Quality knives top chefs’ list of cooking essentials

No. 1 on every chef’s list is a sharp knife.
Jason Audette, Executive Chef of 2 West Bar & Grill in Saratoga Springs, uses his vitamix to prepare a beet vinaigrette on Friday morning March 18, 2016.
Jason Audette, Executive Chef of 2 West Bar & Grill in Saratoga Springs, uses his vitamix to prepare a beet vinaigrette on Friday morning March 18, 2016.

With the busy lives that people lead these days, it’s always good to know the quickest and easiest ways to get things done in the kitchen. Three local chefs have shared the kitchen tools and resources that they find to be essential in their kitchens.

No. 1 on every chef’s list is a sharp knife. David Yanisko, an assistant professor of Culinary Arts at SUNY Cobleskill, specifies three knives that he deems necessary in his kitchen: an 8-inch chef knife, a 3- to 4-inch paring knife, and a serrated knife.

“All must be comfortable in your hand, and they should be balanced and sturdy and well-built,” he said, cautioning people against wasting money on infomercial-style knives that he believes simply do not last. As a cutting platform, Yanisko also considers two sturdy plastic cutting boards as must-have items.

A complement to the knives is a honing steel, Yanisko said, which is a tool that doesn’t sharpen, but hones the blade of the knife, making the cutting surface straighter and allowing for better cuts. Also, a couple of whetstones, one coarse and one fine, for sharpening knife blades are essential. He prefers Japanese-made ones.

Another cutting implement that both JoAnne Cloughly, department chair of Agriculture and Food Management and pastry arts instructor at SUNY Cobleskill and Jason Audette, executive chef at 2 West Bar and Grille in Saratoga Springs, have on their lists is a microplane.

Although you can find kitchen microplanes in stores, Cloughly heads to the hardware store for hers, noting that her department now includes this tool, which comes in several sizes, in its student knife kits.

Audette uses his for a variety of tasks, including grating cheese, zesting fruit, and shaving nuts on top of a salad for more even distribution.

Cloughly likes to have on hand a small coffee grinder for grinding up spices and herbs, a nutmeg grater, salt and pepper grinders.

For cutting and mixing, the chefs listed other appliances, including a well-built stand mixer, a simple food processor, a small hand mixer, a hand-held immersion blender, a blender (Audette likes the Vitamix) and a plastic mandolin (Yanisko’s preferred one is by New Benriner, because the blade can be removed and sharpened).

Other tools on Cloughly’s list were a hand-juicer for when you need fresh lime, lemon or orange juice in a recipe, a spreading spatula to spread icing, mayonnaise and butter, and a good pair of kitchen shears.

Also, she finds a good pair of tongs and a heat resistant spatula necessary items in her kitchen. “Those I can’t do without, she said.

Yanisko likes to have two flame-resistant spatulas, a large one and a small one, in his kitchen, as well as two to four jelly roll pans measuring roughly 12 by 14 inches.

Other must-haves for Audette are a cake tester for testing the doneness of steak, fish and vegetables as well as a good fish spatula, a specialized spatula featuring vertical slots and a slight angle up at the end of the spatula.

He uses it on the grill as well as for transferring fish to serving dish or a plate in one piece.

High on Audette’s list is a culinary reference book. His preferred one is “Culinary Artistry” by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. The book discusses how to plan meals based on season and availability of ingredients as well as flavor pairings for different foods. “I use it quite often in the kitchen to spark inspiration,” he said. “It’s really awesome for trying to come up with new dishes and trying to do things outside the box.”

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