The relationship between chefs and their knives is the stuff of legend, but most of us who like to cook have a a utensil or tool that we find ourselves picking up on a daily basis, one that makes us feel confident and capable — or just makes things go a little more smoothly. Here are our editors’ secret kitchen weapons.
VIDEO: Jacques Pepin Breaks Down a Chicken for Galantines
The unrefutable master of la technique shows off his famous knife skills, and reminds us just how many things you can do with a whole bird.
Lauren Wilson: Cheesecloth
It seems like every kitchen project that I’ve taken on recently has required cheesecloth. Making ricotta? Check. Cold brewing coffee? Yep. Pickling corn and beans in my stoneware crock? You bet, especially “if you want to keep the critters out,” as my mom says. You can occasionally go MacGyver and employ a t-shirt, but for predictable and consistent results, I’m a fan of this cloth that I recently bought at the Brooklyn Kitchen.
Gabrielle Langholtz: KitchenAid StandMixer
My mom gave me her old stand mixer and though it’s about as old as I am, its motor can outpace my biceps any day. The thing is equal parts workhorse, wizard and Swiss Army knife, rocking everything from kneading dough and whipping cream to beating egg whites and making DIY butter. I also splurged on two excellent whiz-bang must-have attachments for rolling pasta dough and stuffing sausage. Thanks god, and mom, for that thing. I use it every day.
Caroline Lange: Korin all-purpose santoku knife
On Easter morning, I saw a man on the subway platform, presumably on his way to brunch, with a chef’s knife (sheath on, thank goodness) sticking out of the water bottle pocket of his backpack. I felt an inexplicable and possibly disturbing tie of kinship with him. This is because last summer, I bought myself my first real knife, from the Japanese knife store Korin, and joined the ranks of the fanatics who won’t go anywhere without their knives. I got the cheapest knife they have: it’s 8 inches long, a little weighty in the handle, incredibly sharp even a year after I bought it. I use it constantly — whether I’m chopping my CSA share into manageable pieces or flicking seeds from the flesh of a lemon or slicing a loaf of bread — and love it obsessively, to the point of taking it with me when I travel and missing it when I’m home visiting my parents.
Rachel Wharton: Cast iron pans
My Dad gave me my first skillet, which he seasoned himself, when I got my first apartment as a sophomore in high school. I have since collected many more, some plucked rusty and unloved from the garbage — they’re not so hard to resuscitate — others from flea markets, and at least one from the grocery store near my grandmother’s house in Louisiana. Grill pans, sauté pans, Dutch ovens and a couple of lids, to boot. I use it everyday and for cooking almost everything except boiling pasta. My favorite remains the one my father gave me first, of course.
Anne Goldberg: Glass jars
As a modern overcommitted city dweller and as a cook, few things give me more satisfaction than having a pantry stocked with staples than can be turned into a quick meal. This mode of provisioning relies in large part on dry goods, and I love looking into my cupboard and seeing a phalanx of jars filled with grains and beans, ready to be marshalled into action as my dinner. It seems simple, but the jars themselves are an integral part of my strategy. They keep things fresh, and moreover clearly visible to the harried pantry-sacker. I recently fleshed out my collection of repurposed peanut butter and pickle jars with some vintage swing-top beauties that I rescued from Craigslist, not unlike these guys from the always spot-on folks at Food52.
Feature photo: Flickr / Rochelle, just rochelle