Tools of the Trade: What's in your Toolbox?

What’s in Our Toolbox:

Chefs bring tool boxes or bags with them to work every day. Here’s what we keep in our own kitchen tool box.

The Essentials
  • Vegetable Peeler
  • Melon Baller
  • Small Strainer
  • Sifter
  • Paring Knives - usually the cheaper, disposable kind
  • High Quality 8 - inch or 10 - inch Chef’s Knife
  • Large Serrated Knife
  • Meat Thermometer
  • Rubber Spatulas – heat-proof, usually 2-3 because they get lost
  • Rubber Bowl Scrapers
  • Wooden Spoons - as many as will fit in the box
  • Ruler

Beyond the Basics
  • Microplane - for zesting and grating
  • Filet Knife
  • Candy Thermometer - this is different from the standard meat thermometer; candy thermometers need a higher temperature range and need to be extremely accurate
  • Offset and Straight Cake Spatulas (if you make cakes) – usually a large offset and two or so small ones
  • Metal Bench Scraper
  • Pastry Tips & Pastry Bags - disposable bags are the most convenient
  • Steel Rod – to correct dull edges on knives

More than Tools:

  • Electric Scale
  • Hand Immersion Blender
  • Mandoline or Large Meat Slicer
  • Standing Mixer
  • Stainless Steel Pots and Pans – the best for the money come from restaurant supply stores
  • Rubber Cutting Boards - can be sanded for fresh surfaces
  • Small Marble Counter or Piece of Marble - pastry and chocolate work
  • Food Processor
  • Microwave
  • Silpats

Chefs Tool Box:

We wanted to know what the pros use, so we asked top chefs around the country what tools they use, and what tools they simply can’t live without. Here’s what we found...

Mario Batali, known as “Molto Mario” by his Food Network fans, says his home kitchen isn’t complete without a solid wood cutting board, his Sabatier knives, his hand held colander and a food processor. In his New York restaurants Lupa, Esca, Babbo and Otto, he makes certain each kitchen is filled with good aluminum sauté pans. “They heat up fast and I can beat the hell out of them,” says Mario.

Marcus Samuelsson always keeps a mortar and pestle handy for quick grinding.

Charlie Palmer's favorite item is his non-stick pancake griddle, which he uses at home when he cooks for his kids.

Japanese culinary giant Nobuyuki “Nobu” MatsuhisaNobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa never works without his special chef’s knife, which he had customized for him in Japan.

His favorite tools change frequently, but at the moment Bobby Flay says he loves heat-proof rubber spatulas.

Chef Tony Mantuano of Chicago’s famed Spiaggia is hooked on his favorite pasta appliance, the Bigolaro pasta machine.

Among other things, famed Pastry Chef Jacques TorresJacques Torres of Jacques Torres says he cannot live without a KitchenAid standing mixer.

Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith of Nemo in Miami Beach, FL covets her microplane for zesting and grating.

Thomas John of Mantra in Boston, MA says "I love to have a small electric coffee grinder on hand at all times. It allows me to fresh-grind whole spices.”

Robert Merrifield of The Polo Grill in Tulsa, OK says the only tool he can’t live without is a fork. “You can do almost anything with a fork,” he says.

Rick Moonen of rm in New York, NY feels passionately about blenders. His take is that more kitchens should have varied speed blenders, to be able to control the amount of air incorporated into a mixture when blending.

Jody Adams, award winning chef and partner of Rialto and blu of Boston, MA says the three most important tools in a kitchen are, “a great, sharp chef’s knife, tongs, and a good food processor.”

Dante Boccuzzi prizes his "oroshi," a sharkskin grater for wasabi.

Round and square cutters are essential in Pastry Chef >Jean-François Bonnet of Atelier’s kitchen in New York, NY.

Pastr Chef David Carmichael, likes his offset serrated knives for cutting virtually everything.