I love cooking, it’s therapeutic for me. When I worked in a fine dining restaurant I was always looking at what the chefs were doing and asking questions, trying to figure out what they did and what tools they were using. I love trying out fancy recipes. I have grand visions of being the next Tim Love, and opening my own line of restaurants…but then I remember how much I like nights, weekends, and holidays. Now, I may not be able to cook exactly like the pros, but I can get pretty darn close, and I have a few favorite tools that help me get there.
A Microplane Zester/Grater – There is nothing like fresh citrus zest to add a little something extra to a meal. I also love this for grated nutmeg and ginger, and for hard cheeses, it’s perfect. There’s lots of different styles and they’re cheap enough that everyone should have one.
Mandoline – I take this out every chance I get. It makes precision cuts that improve presentation. My particular model has a few different blades that make fries, chips, and juliennes vegetables so easy. The only downside is that you will cut yourself, and it is SHARP. Just be sure not to cut off your entire finger. Again, there are lots of styles and come with varying price tags.
An Immersion Blender – I use this for so much: emulsifying vinaigrettes, sauces, purees, soups, pesto, smoothies. Everything is easily made smoother quickly without having to resort to large blender. Whipped cream is my favorite to make with this. I hate my clunky handheld blender. Immersion blenders are also really easy to clean and many models are dishwasher safe. You can get a nice model for under $40, or splurge and get the deluxe version with all the bells and whistles for $100.
A Pressure Cooker – Now you may be thinking to yourself, “Wait, didn’t Grandma have one of those that exploded?” Maybe, but nowadays pressure cookers are quite safe. And there’s nothing else that can cut down on cooking time as much as this. You can make your own stock with the best flavor imaginable in only 15 minutes. Braising likewise takes far less time. Get a quality, good sized, electronic pressure cooker and it will be worth it’s weight in gold.
Sous-Vide Immersion Circulator – This last one, you may not have heard of. It was developed for labs but brought into kitchens when chefs realized it’s cooking implications. This machine, when placed in water, will circulate the water and keep it at a constant temperature to one tenth of a degree. Foods (mostly meats) are placed in an airtight plastic bag and put in the water where it cooks in it’s own juice creating the most tender and moist food you will ever have. Steaks will be the perfect temperature from edge to edge, and not just in the middle. And because the temperature is constant, you can begin cooking and leave to do whatever else you need with no danger of overcooking. These machines used to be exclusively for restaurants, but home versions like this one have recently been produced and can be purchased for around $200. Granted, a food vacuum sealer (which I recommend with this) will drive up the price, but you can brag to your friends that you were the first to have this.
Note: Huge fan of Tim Love’s Flavor Essentials at Love Bodega.