9 Professional kitchen gadgets every home cook should have
Cooking at home just got easier thanks to these hacks from real restaurant kitchens.
1. Precision cookers (for sous vide)
From the finest French bistro to the food truck outside, sous vide is used by the pros to make those amazing soft-poached eggs and perfectly cooked steaks and salmon that seem impossible to make at home — until now. Sous vide machines have advanced radically in recent years, allowing amateurs to explore this advanced cooking technique at home. Some, like the Anova precision cooker, can even connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth.
2. Pizza stones
Image: The Paupered Chef
Pizza places use commercial ovens that can reach much higher temperatures than the oven in your kitchen — which usually max out at around 450 to 550 degrees F — which is why their pizza has that crisp, perfectly browned crust and yours doesn't. Short of building a brick oven in your backyard, there aren't any complete pizza solutions, but for amateur pizzaiolos, there are some decent hacks. From aluminum foil-wrapped bricks to unglazed quarry tile, people have tried a number of things, but for a growing number of pizza lovers, the best way to crank up the heat on your pie might just be a FibraMent baking stone.
3. Plate warmers
One simple thing that has an enormous impact on the guest's impression of their meal? Chill cold dishes for food meant to be served cold, and warm the dishes that are meant to be served hot. This electric plate warmer from Waterbridge is an easy way to bring your A game to the table.
Besides not having to serve sauces on your plate like a savage, ramekins can also be used for mise en place — the French practice of "putting in place" or organizing recipe ingredients in preparation of cooking. There are small prep bowls or glass custard cups you could buy, but ramekins can do double duty.
5. Stainless steel bowls
Every cook should have a set of stainless steel bowls at their disposal. Not only do they make inexpensive, lightweight mixing bowls that are safe for your dishwasher, but they're safe to use as a double boiler and in pressure cookers for pan-in-pot recipes. A whole set can also be used for mise en place, if you're wondering what to do with the smaller bowls.
Whether you're deep-frying, roasting a chicken or making hard candy, temperature control is critical to food safety and completing recipes successfully. The Thermapen is the most recommended thermometer in the world and can get an accurate reading in only three seconds.
7. Bus tub
The humble bus tub is what keeps a restaurant floor running smoothly. Use yours to make quick work of an outdoor party or picnic. You can even store your barbecue gear in one for the ultimate in grilling convenience.
8. Meat slicer
Perhaps more than any other professional kitchen tool, home chefs question their need for a meat slicer — they can be expensive and high-maintenance devices to own (food-grade oil isn't cheap). But in spite of that main drawback, a meat slicer can pay for itself very quickly by sidestepping premium prices and can be invaluable for people with arthritis or physical conditions that can make working with a knife cumbersome and painful. Meat slicers can even do double duty, making precise, wafer-thin cuts on vegetables and harder cheeses as well. Though not as heavy duty as one you might find in a professional kitchen, slicers like this Chef's Choice are still plenty rugged and won't cost as much as a used car. Seriously, some of the high-end models can cost over $7,000.
9. Sheet pans
If you've spent any time in the back-of-house, you'll know sheet pans are professional workhorses of the kitchen. Half- and quarter-sized sheet pans lie stacked 10-15 high on stainless steel tables in every restaurant around the world, ready to be pressed into service for basic tasks, like food preparation, serving and storage, to the more complex, like dehydrating, roasting and baking — basically any duty a resourceful cook can imagine. Sturdy and inexpensive, no home kitchen should go without. These nonstick Vollrath sheet pans are excellent and are even slightly concave on the bottom so that they'll heat evenly as the metal expands in the oven.