We all know someone who is cooking their way through this pandemic. From sourdough bread to everything bagels, spending 48 hours in the kitchen is now a perfectly normal thing. Listen, it’s cheaper than therapy and ends with delicious carbs, so we're not asking too many questions.
If you have a home chef on your holiday list, this is for you. We’ve asked some of our favorite chefs for what they can’t live without, and here’s what they told us.
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Priyanka Naik is an energetic vegan chef and Food Network winner who loves a mix of high- and low-tech gadgets. Her favorite secret weapon is the traditional mortar and pestle. “I use this to grind down whole spices (I will never use a spice grinder), because using a mortar and pestle allows you to retain the integrity of the spice while slowly releasing the oils and aroma. It's also great to mash pestos, chutneys, and nuts.” She recommends marble or granite, since “the heavier the base, the more stable.” Also, “the heavier the pestle means less effort is required while grinding.”
Naik also likes a good Microplane zester, which she uses to grate nutmeg, citrus zest or chocolate. “It's always symmetrical, finely grated, and provides that ‘oomph’ to dishes right when you need it.” Microplanes provide an extra-fine grate, boosting the complexity of your dish with a whisper of background flavor.
We’re all looking to reduce our impact on the planet these days, and sustainability chefs like Max LaManna are here to help. His latest cookbook offers you new ways to cook things you used to throw away, like squash peels that can be fried into tasty crisps or banana peels that can thicken up pancakes. Really!
“The one thing that will help people rethink the way that they cook is what they’re doing with those food scraps.” They need to find a way to compost those scraps too, says LaManna, which is why he also recommends looking into whether your local city or town has a composting service.
For the more adventurous home chefs on your list, chef Eric Rivera says a pasta extruder has been a “game changer.” The Seattle-based restaurateur has been using his to make “tons of shapes,” including casarecce, ziti, tagliatelle, fettuccine, creste de gallo, radiatori.” Even with simpler machines, home chefs can impress with fresh spaghetti.
For anyone trying to incorporate more plant-based foods in their diet, Rivera recommends a Chiba “Peel S” slicer for turning hard vegetables into beautiful paper-thin ribbons. “Chiba slicers are pretty dope,” he says, especially for “people who are vegetarian or looking to explore different applications with dense vegetables.”
Jessica van Dop DeJesus
Jessica van Dop DeJesus promises a simple tortilla press can be transformative if you want to make tortillas from scratch. It’s true. I was trying to use the back of my cast iron for months with disastrous results. The difference is worth it, she promises. “I think I’ll never go to store-bought tortillas again.”
DeJesus also says she’s in love with her instant Nespresso machine. “Especially now being at home, it gives me that coffee shop feeling without having to leave the house.” This one can do both espresso and regular coffee, too.
Food writer Nevin Martell has turned much of his home focus to baking these days, specifically mastering that perfect boule of bread. “Baking is as much a science as it is an art, so exact measurements are key,” explains Martell. Digital scales “will help you achieve precision, whether you’re working on your sourdough quest or whipping up a batch of cookies so you can eat your feelings.”
Martell is also a fan of scrapers, “to easily slice dough and get the last bits out of your bowls.” Bonus: You’re also cutting down on food waste, and every bit counts. “Just make sure to get one with a straight blade and another with a curved blade,” he says, or look for both in the same set.