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tools of the trade
What's in your Toolbox?

issue #2
The Hottest Kitchen Equipment of 2005
 

 

By Colleen Richardson

Sous vide and foams were demystified this year, no longer the rarefied techniques of avant guard masters. Here’s a look back at the year’s hottest equipment that made these and other innovative cooking methods possible.

Cryovac The recent buzz over sous vide has brought attention to the Cryovac machine and the process in which food is sealed in airtight bags and then cooked for an extended period of time at extremely low temperatures. The process of hermetically sealing food in plastic bags is referred to as “Cryovac-ing” and helps food retain their natural juices and aroma during cooking. Chef Jonathan Benno of Per Se in New York acknowledges that a quarter of the work done in his kitchen is sous vide, and his Cryovac machine is an indispensible kitchen tool. However, Cryovac machines serve purposes other than just sous vide cooking. The vacuum sealing is used for preserving, marinating, and storing food items that would normally have a shorter life in the average hot kitchen. Because the air is extracted from the bag, products such as perishable nuts and fish have a much longer shelf-life when properly stored. Hotels and chain grocery stores use Cryovac machines to allow advance preparation and ensure consistency in food items that are assembled in a central commissary and then distributed to various locations.

Techne Immersion Circulator In keeping with low-temperature cooking, chefs are using science-lab grade immersion circulators that serve as a type of thermostat which evenly heats and moves water in a water bath and whose temperature can be adjusted to within a tenth of a degree. This whisk-like device is used in sous vide cooking. Chef Wylie Dufresne of wd-50 in New York has an immersion circulator at just about every station in his kitchen.

Hold-o-mat This amazingly reliable low-temperature oven comes to us from Switzerland and provides non-direct, even heat. There are two important functions this oven provides to chefs in a busy, high-production kitchen: 1) Meat and fish may be cooked for extended periods of time at temperatures as low as 68°F without drying out or burning (This method actually tenderizes the meat and improves flavor and texture due to the extended resting periods.); 2) The oven holds finished dishes by regulating temperatures and humidity, ensuring that food maintains peak integrity for service time. The convenience of this low-temperature cooking allows chefs to plan menus in advance and get more creative with dishes such as vegetables which tend to be left as the after-thought to meat.

Pacojet Another impressive product to come out of Switzerland – this mixer grinds and purees deep-frozen ingredients into a mousse or cream by rotating at high speed. This machine is used to prepare everything from freshly-made ice cream and sauces to flavored butters and silky purees. Melissa Perello of Fifth Floor in San Francisco likes to experiment with new flavor combinations in hers. One of the greatest features of this product is the chef’s ability to deep-freeze and store multiple flavored concoctions in one-liter steel beakers until ready for “Pacotizing” – a process by which the machine purees the product to a silky smooth consistency at a temperature of 53.6°F.

Thermomix This multi-purpose tool is manufactured by Vorwerk in Germany, and is popular for its ability to blend and heat items within a very narrow range of temperatures. The machine functions not only as a blender but also as a food processor, microwave and scale. It is useful for the preparation of soups, purees, sauces and even pizza dough. It also makes the perfect Hollandaise.

iSi Gourmet Whip Siphon chargers and N20 cartridges were once strictly the domain of the pastry chef, but they are now useful tools for the culinary chef as well, thanks to Ferrán Adrià, whose “espumas” – the Spanish word for foam – have transformed gastronomy over the last decade. A traditionally heavy sauce or dressing is aerated to become light and frothy – resulting in an entirely new mouth-feel. The technology behind iSi’s Gourmet Whip allows chefs to create soups, sauces and garnishes that are lighter than air. The container’s hygienic closed system preserves food quality and actually intensifies the food’s natural flavor. iSi even makes a Thermo Whip which can keep contents cold for up to eight hours without refrigeration needed, or it can keep ingredients hot for up to three hours.

Rational CombiMaster With five cooking modes – Hot air, Steam, Combination, Vario-steam and Finishing – this versatile oven provides the professional chef with the flexibility of many cooking techniques. There is also the ability to cook widely differing meat products, such as stuffed pork belly or veal roast, regardless of whether the oven is full or part empty, or how big the individual pieces are. You just simply set the oven to “overnight roasting.” Baking is also made easy by choosing SelfCooking Control on the oven.

 

These cutting-edge tools allow chefs to take their food to another level of creativity and taste, but in no way are they meant to replace a thorough mastery of traditional technique. Chef Shea Gallante of Cru in New York has the most high-tech tools per square foot in his kitchen, boasting every single piece of equipment on this list. Even so, he warns, “If you don’t understand the basic foundations of cooking, then none of this new stuff applies.”

 

 

  • Gift Ideas for Chefs

  •    Published: December 2005

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