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“Top Chef” has returned and our hearts are full of quickfire delights and watching Padma Lakshmi discerningly analyze a plate of food. The Portland-based season promises a collection of exciting new chefs ready to impress with thoughtful recipes and thrilling knife skills.
The impressive display is enough to make anyone reconsider using their 40-year-old butter knives for chopping broccoli, sorry, broccolini.
Entering the world of cuisine as a novice can be absolutely intimidating. What knife is the right knife for me? When is a non-stick pan too old? What’s the difference between kitchen towels and bath towels? Worry no more, we’ve compiled the must-have kitchen essentials inspired by our favorite cooking shows. It’s a collection of necessities that every chef should own.
And while we’re talking about quality cooking TV, don’t sleep on the incredibly relatable HBO Max series “Selena + Chef.” The Selena Gomez-hosted series pairs the star with established chefs (Ludo Lefebvre, Roy Choi, José Andrés, Nyesha Arrington and more) who each take the singer through one of their signature dishes, step-by-step. This gentle process of active correction each time actress mimics their actions is often times hilarious, but mostly deeply informative.
Hedley and Bennett Apron
Why do Bravo’s chefs always look so good when they buddy up in teams? It’s not just Chef Gregory Gourdet’s stunning tortoise specs that lends and air of sophistication to their behind-the-line looks, it’s that Hedley and Bennett style.
Be it red, blue, amber or yellow, these handmade aprons are simply stunning and available in just about any color or pattern you can dream up. We’re especially fond of the new desert collection that includes a fun pinstripe and Mojave color. It has strong “This is for my Joshua Tree cabin” vibes. Thankfully the style is matched with substance. Made out of 100% cotton twill fabric, this sturdy apron will guard you from heat, cold and moisture in the kitchen, plus they’re machine washable and super strong. Go ahead and pickup a matching potholder while you’re looking, they’re cute and very heat resistant.
A Really Good Knife
A chef’s knife is an extension of their hand. A dull knife will rip apart your delicate cuts and bruise your farmer’s market veggies. It’s time to retire the steak knives you stole from your parents house in college and buy a big-kid blade.
The world of knives if vast and super intimidating and absolutely something we will revisit again. For now, let’s just assume you don’t need a $700 Nenox knife with a 100-year-old carbonized wood handle (although there’s no denying this knife is stunning).
Instead try the Misono UX10. This popular blade is made with hard steel which can hold its edge longer than most traditional knives. It’s also crafted specifically for right or left-handed chefs. However, this knife requires regular maintenance and a bit of skill to sharpen. You can either bring this knife into your local knife store for regular fixes, or you can learn how to sharpen your own knives yourself. Above we’ve embedded a tutorial from Korin, the authority on cutlery care. If you’re going to invest in this type of purchase we strongly recommended spending time on the Korin YouTube page. Also, you’ll need to purchase a wet stone and a ceramic honing steel to sharpen at home.
If you’re exhausted already, we’ve got a few less-finicky knives below. That said, all knives should be sharpened or you’re dooming yourself to bruised tomatoes!
In more affordable blade buys, we recommend the Wusthof Classic Santoku Knife. This German-made knife is a durable workhorse and will last for years. The Victorinox Swiss Classic Chef’s Knife is another exceedingly popular knife that will last. Both require diamond steel for sharpening, just not as extensively (FYI never use a diamond steel on a more expensive knife like the Misono, only carbon steels for that).
If you have a ton of counter space real estate, check out the Wusthof block. However, we find that people often feel pressured into buying these massive blocks simply so their knives have a home in their kitchen. To avoid that excess just get a blade protector for storage.
If you liked the monstrous block Gomez was cutting on through on “Selena + Chef” then we recommended this three-inch tall Boos Block classic. Just know, you’re going to have to pick up this 21 pound baby and wash it in the sink every time it gets dirty.
But you can’t go wrong with the Boos brand, no matter what the size, and it normally comes with a year-long warranty. If you’re looking for something cheaper, “Top Chef” has been leaning on Anolon’s chop-and-slice cutting boards this season, which ring in at a reasonable $35.
Every kitchen needs a rubber spatula, a whisk, a fish spatula and a wooden spoon (or comparable high-heat resistant spoon that isn’t metal). There are so many great brand to choose from here, but we wanted to single out a few of our favorites.
Rubber Spatula – Fight the urge to buy a “set” of rubber spatulas. Realistically you need one, two tops. Check out these $14 silicone spatulas in white, blue, black, turquoise and more.
Whisk – You can’t go wrong with this 10” dishwasher-safe whisk from Progressive International.
Fish Spatula – You’ll use the beloved Lamson Chef’s Slotted Turner way more than you anticipate.
Once you get your collection of essential kitchen tools, you will need somewhere to store them! The bain marie stainless steel pot often doubles as a utensil holder. Stay classic and go with the steel look or go wild and get something ceramic, the choice is entirely yours! While “Top Chef” has both ceramic and stainless steel options, one holder usually suffices per kitchen. This is a perfect place to get creative as its only job is to hold your utensils. Try a ceramic number or go classic.
As much as we all think we can effortlessly peel a carrot or cucumber with our fancy new knives, it’s difficult. Remove that stress from your life, buy a cheap peeler and get it in a fun color so you can always find it.
There are loads of adorable ceramic mixing bowls on the market. But take if from us, after you’ve cracked your expensive darlings for the second time, you’ll go back to the stainless steel standbys.
Depending on what you’re most prone to cooking, most kitchens will require two sauté pans and a collection of pots (usually a 2-quart, a 4-quart and an 8-quart). Pans are absolutely the most abused items in the kitchen, so they need to be study, able to go on top or in the oven and easy to clean. So far, All-Clad maintains its top-of-the-line reputation. In fact, we’ve had the same All-Clad pots and pans for over a decade, and they show no signs of wearing out yet. They’re dishwasher safe and work fine on any range.
You can buy them piecemeal over time and build a collection based on your usage, which is wallet-wise the smartest decision. Or you could go all in on an All-Clad set.
Sheet Pan/Parchment Paper
Measure twice, buy once. Make sure your sheet pan and parchment paper purchase is aligned, as they’re used in tandem. First, see what size sheet pan your oven can handle. There are full sheet trays and there are half sheet trays. Unless you’re cooking professionally, you’re likely only going to need the half sheet pan. Once you’ve selected the proper pan, you’ll want to make sure you pick parchment paper that fits on your tray so it doesn’t bunch up, or keep your kitchen shears handy.
Before it started making cars and bicycles, this 200-year-old company made coffee and pepper grinders. Today the Peugeot pepper grinder still stands the test of time as the ultimate spice shredder. Some choose to go electric with their spice grinders, but we will always be partial to the classic, manual mills. Available in a variety of sizes and colors.
To make Jon and Vinny’s cilantro sauce, Roy Choi’s Korean BBQ breakfast tacos or his Hawaiian malasadas, your kitchen needs to be equipped with a blender. Online users are mad for Vitamix, specifically the Vitamix 5200. And the hype is real, it’s a powerful piece of equipment. However, if you’re looking for something a bit cheaper and a little more versatile check out the Ninja Mega Kitchen System. Remember not all blenders need enough horse power to run a small golf cart. In fact, the Bamix hand blender takes up no space and packs a lot of power for something can fit in your drawer.
There are so many lovely kitchen towels to choose from, however, we prefer a towel that has a little pizzazz. Why? Let’s say you’re a “more than one towel” kind of chef. It can be challenging to remember which towel was used to mop up the spilled water and which towel you used for other things. The KAF Home Soho Kitchen Dish takes the guesswork out with complementary patterns.
The kitchen staple. The “must have” in every recipe. There is no substitute for kosher salt. Diamond brand is preferred as other brands will measure differently in recipes.