6 Tools Every Home Cook Needs

With Easter behind us, Mother’s Day will be here before you know it.  A friend asked me to recommend some of my favorite gadgets and I’ve done so below. After years in the kitchen specialty industry, I learned there are way more gadgets than anyone needs, but these are a few that believe no Ma (or Pa!) should be without in the kitchen.
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Chef’s Knife

Contrary to the marketing claims of many low-quality knife companies, you don’t need a block full of serrated knives.  Three, sharp, distinct knife styles are all you really need to be productive in the kitchen (one each of chef’s, serrated, and paring). The chef’s knife is the most important of the three and can do the lion’s share of the work chopping ingredients, peeling melons and prepping dinner.

My personal favorite is the Wusthof Classic 8” Chef’s knife followed in a close second place by the Wusthof Le Cordon Bleu 8 inch Hollow Ground Cooks Chef Knife. The classic is everything a chef’s blade should be: razor-sharp, weighty enough to do any job and perfectly balanced.  The Le Cordon Bleu has a thinner, sleeker blade with hollows (helps food release when cut) and feels less intimidating to those who aren’t as comfortable with a traditional chef’s knife.
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Peeler

Back when we owned our first kitchen shop, I would regularly tell people that the Messermeister serrated swivel peeler is the one tool I would choose to have if I were stranded on a deserted island.  Why? It can peel anything. From delicate, perfectly-ripe peaches to hard-skinned butternut squash, the tiny serrated teeth along both sides of the blade make quick work of everything peelable.
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Thermometer

An accurate digital thermometer is essential not only for meats, but also for breads, desserts, candies, and many other dishes.  My two favorites are the Polder Digital In-oven Thermometer (plus you score a clip for candy making) and the ThermoPro TP-07 Wireless Remote Digital Thermometer. Both are accurate, reliable, and intuitive to use.  The ThermaPro offers the benefit of a wireless transmitter so you can walk away from the oven or bbq and still be alerted when your food reaches temperature.
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Citrus Juicer

Nothing adds flavor like freshly-squeezed citrus.  From marinades to soups, guacamole to ice cream, a squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange adds that perfect touch to your recipes. The Chef’n FreshForce Citrus Juicer has been a reliable favorite of mine for over 10 years.  You’ll be shocked at how much juice the dual-gear mechanism is able to press out of your citrus.  The lemon (yellow) version works perfectly for both lemons and limes. If you’ll be pressing a lot of oranges, go ahead and invest in the orange version as well, as it has a larger cavity for the bigger fruits.

USA Pans

Forget lining your pans with parchment or silicone baking mats.  The USA Pan Bakeware Half Sheet Pan is made from aluminized steel that is coated in food-grade silicone, which is PTFE, PFOA and BPA free.  The corrugated surface combined with the permanent non-stick coating (no metal utensils, please!) produces perfectly baked cookies and roasted sheet-pan dinners. As you can see by the photo, they are built to last. Mine still works perfectly even after years of use and a nice patina color change.

Pizza Screen (and stone)

Pizza is one of those dinners that can be tons of fun and even more delicious when baked at home. Nearly every Friday we have a huge bowl of dough and all the fixins so that everyone can create their own personal-size pizza for dinner. With a ceramic pizza stone and several 14” pizza screens, you can bake artisan quality pizza at home whenever you feel like it! Preheat your stones for at least 30 min at 500° and bake your pizzas on the screens (mist with spray oil first) for the first 6-8 minutes, then transfer them directly to the stone for the final 2-3 minutes for a perfectly-baked bottom crust.

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