How to Outfit Your Kitchen Like the Pros
Outfitting Your Kitchen for Performance. We’ll tell you what to pick up and what to pass by in this handy list of kitchen essentials.
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|3½” Paring Knife Only about as long as your index finger, this short blade goes where other knives become unwieldy—|
it’s a strawberry-huller, pastry-trimmer, Brussels sprout peeler, and apple corer. As with the cook’s knife (and for the same reasons), it pays to have two or three on hand.
Steel Despite the old Ginsu knife ads, all non-serrated knives require honing. When you buy your knife, be sure to pick up a rod-like steel, and ask the salesperson to teach you how to use it. (This is another reason to buy from knife specialists.) When you can no longer bring your edge back with a few swipes of your steel, then you’ll need to sharpen your knife. While home sharpeners are popular, many remove too much metal. The same goes for most pro grinding services. To extend the life of our own blades, we visit Henckels or Wüsthof during their sales: sharpening is speedy, discounted, and these fetishists won’t whittle off too much steel. And remember: never throw your knives in the dishwasher! Rattling against each other in the baskets, their fragile edges become nicked.
If you emerge with only one idea from this article, let it be that sets don’t pay. Take that knife block sucking up prime real estate on your counter. Chances are you only reach for one or two, while the others have become coated with greasy dust. And, fascistically, the block determines your knife collection—if your family cooks together and needs two or more cook’s knives, there’s room for only one in the block. Meanwhile, if someone mistakenly slid a long bread knife in a short slot, your counter is probably gouged from the mistake. And, obviously, that didn’t do any favors for your blades.
Rather than commit to (and store) what you don’t need, we recommend that you buy only what you use. And consider this: Westchester is home to the U.S. outposts of two famous German cutlers, Wüsthof in Briarcliff Manor, and Zwilling/J. A. Henckels in Hawthorne. Both of these cheerful competitors operate discounted Westchester showrooms, which offer excellent sharpening services, and regular—often concurrent—warehouse sales (usually mobbed by pro cooks). Best of all, both Wüsthof and Henckels have specialists on staff to help you find the best knife for your needs.
Pots and Pans
Pot and pan sets are gleaming, seductive, and offer the illusion of completeness—but remember, as with knives, sets don’t pay. When it comes to outfitting a high-functioning kitchen, no single material can do it all. Stainless-steel pans are wonderful, but you probably want the slip of nonstick for fragile fish filets. On the other hand, nonstick surfaces are useless for making caramel: their black bottoms mask the moment the sugar turns brown. Of course, neither stainless nor nonstick surfaces are as efficient as cast iron for crisping crust—we wouldn’t roast a chicken without it. You get the point: all-inclusivity is an illusion—serious cooks need different types of pans.
Here’s how we’ve equipped our own kitchen—but remember: every cook’s needs are different.
Stainless Steel An all-around great material—it’s non-reactive and, depending on quality, nearly indestructible. Unlike nonstick or enameled cast-iron pans, stainless steel tolerates the high heat of deep-frying or broiling, and then it pops right into the dishwasher. Stainless is a great choice for saucepans and a single large sauté pan. Look for riveted, heatproof handles that can go directly into the oven. Also seek out massy, heavy-duty weight, which helps to evenly distribute heat. We like All-Clad, Calphalon, and pro-grade Sitram—all quite pricey—but Ikea’s All-Clad-like Favorit line is gaining fans on a budget. Another budget pick is Lincoln’s pro-grade Duraware, available at Harris Restaurant Supply in Port Chester. Lincoln’s $58.25, 10” sauté pan (4) is what line cooks use at super-trendy Tarry Lodge.