The recipes and techniques on this site will require very little in the way of specialized equipment. However, there are a few pieces of equipment that are very useful in preparing the dishes included herein.
A good quality blender is useful in the preparation of sauces and marinades. For many of the recipes included here, a simple, consumer model will suffice, and in many cases even a powerful stick or hand blender will do the job. That being said, a high-speed, high-quality model has much greater power when it comes to making smooth purées and incorporating diverse ingredients and thus can be invaluable.
Deep Fryer or Dutch Oven
A large, deep, thick-bottomed pot, such as a cast iron or enameled Dutch oven, is best for deep frying on the stovetop. These pots will help maintain an even temperature when ingredients are added to hot oil. Moreover, their deep sides make dangerous overflows less likely.
An electric deep fryer is even more convenient and takes much of the mess and fuss out of frying. Some even include built-in filtering and oil storage and make preparing fried chicken dishes and sides simple and safer than using a stovetop setup. If you are shopping for a home fryer, look for one with a large oil pan to reduce the number of batches required, and ideally, a built-in filter and storage tank.
Many of the following recipes include both stovetop and oven steps, and while it is possible to transfer ingredients from one pan to an ovenproof dish, oven-proof pans make this much simpler. While you should always check your manufacturer’s specifications, look for pans with metal handles and thick sides and bottoms that can be used in both the oven and on the stovetop.
A high-quality food processor is one of the true work horses of any home or professional kitchen. It simplifies chopping and puréeing large amounts of ingredients and can be used to make pastry and pasta doughs quickly and reliably. In most cases, a food processor can replace a blender for making purées – however the final texture will not be as fine.
Lidded Storage Container
A large storage container with a tight-fitting lid is the perfect vessel for marinating large pieces of chicken. It also serves as an almost no-mess container for consistent breading of fried or baked preparations. Large, plastic, food service containers – often generically referred to by the name of a common manufacturer ‘Cambro’ – are available online or at restaurant supply stores.
Sheet Pans with Racks
Sheet pans of various sizes in combination with racks are useful for a myriad of purposes in the kitchen. Of course, they can be used as cooking vessels for roasted and baked dishes, but additionally, a sheet pan topped with a roasting or cooking rack serves to drain fried foods and to keep ingredients from becoming soggy in the cooking process.
You can buy any number of stocks and broths at most grocery stores. In some cases, those will be more than sufficient for use in the following recipes. However, in flavor and texture there is no substitute for homemade stock. Stocks made at home will have more and fresher flavor and, importantly, greater body than store-bought varieties. An 8-12 quart stock pot will allow you to prepare stocks easily at home, to make soups, as well as to boil large quantities of pasta.
Plastic Storage Bags
While somewhat wasteful, there is nothing better for marinating foods than large, plastic, storage or freezer bags. Because you can easily squeeze out excess air, use of a resealable plastic bag keeps marinades in direct, even contact with the food, improving the marinade process and the flavor.
Sous Vide Circulator
A few years ago, a sous vide circulator could be found only on the workbench of a laboratory or in the most experimental kitchen. Today, your neighbor might have one and they can be purchased at your local department store. There is probably someone you work with who has spent hours extolling the value of sous vide cooking. There is only one dish in this book that specifies a circulator, and it also includes stovetop / oven alternatives. That being said, if you have one, or have access to one, a circulator can be a tremendously useful tool in the kitchen, and can work some miracles with chicken thighs.
Almost any recipe included in this book could be completed with just a single sharp knife of almost any size or variety. That being said, a small, sharp, paring or utility knife and a large, Chef’s or Santoku knife will make quick work of detailed tasks, like boning a chicken, as well as of larger-scale cuts, such as chopping potatoes and other vegetables.
I have Wusthof Classic Ikon knives on my counter, and mostly Victorinox Rosewood in my knife bag. I can strongly recommend either one. I’ve also given the Victorinox Fibrox knives to friends and family who’re headed to apprenticeships or culinary school. They’re excellent professional knifes at a very reasonable price.
These now-ubiquitous graters were originally designed for woodworking. Chefs and cooks quickly noticed their superior qualities and began using them for fine grating tasks such as hard cheeses, and for processing small onions, garlic, ginger, and other items that had previously been labor intensive to prepare. In the following recipes, you will fine this tool useful for grating garlic, ginger, and hard cheeses. Microplane graters are available online, and at many grocery and kitchen stores.
Flour Sack Towels
A finely woven kitchen towel, called flour sack, butter muslin, or filter towels, will allow you to produce fine, clean sauces by removing small particulates and making it easy to separate fats while straining. These towels can be rinsed, washed, and reused multiple times.
Sive and/or Fine Strainers
Fine woven strainers or sieves, sometime drum shaped and known as Tamis, can be very useful in staining liquids and in creating finely textured purees. For some recipes in this book, strainers or a tamis will help you remove lumps from sauces, or create smooth purees for sauces or side dishes.
A good, large, cutting board will make a big difference in your work space. A classic wood board looks great, is kind to knives, and will take a beating, but it requires care – both in cleaning it well and in making sure that it’s oiled and conditioned properly. I use both a large wooden board and a large commercial quality plastic cutting board in my kitchen. In my opinion, you shouldn’t bother with small flexible as they don’t provide the workspace you need – but some people find them helpful to prevent cross contamination.
You don’t need a mandoline to make any of the recipes on this site. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a lot of them easier. These slicers are both a blessing and a curse. They make it very easy to slice large amounts of veg (and some meats) quickly. On the other hand, you’ll never meet a professional – or serious home – cook who hasn’t had at least one near-emergency-department visit because of the sting of that blade. So, use safely. I’ve used fancy mandolines and cheap mandolines, but i’m a particular fan of the Japanese style slicers made by Benriner for super sharp blades, and precise cuts that aren’t stuck at a 1/4 or 1/2 inch preset.
A rice cooker isn’t necessary, but generally makes far superior rice with far less effort than stovetop methods. I’m a big fan of the programmable models made by Zojirushi.
Silicone spatulas are handy for getting all the sauce or marinade or batter out of the bowl, for making the best scrambled eggs, and weirdly, for cleaning up after dinner – nothing is a better plate scraper. I prefer wooden handles, but that’s just a personal prefernce.
Silicone Baking Mats
Silicone baking mats make sheet pan cleanup easy, and help distribute heat more evenly. These days they’re inexpensive and less fussy than when they first appeared on the consumer market.
While it’s not specifically used for most of the recipes on this site, a kitchen scale is an invaluable tool for portioning, measuring ingredients, and especially baking. For more consistent results than volumetric measurements, a scale makes certain there’s no error from packing, leveling, etc. I strongly recommend these Escali Art Glass scales, as they’re easy to use, an honestly, look really great.
Mortar and Pestle
A mortar and pestle might seem like an antique, particularly in a list that includes powerful electrics like blenders and food processors, but there’s no better tool for grinding small amount of food, aromatics, or spices. And because you’re the motor, foods don’t heat up – a detail that can really improve the flavors of things like pestos and other pastes utilizing fresh ingrediants.
Cookbooks are more than a recipe resource. They’re a tool that can inspire you, teach you new techniques, and help you explore new flavors and cuisines. The below recommendations run the gamut from the simple to the exotic, from the classics to cutting edge. All of them have been part of my culinary education, and all of them … well, just make me happy.