Thoughts For Food

Insights into the Mind of a Culinary School Student

Food Bites: Tools of the Trade

Taken from Google Image Search

I’ve mentioned quite a few tools here on the blog ever since I’ve started posting. I’m sure there are a few people who don’t know what I’m talking about and just dismiss it as food industry jargon. Rest assured, there is a method to my madness and there are meanings to the tools I often name-drop here. Allow me to break it down for everyone playing at home.

A lot of TV Infomercials and novelty stores will be selling what is touted as being the end-all, be-all kitchen “kit.” Or some may be tempted to get the latest “flavor of the month” kitchen gimmick that’s really only good for one thing (Slap Chop, I’m looking at you). I’m telling you right now: DON’T fall for such flashy gimmicks or kits. My parents, I love them to death, but they always seem to fall prey to these infomercials and such. Thankfully, I weaned them off of it and I’ll pass on what I’ve learned to you, dear readers. The following is a list of common, everyday items that you can find in every knife kit of every student here at the CIA and, these same tools can easily transition into the home kitchen.

A 7 or 8-inch Chef’s Knife: This is the prime workhorse of any kitchen cutlery set. 7 or 8 inches is the norm but there are longer knives out there. Honestly, the longer the knife, the trickier it is to wield, at least from my point-of-view. This knife, well kept and well sharpened, will tear through just about anything you set it to. It will carve meat, dice veggies and even make short work of fruit. No kitchen set or knife kit should be without this knife.

A 3 or 4-inch Paring Knife: Remember, it’s not the size that matters, and this little guy is the living embodiment of that phrase. It can peel, slice, dice, basically anything its larger cousin can do, but for smaller or more delicate items. It’s perfect for stripping meat of bones and, kept sharp, a great aid for filleting hunks of meat off fish, chicken, etc. Again, kept sharp, this is the perfect compliment to the larger Chef’s Knife.

A 10-inch Serrated Bread Knife: This serrated beauty is perfect for not only bread, but for carving large roasts as well. The serrated blade makes quick work of tough, crusty loaves of bread, as well as large hunks of meat. It’s a sturdy knife that shouldn’t be left out of any setup.

A 10-inch Serrated Cake Knife: This guy isn’t just for cakes, trust me. You can use it to shave off chocolate, make homemade bread crumbs and it can also double as a carving knife for delicate items that the Bread Knife may damage. This is one knife you shouldn’t overlook.

Spring-Loaded Tongs: These should be a no-brainer at this point. Tongs are an essential part of any setup. Their uses are just about limitless. Pulls foods out of the oven, flip meat on the grill, hold them while you check the temperature, etc. Don’t skip these. And speaking of checking temperature…

Electronic Probe Thermometer/Timer: This is an extremely handy piece of equipment. The probe can easily enter anything you’re cooking and the internal temperature will be easily displayed on the readout screen. The prob and cord are also over-safe, so you can leave it inside the item being cooked and the timer portion can be set outside the oven and even set to alert you when it reaches the appropriate temperature. The best models can double as a timer, as well.

Silicone Spatula: Why Silicone? It’s heat-resistant. It won’t burn or melt when exposed to high temperatures, and, it’s incredibly easy to clean.

Large Balloon Whisk: A whisk is an essential tool in the kitchen. It mixes and aerates at the same time. Don’t skimp out on this one.

A Large and a Small Offset Metal Spatula: These are fantastic multi-taskers (to borrow Alton Brown’s catchphrase for a moment). Flip foods on the grill, check the color of the underside of baking items, apply frosting on baked goods, etc. The uses of these guys are limitless, and the different sizes helps out a lot as well.

Electronic Scale: No unit of measurement is more exact than weight. If you want all your recipes want to turn out the same time, every time, get yourself one of these. The best models can easily switch between US and Metric units, as well as having a Tare function, so you can zero out the weight of the container of any given item.

Flexible Bowl Scraper: This will be the best $1 you will ever spend. This can reach and conform to bowls so you can easily get at any batter or dough.

Heavy Duty Vegetable Peeler: When I say “heavy duty” I mean this thing is made of metal, not plastic. Blades that are sharp and will remain sharp for a long time and not easily rust. One of these is quintessential. Trust me.

Measuring Spoons: What else can I say? If you want to stay exact, then press these guys into service.

Kitchen Shears: And I’m not talking about the ones that have all those gimmicks on them. Just get some nice, stainless steel shears that preferably come apart in the middle. Easily cleaned and a great tool in any kitchen.

There you have it. My personal list that encompasses the tools I think are the ones that you shouldn’t skimp out on. Trust me, they’ll help you out in the long run.