Thursday, July 12, 2007

Which kitchen tools do I really need?

Every time I make my weekly visit to the discount store, or department store, usually for cat food and supplies, I take a selfish detour down the kitchen gadget, tool, machine isles and stare at the shinny little machines for a few seconds only to kick my own feet, bow my head, and walk off in disbelief after checking the price. They want $50 for a can opener? Not only the cost, but then I’m stuck with a machine the size of a toaster, with a cord, that is useful only to open many cans does one person have to open for this to make sense??? Grandma with arthritis is the exception. I was wondering if I had a blank slate, and was short on money, and needed to build a restaurant kitchens small appliance cabinet, what would it consist of? A veritable who’s who of kitchen gadgets was my first thought, then as an example of how to approach this query I looked to the final pages of Dornenburg and Page’s book, Culinary Artistry where they asked chefs about their 10 most desirable ingredients. What I saw with deeper investigation was that most chefs wanted simple things, building blocks I would guess. Things like salt, butter, herbs where common items. I thought I would apply this strategy to my query about kitchen gadgets.
Top Five Most Desirable Kitchen Machines for the Professional Kitchen.

1. I want to start off with a bang, and I will do this by eliminating the two extremes that are available, I don’t need a paco jet, or a box grater, nor do I demand a emersion circulator or a mortar and petal, I’m being realistic here. I think the most useful tool in the professional kitchen is the Vita-prep commercial blender. If used properly this tool eliminates what most people would demand as their number two, a robo-coup. I’ll take the price and the power of the vita-prep. I can liquify lobster bodies, or chop nuts with the same machine, and with good reason the price of this single piece of equipment might very well be half of the total spent.

2. Mandolin. I’m bent between the classic french style metal Mandolin with 2 different julienne options, and a gaufrette cut, against the sleek and stay sharp ability of the smaller Kyocera Mandolin. I don’t care how good your knife skills might me, or how expensive your Japanese steel knife is, with a Mandolin a brainless slicing task is accomplished with consistent precision.

3. Kitchen Aid. KA makes the most capable mixers available. With the pasta attachment, and the meat grinder attachment, I’ve got a full accompaniment of kitchen tools all build around one mighty, lasting motor. While this is another $400 investment, the versitatliy is exceptional, and the end product is so much better than any rolling pin, whisk, or clever can accomplish.

4. Vacuum sealer. With the extended shelf life food gets in a Vacuum this seems to be a no-brainer but is rare in most professional kitchens. The creativity of marinates, pickles and texture manipulation with these devices is boundless.

5. Knife Sharpener. Most established professional in the cooking business have a desire to use their own hand tools while working. I’m the same, but keeping my knife as sharp as the knife service is a lot of work. I would like to invest in a quality knife sharpener, eliminate the service, and enjoy using the knives I’ve spent tons of money on without clenching in remorse every time my filet knife hits a bone.

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