Earning a chef’s diploma not only gives you the necessary credentials to land a job, but also ensures that you have the skills to do it well. But in order to prepare tasty dishes, you would need more than the ability and knowledge of how to do it. You also need a complete arsenal of proper tools to make them.
From knives and blenders to mandolines and cast-iron pans, this article lists the seven most important tools you need in your culinary arsenal and how to pick ones that are best suited for specific tasks.
Every chef needs a good set of knives. However, experts believe that you can skip getting the full knife set that comes with that fancy woodblock as long as you have the three most essential ones: a chef’s knife, a serrated bread knife, and a paring knife.
● Chef’s Knife
This type of knife is arguably the most important tool you would need as a chef. When it comes to slicing, chopping, dicing and mincing ingredients, you need a good chef’s knife to perform the most vital tasks in the kitchen.
When choosing one for yourself, make sure that you pick a chef’s knife with a comfortable grip and a well-balanced blade. Blades made of high carbon can stay sharp even through extensive use, so you must consider investing in one if you’re committed to the craft.
Of course, you also need to be attentive so you can keep your knife in prime condition, regardless of the model you go with. Avoid cleaning it in the dishwasher, and only use a honing rod when maintaining its edge. Keeping it on a magnetic strip or in a blade guard is also good practice.
● Serrated Bread Knife
Most serrated bread knives are seven to 10 inches long. It is characteristically narrow and comes with a big-toothed serrated blade.
This kind of knife is often used for cutting cakes and bread, as the name implies. However, it can sometimes be used to slice through poultry, meat, and seafood.
Thanks to its serrated design, bread knives ensure that you can slice through bread without having to push down on it hard, thereby preventing the bread from getting squished.
● Paring Knife
A paring knife is small enough to help you make garnishes through cutting and peeling vegetables and fruits. It can also be used to trim excess fat with ease and precision.
Usually, a paring knife has a three- or four-inch-long blade with a pointy tip. However, it can also come in many different styles, including sheep’s foot, bird’s beak, and spear point, all of which describe its shape.
2. Chopping Board
There are plenty of pretty glass and stone chopping boards available in the market today. However, if you’re a pro chef, you should go for those made from plastic or wood.
While they may look great in your kitchen, glass or stone chopping boards can dull your knives with constant use. You also need something that is durable enough to endure grooves without damaging your knife.
Of course, wooden and plastic chopping boards need to be replaced every few years to avoid bacteria buildup in the grooves.
A powerful blender is quite useful for making purees, emulsions, and even delicious smoothies. While countertop varieties are quite versatile, you need to find the right model for specific applications.
That said, there are plenty of options available for you. Below are some examples of different blenders and what they are used for:
● Immersion and Stick Blenders
Immersion and stick blenders are handy personal blenders. They are characterized by handheld “sticks” that make them easier to use for mixing hot liquids or blending soups. They also work well for quick mixes or combining more ingredients that won’t usually fit your average countertop blender.
● Single-Serve Blender
Known as the original smoothie makers, single-serve blenders are made for chopping up frozen fruit, ice, and nuts to achieve a smooth drink. They can also be used for making pancake batter or beating eggs for a quick omelet.
However, these blenders are only useful for making very liquid recipes, as most of them only have single- or double-serve capacity. Made popular by brands like NutriBullet, these blenders actually come in bullet-shaped containers that are screwed onto a chopping blade and attached upside down to the blender base.
Like a knife, tongs are also used in almost any type of cooking. This is why you must pick a pair that allows precise control and lets you arrange a completed dish or turn over food in a frying pan or oven without slipping.
Those made with silicone tips are recommended because of their heat resistance. These tongs can also protect nonstick surfaces (like in your nonstick pans) from scratches.
Mandoline slicers help you produce uniform cut pieces fast. This type of tool also makes various cuts, including the julienne for vegetables added to salads and the French cut for potato fries.
For professional chefs, a countertop mandoline made from stainless steel is ideal. However, you can start with a more economical plastic version.
6. Food Processor
While a food processor has plenty of similarities with a blender, it has a lot more benefits of its own. You can swap blades and attachments according to your needs, making the food processor more multifunctional than the blender. In fact, it can also be used for various other tasks, including shredding cheese, chopping vegetables, and mixing and kneading dough.
7. Cast-Iron Pan
Sure, you can have one nonstick pan for the occasional egg, but there’s one type of pan that you’ll be more thankful to have in your kitchen as a professional chef: a cast-iron pan.
A cast-iron pan is an inexpensive option for chefs. It conducts heat well, making it a great tool for cooking steaks or searing chicken breasts. It can also be used when caramelizing something to develop the taste of poultry and meat.
Complete Your Arsenal
Whether you’re planning to open up your own cutting-edge restaurant or training to take over the family deli, make sure that you have not only the skills but also a complete range of tools and equipment to create delicious dishes for your customers. Start gathering up the items you need in your craft with the help of this article.
Shanaaz Raja is the Course Director at International Centre for Culinary Arts – ICCA Dubai.