In Kitchen Confidential, celeb-chef Anthony Bourdain wrote a chapter called “How to cook like the pros.” In it, he points out that even though you don’t have a line of prep cooks and a 40-gallon pot of stock on the back burner, many of the tricks of the trade are easily accessible to the home cook-a good chef’s knife, plastic squeeze bottles, shallots, lots of butter, and so on.
Recommended Reading: Get started with baking by reading our Ultimate Guide to the Best Baking Equipment for Beginners!
In that spirit, here are four tools under ten bucks that will help you bake more professionally-whether it’s holiday cookies, the traditional pumpkin pie, a beautiful birthday cake, or a lovely loaf of artisan bread made in a bread machine.
- Lots of little prep containers. Professional chefs have their mise-en-place; all the cooking show gurus have their ingredients pre-measured and ready to toss into the bowl; and so should you. Pyrex 6-oz. custard cups are good. So are those little white ceramic fluted soufflé ramekins. The main thing is to buy enough (four is good, but eight is better), and use them. If you take the time to prep and measure your ingredients beforehand, you’ll never have to see a batter break and curdle before your eyes because you had to stop to zest a lemon…
- Oven thermometer. Do you really believe your oven heats to the exact temperature you set it? Even if you’ve laid out big bucks on a “prosumer” range or oven, the thermostat probably isn’t all that accurate. Invest in an oven thermometer and learn what 350 degrees really means in your oven.
- Parchment paper. The baker’s best friend. Never grease a cookie sheet again! Cookies won’t stick, cakes will release perfectly, pizza and peel will no longer be welded together. Do not use in your pizza oven, though! Look for the small print that tells you the recommended temperatures, and pick the box with the highest.
- Digital quick-read food thermometer. Useful for bread baking; highly recommended for custard, flan, crème brûlée, and cheesecake; absolutely required for candymaking. A super-fancy Thermopen at a hundred bucks would be sweet, but the basic model will do the job. They’re much better than an old-fashioned oven thermometer.
Like this? See the next article: “How to bake like the pros: three more tools under $10.”
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