
Brooklyn butcher block - “Make sure to brush it with mineral oil so it doesn’t warp and crack. It also makes a great serving dish for things like roast chicken." - Sarah McIntosh, owner/head chef of Epicerie
Chitarra pasta cutter - “This is great for cutting fresh pasta sheets. When you're using it, flatten the dough using a rolling pin and then press and cut through the wires.” - McIntosh
A small, offset spatula - "It's so versatile. I use it for everything except cutting. It's great for spreading icings and butter, flipping sautéed foods, lifting cookies and stirring. It's my most used tool." - Andrew Lewis, Pastry chef of Uchiko
Le Creuset Dutch Oven - "These are perfect because you can do anything in them – braise, fry, blanch, make soup, really anything. They are enameled cast-iron and can make any crappy stovetop cook evenly. They also deglaze like a pro!" - Jeffrey Rhodes, Executive Chef of Parkside
Large metal mixing bowl - "These are great for thoroughly mixing all of your ingredients for any kitchen project, whether it is the cornbread stuffing for Thanksgiving, a smoked watermelon and arugula salad or your grandma's biscuit recipe."
Fine microplane - "Microplanes are great for zesting citrus and cheese, but I love using them for nuts and chocolate. At Mettle, we grate dark chocolate on our smoked butter with a fine microplane for bread service. The dark chocolate is visually striking, but it does not bully the smoked butter. The microplane creates a harmonious deliciousness between the butter, sea salt and chocolate instead of coming off too sweet." - Andrew Francisco, Executive Chef of Mettle
Salt bowl - "I am not talking about a silver or gold bowl for finishing sea salt, but rather a bowl for your kosher salt to rest in while you are cooking. My wife bought me a small bowl made of olive wood. Every time I go for a pinch, I appreciate the salt, I think of my lovely wife and the layers of flavor I am trying to develop in the dish I am cooking. Salt is magical when used correctly." - Francisco