Cutting board – wooden: Michigan Maple Block or John Boos & Company. Wood, 18 x 24 x 1 ½ inches, minimum. The cutting board does not want a drip edge for collecting juices. That may work well for slicing meat, but not as a chopping surface. You need a flat surface that will easily allow you to move product from the board to a container and not collect in the drip area. A large, heavy board will not warp, will not bounce, and will give you a solid base from which to work. I much prefer wooden boards to the plastic ones. We use the plastic ones in the restaurant because that is what is required! Maple, cherry, and walnut all work well.
Dough scrapers – plastic. Semi-rigid plastic. These are a second set of hands for me. I use a square-edged scraper as an assist in transferring diced veggies, etc. to a bowl or pans.
Flexible silicone bowl scrapers. With rounded edges. Be certain you get flexible silicone, or you will simply be buying the semi-rigid scrapers. Flexible will quickly scrape a bowl clean.
Heavy-duty mixer: KitchenAid K-5 or similar stand mixer.The bakery uses a KitchenAid commercial 8-quart mixer for small batches in the bakery. I use the same at home. An extra bowl is desirable. On the 8-quart commercial, the orange power cord indicates commercial grade. All the recipes in the book will perform well with the K-5 or a similar stand mixer. There are wonderful pasta rolling and cutting attachments for the KitchenAid. Look for the KitchenAid KSMPRA 3-Piece Pasta Roller & Cutter Attachment Set. I strongly recommend these if you wish to make the pasta recipe in the book, as a rolling pin won’t get the job done.
Kitchen spoons – metal: Solid and Perforated Heavy-Duty Kitchen Spoons – Jacob’s Pride.
Knives: Can either be forged or stamped. Knives can be stainless steel or high carbon steel. There are also special steels like Damascus steel. Stainless is the easiest to maintain. Carbon steel is the hardest, holds an edge the best, and is the easiest to sharpen. Carbon steel will rust more easily. If you use your knives frequently, clean and dry them well. You will have fewer problems that way. The consensus is that forged knives will be harder and hold their edge better. Forged high-carbon is a great option. Stainless steel knives are the most available option. Forging is a more costly process and, therefore, those knives will be more expensive. Knives can be extremely expensive and equally beautiful and artistic. I like a relatively heavy knife, a point I frequently reiterate. I like a tool that is capable of doing the work. I need a knife that has a relatively large handle and a blade that is tall enough so that when I hold the knife and chop my knuckles do not hit the table. If you go to the store knowing more about knives than the sales clerk, hopefully they’ll find someone who can really help you. When researching knives, know that lengths provided generally refer to the blade length, not the total length including the handle. My suggestions are as follows:
Lettuce spinner: Zyliss Swift Dry Salad Spinner. A good value and it works well. Dry lettuce is a requirement. This makes it easy
Linen-like towels: These are used in the spinach gnocchi recipe, in particular, for draining the spinach purée. They work the absolute best for that. Look up Hoffmaster Linen-Like towels and you’ll find various listings. They’re not bad to have around the house, anyway. Perfect for a picnic lunch or messy rib dinner.
Mandoline: OXO Simple Mandoline or Stainless Steel Mandoline. Generally these types of mandolines fold up for storage, and can be set up on your countertop for thinly slicing vegetables for salads or special garnishes. They frequently come with different types of blade inserts for various cuts. I like the accuracy and speed you can get with these tools. I julienne with either a mandoline or by hand. If you do use a mandoline and perhaps might be using one for the first time, use a mandoline glove for protection. It’s way too easy to seriously injure yourself with one of these.
Pots and pans. When purchasing saucepans and sauté pans there are too many options and price levels. Specifications to keep in mind are heavy-duty, non-reactive, with high conductivity bottoms adaptable to all heat sources. Some may be stainless, some nonstick. For our purposes, all the sauté pans I suggest are slope-sided. Perhaps the terms sauté and fry pans are interchangeable. I think my mother called it a fry pan. Acidic food product can interact badly with aluminum-based pans, creating off colors and tastes, so non-reactive is best. I prefer metal over nonstick because I cook hot and the nonstick surfaces degrade when constantly super-heated. All-Clad and Cuisinart products meet the standards described and are a reasonable value. Le Creuset products are beautiful and very heavy-duty. They are expensive yet will last a lifetime. They are also extremely heavy to carry and move, much too much so for my active style of cooking. Whatever brand you choose, this is the inventory I suggest:
- 1-quart saucepan
- 2-quart saucepan
- 4-quart saucepan
- 8-quart saucepan
- 12-quart saucepan (good for pasta cooking and soups)
- 16-quart sauce/stock pot
- I don’t use a lot of lids, but purchase one or two to help keep sauces warm.
- 8-inch sauté pan
- 12-inch sauté pan
- 14-inch sauté pan—I highly recommend getting one of these. Its size is ideal for sauté and other processes where you need the space. You may have to ask for this to be specially ordered in a store or source online. All-Clad does have one. They call it a fry pan.
- 8-inch nonstick omelet pan. An omelet pan is not one of those pans that flip the eggs over.
- An omelet pan is an open pan. The process of making a true omelet is an art to be appreciated
- and one of the kitchen’s great skills. Learn how to make a true French omelet with the classic rolling technique. I recommend an 8 to 9-inch nonstick pan. Elsewhere in the book, I referenced the steel French omelet pans from my earliest years. I loved them and, when they were perfectly seasoned, they were the best. If you make omelets regularly, use that pan only for omelets. You want to maintain the surface in its most perfect nonstick state.
Rondeau: 16-quart All-Clad rondeau or Paderno World cuisine grand gourmet 15-quart rondeau. A word you’ve likely never heard. They are extraordinary for braising and searing, and perfect if you make large volumes of chili or stew. Also ideal for this book’s bolognese sauce. The All-Clad has a a 14-inch diameter and a 6-inch height. Also check out the Paderno. It has a 14.1-inch diameter and a 5.5-inch height. If you research the All-Clad you may see a complaint that it does not have a lid. Very large cooking vessels generally do not have lids and that is okay. Stocks never want to be covered. I never cover while I am working with stews or chili or any product of this ilk. I want reduction. I want evaporation. I want the impurities to escape and not cloud the stock or demi-glace.
Pasta maker: hand crank pasta machine. An old-fashioned hand crank pasta maker works very well, it just takes a little more time and effort. Be certain to get one that rolls and thins the dough and comes with a fettuccine cutter.
Ring mold: You need a ring mold like this for the lump crab and avocado. There are two sizes, depending on whether you want the appetizer or the more substantial portion. For the appetizer, search for the JB Prince Round Ring 2 x 1 ¾-inch ring. For the larger, the JB Prince Cake Ring 3 x 2 3⁄8-inch ring will workwell.
Rolling pin – large: J.K. Adams Patisserie Rolling Pin. They offer a 12-inch and 15-inch barrel. Each barrel is 2 ¾ inches in diameter. In the bakery, I use a rolling pin with a 3 ½-inch diameter and an 18-inch barrel so that my knuckles do not touch the table. Most rolling pins do not have that large a barrel. With a 2 ¾-inch barrel I can get my fingers under the handles and this works well. All the rolling pins I use and like have ball bearings, allowing the barrel to rotate easily. I can exert significant pressure on a very cold dough. I am not comfortable using the French rolling pin (a single piece of wood, no handles, tapered at each end), nor do I like the beautiful artisan rolling pins where the barrel does not roll on bearings. The French pins are very useful for smacking down a cold dough. I have, however, become very adept with a basic rolling pin and can easily shape pastry dough into a good circle. I try to describe that technique in the pastry dough recipe.
Round strainer basket: In the spinach gnocchi recipe, you see an equipment listing for a large, handled flat-bottomed strainer. This will make your life a lot easier when blanching the spinach. A good option is the Lodge 8FB2 Deep Fry Basket, 9-inch. Make sure yourpot is big enough to accommodate the basket. This is also perfect for a pasta dipping basket.
Scale – gram, ounce, and pound: OXO Good Grips 11-Pound Stainless Steel Food Scale with pull-out display and tare. This item is essential for the bakery section.
Scoops for scones, cookies, etc.: Vollrath Jacob’s Pride Dishers. These come in different numbered sizes that correlate to various portions in ounces. We use these for portioning scones, cookies, and pâte à choux. We portion product in multiple sizes. The #24 would be for relatively small cookies. Sizes to consider, depending on your needs, might include:
- #24 – 1.125 oz
- #16 – 2 oz
- #12 – 2.66 oz
- #10 – 3.25 oz
- #8 – 4 oz
- #6 – 5.33 oz
Ounces are by volume, not weight.
Silicone baking mold pyramid and round. These are perfect for individual servings of the new flourless chocolate cake. I prefer the pyramid shape.
Skimmer AKA spider: Hiware Solid Stainless-Steel Spider Strainer Skimmer Ladle, 5.4 Inch. The round shape is better for removing food from liquid (e.g., when frying or poaching). I prefer the square spider for skimming stocks.
Spatula – medium, flat: Fox Run 5327 Flat Icing Spatula. 8-inch stainless steel blade, with a wooden handle.
Stainless steel bowls: Vollrath Heavy-Duty Stainless Steel Bowls. My recommendations are as follows for sizes to have in your inventory. You will use all of them for one function or another. I have provided specific item numbers to help guide your search.
- 1.5-quart – 7 ¾-inch diameter, #69014
- 3-quart – 9 3/8-inch diameter, #69030
- 5-quart – 11 ¾-inch diameter, #69050
- 8-quart – 13 ¼-inch diameter, #69080
- 13-quart – 16-inch diameter, #69013
For a 20-quart bowl, Vollrath does not offer the heavy-duty weight. The Vollrath Standard weight 20-quartstainless steel bowl has a 19-inch diameter, and its item number is #47949. The 20-quart is big, but not crazy big. The next size up in the heavy-duty is the 30-quart, which is going to be too big for most home kitchens. We have one that big in our house, and do use it from time to time! All sizes referenced above in heavy-duty are available in the standard weight, as well.
Tart tamper. Wood tart tamper by MSART. For purposes of this book, the tamper is primarily helpful in forming the crusts for the Key lime tarts and grasshopper pie.
Vitamix 5200 or similar. A very important piece of equipment in my kitchen. A second container is great to have on hand.
Wooden spoons: Browne 10-inch and 14-inch Heavy-Duty Deluxe Wooden Spoons. For tasting and heavy stirring. Easier to hold than a flat-edge metal spoon. I use wooden spoons a lot. The pâte à choux recipe in the book needs a strong wooden spoon.