There are kitchen tools, and then there are essential kitchen tools—you know, the ones you wouldn't want to cook without. We surveyed six chefs about their favorite stovetop essentials; here's what they reach for time and time again.
Both Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster Harlem and Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia use their large, deep cast-iron skillets almost daily. "It can braise, sauté, blacken, stir-fry and do pretty much anything that requires browning," Lee says. "It makes everything taste better." Samuelsson, who also uses his to make stew and fry chicken, agrees: "It transfers easily from stovetop to oven and is perfect for cooking almost every meal—even desserts, like fruit cobblers. The bigger your cast-iron skillet, the better," Samuelsson says, as it gives you more ways to use it.
Domenica's Alon Shaya can't do without his wok. It's made of super-thin metal and doesn't cost much, he says, but its versatility has won his loyalty: "I find myself using it on a regular basis to reheat food or make fried rice. It's great for scrambling eggs, frying and blanching vegetables, too."
It's simple and certainly low tech, but Ox Restaurant chefs and co-owners Greg Denton and Gabrielle Quiñónez Denton are huge fans of a sturdy wooden spoon. "As you stir, a wooden spoon becomes an extension of your hand," Greg says. "You can feel how chopped garlic starts to stick when you are browning it. You can feel if something is burning at the bottom of the pot." A worthwhile $6 investment, indeed.
For The Slanted Door's Charles Phan, it's the ceramic clay pot that's got the star spot on his stovetop. "They're delicate, and you have to take care of them, but they cook differently. The transfer of heat is different—more like sous-vide cooking—but the meat will come out much prettier. And it holds heat really well. Your food stays hot for serving, and it's beautiful at the dinner table."
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