The Gear They Carry
17 Tools That Pro Chefs Can’t Cook Without
There are no gear testers more rigorous than the commercial chef. Can openers, skillets, thermometers, mixing bowls and all manner of other essential gear are put through the wringer night in, night out. So when chefs talk about the gear they couldn’t cook without, we listen. Here are the kitchen tools four pro chefs can’t get enough of.
Gibsons Restaurant Group, the restaurant empire that Chef Daniel Huebschmann helms, is immense. It spans four states and 14 kitchens. It’s the first and only restaurant group to have its own USDA Certified Angus Beef Program. Huebschmann’s job, like his gear picks, is commercial. In other words, there are no tweezers counted in his essential kitchen gear setup. From a cheap pair of extra-long tongs to the only charcoal grill you should buy, these are the things Chef Daniel Huebschmann couldn’t live without.
Vollrath 12-Inch High-Heat Tongs
“Size does matter in this case. If you are using tongs over an open flame, you’ll want to keep a little distance and the 12-inch length on these tongs allows you to keep an appropriate distance. The added bonus of the coated tip gives you the option to use these on scratch sensitive surfaces as necessary. The coated handle is very helpful when gripping the tongs and it allows you to move large format food around easily. It’s best to use a nonstick pan on a side burner (gas grills) to sauté some vegetables while grilling steak.”
Wüsthof Stainless-Steel Metal Skewers
“These skewers are both stylish and functional. Not only do they look sexy when placed on a platter and presented with meats and vegetables, but they are also highly functional. The shape of the handle allows for very easy gripping.”
Kitchenaid 3-Burner Propane Gas Grill
“For a cost-effective grilling machine, the 3-burner unit does the trick. It provides even heat distribution with Kitchenaid quality and design that performs. I would not advise going smaller unless space is an issue. You can grill and slow roast a variety of sizes for home BBQs. The cooking surface on the 3-burner is large enough to allow for indirect heat as well. The side burner that allows you to sear and sauté is an added bonus that simply can’t be beat.”
Big Green Egg (Large)
“For charcoal grilling and smoking, this is my weapon of choice. While similar size and shape charcoal grills offer high-temperature searing and even heat distribution, the Big Green Egg has an edge. Not only does it get hot, and it does get smoking hot, it also offers extremely even heat distribution and retains its heat for an extended period of time. This allows for killer smoking and grilling of larger items like turkeys and beef briskets.”
Contrary to popular belief, the gear most chefs use isn’t anything fancy. In fact, it’s usually the opposite of fancy — more chefs opt for affordable gear that gets the job done than material luxuries. Ayesha Nurdjaja is part of this camp. The Italian-Indonesian executive chef of New York City Eastern Mediterranean restaurant Shuka, Nurdjaja’s kitchen essentials are, save one splurge, all around $30 or less. From the perfect paring knife to pencils designed to write on metal, these are the things Chef Ayesha Nurdjaja couldn’t live without.
Victorinox Serrated Paring Knife
Sharpie Peel-Off Marker
Oxo 5-Pound Food Scale
“I am a recipe-driven chef. At Shuka, when we make a new dish the first thing we do is write a recipe and weigh the ingredients so we can ensure consistency. These small scales are easy to wipe down, keep accurate measure and help me cost out my dishes with ease.”
F. Dick 10-Inch Honing Steel
“This steel does a great job keeping sharp knives honed. Whether I am slicing raw fish or portioning lamb, this steel is a gem. I have had mine for over 8 years and it has been a great addition to my knife kit.”
Le Creuset 9-Quart Dutch Oven
“This was the first (and maybe only) expensive pot I treated myself to after graduating culinary school. I treat it with such tender love and care; it’s the Ferrari of kitchen equipment. It is so easy to use this pot to make soups and stews, braise meats or create any one-pot wonder meals. It is super durable, retains great heat and is sharp looking.”
Off Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles’ Sherman Oaks neighborhood, Chef Kiminobu Saito’s sushi operation is both extremely serious and not-so-serious. Saito’s Sushi Note, open summer of 2018, manages to blend a hang out atmosphere with millimeter-perfect cut sushi, a wicked wine list and what are essentially rice tater tots (topped with fresh fish, naturally).
But don’t mistake Chef Saito’s whimsical restaurant for a casual approach to Japan’s most famous cuisine — he has been at this for decades, and his gear shows it. Namely, his knife, which he bought more than 20 years ago and is still going strong (he sharpens it weekly). From an indestructible knife from a famous bladesmith to a sharkskin wasabi grater, these are the things Chef Kiminobu Saito couldn’t live without.
Honyaki Yanagi Knife
“My favorite knife is my Honyaki Yanagi. I purchased it in 1997 in Japan. It’s made using the same technique used with Japanese swords. You can even see the impressions left by the heat and pounding process. My father had a passion for swords and ceramics, and I grew up with an appreciation for this style of craftsmanship. It’s the knife I treasure the most, and I use it as my main knife. I use it for sushi, sashimi and especially for breaking down large fish and turning them into smaller filets. As for care, I keep it very simple; I sharpen all my knives once a week, spending about 30 to 40 min on each knife. Then I keep them dry and in a case when not in use to avoid rust and dings to the knife.”
Tenzo Sharkskin Wasabi Grater
“One essential tool in the kitchen is my wasabi grater. Made of shark skin, the fine surface makes for a creamy wasabi paste. I prefer using fresh wasabi root, as opposed to powdered wasabi, to keep the traditional flavors intact. Not to mention, there are many unnecessary additives in powdered and tubed wasabi. I use fresh wasabi for all my sushi and sashimi, but it can also be used for steaks. One of my favorite recipes is to mix fresh wasabi into soy sauce, then use that mixture when searing steak. You can also add a pinch of the fresh wasabi on top before serving. The root is much milder and will not be overwhelming to the dish.”
Yamakawa Rice Warmer
“The rice warmer is one of my most essential tools in the restaurant. It’s an electric warmer that holds its temperature for as long as you need. The older styles were not electric, which meant you had to keep the lid on as much as possible and cover the rice with a towel. And once the temperature went down, I wasn’t able to reuse it. I now have peace of mind knowing that I can work an entire service without my rice being compromised.”
Electric Seaweed Crisper
“I want my seaweed to be as crispy as possible, which I achieve using my electric seaweed container. It’s very low tech (it heats the seaweed with a small light bulb!) but it makes a world of a difference. In fact, any store-bought regular seaweed can get much crispier using this. Once you open a bag of seaweed, the moisture in the air will make it soggy, but this container stops that from happening. Many other Sushi Note chefs have actually broken their seaweed when making hand rolls because of how crispy it is.”
Helmed by Chef Jordan Terry, Dirty French is not a subtle place. But Terry, who rose from meat cook to sous chef to executive chef, isn’t as fanciful as his restaurant. Where the chef’s menu is covered in elevated french bistro classics like mushroom millefeuille and terrine of foie gras, his kitchen is stocked with better versions of the gear you have at home. From buying deli containers in bulk to a cutting board that beats out wood and plastic, these are the things Chef Jordan Terry couldn’t live without.
Rubber Cutting Board
“This isn’t some thin, plastic malarkey. It’s a solid, beautiful and terribly functional cutting board. It’s heavy and made of rubber, which is so much kinder to your blade, absorbing the metal instead of fighting it like a plastic one. And unlike wooden cutting boards, that’s all that it absorbs. It cleans up like a champion and it’s significantly faster than other boards; your blade just bounces back, ready for more. Bonus, you can use a scrubbing pad to take it down if it gets pockmarked or stained — no need for a sander like with a wooden one. They are just a joy to cut on.”
ChoiceHD Deli Containers (32 oz.)
“I use these for everything: storage, portioning, mise en place, sweet tea during service, to make lunches for my wife — they really are the backbone of the kitchen. They come in different sizes, but they have universal lids. They are reusable, they are cheap, they are sturdy and with a roll of masking tape and a sharpie, you can keep everything in them labeled and organized.”
Hall China 1-Quart Jars
“We each have our own and store all the tools we will need for service: like spoons, spatulas, tweezers and whatever else we might need. I love having a few extra around, filled to the brim with spoons for cooking and tasting. They are quiet, elegant and a great way to keep everything you need within arms reach.”
Opinel Oyster Knife
“Never will I have to break my keys opening oysters when I find myself in this situation (which has happened more than you might think). It’s beautifully made with a smooth and strong handle and a stout blade that flies through whatever size oysters you stumble upon, and fits comfortably in your pocket. Just don’t forget it’s there when you go to city hall to get a marriage certificate… they don’t care about your reasons.”
From an extra-large cast-iron skillet to a charcoal firestarter to a vacuum sealer, these four professional chefs reflect on the gear they couldn’t do their jobs without. Read the Story