11 Professional Cooking Gadgets for Home Cooks Slideshow
April 18, 2012
Sous Vide Machine
Sous vide is a method of cooking foods vacuum-sealed in a low-temperature water bath. Until recently, it was a technique mastered only by world-renowned chefs such as Ferran Adrià, but now sous vide machines are available to home cooks. To start cooking sous vide, equip your kitchen with a water oven, and vacuum sealer. Prepare to spend a little more for compact setups like this immersion circulator.
"It’s really hard to achieve smoke flavors in your food without professional equipment," Rosenblum says. A great option for home cooks is something like this stovetop smoker, a straightforward tool that allows you to smoke meats or vegetables without installing a huge smoker.
For those with aspirations of at-home butchery, you can make your own bangers or kielbasa with a home sausage stuffer. A smaller 5-pound model fits easily within a non-professional kitchen and will have you stuffing links in no time.
Home Brewing Kit
Beer making has been around since early civilization stumbled upon the fermentation process, but it used to be a challenge to find the right ingredients and tools. Now, it’s a cinch to get started making beer at home. The most basic home brewing kits include a fermentation bucket, bottling bucket, thermometer, hydrometer, tubing, siphon, and capper. You’ll need to invest a little more to up your game to a keg system.
The meals our grandmothers made were likely cooked without ever taking out a measuring cup. And though most of us would viciously defend our grandmothers cooking, if we want to mimic professional chefs its time to start getting precise about measurements. Rosenblum explains it this way, "Strictly measuring ratios is something people dont learn at home, while chefs have typically treated cooking more as a science." A good digital scale doesn't have to be expensive, but it will allow you to get more exact in the kitchen something especially important for baking or molecular gastronomy.
Like a scale, a thermometer helps a cook to be more accurate. However, not just any thermometer will do. "Most of the time when you see the phrase 'instant read' it’s a misnomer," warns Rosenblum. "It’s not really an instant temperature read, more like 10 seconds." A high-tech infrared thermometer like this one has a higher ranger (-67 to 682 degrees), takes faster reads, and can measure both surface and internal temperature.
"The Vitamix is really a professional-grade machine that goes far beyond any tool that a home cook would normally own," explains Rosenblum. Beyond its classic application as a high-tech juicer, the Vitamix can make soup just from the heat created by the friction of the ingredients, nut butters, sauces, and even ice cream.
High-End Chef's Knife
"Really good knives are still the realm of chefs," says Rosenblum. It can’t be stressed enough that if you want to cook like a pro, you have to start with your cutlery. Though a durable knife can be found in the $100-range, "that’s like the Honda or Toyota of knives," explains Rosenblum. "It’s durable and will last a long time, but isn’t as slick and doesn’t go as fast." For the Ferrari of knives, look for something like this Japanese-style carbon steel blade.
Want to make crème brûlées that would impress even the staunchest French gourmand, or roast peppers to fiery perfection? You’ll need a culinary torch. A professional-quality torch runs in the $40 to $60 price range, plus the price of lighter gas.
The combi oven is one of those rare gadgets that manages to combine many seemingly disparate cooking functions into one tool. Though the price tag is hefty (smaller models for home kitchens start around $2,000), the multifunctional oven combines grilling, steaming, boiling, frying, and baking functions into one and will actually save you money on other appliances. If that doesn’t sway you, combi ovens allow you to more precisely control cooking temperatures, which means that your dishes will start coming out with professional quality.
Besides the advantage of being able to make homemade Reddi-wip, a culinary whipper allows the home cook to make the kind of fancy foams seen in the creations of gourmet chefs. A culinary whipper such as the Siphon R-Evolution makes both hot and cold foams for those interested in pushing culinary boundaries at home.