Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Culinary toolbox

Last March, I posed this question on the Christian Chefs Forum:
If you can only carry six culinary tools, what would they be? I'm looking for hand-held tools, not pots, pans, skillets, etc.
My thought was to canvas chefs who customarily carry the tools that they can't work without. These are chefs who have a lot of experience walking into poorly-equipped kitchens.

Like a carpenter who brings his own tools to the jobsite, I often carry a wide selection of culinary tools when I work in an unfamiliar kitchen. It's frustrating to walk in a kitchen -- especially one that you've never seen -- and find out that there are no tongs anywhere.

After receiving input, I composed the following list:
  1. Knives--I never leave home without my knife roll; it includes French, slicer, bread and boning knives plus a steel
  2. Tongs--I use tongs for everything: pick up food, stir a saute or sweat or baste chicken breasts in a skillet
  3. Dough cutter--Outside of tongs, this is the best all-around tool; I use it for scraping, cutting dough, picking up chopped vegetables, etc.; it double as a spat in a pinch
  4. Digital thermometer--A necessity; every chef should own one or more quality thermometers
  5. Scoops or dishers--I love dishers and keep a bunch in my utensil drawer at home; essential sizes include #8, 12, 16, 24 and 30; they're good for portioning out meatballs or cookies and can be used to measure ingredients in a pinch
  6. Whisk--I rarely find a decent whisks in kitchens
My original intent was to put together a short list of tools that I could pack in my duffel bag. While shopping the other day, I changed direction. I purchased a sturdy Craftsman 20-inch toolbox with liftout tote tray.

Over the weekend, I packed a wide selection of tools into the toolbox. While compact, the toolbox has sufficient room in the tub to hold everything that I need. The tote tray holds all the small items.

I figure that I can leave the toolbox in the truck if necessary and recover it later in the week. My knife roll is already packed in my duffel bag. All I'll have to do is stuff the scale, dough cutter, thermometer and one or two other tools in the bag for the trip across the lake.


  1. Great Post! I know a few other chefs that went the same route (with the toolbox) and it has worked out great for them...I on the other hand needed the more suitcase looking storage, it was easier for me to travel with (airplane wise).

    But you reminded me a great idea that never came full circle because the ship retired that I was on(M/V Caribbean Mercy) we were going to get a rolling tool chest (with locking wheels and tie it down during sails) like the ones you see in mechanic shops.

    The shallow shelves at the top were always lined with rubber and you could lay out all the knives for the galley in the drawers just like the wrenches were laid out, and in the 'medium' drawers thing like scoops, tongs, wisks, mandelines...and in the deeper/bigger drawers immersion b lenders, graters, small appliances...

    And at the end of the day you could lock it down (so nothing is borrowed or goes wandering) and strap/bungy it to a station for sailing.

    We just had the budget approved for purchase when the word came dissapointing.

    I almost forgot about that idea until I saw your toolbox.

  2. Steve,
    I concur with your list and feel the same way as you when walking into an unfamiliar kitchen and finding in not equipted with what I need. I found a couple of those real neat camp chef metal boxes to reduce down the size of my big metal boxes. I'm seeing if camp chef would be willing to produce those boxes and sell them as chuck boxes. Id buy 6 more!

    I just got a complete set of dishers from#80 up to #6 and they have really helped handing out samples at Carson City and will help at the tracy bean festival. Take care and stay safe my friend, we missed you in Carson City this year.
    Dave H

  3. Thanks for your comments, Dave and Tyrone. I'm thankful that I brought my tools to camp. Otherwise, I'd be struggling with s handful of home kitchen tools.

    Tonight I could've used my pizza cutter (I forgot it!).