Chefs' Top 10 Best Restaurant Kitchen Supplies
With so many restaurant kitchen supplies to choose from, it can be hard to know which ones are mission-critical. To help you choose the most important items for your establishment, we built this buying guide based on chefs' “desert island” items—those kitchen tools they just can't live without.
1. 10- to 12-inch Sauté Pan
A sauté pan is the most-used pan in a restaurant kitchen. “You can do virtually anything in it: sauté, roast, sear, bake, make sauces—you could survive with just that,” says Erica Wides, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York. “It should be heavy, steel-clad with a good handle. It should feel well balanced when you lift it.”
2. Bonded Copper or Steel Cookware
“Stainless steel-wrapped pans are easier to clean but the handles get hot,” says Chris Mortenson, chef at La Condesa Napa Valley, and a winner on Food Network's “Cutthroat Kitchen.” “The copper pans are more difficult to clean, but the handles remain cool. They are both incredible pans, though, and I own sets of both.” Look for high-quality rivets, even thickness on the bottom and sides, and long handles.
3. Bouillon Spoons
“I do everything—and I mean everything—with them, from plating, tasting, scooping ice cream, basting, searing and flipping to using them to eat family meals,” says David Santos, chef at Louro in New York. Consider balance and the shape of bowl. “The size of the cup can't be too deep or shallow.”
4. Cast Iron Skillet
“I love the cast iron skillet because of its ability to maintain heat and its versatility,” says Keith West, brand chef for Puckett's Restaurant & Grocery, a four-restaurant group based in Nashville, TN. “The amount of things you can do with it—from pan-frying and searing to roasting and boiling—is amazing.” It can also be handy as a weight or hammer. Choose a name-brand skillet that's thick and heavy.
5. Chef's Knives
“I can do anything when I have my favorite knife,” says executive chef Bob Simontacchi of Brick & Bottle in Corte Madera, CA. When selecting, he says to “make sure it's not too big. A knife that is too large is cumbersome and less efficient.” He recommends a 10-inch blade.
6. Commercial Blender
“It can be used for grinding spices or making dressings and sauces,” says Gerard Cribbin, chef at Coal Fired Bistro in Greenville, SC. It's also useful for whipping up purees, mayonnaise and chunky salsa. “Find a blender with a good amount of horsepower and RPMs, and a 64 oz. capacity.”
7. French or Dutch Oven
“Great for long, slow, moist-heat cooking, such as pot roasts, stews and sauces,” says Shelley Young, CEO and founder of The Chopping Block Cooking School in Chicago. The French oven is enameled cast iron, while the Dutch oven is uncoated. Look for manufacturers who offer life-time guarantees. “Cast iron retains heat exceptionally well and locks in flavor and keeps foods moist and tender. You can also use it as a stock pot or even for baking bread.”
8. Grill Press
This tool, also called a kitchen weight or meat press, ensures even temperature distribution and faster cook times. Bruce Hill, chef/owner of San Francisco eateries Bix, Zero Zero and Fog City, considers this tool so indispensable he invented his own version. “It allows for venting and weight adjustability, so it's a great, simple way to press food that increases efficiency, ease and taste.”
“Use them as an extra pair of hands to reach items that are too hot to touch or too difficult to reach,” says Darren Lee, head chef at the Armillary Grill at the InterContinental at Doral Miami. He prefers 8- or 9-inch heavy-duty tongs. “When they are too long, heavy things become difficult to handle; if they are too short your hands may get burned.”
10. Wooden Spoons:
“Wooden spoons are pretty generic,” admits Josh Jones, executive chef and partner of Chicago's Madison & Rayne. But they are cheap and indispensable. Choose a variety of sizes to accommodate different tasks. Add a cast iron skillet (see above) and, he says, “You can make breakfast, lunch and dinner using just those two pieces of equipment.”
Carrboro, NC-based Margot Carmichael Lester grew up in a gourmet grocery and parlayed that into a career writing about food, drinks and business for a variety of outlets, including in-flight magazines, consumer titles and Web sites. She has owned her own business, The Word Factory, for two decades. A devotee of dining at the bar, she favors sparkling wines and anything with bacon.