Today I’m giving you a peek inside my knife bag and sharing all the essential kitchen tools I use on a daily basis.
Have you ever watched the YouTube videos where girls pull everything out of their purse and show you what’s inside? It’s oddly compelling to get a glimpse into someone else’s every day life, so think of this as the chef’s version of that. I’m going to show you all the things a professional chef keeps close at hand and going into detail about why I consider each and every item that I tote along with me to a job absolutely essential.
My hope is to give you some insight into my cooking necessities (at least the easily portable ones), including the specific knives and other basic tools I think every home kitchen should be stocked with. I also share some easy tips and tricks that can help you elevate your home cooking game to pro status. So whether you’re a professional chef also, an avid home cook, or are just curious and want to learn more about my job, keep reading to find out what I keep in my knife bag and why I think they’re so essential!
Messermeister Felted Knife Roll
My last knife bag was from Meissermeister and it lasted me for at least 7 years before I decided to upgrade to this one. Truthfully the old one still held together pretty well, I just wanted one with more pockets, and I love that this one offers a bit more style with the grey felt design. Meissermeister knife bags are quite sturdy and in addition to the knife pockets they also feature a zip pouch and other slots for things like pens and meat thermometers. So if you’re in the market for one I highly recommend this brand. I purchased this one from Food52.
Hedley & Bennett Aprons
All of my aprons at this point are from Hedley & Bennett because they are just crushing the apron game, all day. They’re extremely well crafted, thoughtfully designed, durable and come in all kinds of cute colors. I have 5 or 6 now because I love them so much, but I especially love the stripes on my Dearborn Ave. Bistro Apron. I also own a chef coat from them that is specifically designed for women, and it’s my favorite of all the other chef coats I own. Yoga pants and Nikes or Crocs usually round out my comfy/casual chef uniform, but my Hedley & Bennett garb always makes me feel super put together.
KNIVES (AKA THE FUN STUFF)
Shun 7-inch Santoku
This guy is my workhorse. The weight of the wood handle really gives me a sense of grounded control when I’m working with it, so I like to use this one for tough jobs like slicing open a giant spaghetti squash or breaking down a whole chicken, but it can really handleany job with swiftness. I definitely reach for this one more than any other knife.
Global 7-inch Chef’s Knife
This is the knife I bought as a backup to the Shun. It’s much sleeker and stealthier, so I can always get a nice, clean cut. I often reach for it when I’m slicing cooked meat.
Global 4-inch Paring Knife
A good paring knife is essential in any chef’s arsenal. How else are you going to slice fruits for a tart so precisely? Since my chef’s knife from Global was such a solid purchase I decided to go in this direction for my paring knife as well. Their signature dimpled handles always ensure a slip-free grip which is important when sharp objects are the primary tools of your trade.
WÜSTHOF 4 – inch Prep Knife
I recently partnered with WÜSTHOF on some recipes and they sent me a couple of knives for consideration. This prep knife was the one I never knew I needed in my collection! I highly recommend it for small quick jobs like chopping herbs or mincing shallots. And if you’re just starting out investing in some good quality knives, this is a great basic and affordable one to own. Or if you’re like me and have freakishly small hands, this is the knife that will finally feel like it was made just for you.
WÜSTHOF 7-inch Nakiri
The Nakiri from WÜSTHOF is great, too. The wide blade and blunt end makes this an awesome vegetable prep knife. Think chopping tons of vegetables for a big batch of soup- this is the guy you want because it will tear through onions and celery cleanly and like a champ, and then you can use the blade to quickly scoop up your items and slide them into the pot. Whim, bam, boom. Time savers like this make a difference when you cook all day for a living, and even when you don’t.
Truth be told, as happy as I am with my knives, I am always looking to upgrade. I’m currently in the market for another knife to add to my collection…I might spring for this one from Japanese brand Masamoto Sohonten next.
Microplane Classic Zester/Grater
EVERYONE needs a Microplane. I have three! From garlic to nutmeg to lemon zest, I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t use my Microplane. Use it to add flavor to a dish without altering it’s texture. For example, I grate a fresh piece of garlic into just about every salad dressing I make. It blends seamlessly into the dressing and adds incredible flavor without the risk of someone biting into an unpleasant chunk of raw garlic that was haphazardly chopped with a knife.
I have mesh strainers in several sizes and they serve multiple purposes. I usually pack one because I’m always cooking in different homes, and I’ve learned this is one of those toss-up items that not every kitchen has. By which I mean to say, if your kitchen doesn’t have at least one, it should. You can use mesh strainers to achieve an ultra smooth and more refined texture to sauces (sauces are my favorite). Pro tip via Thomas Keller’s French Laundry Cookbook: most composed items in his kitchen don’t make it to the plate before getting at least one pass through a mesh strainer or chinois (a fancy strainer used in professional kitchens) first. You can also use them to to sift powdered sugar or cocoa powder onto desserts, or give small items like quinoa (that would normally fall through larger colander holes) a quick rinse.
Ah, my trusty fish spatula. It’s just easier to flip fish (and a myriad of other delicate foods) with a long and flexible fish spatula than it is with a regular one. Simple as that.
I mean…I feel like this one goes without saying. I can currently count five burns and three small cuts on my hands. It’s not always that bad…maybe I’ve been a bit clumsier lately? But this job is definitely not without its hazards. I normally use the standard Band-Aids, but how kewt are these kitty themed ones?
Disposable Pastry Bags
These aren’t just for piping frosting and whipped cream! You know those fancy dots of sauce you see on composed plates in fancy restaurants? They’re usually either done with a squeeze bottle (these are also gold…do yourself a favor and pick up a couple to to have around the kitchen) or a pastry bag. Plastic baggies will also do in a pinch, but these just hold their shape better, giving you a steadier hand when you need a bit more precision.
Disposable Rubber Gloves
Raw meat is icky. Rubber gloves are the best because I don’t have to touch icky raw meat and, more importantly, they help prevent cross contamination. I also wear them when I’m chopping spicy peppers because I am so that girl who would forget that she was just chopping jalapeños and rub her eye. Rubber gloves completely eliminate that whole “eyes on fire” scenario.
Another no brainer. Before I purchased my knife bag I would always forget to grab my business cards, so I love that mine has these genius slots to keep a stack of cards in.
Here’s a little secret about being a professional chef: yes, you have to know how to cook, but so much of it is about timing and staying organized. For each and every job I do, I create an excel spreadsheet with my shopping list and a detailed timeline so that at any given moment I know exactly what I’m supposed to be doing and what’s coming up next. I also do this when I shoot recipes for the blog. Always keeping a couple of pens in my knife bag means I can cross things off as I go, make quick notes, label leftovers, and when timing changes happen (which is so often the case), I can quickly write a whole new timeline on the fly. So while being super organized is key, flexibility and the ability to go with the flow are also v important attributes to this line of work.
FANCY ASS SALTS
This is probably the most fun thing in my knife bag (besides the knives). I felt like they deserved their own category because fancy-ass salts are my jam! Finishing a savory (or sometimes sweet) dish with a specialty salt is one of the easiest ways to elevate it (acid- in the form of a squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar, for example- is another). Maldon is my go-to and the one I always bring with me no matter what. I usually bring a whole container of the stuff but I also tuck a pinch tin in the pouch of my knife bag as an emergency back up. Plus they’re so tiny and adorable, aren’t they? The big flakes not only add a pop of flavor but a pleasant crunchy texture as well. My exotic collection of salts from around the globe is a little excessive, so I will typically pack a few more, like earthy red clay salt or smoky alderwood salt, to add prettiness and an extra layer of flavor to my dishes.
So that’s what’s inside my knife bag! I hope you found it interesting and helpful- let me know if you have any questions about cooking, being a private chef, or anything else- I love sharing my tips and tricks!
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