Monday, August 9, 2010

The Long Awaited guide to Kitchen Gadgets and Tools!!!

It's late. Like 11 o'clock late.  I promised my facebook followers and strangely anonymous fans through e-mail, that I would have a new entry by tomorrow morning.  I was off today after one of the longest weekends I have ever worked...not getting into it but let's just say on Saturday I went in at 8:30 in the morning and I was not home until 2:45 Sunday morning.  Yet here I am, relaxing, typing away for your education and amusement, drinking my third Miller High Life and...what?  Miller High Life isn't classy enough for you?  I have better beer in the fridge, I just tend to like the cold glass bottle crispness of Miller okay?  Besides, it's the Champagne of beers I'll have you know.  Anyway, let's get on with this entry...brought to you in part with some encouragement from my wonderful Mother In Law, Adria Halstead-Johnson...we had a foodie chat tonight on Skype and it was wonderful...Thanks!

Yes I made those words up. 
Having the proper tool in the kitchen is critical in achieving the desired result of any meal or food item you embark on making...unless you want it to come out like which case anything will do, a coat hanger perhaps.  You walk into Bed Bath and Beyond and are confronted at the left hand wall with an army of kitchen utensils, flanked by aisles of cutting boards, colanders, cutting board-colanders, baskets, and banana hangers???  Is there really a reason for a 40 ft. vertical display of vegetable peelers?   I am inclined to believe that the home cook can accrue more kitchen tools and gadgets than the professional chef...not that we don't like them, we are just a wee bit more practical.  "But what about my shrimp deviener?  You know, the plastic hook thingy that is supposed to remove the poop vein out of my shrimp?  what about that? huh?"  Well just use a friggin pairing knife...(Future blog idea on how to prepare beef, chicken and seafood)

The Convertible Colander by OXO
COLANDER   Everyone needs one.  To rinse vegetables, to strain out your pasta, clean lettuce, etc.  Which one is the right one for you ?  I would lean towards a small to medium sized colander constructed out of metal, not plastic.  Oh, one with holes would be preferred.  My wife and I were gifted one by the OXO company which is a CONVERTIBLE colander.  It basically means it is rectangular and has fold down legs to be a normal colander or the legs can fold out to suspend the colander in your sink (more like a prep strainer).  Very nifty.

MESH STRAINER   You have seen these before.  I am a fan of these.  In the industrial kitchen they are a little more rugged, larger and we call them a "chinois" pronounced "shin wa".  If you ever want to try out a classical french recipe, or a real refined recipe at home (meaning anything from the French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller, or Refined American Cuisine by Patrick O'Connell) you will want this implement for your sauce.  Fine mesh strainers remove all the impurities, little bits of food, a skin that formed perhaps, and just about anything else in a sauce that you would normally just pass off as being a homemade meal.  Using this will make a world of difference in how your food looks and tastes, bringing it to a different level...or notch depending on what TV Chef you fancy.  They are fairly inexpensive and are worth every penny.
RUBBER SPATULA  You should already own one.  If you don't I will give you good reason to get one immediately.  They just make life easier.  I strongly recommend Rubbermaid's line of heat resistant rubber spatulas (about $15).  You can use them for preparing omelets in the morning, scraping bowls to get that last bit of cake batter eat of course, folding ingredients in, getting that clumpy flour-coated butter on the side of your mixing bowl while you are mixing your cookie dough.  There really are a slew of practical uses for these priceless implements which also include a close relative which is shaped sort of like a spoon actually referred to as a "spoonula"... I likey.
WHISK  Self explanatory really.  Get one that is stainless steel, and has a large handle, none of that spring-wound handle crap. Use this for whipping egg whites, whipped cream, really getting your eggs to scramble making vinaigrettes, sauces marinades, etc.

KITCHEN SHEARS  They are scissors for the kitchen.  They cut through the backbone of a chicken effortlessly.  They are easy to clean and for some reason stay really sharp all of the time.  I have a pair of Kitchen-Aid shears that have never been sharpened and are used from cutting chickens, to wrapping Christmas gifts...not joking either.  Buy a good pair ($20-$40) and you will have shears for life. 

HONING STEEL  I might or might not have mentioned this one in my knife entry.  Each time you use your knife, you create microscopic burrs on the blades edge.  These burrs can bend and fold and create your standard dull house knife.  A good honing steal will straighten these burrs and maintain your knifes edge for much longer.  A good one is fairly heavy, 8"or more, and slightly magnetized.  Another thing to invest in and you will never buy another.  ($40-$120)
DIGITAL TIMER  Digital...not wind up ding ding type.  They are worth every penny and are very affordable. One AAA battery will last you a lifetime and the loud noise of an electric alarm gets your ass in the kitchen stat when your cookies are burning.

TONGS  It still shocks me on how many people do not cook with tongs at home.  These are an extension of my hands.  I use these every day for everything.  Get not one pair, but several and you will understand why.  They come in different lenghts, I usually tend to like the longer ones, and the medium sized ones...the small ones always seemed pointless to me.  Also try and get ones that are spring tensioned and are made of stainless steel.  The pair shown are made also by OXO. ( $15)

VEGETABLE PEELER  Get one that is more than $1 please.  the rickety pieces of junk around at the dollar store really aren't making any ones life any easier, they just make your fruit and veggies look like you ran them over with your car.  I prefer Y shaped peelers as they are more ergonomically sound than the sideways straight peelers of the stone age.  The one pictured here is the STAR peeler by Zena of Switzerland and is the same type issued to me upon entering the Culinary Institute of America way back in 2001. ($8)

SPATULAS  Again another tool I'm sure you have.  Do you have a fish spatula??? no????Dear Lord, read on.  Fish spatulas are great not just for fish.  The have a slightly filed edge to them and are of a thinner metal construction so they are extremely effective in lifting foodstuffs off of sheet pans and cookie trays with ease.  Also, they are great for fish.  A good one goes for anywhere from $15 to $40.  Another item that is worth every penny.

SPOONS AND LADLES  I have one rule, get all metal stainless construction.  Yes wooden spoons are classic, shit I actually thought they were just made so Italian mothers didn't have to hurt there hands while kicking ass.  However, the cheaper ones get roughed up very easy (maybe after 4 washings) and can harbor bacteria, and I don't like that at all.  If you do like wood, and olive wood spoon is safest in my eyes. Try if you can to get a slotted spoon, they help.  A perfect sized ladle is a 6-8 oz for home use. 

WOOD CUTTING BOARD  I know the plastic ones are cheaper and easier to clean...but you have to think of your knife.  Wood cutting boards are sturdier, and more forgiving to a knifes edge than any other surface...don't even say glass cutting board or I will find you.  Proper care of these is to soak with warm water and a bleach solution, let dry and then lightly rub some mineral oil on it to keep it in top condition.

Well, there you have it.  I hope I have answered some questions.  I know I will get some e-mails with new questions, but like I said, you can have your juice trumpets, and mango corers, but these are the staple tools for you to really be successful at home.  Cook well...

please send any questions directly to Chef Paul at: 


  1. First, thanks for crediting me with your inspiration for the blog; honestly, it's always a pleasure to speak with you! Two things: I've never tried one of those peelers but I've always wondering how in heck you hold it? I've got a great one I love, made by OXO. It is similar to the Dollar store ones, but the handle is larger and rubberized. Very comfy! However, you can teach old dogs new tricks, so the next time I'm down visiting, I'll have to try yours out to see how I like it ;) Next.....about those wooden cutting boards. I can handle the bleach/water cleansing as it doesn't take much bleach to kill nasties while not killing you; but I take a bit of exception to Mineral oil. That stuff is from petroleum, and although I realize it won't go rancid the way vegetable oil does, is there some substitute we could find/use that isn't made from petroleum? You know I balance on the edge of crunchy-granoladom ; it isn't that I escue petroleum products entirely, just that I hate to see them around foods. Keep up the good posts!!

  2. If you have a good, solid cutting board, then you may use walnut oil, coconut oil, or olive oil, these oils harden after a while and will go mildy rancid, however the quality of the cutting board will prevent any absorbsion and rancid does not neccassarily mean bacteria needs moisture to live, and oil is void of such factors.