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Chefs’ Must-Have Tools

October/November 2017 Issue
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We asked 10 chefs to share with us their most tried-and-true culinary tools and how they use them. While some of these tools are universally indispensable, you may be surprised to find that many are simple, inexpensive gadgets. What cooking tools can you not live without? Let us know!

  • Product

    Benriner Mandoline

    Bill McDaniel, executive chef at NYC’s Motel Morris, swears by his Benriner mandoline. “To get super-thin slices of onion for cooking or eating raw, or for cutting vegetables of uniform thickness to make them au gratin, there is no better tool. It’s light and compact, and the blade maintains a sharp edge. For the price, there isn’t a better mandoline on the market.”

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  • Product

    Cast-Iron Skillet

    “Everyone should have a cast-iron skillet, says Marcus Samuelsson, chef of Harlem’s Red Rooster. “It’s the pan for everything. It goes easily from stovetop to oven, has fantastic heat conductivity that is even and constant, and the surface is perfection in nonstick. It’s the tool I use most often. The best seasoned are those that have been handed down through generations.” If you don’t have an heirloom cast-iron pan, opt for a pre-seasoned one.

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  • Product

    Gangy Can Opener

    “I love my Gangy Japanese can opener,” says Ravi Kapur, chef at San Francisco’s Liholiho Yacht Club. Instead of cranking a cutting wheel, you use a rocking motion to gradually cut through the can’s rim. With no moving parts to break, “it’s virtually indestructible,” says Kapur. It’s also a bargain compared to all the fancy can opening gadgets on the market.

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  • Product

    Kershaw Leek Knife

    “A good pocket knife is invaluable, says Will Horowitz, owner/executive chef of NYC’s Ducks Eatery. “Currently, I am loving my Kershaw Leek knife. From foraging and harvesting in the garden to the kitchen where I use it to shuck oysters and break down boxes, it just can’t be beat.”

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  • Product

    Vitamix Blender

    It’s no secret that Vitamix blenders are the darling of professional cooks. “It emulsifies like no other, making the best sauces, vinaigrettes, aïoli, and purées,” says Melissa Harrison, chef/owner of Seasonal Montana in Ennis, MT. “It will blend almost anything you put in it and makes great juices and soups.” Of course, if your blending needs are less ambitious, “it’s great for making delicious milkshakes and smoothies, too.”

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  • Product

    Vegetable Peeler

    Despite all the fancy veggie prep gadgets available, “I can’t live without my old-style metal potato peeler,” insists Germano Minin, executive chef at Village Tavern in Ridgefield, CT. “It’s perfect for making fine shavings of vegetables or of hard cheeses like Parmigiano for salads and pastas. I also use it for shaving a block of chocolate to garnish my desserts. I even use its handle to scale whole fish—it works like a charm.”

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  • Product

    Marble Mortar & Pestle

    “I like big marble or granite mortars, stone-age technology that modern engineering has yet to replace,” says Brian Murphy, executive chef at Nostrana in Portland, OR. “They are heavy enough to stay put through pounding, and the rough surface has the right toothiness to grind ingredients thoroughly. The food processor begs to take over pesto duty, but it can’t replicate the flavor or texture I can get with a mortar and pestle. And if there’s music playing in the kitchen, it’s hard not to pound along with the beat.”

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  • Product

    Microplane Grater

    “My Microplane grater has many good uses, the most obvious being zesting citrus and grating cheese, nutmeg, or fresh ginger and garlic,” says Oliver Ridgeway, executive chef at Sacramento’s Grange Restaurant & Bar. “But it’s also really good for adding intense fresh flavors, such as that nice tang of fresh horseradish to beef tartare.” The super-sharp, laser-etched teeth mean that you can grate things not usually considered grate-able. “I use it to grate fresh purple cauliflower over a brilliant white cauliflower cream soup; it’s stunning! I’ve also grated macadamia nuts so that they look like snow atop a snapper ceviche.”

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  • Product

    Boning Knife

    Chefs are famously possessive of their knives, but Charlie Foster’s particular favorite is one you may not have in your collection. “One of my favorite tools is a good boning knife with a flexible blade,” says the executive chef of Woods Hill Table in Concord, MA. “It’s versatile, yielding clean cuts of meat as well as fillets of fish.”

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  • Product

    Cake Tester

    "It can be challenging to tell what is going on inside food as it cooks," says Sara Bradley, chef/owner of Freight House in Paducah, KY. "That’s why I love my cake tester; the metal skewer tells me what’s happening inside what I’m cooking. I rarely use it on cake, but almost exclusively on meat, vegetables, and other savory items. It’s so sensitive that when I pierce something, I can tell how soft or firm it is, and when I remove it, by touching the metal, I can feel its internal temperature, too.”

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