I figured it would make it easier to explain how I cook by putting all my kitchen essentials in one note. I move around and travel alot but have found I always bring a few things with me wherever I go. Here goes:
Cooking without the right tools is like being a caveman. Here is what I pack when I go someplace new (even for just a few weeks):
- Shun Ken Onion 7″ Santoku Knife. This is the katana of kitchen knives. I use it to perform French-quality butchery on American-quality meat (read Anthony Boudain if you don’t get the references).
- All Clad 10″ Non-stick Fry Pan. This one is the best. It lets you saute and pan sear thinner meats and fish without destroying it. Just hide it from the maids because a dishwasher will destroy it.
- Lodge 10″ Cast Iron Skillet. When you need heat, this one is the original. It also makes a great forearm workout. Remember to clean with warm oil and kosher salt (not water as rust does not taste good – thank Alton Brown for the tip)
- Maverick Infrared Laser Thermometer. How do you tell what temperature High vs. Med-High is? By cooking with laser beams (to quote Dr. Evil). I use this to keep the temperature of my pans just at the right temperature.
- Digital Thermometer. I know how to cook my own food to the right temperature but I need to be more careful with guests.
- Digital Timer. This goes hand-in-hand with the thermometer. It is critical when searing ahi tuna (40 seconds is *very* different from 60 seconds in terms of what you get–and smartphones are just not as easy to use with sticky hands).
- Pyrex 12″ 9″ x 13″ Baking Dish. Non-reactive and great for finishing anything in the oven. Just as good for mixing and marinating.
- Good Grips Measuring Cup and Spoons. I like being able to read the cup from above (my bad lower back thanks me).
- Orka Silicone Oven Mitt. These babies go up to 500F. They have saved me several times from bad oil burns.
- Amco Silicone Tongs: Much Better than a flat spatula for controlling meat, fish and veggies. They also don’t scratch.
- Mario Batali Silicone Spatula. Great for scrambling eggs and stirring sauces.
- Laguiole Steak Knives: You see them in all the best restaurants for a reason. I use them for all animal protein dishes
- Combined Bottle Opener / Cork Screw. Nothing ruins a bottle of wine like not being able to open it.
- Ziplock Plastic Bags: The ultimate way to marinate ingredients: put the marinade and ingredient in a bag, squeeze out all the air, and massage every hour.
I always remember how much I miss this stuff when I cook at a friends. Hint: if you want me to come cook at your place, get this stuff.
- Kosher Salt. Great for cleaning, perfect for seasoning meat. It all comes down to the geometry of the flakes (thanks, again Alton). Morton’s is fine. Wegman’s is my favorite. Morton’s is fine. No need for Malden salt if you have…
- Fleur de sel (Top Grade Sea Salt). The running debate is Guérande vs. Algarve (I have a favorite but do not want to start an international debate with my friends in each country) I use this to finish nearly everything that is savory. (Remember this when Tom Colicchio tells someone they underseasoned something on Top Chef.)
- EVOO for Flavoring: Salads or post-cooking. Tuscan Olives are best. My current favorite is Pasolivo.
- EVOO for Cooking: A good Arbequena or Manzanilla will do. We Olive sells EVOO by the liter.
- Whole Black Pepper Corns (and a Peugeot grinder). Salt and pepper are still the core of all cooking. (Update: Smoked black pepper corns are my new favorite.)
- Balsamic Vinegar of Modena – Great for salads, great for sauces, but crappy for Martinis.
- Fresh Herbs. I miss the herb garden I had in California. However, I will often get the mixed fresh herb pack (usuall called Poultry Mix) and keep in the fridge. My second choice is fresh mint.
- Fresh Lemon. Not just the juice by lemon zest and lemon segments… Olive Oil’s perfect foil.
- Ancho chile powder. I use this a lot. It is a great touch up that is not too spicy.
- Pimenton De La Vera. Spanish Paprika. Rich, smokey, sweet. It makes a great paste (with olive oil and garlic for a rib eye).
- Garlic. How do you cook without garlic?
- Panko. Another great thing from Japan. Essentially crustless bread crumbs.