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March 16, 2008

What's in a knife kit?

Not that anyone asked, but I thought it might be of some modest value to see what a cook carries around with him/her. Like anything else, a cook gets used to doing things a certain way, and having their preferred knives and tools gets to be fairly important. A good cook can certainly still perform with unfamiliar gear, but sometimes it's the little things that can make it a good shift or a bad shift.

Sharp knives are a good starting point. Most restaurants have "house knives," but they're usually cheap to begin with, no one takes care of them, they're beat up, dull and used for opening cans and all kinds of unintended purposes. Beyond just getting it done, sharp knives in the right hands mean clean, professional looking cuts, rather than a hacked up, raggedy looking mess. Also, the food cut with sharp knives tends to last a bit longer because it's cut instead of mashed.

Of course, what cooks carry can change quite a bit depending on what is needed for the menu, but I usually carry all of this all the time. When I work a particular station at the restaurant, I pull out different things. But I take the same kit to catering gigs, where you never know what the client will or won't have. And being a gadget guy, I'd rather have the right tool than not.

Follow the link for the complete list-

The bag itself is the Messermeister Culinary Sachel. It's a 16 pocket kit that is set up sort of like a book, which is a lot better than most, which are more like a roll-up. The stiching could be a little stronger, but I really like it.

Hattori 270mm stainless gyuto (the lighter, thinner Japanese version of a chef's knife)

Shun Classic 10-Inch Chef's Knife for hacking

MAC Bread Knife

Tojiro DP 180mm stainless gyuto (smaller, for jobs like mincing shallots and garlic)

Hiromoto 270mm carbon steel gyuto (I keep this one in the bag as a backup. They're all sharp, but this one always has a fresh edge)

6" fillet knife for fish

fish spatula - Martha Stewart - $6 at KMart - cheap and I prefer the shape of it

A DMT Ceramic Steel works better for the harder steel of Japanese knives.

12" tongs - tongs are my preferred tool, so I carry my own. I like Edlund, but without the lock. The lock usually wears out first, and locks it closed when it shouldn't.

rubber spatula

A Microplane rasp - absolutely required for zesting citrus, making it snow parmigiano-reggiano, etc. They make several styles and shapes which might fit in a kit better.

a cheap paring knife

instant read thermometers : Taylor Analog Dial Thermometer 0-220 and 32F-400F (for fryer temp, etc)

lighter - better than trying to Survivorman it when a client is watching

Pulltap Corkscrew - Wine is good. Not being able to open wine at a catering event is bad.

spoons - spoons will be a whole topic at some point

nail clippers - so I don't have to use someone else's

business cards

a bandanna for a do-rag, or sling, or tourniquet, or ....

a few latex gloves - for those extra messy jobs

Cut-Resistant Glove - Not really practical for constant use, but it's a bit of protection and confidence when doing a lot of prep work at faster speeds. Wear a latex glove over it to keep it clean.

kitchen syringe - I have actually needed this

Sharpie Industrial Ink markers - These seem to write on plastic wrap and masking tape better than the regular ink markers.

A digital timer - I like this one because it's simple to use, does minutes and seconds (some timers only do whole minutes, like 3 minutes, rather than 3 minutes, 35 seconds), and has a loud alert

small diamond hone

Oyster Knife - I like the ones that turn up at the tip. I also like plastic so that they can be sanitized. As with all small items that you have bought personally, stand next to the machine while they're being cleaned, or they'll disappear.

Cuisipro Measuring Spoons I don't do a whole lot of measuring, but these particular ones nest up nice and compact, and are also good for quenelles - for fancy ice cream shapes or whatever


vegetable peelers - Kuhn Rikon Peeler is cheap and compact. Personally, I don't like serrated peelers because they leave a texture on the food. OXO i-Series Swivel Peeler I ike the idea of being able to replace the blades, although most times it's lost or stolen before it gets dull. The old Ecko from Ralph's works pretty good, too.

A small OXO Whisk Small enough to carry around, but can actually do the job if needed. As with all OXO products, thoughtfully designed and comfortable in the hand.

mini-flashlight - in case I drop something at an outdoor kitchen or behind the stove

pasta cutter - for ravioli

pliers - quick repairs and maybe skinning fish. Sterilized, of course.

A plastic or magnetic edge guard for each knife. Good for keeping the knives sharp, keeping the bag from being cut up, and for preventing accidental cuts. The plastic ones are fine for the most part, but some knives slide around in them, so the magnetic ones are better for those. The
magnetic ones are heavier, so I prefer the plastic ones when possible.