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.

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

Winning Ways to Update Your Restaurant’s Fall Menu

Update your restaurant's fall menu with seasonal   ingredients and recipes

With summer over and the back-to-school season fading, restaurants fall menus have kicked into high gear. Once again, the autumn presents foodservice providers with a host of fruits, vegetables, and spices that are the hallmark of this pre-Winter period. Whether you are a caterer, restaurateur, run a coffee shop, pizza store, or even a smoothie stand, now is the time to cash in on the bounty and indulge your customers with seasonal favorites and new fall-inspired recipes.

Fall Produce Flourishing

The abundance of fresh produce available at affordable prices is reason enough for chefs to get excited as they conjure up their next Instagram-worthy pièce de résistance to attract consumers and entice the masses to sample their wares.

Continue reading Winning Ways to Update Your Restaurant’s Fall Menu

Gazpacho Takes the Lead on Summer Soup Menus

Summer soup season is here, and the cold soup selections are (ironically) selling like hot cakes. Leading the pack, however, is gazpacho, the quintessential tomato-based chilled soup, appearing on restaurant menus everywhere. Featuring the aromas, flavors, and colors of the season’s top produce, fresh, cold gazpacho is a customer favorite.

With its origins in Spain, there is a famous Spanish saying: “De gazpacho no hay empacho” — there’s never too much gazpacho. If you work in foodservice and want to boost business this summer, it’s time to learn more about what has kept this dish so popular and what’s new in gazpacho recipes today.

Continue reading Gazpacho Takes the Lead on Summer Soup Menus

Get the Latest on Milk Alternatives for Restaurants in 2021

Milk alternatives on the rise in restaurants and coffee shops.

It was only a few years ago that the beverage industry witnessed the unprecedented rise of oat milk. Since then, there has been a proliferation of non-dairy milk alternatives. While cow milk is by no means obsolete, today’s expanded offerings include picks such as soy milk, almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk, coconut milk, buckwheat milk, macadamia milk, and many more. Continue reading Get the Latest on Milk Alternatives for Restaurants in 2021

Add Fenugreek to Your Restaurant’s Menu

Restaurants spice things up by adding fenugreek to their menu

If you are a chef or restaurant owner looking for a new spice to infuse life into your customers’ favorite dishes, it’s time to add fenugreek to your list of ingredients! A long-time staple in Indian cuisine with a rich history in traditional Chinese medicine, fenugreek is an aromatic plant that is both an herb and a spice. It is available year-round as a seed (popularly known as methi), in whole or powdered form (with the former including the root and twigs), and as dry leaves that are especially popular in Middle Eastern cooking.

Fenugreek Quick Facts

The fenugreek plant is largely grown in South Asia and parts of the Mediterranean. It features small round leaves with long pods that contain distinctive bitter-tasting seeds. Its taste is described as sweet yet bitter with a hint of burnt sugar and a maple syrup aroma when cooked. In addition to packing a tasteful punch, fenugreek seeds provide some significant health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidant activities that are good for the body.

Continue reading Add Fenugreek to Your Restaurant’s Menu

Carob Makes a Comeback

Carob-flavored recipes on the rise in 2021

The all-natural sweetener that gained fame as a healthy chocolate substitute at the turn of the millennium is popular once again and being featured prominently in restaurant recipes in 2021. Most used to prepare sweet treats and desserts such as brownies, fudge, and milkshakes, there are so many good reasons why adding carob-flavored dishes to your menu is a sure-fire recipe for success.

Carob Benefits

If you are new to carob, it is a sweet, edible pulp that comes from the pods of a tropical carob tree. Dried and roasted, the pulp is ground into a powder for consumption or transformed into carob chips, syrup, or extract. In an age when wellness tops consumers’ minds, carob steps up to the plate with its multiple health benefits. These include the facts that carob is: Continue reading Carob Makes a Comeback

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

Restaurants Ring in the New Year with Kombucha

Add popular kombucha to your New Year takeout menu and cater to demand

Kombucha, the fizzy, fermented tea with a distinct tangy flavor, is in high demand. Restaurateurs seeking to upgrade their beverage menu for the New Year would do well to cater to customers’ clamors for more Kombucha.

So, what is it that has the cold tea flying off grocery store shelves, appearing in home and workplace refrigerators, and making the top-four list on consumer recipe searches?

We’ll answer these questions and more as we delve into the unusual world of Kombucha. Continue reading Restaurants Ring in the New Year with Kombucha

Tips for Catering a Holiday Party During COVID

Caterers are in-demand for the holidays despite corona

Christmas is in the air and the New Year is fast approaching. Normally, the holiday catering season would be in full swing. From family gatherings to workplace holiday parties and other festive occasions marking the end of the old and the beginning of the new, this season has normally been a boon for foodservice providers and for the catering industry. The advent of COVID-19, however, has put a damper on the festivities and a new spin on what is considered ‘normal.’ From social distancing protocols and limited guest numbers at live events to virtual gatherings where get-togethers take place online only, you may think a caterer’s job is a thing of the past.

There is good news on the menu, however, for professional catering companies, party organizers, and event planners! Due to the coronavirus, the takeout/ordering-in paradigm is now in full bloom. The public is starting to gather again, albeit in small groups, and they are willing to pay top dollar for their favorite catered holiday meals and desserts.

Continue reading Tips for Catering a Holiday Party During COVID