By Alex and Jen Jackson
Alex and I spent a great deal of time debating what constitutes a “must-have” for this piece—we both love gadgets, love ingredients, love kitchen equipment. And since we’ve both cooked in professional kitchens, we’ve had access to vacuum sealers, circulators, dehydrators, Pacojets, Thermomixes, Vitamixes, giant Robot Coupes and immersion blenders.
Many of these machines slowly trickled into our home kitchen where, for almost eight years, we collected everything we thought we might need to open our own restaurant. But when we made our move to Texas, we left our belongings in a storage unit where, alas, they were stolen. We found ourselves left with just the kitchen tools stuffed into our four suitcases—mostly in our knife rolls. Out of these, we’ve each chosen four items.
1.CHEF'S KNIFE. First of all, I must have a sharp, sturdy chef’s knife. My favorite has become my 9½-inch Misono UX10. This knife does any necessary vegetable work, fish and small animal butchery. I have named him Alexcaliber and I use him every day.
2.FISH SPATULA. I use the same spatula I received in my culinary school knife kit, 10 years ago. I’m not even sure what the brand is anymore, but I like a lightweight spatula—one that’s smaller so it travels well. I’ve used it to flip eggs, whisk soups and discipline line cooks (on occasion).
3. SHOVEL SPOON. Jen found this spoon in a thrift store when we were living in San Francisco, and I knew the potential of it when I saw her reluctance to actually hand it over. This spoon bastes, plates, flips, sauces and mashes, and I even use it to eat staff meals. Its multiuse status is what makes it special—I like the way it’s wide near the handle and does not sharply taper at the end, just like a shovel.
4.KOOZIE. At first, I chose a set of long tweezers as my final must-have. However, living in Texas has made me realize the value of a proper koozie. I use my Austin Beerworks Fire Eagle koozie daily. It’s bright blue so it never gets lost, and it folds nicely so I can take it anywhere. This koozie keeps my hand from warming the beer and the beer from cooling my hand. Brilliant.
After hearing Alex’s must-haves, I’m not sure that mine will be quite as entertaining, but this is generally how things go for us.
1.HEATPROOF SPATULA. I’m also a huge fan of a solid, heatproof spatula. I grew up in a home where we never wasted anything, and that has stayed with me into the professional kitchen. I always have a spatula in my bin at work—to scrape the last bit of pan sauce, the spoonful of soup still in the saucepot or the vinaigrette coating the inside of the mixing bowl. At work, we have a professional series of spatulas, but at home, I like the wooden-handled, hard-rubber spatulas from Martha Stewart. She knows a thing or two about spatulas.
2.UTILITY KNIFE. I also have to choose a sharp, durable knife. I used to only use my larger (8-inch) chef’s knife, but after working in kitchens where we do a lot of vegetable work and small animal butchery, I really value my 6-inch Misono UX10 utility knife. Misono knives hold their edges very well, and if you care for them, they last a long time.
3. SCISSORS. I have my last two items in the chest pocket of my apron every day. The first is a mini pair of scissors that the pastry sous-chef of Jeffrey’s gave me for cutting labeling tape, rather than using my knife. Not only do these scissors cut tape, but I use them to cut herbs in the garden, trim lettuces and greens off stems, cut butcher’s twine on cooked meats, cut open the netting bags on produce and, on occasion, to cut gauze or medical tape when a Band-Aid just will not do. These scissors are great because they do not rust from all the washing and sanitizing after each use, and the rubber handle makes them really comfortable.
4.CAKE TESTER. The second is a cake tester—my final item. These are found in the baking section of most cooking stores and usually cost about a dollar. This has become the most valuable piece in my knife kit. And while it obviously works for testing the doneness of breads, pastries and, of course, cakes, you can also gauge the temperature of meats, fish, vegetables and fruits. This method is more foolproof than touching the product with your fingers because the tester is inserted into the protein, vegetable or other item. Touching the metal tip to the inside your wrist, your lip or under your lip, like I do, reveals the internal temperature of the item. Of course, sterilization after each use is important (I use a sanitizing bain), and the method takes practice! Use caution because a very hot item can result in a very hot tip and a very unsightly facial burn!
CALLAHAN’S GENERAL STORE
501 Bastrop Hwy.
DER KÜCHEN LADEN
258 E. Main St., Fredericksburg
FARADAY'S KITCHEN STORE
12918 Shops Pkwy., Ste. 540
4703 Burnet Rd.
MAKE IT SWEET
9070 Research Blvd.
MISSION RESTAURANT SUPPLY
6509 N. Lamar Blvd.
SERVE GOURMET GADGETS & GOODS
241 W. 3rd St.