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Technology – Kitchen kit

09 December 2011

Useful technology isn't restricted to fancy electronics. There are lots of things that are indispensable in a professional kitchen - and some of them have been in use for many years. Janie Stamford reports

Thermal blenders
All-in-one compact appliances that can weigh, stir, grate, mill, purée, grind, blend, cook, boil, simmer, steam, crush, whisk, emulsify, knead, chop and mince, and all at great speed. A good power blender is like an extra pair of hands in the kitchen, thus helping to reduce labour costs.

What the chefs say "The Thermomix basically produces a better product: smoother purées, instant powders… all in one fantastic piece of kit. I bought one for the home five years ago. Then when I bought the Church Green restaurant I took it there, and it's always on."
Aiden Byrne, chef owner, Church Green

Chef favourite Thermomix TM31 Power Blender
www.ukthermomix.com

Japanese mandolin
The mandolin is a professional piece of equipment that no chef should be without. Its sharp, super high-quality stainless steel blades provide a clean and sharp cut to any vegetable or fruit you can think of. It can julienne, slice, waffle, crinkle-cut and dice and the main advantages of the mandolin are uniformity and speed.

What the chefs say "I have been using my Japanese mandolin for 15 years… though it's actually from Korea. It shows the skill of the chef because you have to use it with a lot of care."
Alexis Gauthier, chef-proprietor, Gauthier Soho

Chef favourite Benriner mandolin slicers
www.benriner.com

Range cookers
Bespoke range cookers are probably top of most chefs' wish-lists and it's easy to see why. Made to measure in terms of size and features, such as planchas, gas rings, flat-tops, fryers, hot cupboards, ovens and grills, they come at a price - but if you get the right set-up, it will probably be worth its weight in gold.

What the chefs say "I absolutely love my Athanor stove. I spent 20 years working as a chef before I got one three years ago and my life hasn't been the same since. It's electric and really easy to keep clean and it's like having a Bentley parked in my kitchen. It cost nearly £30,000 but it's money well spent.
Tom Kerridge, chef-proprietor, Hand and Flowers

Chef favourite Athanor
www.athanor-fourneaux.fr

Processors/Liquidisers
For versatility, many processors and liquidisers come with all manner of attachments and blade disks. They can save time and manpower while also giving chefs the smoothest end product.

What the chefs say "It's not new by any means, but we can't live without our Vita-Prep. When you do a purée it's so smooth you wouldn't know you haven't passed it. We have a dual/vari speed version, and it is the workhorse of our kitchen. If it breaks down, you know you're going to have a bad day."
Allan Pickett, head chef, Plateau

Chef favourite Vita-Prep 3
www.vitamix.com

Clingfilm
This versatile product is essential for covering ingredients and wrapping your packed lunch but it also has a myriad of other uses, such as blind baking pastry cases, rolling and shaping meats into neat cylinders, forming ballontines, poaching ingredients shaped in it, wrapping some cooked meats for resting and keeping piles of polished plates clean.

What the chefs say "We even use it as a way of aiding messy prep jobs. If we do a large prep task we put a layer on the whole table and place the containers of ingredients on top. Once we've finished, we remove the containers and roll up all of the mess. To keep tables or sections clean we wash down as normal, spray sanitizer and whist still damp roll across cling film almost like a barrier layer."
Hayden Groves, Elior's executive chef at Lloyds of London

Barbecue
Not just for the warmer summer months any more - chefs love the unique smoky flavour that a barbecue can provide. The right bit of kit can be versatile and efficient, with many capable of use as a grill, oven and smoker.

What the chefs say "What I like about the Big Green Egg BBQ is that once it is lit, there is very little smoke - meaning we can use the smaller ones inside. Even with little smoke the flavour is still intense. The temperature and cooking is so easy to control using the vent system and there are so many gadgets to go with it that we haven't even started to explore the possibilities."
Daniel Clifford, chef-patron, Midsummer House, Cambridge

Chef favourite Big Green Egg BBQ
www.biggreenegg.co.uk

Tongs and timers
The humble tongs and kitchen timer. Not necessarily the most whizzy of gadgets but certainly two of the most essential utensils in the kitchen. Tongs come in a variety of sizes and materials, which means every chef is sure to find a pair that suits their needs, and timers ensure no food is over- or under-cooked and a smooth-running brigade.

What the chefs say "Although it's not cutting edge technology, I can't do a shift without a good pair of tongs and a timer. Tongs can grab anything and the timer allows you to grab it before it's too late."
Matt Clark, culinary consultant

Water baths
Sous-vide is an energy-efficient procedure that uses vacuum-packed raw ingredients in plastic film pouches, which are then partially cooked in water baths at a low temperature for finishing off later. It boasts consistency and locks in flavours and juices while minimising shrinkage. Meat in particular becomes very tender and succulent when cooked sous-vide.

What the chefs say "I can't live without my Grant SV100 sous-vide. It has an immersion circulator, great accuracy and it's also portable, which means when I need to cook for service in an eight-litre bath it's no problem. But when I have larger amounts of mise en place for banqueting batch cooking, I simply latch it on to a larger container and off I go. It has changed the way I manage the logistics of prep in my kitchen and I maintain consistency and quality of the finished product - whether it is for a table of two, or a party of 40."
Alexander Wood, head chef, St Stephen's Club

Chef favourite Grant SV100 sous-vide
www.grantsousvide.com

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