Posted August 19, 2020

Chefs’ Picks: Kitchen Essentials

Eat + Drink

Turning simple ingredients into a spectacular meal is the hallmark of a talented chef – but truth be told, they probably have a trick or two up their sleeve, starting with the tools in their kitchen. We polled our stellar culinary team for the lowdown on pots, knives – and the one thing you need to cook any meal.

Cast Iron Cookware: Time-tested and true

Campfire Chili Heather Terhune_Tre Rivali and The Outsider

Executive Chef Heather Terhune, Tre Rivali and The Outsider, Milwaukee, WI: “The one piece of equipment I can’t live without is my 8-quart round enameled cast-iron dutch oven. It’s incredibly versatile. I use it to bake bread and brownies, pop popcorn, braise meats, cook one-pot-meals like stew, steam rice, bake casseroles, deep fry, make jam and jelly and I’ve even used it camping. It cooks evenly on all sides and never burns on the bottom. It also goes safely from the stovetop to oven, which gives me just one pot to wash (I hate washing dishes!). Instead of spending a lot of money on a Le Creuset one, you can buy a Lodge Cast Iron dutch oven for less than $80, and it works just as good.”

Microplane Zester: Put more zest into your life

Ed Witt 2

(Photo credit: Scott Gardener)

Executive Chef Ed Witt, The Katharine Brasserie & Bar, Winston-Salem, NC: “It’s a simple but versatile tool. Great for finishing dishes with grated horseradish or truffle, and for adding ginger, turmeric or other roots to finish a puree.”

Executive Chef .jpgExecutive Chef Nick Sutton, Boleo and Vol. 39, Chicago, IL: “My go-to gadgets are a peeler and a microplane, which has a variety of different uses like zesting fruits and chocolate and grating cheese to top on salads, vegetables, pastas and more.”

Specialty Blender: Fresh ways to mix it up

Blender with smoothie ingredients

HeadshotExecutive Chef Brian Millman, Atwood, Chicago, IL: “The Vita Prep Blender is the best blender on the market and in every professional kitchen. Not only can it be used as a usual blender, but it can be used for juicing as well. It gets used almost every day in my house.”

chi_ch_004Executive Chef Luca Corazzina, 312 Chicago: “My Robot Coupe Commercial Hand Blender is one of my favorite tools. Italians love their sauces and I’m no exception. This tool makes it easy to blend fresh, seasonal vegetables into sauces for pasta and puree fruits for desserts. I also use it to make all of our soups; I can just directly submerge the blender into a hot stock pot and puree the ingredients to make a soup in minutes.”

Flexible Knife: Get some give

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset Executive Chef Dusty Grove.jpg

Executive Chef Dusty Grove, Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar, Savannah, GA: “The Zwilling J.A. Henckels utility knife. Good for cutting, cleaning and preparing meats and fish (especially at Pacci, where the menu features many of the local and seasonal catches from coastal waters around Savannah). What makes it so essential is that this knife gives but doesn’t bend when you cut with it; it has a thinner blade and isn’t as thick as a chef’s knife, giving you that flexibility when preparing fresh fish and beef.”

Organizational Tools: It’s all about the prep work

Chef Carolynn is ready to welcome you.jpgExecutive Chef Carolynn Spence, Shaker + Spear, Seattle, WA: “The battle for kitchens is getting boxes of stuff turned into food; we’re constantly battling the boxes. My favorite tool is my tiny pocket knife. I use it all day every day.”

Executive Sous Chef Scott Hines, B&O American Brasserie, Baltimore, MD: “My essential kitchen tools are a timer allowing me to set multiple different times, and my clipboard. At any given time, I have 4 to 5 different projects going at once, so it’s the one way I keep track of everything that’s cooking and all the ideas and notes I have. These tools are so simple and basic, yet so important.”

And Last But Not Least…

out_ch_023 (1)Executive Chef Nick Bajal, Outpost, Santa Barbara, CA: “The one thing that I believe every chef needs in the kitchen is their 5 senses. It’s an essential tool that’s honed over years of trial and error.  I trust my sense of smell/taste/feel/sight more than anything else, and every other tool I use is to enhance or improve my senses – but if I don’t have those senses sharp to begin with, I’ll never be utilizing anything to its fullest potential.”


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