There are many vital pieces of Chef equipment needed to do your job in a professional kitchen; if not actual necessities, they at least make your job a little easier. Modern kitchen equipment may involve powerful mixers and top of the range ovens (no pun intended), but there are still many essential tools that, although evolved over time, have been used since the first primitive pestle and mortar was used to grind grains. Our history of restaurant equipment will tell you more about kitchen tools of the past.
We put the question to some professional Chefs to find out their must have Chef tools for today’s kitchen. From the seemingly mundane to highly evolved modern appliances, here is our list of Chef equipment favourites for 2020.
Always a number one Chef tool, a set of durable, high quality knives is an essential component in any Chef’s arsenal of tools. You can create dishes without an oven, you can create meals without a food processor but working in a kitchen without a knife is very, very hard.
A Chef knife is an investment, which means you should take time to find the one that works best for you. It will be your ‘right hand man’ so it’s important that it fits right, feels right and does the tasks you need. It is quite usual to have a selection of knives to use for different tasks.
Recommended knife brands among Chefs are Global and Kai Shun. If you have the opportunity, definitely try out different knives before you buy, perhaps one belonging to a fellow Chef, in a store or at a food show.
Read Top 5 knives for more tips on choosing the right Chef knife.
In a busy kitchen anything that helps speed up processes will be a welcome addition. A blender is a necessary piece of equipment for creating smooth homemade soups, dips, dressings and for some desserts. Of course in a commercial kitchen you need to consider durability when you are producing significant quantities on a regular basis. For this there are two clear favourites - the Vitamix and the Thermomix. Both have powerful motors and go beyond the functions of a basic blender, making them an extremely versatile piece of professional equipment.
A food processor can do the work of many hands and is considered indispensable in a busy commercial kitchen, saving hours of labour. A good food processor comes with different attachments to make quick work of slicing, chopping, shredding, mincing and grating. A popular commercial food processor used by many Chefs is the Robot Coupe, a heavy duty model for large scale use. Another machine that can be for home use but is also powerful enough for professional use, is the Magimix.
If you work in a kitchen where alot of large scale mixing is required then a commercial mixing machine is a must have piece of Chef equipment. Schools, hospitals and bakeries, especially, will need a good, heavy duty mixing machine. Hobart, a name well-known for industrial kitchen equipment, has a wide range of high quality reliable mixers ranging from a 5 litre bench top model all the way up to their whopping 140 litre floor standing mixer.If this is a bit more than you need for a small scale restaurant or cafe, then the Kitchen Aid stand mixers range from 4 to 7 litres and are also robust, highly efficient machines made for commercial use.
Steaming is a cooking method well-known to retain nutrients and colour in foods. If you have worked as a Hospital Chef or a School Chef it is likely you are familiar with the industrial steamer as it is ideal for batch cooking foods such as vegetables and rice. Hobart is, again, one of the leading manufacturers of large scale vertical steamers. For smaller scale kitchens or mobile caterers Buffalo make a 6 litre bench top steamer.
A mandoline is another time saving cutting device. Mandolines can be handheld or table-top and are used to create perfect slices of fruit, vegetables and cheese over and over again. If you are using it for large quantities then a table-top mandoline is far more stable, but as with a Chef knife you will find that the best mandoline comes down to personal preference. A mandoline with a good quality steel blade is needed for a precise cut and to retain durability in a busy kitchen. The professional V blade Kobra Mandoline from de Buyer can be set to cut different thicknesses so you get consistent cuts when slicing large quantities. Some mandolines like the Ultra Deluxe Mandoline come with extra blades for julienne cutting.
Pots & Pans
Some key equipment for a Chef is their pans. To withstand the constant use in a busy commercial kitchen, pans need to be well constructed from good quality material. Pans are on the stove a lot, so need to be made entirely of metal and durable enough to stand up to high heat over prolonged periods.For even heat distribution copper or aluminium pans are the best choice. Stainless steel is not so good at dispersing heat but it is a great material for for durability. Cast iron is ideal in many ways - it is long-lasting, distributes heat well and even adds flavour to the food cooked in it. However, you need to develop some muscles to work with cast iron and for this reason it is never really used for larger pots and pans.
A sieve? A colander? A strainer? For a Chef the best tool to combine all of these is the chinois. A chinois can be described as a conical shaped fine-meshed sieve and is a very versatile piece of Chef equipment. The shape of the chinois means it can be easily rested over tall containers or a sink for straining foods, making smooth sauces, stocks and soups and for sifting dry ingredients. A good quality chinois is a recommended addition to every Chef’s set of tools.
The humble whisk is an important kitchen gadget for all Chefs. A whisk needs to be flexible but durable for all those batters, soups, gravies and desserts you’ll be whipping up. A stainless steel whisk is best for long lasting durability, or silicone is a good option, especially for use in pans that you don’t want to scratch. You need to choose a whisk that is comfortable and easy to hold for when you are beating at high speed for long periods of time. Whisks come in different shapes and sizes so your choice will depend on what you want to use it for. De Buyer Professional Stainless Steel Whisk – versatile for all kinds of kitchen tasks. Matfer Balloon Whisk – this has a heat resistant handle making it sturdy and robust for use over the stove.
Chopping boards are essential pieces of kitchen equipment. When choosing a chopping board there are two things you should keep in mind – preserving your knife blade and hygiene. A good quality hard wood chopping board is the best choice to ensure your knife blade stays sharp. In a well-constructed wooden board the blade can go between the wood fibres giving it a ‘soft landing’, thus avoiding blunting or damaging the edge. Wooden boards can be wiped down and the wood heals itself, making it extremely long lasting. Wood is also thought to have some antimicrobial properties. This beech chopping board, at 4 cm thick will not warp, is kind to your knife and has a good sized working surface. Some consider plastic, or polyethylene, chopping boards to be a more hygienic alternative. These are definitely a lighter weight alternative to wood, so are much easier for transporting foods from table to cooking pot. The Hygiplas High Density Chopping Boards come in a range of sizes and colours. Colour coding chopping boards to use with different food types is a definite advantage to avoid cross contamination in a busy work environment.If this has whetted your appetite and you are keen to see and try out some shiny new Chef equipment for yourself, then one of the best places to see it in action is to visit one of the many food and drink shows that take place around the country every year. Read our blog The best UK food and drink events for Chefs and aspiring Chefs in 2020 to find out what’s happening near you.
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