8 indispensable kitchen tools from pro chefs
Vitaly Paley: Sur La Table Mesh Nonstick 3-in-1 Grill Pan
To capture the flavor of his wood-burning grill, Paley uses this tough pan with a mesh body that transfers that smoky taste to food without letting it fall through the grate.
Try this: "If you think of it as a sauté pan, the options multiply exponentially," says Paley. Re-create a clambake on the grill with littlenecks, potatoes, shrimp, mussels, sausage, and corn. [$15; surlatable.com]
Michael Chiarello: Polyscience Smoking Gun
Michael Chiarello, Bottega (Yountville, CA)
Chiarello recommends this tool for home cooks without a smoker to inject aromatic, umami-rich flavor into anything from pasta flour to salad dressing.
Try this: Pump a pitcher full of smoke, then add vodka and stir. Use the infused spirit to make a martini. [$100; cuisinetechnology.com]
Grant Achatz: Import Food 6" Mortar and Pestle
Grant Achatz, Alinea (Chicago)
This ancient tool doesn't seem to fit in Achatz's arsenal, but the pioneer of molecular gastronomy uses it for everything from crushing nitro-frozen foams to extracting oils from nuts.
Try this: Make pesto – sea salt, and plenty of elbow grease, helps pulverize the ingredients. [$23; importfood.com]
Dale Talde: Microplane Classic Zester-Grater
Daniel Humm: Joyce Chen Unlimited Scissors
Tom Douglas: Ozeri 12" Green Earth Wok
Sean Brock: Lodge 12" Cast-Iron Skillet
Sean Brock, Husk (Charleston, SC)
A southern-food aficionado, Brock swears by the "tough as nails" pans from Lodge, a 118-year-old Tennessee foundry. They have a preseasoned coating that means proteins won't stick.
Try this: Bake corn bread in a preheated cast-iron pan greased with bacon fat. [$37; lodgemfg.com]
Christopher Kostow: Ateco 4" Baker's Spatula
Christopher Kostow, The Restaurant at Meadowood (St. Helena, CA)
Used primarily to frost cakes, this offset spatula has a thin blade that's been adopted by savory chefs for everything from plating to leveling ingredients. Plus Kostow digs the Ateco's aesthetic. "I like the handle and the logo," he says.
Try this: Use it to flip small fish like sardines in a grill pan. [$2; webrestaurantstore.com]