Saving Money With the Right Kitchen Equipment

The Stone Age chef may have only used fire, rocks and sticks to cook, but innovations do help to increase speed, sanitation and flavor in restaurant kitchens. Many chefs and gourmet purists denigrate using microwave ovens, but when used skillfully, microwave ovens apply precise levels of heat for many kitchen functions such as melting chocolate, warming ingredients or finishing the cooking of properly browned meats. Reheating portioned foods that are seldom ordered is also a cost-effective way to avoid the waste and loss of food quality that is caused by keeping less popular foods on steam tables. The equipment choices for a restaurant kitchen have to be practical and you cannot purchase every new cooking tool you see.

Some Kitchen Gadgets Waste Your Money

You should avoid many restaurant gadgets, and those tools that are designed for single purposes are usually not cost-effective solutions to food preparation problems. For example, any kind of peeler or slicer designed for one fruit or vegetable is suspect. You get better value from a good paring knife and swivel peeler. Avoid special blenders or food processors made for one task such as margarita machines or smoothie blenders. Use a powerful multipurpose blender and a good food processor to handle most food preparation duties. Some common appliances that could either help in the kitchen or waste your money include the following items:

  1. Food Processors and BlendersHigh-volume restaurants might need the power of an industrial-strength food processor such as a Robot Coupe, but most kitchens get similar results from using Cuisinart processors, which cost far less. The only advantage of the industrial model is that it will shut down if overpowered.
    • Cheap food processors will not last long in a professional kitchen and will waste your money.
    • Solid brands like Cuisinart strikes a nice balance between cost and durability.
    • A dedicated coffee grinder can be used for herbs, but you should generally avoid one-use products.
    • A powerful blender serves many specialized tasks such as making smoothies and soups and grinding ice.
    • Your could buy three or four Cuisinarts for the price of one Robot Coupe.
    • Immersion blenders prove beneficial for many kitchen tasks, and they save steps for busy cooks who can use them directly in the pans to blend ingredients.
  2. Cutters and ChoppersSpecial banana and egg slicers, garlic presses, onion dicers and nut choppers are a waste of restaurant capital. Invest in good-quality chef’s knives, which talented chefs can use for any slicing and chopping chore. Large cutting boards give chefs enough room to cut and chop all kinds of foods.
    • Bench scrapers perform numerous duties such as transferring chopped vegetables to blenders or pans, discarding peels or saving them for stocks, dividing doughs and scraping counter surfaces.
    • The flat side of a chef’s knife will crush garlic cloves and remove the peel without any fancy equipment, or you can cut garlic bulbs in half, roast them and squeeze out the roasted purée.
    • A microplane zester is useful for grating fruit zest, making delicate wisps of hard cheeses and grating chocolate and fresh nutmeg.
    • Swivel peelers peel carrots, potatoes, and apples, make chocolate curls for decorative projects and zest lemon and orange peels for garnishes.
  3. Coated CookwareStainless steel and cast-iron cookware provide methods for cooking all types of foods. Take care of cast-iron by drying it carefully and coating it with a light coat of oil. Along with being prone to scratches and causing health issues, coated cookware cannot stand up to the demands of a professional kitchen.
  4. Electric KnivesThese are generally useless for most kitchen cutting tasks. If you need to slice lots of meats thinly, then you need a commercial meat slicer. Hand slicing works best with a sharp knife wielded by someone with the appropriate slicing skills. The electric knife does serve one specialty purpose, and you might keep a dedicated good-quality electric knife for this reason: making clean cuts on sandwiches, especially club sandwiches, that are made with plain bread instead of toast. The electric knife won’t squish or tear the bread, and busy sandwich makers will find it useful.

All kitchens can benefit from using instant-read digital thermometers and kitchen scales to measure ingredients and temperatures accurately. Pepper mills provide freshly ground pepper for kitchen cook stations and can grind sea salt. Stainless steel prep bowls in various sizes are essential kitchen equipment, and using them avoids the problems of staining and producing unusual flavors that are associated with plastics. Choose equipment that multitasks, disassembles for easy cleaning and provides durability for long-term use. The key is to look beyond the salemanship and see if the  product will provide a special benefit  that is worth the increased expense.