Smile Politely

Kitchen-Wise Tools of the Trade

As a professional chef, I have a well-equipped kitchen. Three drawers full of every imaginable tool — knives, spatulas, whisks, tongs, you name it. Yet there are some gadgets I just can’t live without. Thinking back, I realize that I’ve cooked for years without having many of the tools that today I would consider “essential,” and somehow everything seemed to work out. Nevertheless, I would not go back to those dark ages no matter how organic or romantic they seem in my mind. Let’s face it: Gadgets make our lives easier and our kitchens happier.

Here are some of my all-time favorites — and I think many chefs would agree.

Microplane zester/grater

This is an amazing little tool that I use it practically everyday. Say goodbye to shaving citrus zest on a box grater covered with a piece of cellophane. This gadget will cost you about $12, and it’s worth every penny. With hundreds of razor-sharp tinny teeth, it can zest a lemon in under a minute. I use it for everything from grating hard cheeses to fresh nutmeg, onions, ginger and garlic.

Hand-held immersion blender

This small hand-held blender purees everything from soups to sauces and anything in between with the touch of a button. I use mine for emulsifying vinaigrettes, making smoothies and the occasional milkshake. I love that it cuts down on clean-up when making soups and sauces by allowing you to puree everything right in the pot in which it was cooked. Many models come with a whisk attachment that makes beating eggs or making whipped cream super easy. Mine even came with a mini food processor that’s handy when chopping garlic, nuts or making breadcrumbs. They run from $30 on up.

The Santoku knife

If I could only have one knife in my kitchen it would have to be my ten-inch chef, but I love my Santoku for everyday cooking. This useful knife makes chopping vegetables and fruits easy and fast. While they come in many sizes, mine is a six-inch model that’s incredibly easy to handle. Originating in Japan, the Santoku is designed to be well- balanced and precise, making it very popular among home cooks and chefs alike. Many styles come with what is known as a hollowed edge, which is a series of small indentations on the blade that make food slide off easily. This feature is especially useful with starchy vegetables such as potatoes or squashes. Santoku knives are rather affordable, easy to sharpen and easy to find, making them a culinary must-have.

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