Essential Kitchen Tools For Serious Home Chefs

Essential kitchen tools for commercial kitchensWhat are the common elements found in a dinner party with friends, Thanksgiving dinner, and Sunday brunch with the family?

Bonding and camaraderie feature in all of the above situations, as does food. Long before people coined the phrase breaking bread, food was synonymous with companionship. Turns out that humans are not only social creatures, they are also social eaters.

The COVID-19 pandemic ushered in the next level of the food-friendship paradigm. Families under lockdown found themselves with more time on their hands – plenty of extra time to explore a new hobby. And, many fell in love with cooking with their kids, spouses, partners, friends, or even on their own. In fact, a Premier Foods survey showed that 73% of British people enjoyed the opportunity to invest time in home cooking and 91% hope to continue to hone their home cooking skills.

Benefits of Home Cooking

Home cooking isn’t just a fun means to bond with family and friends. It’s also good for the gut and good for the soul. Home cooking is associated with healthier eating patterns and a plethora of mental health benefits, from learning new skills and tasks, to reducing caloric intake and being more mindful when eating.

While professional chefs have been schooled to know what they need for optimal performance in their commercial kitchens, the home chef may not know where to begin. To help you out, we came up with essentials that you should have in your kitchen to take your home cooking to the next level:

Quality Knives

Just like stethoscopes are synonymous with doctors, knives represent chefs. There are dozens of kitchen knife varieties on the market. However, a home chef can usually get by with the following three types:

  • Chef’s knife: The versatile chef’s knife has a broad tapered edge, is between 6 – 12 inches long, and has a sharp edge. Due to its slightly curved edge, users can effortlessly rock the blade from the top to the end of the blade in one motion, or up and down, depending on what is being cut.
  • Paring knife: A paring knife is similar to a chef’s knife, except much shorter, between 3 – 4 inches long. Sometimes a shorter blade comes in handy, especially when more intricate cutting is needed. Look for a durable paring knife with a honed and polished edge.
  • Serrated knife: Bread knives, steak knives, and tomato knives all have one thing in common, instead of a smooth edge, these knives have jagged, serrated edges. Serrated knives are particularly helpful for substances with more than one texture, such as tomatoes, with their leathery skin and gooey middles. For home cooking minimalists, a serrated utility knife is handy for most situations.

Quality kitchen knives
A well-stocked kitchen is one that’s equipped not just with a collection of blades, but also the means to keep these knives sharp. This means including the following in your home kitchen:

  • A cutting board: A heavy duty wood cutting board is an essential partner to the  trusty chef’s knife. Not only will it protect the knife’s edge from dulling, but durable wooden boards are long-lasting. However, some home chefs prefer to use plastic cutting boards because they are easier to store, clean, and sanitize.
  • A knife sharpener: Professional cooks’ speedy, effortless chopping is the result of a partnership between the chef’s skill and the knife’s honed edge. Regular maintenance improves chopping ability and makes knives last longer, giving home chefs that Iron Chef experience during dinner prep.

For the average home chef, an electric sharpener, although noisy, is a choice that doesn’t require much skill or experience. However, make sure to keep a sharpening steel handy to freshen up knives in between electric sharpening.

A knife storage system: Leaving knives knocking about in a drawer isn’t safe, or beneficial for your knives. Some home chef’s like to hang their knives up using a mounted magnetic knife holder. Others prefer an in-drawer knife block.  If choosing the third option, a countertop knife block, make sure to select one that is hygienic and doesn’t allow the bottom of the block to accumulate germs and dirt.

Pots and Pans

Like the emblematic knife, pots and pans are ubiquitous in the cooking world. The sheer variety of pots and pans on the market can be overwhelming. Here are some of the most useful ones to have in your cabinets:

  • Cast iron skillet: These pans are hardy, resourceful, and seriously long-lasting. Antique Roadshow once ran an episode on cast iron cookware where they highlighted pans still performing after a century on the job!
  • Non-stick frying pan: Whereas the cast iron skillet is a good choice for high-heat cooking situations, such as searing a steak, the lightweight and easy-to-clean non-stick fry pan is the go-to pan for everyday low-heat home cooking. Eggs, pancakes, and crepes are a few of the recipes suited to a non-stick pan.
  • Dutch oven: CNN calls the Dutch oven “the ultimate kitchen multitasker”. The Dutch oven converts effortlessly from the campfire, to the oven, to the stovetop and can be used to make meat, rice, stew, casserole, and even bread.
  • Pots and pans for commercial kitchens

  • Stainless steel saucepan: Home chef’s should have a basic pot for making sauces, and small soups. Stainless steel is hardy, and can seamlessly transition from the stove to the oven.
  • Stock pot: A stock pot is essential for making soups and soup stocks. These versatile pots also have a number of other cooking applications.
  • Cake pan: There are many varieties of cake pans on the market. Home chefs can select the appropriate one based on how much, and what type, of baking they do. A springform pan helps get the finished cake out of the pan intact. Muffin tins and Bundt cake pans can produce distinctively shaped desserts. Regarding preferred materials, aluminum tends to outperform silicone and nonstick cake pans in its heat-conduction abilities.
  • Baking sheet: This flat aluminum baking sheet with a low rim, can take care of many other baked items, from roasted vegetables to cookies.

Food Measurement Tools

For many dishes it doesn’t really matter exactly how much a “pinch” of salt is. However there are numerous recipes, especially in baking, where precision is key. So, in addition to measuring spoons, you will need measuring cups for both dry and wet ingredients. It is also beneficial to keep a kitchen scale on your countertop. A kitchen scale can help with a dish’s proportionality and taste; and is also a healthy eating must-have for portion control.

Cooking Utensils

It seems like every day a new “must have” cooking utensil hits the shelves at Bed, Bath, & Beyond. While it’s certainly true that many of these utensils, like cheese slicers and melon ballers, are quite situation specific, there are some utensils that are universally utilitarian.

It behooves the average home chef to keep their kitchen stocked with these utensils:

  • A vegetable peeler
  • A wooden mixing spoon
  • A meat tenderizer
  • A slotted spoon
  • A pair of kitchen tongs
  • A ladle
  • A non-stick spatula
  • A pair of kitchen scissors
  • A can opener
  • A box grater

Kitchen appliances for commercial kitchens

Kitchen Appliances

Kitchen appliances don’t just save time when home cooking, and make food prep easier, there are some recipes that require the right equipment in order to make them. With so many appliances on the market, which ones should home chefs invest in?

  • A slow cooker: Dinner on demand? Not only is a slow-cooker convenient, and serves up piping-hot meals at the end of the day, some slow-cookers can also produce food that is better tasting. The slow cooker makes less expensive cuts of meat more tender because the mild heat of a slow cooker breaks apart the connective tissue and fat, without burning the meat.
  • A blender: Blenders are ideal for combining liquid ingredients in sauces, smoothies, and soups. With a curved bottom and a spout at the top, these appliances are optimized for making liquid recipes fast. Home chefs who want to save on cabinet space can opt for a hand blender.
  • A food processor: As opposed to a blender, a food processor is ideal for thick or solid mixtures. Food processors can dice vegetables, puree dips, and even grate cheese.

Food Storage Containers

Proper food storage containers can save the home chef time and money. While it may seem obvious that meat, fish and other cooked foods left out of the fridge will go rancid after a few hours, home chefs also need to keep an eye on their dry goods. Ironically, the paper sack that flour comes in when bought at the grocery store hastens flours’ expiration date.
By contrast, using storage containers, and storing them properly, can significantly prolong the shelf life of flour, sugar, coffee and other dry, and wet ingredients. Additionally, home chefs will likely have delicious leftovers that they will need to store in good quality containers. Labeling items with dates and storing dry ingredients in dry cool places and wet ingredients in the refrigerator or freezer will prolong their shelf life.

Kitchen and Food Safety Tools

Home cooked food can be mouth-wateringly delicious. But safety comes before taste. For a safer kitchen experience, home chefs should have a pair of durable and protective oven mitts for personal safety, as well as food thermometers for food safety. A food thermometer lets home chefs know when the food is cooked to a safe internal temperature. The United States government has guidelines on what the safe internal temperature is for a variety of foods.

In addition to these seven essentials, home chefs will need to keep their kitchens well-stocked with some non-purchasable and non-perishable cooking must-haves – the ones that take up no cabinet space – such as a sense of adventure, readiness to get messy, flexibility, and a good appetite.

One-Pot Cooking and Meals Reign in Restaurants in 2022

Part I: Slow Cookers and Crock Pots

Restaurants feature one-pot dishes, often made in a slow cooker or crock pot.

If you’re looking for a business forecast for the 2022 restaurant industry, the recipe to success may lie in one-pot cooking. As restaurateurs and caterers struggle to get back on their feet in the aftermath of COVID-19, many are turning to the food and beverages that became best-sellers during the corona crisis and which have remained popular among consumers ever since.

Front-and-center on restaurant menus for the New Year, expect to see wholesome one-pot dishes where all the ingredients cook together in a single pot, skillet, or cooker. These one-dish meals tend to contain all the elements of a healthy breakfast, lunch, or dinner – and then some. Combine your choice of protein, starch, vegetables, sauces, syrups, salt and pepper, then add herbs and spices, for a dish that takes the taste buds over the top. While these recipes were once geared primarily for family dining, single-serving one-pot creations for individual diners are now also rising in the rankings.

Continue reading One-Pot Cooking and Meals Reign in Restaurants in 2022

Shining the Limelight on Lemons

Cater to lemon-lovers with lemon-flavored dishes and desserts that steal the show

Attention lemon lovers around the world: If lemon is your favorite flavor, you have come to the right place! Similarly, if you are a seasoned chef, professional baker, budding culinary student, or restaurant owner, this Comprehensive Guide to Cooking and Baking with Lemons is the perfect recipe for success to keep your customers coming back for more.

So pucker up and prepare to learn all about lemons, one of Mother Nature’s most underestimated flavorful ingredients…

Tapping into the Taste of Lemon

Lemons are best known for their slightly sour or tart taste. Typically used to enhance the flavor of other foods (rather than be consumed alone), their pungent quality becomes citrusy, light, and refreshing when added to sweet and savory recipes alike. During the cooking or baking process, all parts of a lemon can be used: the juice, the pulp, and the peel/rind. Note: In recipes, grated lemon rind is often referred to as ‘lemon zest’. Continue reading Shining the Limelight on Lemons

How French Cuisine Has Permeated More Than Our Palates

French cuisine favorites boost restaurant revenues

From à la carte and à la mode to au gratin, crème brûlée, café au lait, soupe du jour, maître d, bon appétit, cuisine, and more, did you ever notice how many French culinary terms proliferate the American lexicon? Likewise, some of the world’s favorite restaurant dishes include recipes for French crepes, soufflés, baguettes, croissants, petit fours, vinaigrette, quiche, and more.

So why is it that professional chefs ‘sauté’ rather than cook in oil, ‘purée’ rather than blend, and compete so that customers choose their catering services to host the next grand ‘soirée’? Furthermore, given the widespread popularity of French haute cuisine, what secret tricks of the trade can help your restaurant’s chefs and bakers create mouth-watering, traffic-attracting pièces de résistance?

Continue reading How French Cuisine Has Permeated More Than Our Palates

Coffee Menu Newcomers Debut in 2021

Add international coffee flavors to your 2021 menu.

The New Year has arrived and so have forecasts for the upcoming coffee trends. The good news is that pandemic or no pandemic, restaurant goers continue to clamor for coffee! If you work in foodservice and are looking for a way to stay ahead of the competitive pack, it’s time for a coffee menu update.

What’s Brewing in the World of Java

In the era of COVID-19, coffee shops may no longer be crowded, but java sales remain high thanks to a host of new options. Continue reading Coffee Menu Newcomers Debut in 2021

How to Spice Up Your Restaurant Menu with Spices!

Chefs maximize the use of spices and herbs in the wake of the coronavirus.

If you are looking for ways to enhance your restaurant menu look no further than using everyday spices and herbs. We all know that seasonings add ‘the spice of life’ to cooking and baking and can transform any dish from bland and boring to flavor-filled, fabulous, and unforgettable. They are also a great way to make food taste better without the addition of fat, salt, or sugar, and are compatible with almost every type of diet (vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, Keto, gluten-free, dairy-free, salt-free, and more). Continue reading How to Spice Up Your Restaurant Menu with Spices!

How to Show Your Customers You Care During the Corona Crisis

Get tips on how to provide customer service despite the corona crisis.

The restaurant industry as we know it has come to unprecedented stand still due to the global crisis of the coronavirus. Otherwise known as COVID-19 or ‘corona,’ it will surely be infamously recorded in the annuls of time as one of the most epic and devastating pandemics the world has ever experienced. Yet, although it is affecting every continent, country, and industry, everyone is doing their best to not only survive but to thrive in spite of the odds with the hope and prayer that the crisis will soon end and that order and prosperity will be restored.

Cater to Your Customers

So, what can you do, as a foodservice professional, to keep your business alive despite corona? And more importantly: Is there a way to continue to connect with your customers and even foster relationships while your brick-and-mortar eatery is shut down? The answer, fortunately, is a resounding YES.

Ironically, during this very time of imposed isolation that restricts the public from traveling, interacting, and eating out, there has never been a more opportune time to show customers that you care by making concerted efforts to connect with them and even cater to their needs. You were granted time now, time you never thought you would have, to tap into your creative juices and take your restaurant’s customer service level to new heights and earn some major, long-lasting loyalty points in return.

Read on as we share some of our suggestions to help you stir your own creative culinary juices.

Continue reading How to Show Your Customers You Care During the Corona Crisis

What’s New in Food Trucks

New in food truck trends

If you work in foodservice and thought food trucks were a thing of the past or a fading trend… think again! Not only is the food truck industry still booming, but according to some experts, it is growing faster than traditional restaurants. From entrepreneurs to seasoned restauranteurs, food business owners continue to use mobile truck services to expand their businesses.

Upscale Food Truck Offerings on the Rise

While traditional fanfare is still on the menu (think sandwiches, salads, pizza and fast food), rising in the popularity charts are upscale food trucks featuring gourmet burgers, seafood, sushi, and even all-lobster menus. And while yesterday’s mobile beverage offerings treated customers to freshly squeezed juices, smoothies, tea, coffee, and fruit salads, making the rounds today are cocktail bars, appearing at classy shindigs in posh vehicles such as limousines and one-of-a-kind vintage cars. These bars-on-wheels are in demand at weddings, rehearsal dinners, graduations, birthday parties, corporate events, fundraisers, and more.

The win-win business paradigm is hard to beat, catering to demand and pleasing customers’ palates while serving as an exciting talking point that garners attention and valuable marketing points for restaurant owners.

Dessert Trucks Take Decadence to the Streets

If you have ever dreamed of starting a bakery business or of offering consumers new ways to satisfy their sweet tooth, dessert food trucks may be right up your alley. One of the hottest trends in the ‘biz, mobile bakeries are proliferating, providing melt-in-your-mouth offerings that range from ice cream, cupcakes, cookies, and cakes to crepes, pancakes, waffles, scones, beignets, brownies, cheesecakes, tarts, pies, donuts, and other to-die-for delights.

Continue reading What’s New in Food Trucks

How to Tap into Beer Sales Success

Boost beer profits with craft beers and learn about other updated beer marketing strategies.

Looking for new ways to up your bar, bistro, brewery, or restaurant’s beer game? Then you’ve come to the right place. With the global beer market projected to grow at a CAGR of 5.5% between 2020-2025, and with the rising popularity of innovatively flavored craft beers, there has never been a more opportune time to increase your alcoholic beverage sales. As every restauranteur knows, the drinks you serve as an accessory to meals offers a higher return on investment (ROI) than your food.

Fortunately, there are myriads of time-proven and new strategies to boost beer sales in your establishment. Moreover, you are going to need updated tactics to attract the ale-loving crowds since competition in the bar and pub industry is off the charts. So, prepare to drink in the following tips and tricks that will help your biz’ stand out from the pack and attract a steady flow of thirsty customers.

Ensure a Variety of Beer Types

With consumer interest in beer going strong, there has been a proliferation of beer types available, as well as a segmentation of selections into categories that include: Lagers, Ales, Standard Beers, Premium Beers, Super Premium Beers, Draught or Draft Beers (aka On Tap), Bottled, and Craft beers. The latter, in particular, represents one of the most sought-after items on the market, and savvy bar and restaurant owners are flocking to craft beer brewers to take advantage of what they have to offer.

Continue reading How to Tap into Beer Sales Success

More Uncommon Facts About Common Fruit and Vegetables

Update your fruit and vegetable knowledge with this handy guide,

Welcome back to our series for foodservice professionals where we are discovering and uncovering details about the produce used every day in your commercial kitchen.

From fun facts to functional food tips, this guide is an opportunity to expand your culinary repertoire, learn about fruit and vegetable varieties you may not be familiar with, get practical tips on cooking and baking with various produce, and stock up on new recipes that are sure to dazzle and delight your customers.

What You Didn’t Know About Cucumbers

As we discovered in Part I of this series, contrary to popular belief, cucumbers are officially a fruit and not a vegetable. Either way, however, they are nutritious, delicious, and have been part of the human diet since ancient times. Originally grown in India and used for both culinary and medicinal purposes, some of cucumber’s therapeutic values include its soothing and cooling effects on the body which can alleviate sunburn, reduce swelling, reduce skin irritations, and nourish the skin. It also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic properties (helping regulate blood sugar levels), while its high water content helps hydrate the body and get rid of toxins and waste materials.

Continue reading More Uncommon Facts About Common Fruit and Vegetables