With the holidays just around the corner, we put together a list of items our chefs just could not live without in their own kitchens. Here are their recommendations:
Ryan Crafts- Burr Coffee Grinder
The single most important step to take to improve your home coffee experience is using freshly roasted and freshly ground beans. I find the best beans are almost always from a local roaster (Publik, D’Bolla, and Pink Elephant are some of my Utah favorites). I weigh out the beans for my cup each morning and grind immediately prior to brewing with burr grinder.
Kaleb Crafts- End Grain Cutting Board
End grain boards last longer than edge grain boards. End grain boards are easier on your knives, leaving them sharper longer. They’re also one of the most beautiful additions you can make to any kitchen.
Meagan Crafts- Bench Knife and Squeeze Bottle
The 2 items I use most in my home are a bench knife and squeeze bottle. I use my bench knife to cut and divide breads, desserts, and candies. It is the way it fits in your hand as opposed to a chef knife that makes it faster to use. I use squeeze bottles for everything—dressings, chocolate, sauces, etc. It makes plating and designing fun and creative!
Chef Brandon Roddy- Immersion Blender
From soups to vinaigrettes, a stick blender in your home will change a daunting task to the easiest thing to do in the kitchen.
Chef Robert Mendoza- Can Opener
I recommend a good can opener! I can make do with a lot of other things, but there is really only one way to get into a can!
Chef David Dexter- Vegetable Peeler
This is simply for ease. Every home has 3 or 4 vegetable peelers, but only 1 good one. Invest in a quality one and throw the other ones out!
Chef James Arnold- Cutting Board
My cutting boards are my most used items in my kitchen. I love having set cutting boards for each type of food I am cooking—poultry, red meat, vegetables, etc.
Chef Utahna Warren- Quality Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar
Drop the money to buy some quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It will change the way you cook.
Chef Jaden White- Mixing Bowls
Mixing bowls are a great addition to your collection. At Culinary Crafts, we have dozens and dozens of bowls and the varying sizes makes the kitchen experience a breeze.
Chef Libby Rice- Electric Stand Mixer
My KitchenAid is my most precious possession in my kitchen. I don’t know how people managed to whip cream and egg whites or hand knead dough endlessly back in the day. A good mixer can change the speed and efficiency with which you cook in the kitchen.
Chef Kayde Dexter- Cast Iron Pan
A 9-11″ cast iron skillet is the most versatile pan I own. It adds a cool level to home cooking.
Chef Raquel (Rocky) Ortega- Heat Resistant Spatula
Make sure you find one that can withstand the heat, it will ease your cooking experience.
Chef Lacy Johnson- Instant Read Thermometer
The best way to revolutionize the way you cook is with and instant read thermometer. Getting your proteins to the perfect temperature instead of guessing will change the way you eat.
Chef Danielle Mahoney- Chef Knife
You cannot even begin cooking without a quality chef knife. If I was going to upgrade any item in my kitchen it would be a good knife first!
Chef Madison Oliveira- Rice Cooker
As silly as this may seem, my mother-in-law gave us a rice cooker for our wedding, and I am never going back. It is wonderful.
Chef Megan Gagne- Off-Set Spatula and Piping Bag
As a pastry chef, I love to decorate—especially for the holidays. An off-set spatula and piping bag with tips are key to decorating all those fun desserts and plates for your holiday season.
Chef Cambridge Dockendorf- Kitchen Shears
If you follow our blog, last week we showed you all the glories of spatchcocking a turkey. The magic of kitchen shears doesn’t stop there. I use mine every day and I love not having a pair that has to cross over—they are just for cooking.
Chef Jocelyn Gillies- Scale
Cooking is a science, the weight of your ingredients is so important, a volume measurement is never as precise as it should be. A scale will change the quality of all your recipes.
Chef Hunter Ashton- Microplane
A microplane in your home will add a new level to your cooking. Fresh orange zest over your pork loin or fresh nutmeg shaved right into your egg nog is a beautiful addition.
Chef Kyle Castillo- Non-Stick Skillet
A good non-stick skillet is a great addition to any kitchen. You cannot have too many of these!
Chef Dardree McClellan- Serrated Knife
I bake bread in my home all the time and having a great serrated knife makes my life easier.
Chef Calli Kassel- Hallow Ground Santoku Knife
A quality chef knife is important but an Asian chef knife is super cool. Because the blade is ground at a 20 degree angle it is crazy sharp and makes cutting anything like cutting though butter.
Chef Allison Parker- Knife Sharpener
I recommend a knife sharpener, not a honing steel (although that is a great piece as well), so you can keep your blades crazy sharp. Being able to do this at your home instead of taking it to a shop makes keeping your knifes sharp easy and convenient. Having this addition to your kitchen will surprise you by how dull your knives can get.
Chef Megann Brimhall- Bacon Grease
I couldn’t think of a tool, but I certainly use bacon grease often! Don’t be grossed out—I use it to grease pans, fry pancakes and eggs, and sauté vegetables—yummm. A great Christmas gift for me would be a pound of bacon and a wide mouth mason jar specifically for keeping my grease. Make sure to buy a little strainer specifically to get out the little bits of bacon, though, so it doesn’t go rancid.
Chef Adam Park- Large Flake Salt and a Salt Cellar
Most home cooks under season. One of the best ways to finish a dish is with some beautiful seasoning salt. A salt cellar will help you keep your finishing salt separate. Also, salting by hand is more balanced than using a shaker. The salt cellar lets you measure your salt in your palm.
When I used to cook turkeys with my mom, it was 20 minutes for every pound of turkey and 6 hours later we would finally have a turkey. It took constant minding and focus and the oven was completely useless for anything else as it was full of a turkey at a ridiculously high heat. This method of cooking your Thanksgiving turkey will change the Thanksgiving Day madness for good.
1 cup of butter
2 bundles of each, fresh sage and thyme
15-20 lbs turkey—neck and giblets removed
10 cups water
6 cups apple cider
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups kosher salt To cook your turkey in 2 hours, the key is butterflying your bird. It is quite simple, lie your bird on a large cutting board breast side down. Take a pair of kitchen shears and get a good grip on your bird, then cut down the length of the bird. Start at the tail and slice up to the neck cutting down one side of the backbone. If you get too close to one of the bones, don’t try to cut through it. Just adjust your shears and cut around it. Continue until you have completely separated one side from the backbone. Repeat on the second side of the backbone, so you will have the backbone completely separated. Make sure your cuts look clean. If you see any large bits of fat or marrow, use your hands to get those out of the way. Flip your turkey back over so the breast is up. Then open up the back that has your lovely slit in it and straighten out the legs so it almost lies flat on your cutting board. Now the fun part. Place your hands on the breast bone and press down hard until the turkey lies flat. This takes a decent amount of force. You will hear a few cracks in your turkey as you break the bones.
Your bird is now ready to brine. Combine water, cider, vinegar, and kosher salt, 1-3 sprigs of thyme and sage. Because you have butterflied your bird your brine will be truly able to cover the whole bird in just your roasting pan. Refrigerate 12 hours or overnight. In the morning, rinse your bird thoroughly and dry completely with paper towels. Using your fingers, separate the skin from the breasts and thighs. Rub the butter over the breasts and thighs, under the skin. Slide a few leaves of sage and sprigs of thyme under the skin. Season all the sides with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place turkey on a wire rack in your roasting pan. Place remaining sage and thyme on the inside of the bird. Roast until the thickest part of the breast is at 145 degrees and the joint between the body and the thigh is 160 degrees (about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size of your bird). When temping, keep your thermometer as close as you can to the bone, without touching the bone. Remove from oven and transfer to a cutting board on your counter top and allow to rest for 10-20 minutes. This allows all your juices to be reabsorbed by the muscles.
Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving! Meagan
With so much produce sourced from around the world and available all year long in grocery stores, it can be challenging to know what is actually in season. Culinary Crafts loves sourcing as much of its produce as possible from local growers. And, we fine tune our menus seasonally to feature local items at their absolute best flavor peak. Here’s our list of Fall delicacies that are in season in Utah, and can be enjoyed now!
Wild MushroomsWinter Squash
We Love Serving Trout in the Fall
Although we don’t have many local seafood options, the ones we do enjoy are fabulous! This Ruby Red Rainbow trout is farmed in a local river and fed a diet high in antioxidants which gives the flesh a bright pink color that looks almost like salmon. It also gives a sweetness and tenderness to the fish that can’t quite be replicated. To provide enough filets for our large parties we have the pleasure of working with Riverence Farms. They are experts in raising high quality, antibiotic and hormone free fish.
Trout loves wood flavors. We recommend cooking it with your charcoal grill or wood smoker. Ask the butcher at your local Harmons or Macey’s about what fresh local trout varieties they have!
Our passion for hospitality isn’t limited to large special events. We love to cook and serve fabulous food at home too. And we love to help others step up their home cooking game!
Does the quality of your knives really matter?
Yes. A lot. Good knives are safer and are more likely to avoid mishaps. They’re faster and will save you time. They are also a key gateway to better overall results in the kitchen. Admittedly, as with most things, there comes a point where extra spend doesn’t buy much more function or longevity. But there is still a big difference between cheap knives (that won’t perform and won’t last) and quality knives (that will). If you’re serious about cooking, it’s worth making an investment in your knives.
What knives should you own?
If you visit a cutlery shop or start perusing options online, you’ll be quickly overwhelmed with options and could quickly spend a lot of green. Our recommendation is to start with the basics. With just a few select knives, you’ll be ideally prepared for nearly all kitchen tasks (and still completely serviceable for the remainder too).
It’s much better to have 3-5 great quality knives that will see a lot of use, versus a 18 piece block set of mediocre knives (most of which will just take up space). If you cook a lot and want to add more knives to your arsenal, you can add these one by one over time as your desire and budget allow.
We recommend making your initial investment on the following key knives. If you can afford to invest in 5 knives at once, excellent. If you can’t, start with the first three listed here and add the others later.
Chef’s Knife. Aka Cook’s Knife, this is the most commonly used knife in the kitchen. Features a wide symmetrical blade that tapers to a point. Ideal for a wide array of chores including, chopping, slicing, mincing, etc. Sizes range from 6” -14”. We find that 8” or 10” are most popular / easy to use.
Serrated Bread Knife. Straight or slightly curved blade, often with a single sided edge. Some bread knives are offset which help avoid knuckles hitting the counter or cutting board. Not limited to bread, these knives are also great for slicing fruits with a hard rind and/or soft interior. Sizes typically range from 6” – 12” and we prefer them 9” or more.
Paring Knife. Probably second only to the Chef’s Knife in versatility and frequency of use. Perfect for peeling, julienning, garnishing, and other tasks that require delicate precision. For your first and go-to paring knife, opt for a spear point or sheep’s foot style (put off buying a bird’s beak / tourne style until later or never). Sizes will vary, but will be shorter. We prefer 3-4”.
Utility Knife. Found with both straight and scalloped edges, utility knives could be considered filling the gaps and overlapping the uses between your chef’s knife, paring knife, and slicing knife. Excellent for slicing soft fruits and vegetables. Sizes typically range from 5-8”, with 6” being very common and our recommendation.
Carving / Slicing Knife. While perhaps not used as much as the other core knives listed above, when you have a large whole muscle meat (roasts, whole poultry, hams, etc.) to serve, these are invaluable. Blades are typically straight edged and relatively thin. Granton edges (hollow ground sections along the side of blade to create space and reduce drag) are common and popular on carving knives. Sizes vary and shorter lengths (9” – 12”) often have pointed tips while longer lengths (14”+) often have rounded tips.
Other useful knives.
For many cooks – especially home cooks, the knives already listed will suffice for nearly all applications and needs. That said, there are lots of other styles out there that can be helpful (or just fun to collect). Options include:
Boning Knife. Just like sounds – ideally suited for removing meat from bone, skin, and other tissues. Boning knives are generally either classified as flexible (great for staying close to bones and getting into odd shaped areas) or stiff (great for making straight cuts and jointing).
Santuko, Nikiri, Gyoto, and other Japanese style knives. Increasingly popular in Western kitchens, these knives are often alternatives to the traditional Chef’s Knife or Utility Knife. Typically these are single edged, and ground to a narrower angle than European style knives. The narrow angle is sharper and slices better with more precision, but requires more maintenance. Unique blade styles offer different ergonomics and function which many chefs prefer for certain tasks – especially very thin slicing and chopping.
Cleaver. Not common in home kitchens, since these are thick and heavy knives designed to chop through thick meat and bone when butchering. Also great for opening lobster shells and other similar tasks.
Cimeter. The staple knife for professional butchers, but not commonly used in home kitchens.
What to look for and consider when buying knives.
Stamped vs forged construction? Stamped knives are made by cutting the knife shape out of a flat sheet of metal (like a cookie cutter). Forged knives are made by hammering heated bar metal into the knife shape. Once the basic shape is formed, both types of knives will be ground and honed to create the cutting edge. Stamped knives are typically thinner, lighter, lacking a bolster, and are generally less expensive. Forged knives are thicker, heavier, stronger, well balanced, and are usually more expensive to purchase. For most long lasting knives, we prefer forged construction. That said, for some knives (a long granton edge meat slicer or a heavily used and often replaced butcher cimeter, we opt for stamped).
Type of steel? Nearly all high quality knives are made from some type of high carbon stainless steel designed to strike a balance between hardness and durability, ease of sharpening and honing, resisting stain and decay, and cost. German steel (often 420 or 440 C stainless) is common for European style knives. It’s excellent at resisting corrosion, and very easy to sharpen. German steel is durable and holds an edge well, though not as well as some harder steels. Japanese steel (often VG-10 or San Mai) is common in Asian style knives and is increasingly seen in European styles as well. This layered laminated steel is exceptionally hard which offers excellent sharpness and edge retention. They can be more difficult to sharpen well and sometimes offer slightly less corrosion resistance compared to the German steel. As noted earlier, these steels are all striking a balance between different factors. The best steel for you depends on your personal preferences and priorities.
Handles? Wood handles are not only very comfortable, we think they’re the prettiest options. They can also last longer than the blade of the knife, but require more maintenance than other options. Stainless handles are popular for the seamless styling and the ease of maintenance. The notable drawback is than many stainless handles can become slippery when wet, though many steel knives have textured stainless handles to mitigate this. Synthetic resin and Polyoxyethylene (POM) handles are very common on riveted full tang knives. They’re very durable, easy to clean, and although simple, very nice looking. Plastic, nylon, and rubber handles are popular in commercial kitchens because they are affordable, easy to clean, and fairly durable. We don’t find them nearly as attractive as other options though and many home chefs want something with more aesthetic appeal.
Edge type? Straight edge (aka flat ground) is the most common and applicable. Granton edge (see the note on carving knives above) reduce drag and are very nice in certain situations. Serrated edges (aka scalloped) have small “teeth” which help to penetrate a tough exterior without pressure that might harm a soft inside. Hollow ground edges are are concave to create a very thin and narrow cutting edge. They are very sharp and wonderful for delicate tasks, but not recommended for heavy duty chores.
Edge angle? European style knives usually have a 20 degree angle which is great for edge retention and durability. Asian style knives have usually have a 15 degree (sometimes even narrower) which is excellent for sharp precision slicing.
Full Tang design? Full tang refers to the entire knife being a single piece of metal end to end. The core of the handle is simply an extension of the blade. This can easily be seen on knives where the core of the handle is the same metal as the blade and the handle material is double or triple riveted to the metal. In general we prefer full tang knives because they are sturdier, longer lasting, and more reliable. If you’ve ever had a partial tang knife break apart at the handle during use, you know how frustrating and dangerous it can be. Heavy full tang construction is particularly important for knives that see a lot of heavy use and cutting. For lightweight knives that will be used primarily for delicate tasks, this is less crucial.
Caring for your knives.
Always hand wash with warm soapy water after use, rinse well, and dry thoroughly immediately. Avoid leaving knives dirty for long, machine washing, and extended air drying.
Hone your knives regularly – practically with every use.
Keep your knives sharpened. Frequency of sharpening will depend on the steel, type of use, and frequency of use. See our separate post about knife sharpening for more info and tips.
Store your knives safely and properly. Though popular and convenient, we do not recommend traditional knife blocks. These take up a lot of counter space, tend to dull your knives, can collect hard to remove particles, and often encourage buyers to purchase more knives than they need. We much prefer a magnetic wall strip which saves space, offers easy access, is easy to clean, and when used correctly, doesn’t dull the blade. There are also some great in drawer solutions that can protect your knives. If you need to frequently travel with your knives (like us), a nice bag or roll with a soft interior is great. Individual blade protectors can also be well worth getting depending on how you store your knives.
Candy making can seem daunting especially if you’ve tried and failed in the past. Whether this is your first time making caramel apples or if you’re ready to try again, you’ll love Meagan Crafts-Price’s tips and tricks to making the perfect caramel apple this fall season!
2 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
pinch of baking soda
1/2 cup butter- cut into 1″ cubes
1 12oz. can evaporated milk
Directions, Tips & Techniques
Having your thermometer correctly calibrated is more important than the particular candy thermometer you use because having your caramel at the perfect temperature for dipping is the key to success.
Calibrating your candy thermometer
Start by boiling a cup of water in a 1 quart sauce pan. Clip your candy thermometer to the side. If your thermometer reads 212ºF when the water starts to boil, congratulations that was pretty easy! If it doesn’t, don’t despair. The reading could be off because you aren’t at sea level or your thermometer isn’t calibrated – or probably a bit of both. Here are two ways you can compensate for any discrepancy in the calibration. My favorite way is to slide the glass tube up or down accordingly until it reads 212ºF in boiling water. If you can’t figure out how to move the glass tube, you can make the adjustment mathematically. To account for the discrepancy in your temperature reading when the water started boiling, simply calculate a new goal temperature in your recipe. For example, if you need to cook your candy to 242ºF, and your thermometer read 210ºF when the water boiled, you know your calibration is off by 2 degrees. So lower the goal temperature in the instructions by 2 degrees, from 242º to 240ºF.
Now that you have a calibrated thermometer, keep your pot of boiling water on the stove; you will use it later on.
In a heavy 4 quart sauce pan combine corn syrup, water and sugar over medium heat. Stirring occasionally with a spatula until mixture comes to a boil. Add in the pinch of soda. The mixture will start to bubble rapidly. This will leave bits of crystalized sugar on the side of the pan. Take a pastry brush and dip it into your pan of boiling water and wash down the sides of the pan so you don’t get gritty caramel.
Clip your calibrated thermometer to your pan of caramel, add butter and stir until incorporated. Then stir constantly while adding the evaporated milk. You will want to keep the mixture moving so the caramel doesn’t scorch. Continue stirring until your mixture reaches 242ºF (or the adjusted temp for your thermometer).
Remove from heat and cool until the mixture is 220ºF. This is a key step for dipping! If your caramel is too hot it will just slide off your apples. If it is too cold you won’t be able to get your apples completely coated because the caramel is too thick. While the caramel is cooling, wash 8 apples and insert wooden skewer or popsicle stick about 2” into the apple. Tilt the pan to give you a nice pool of caramel to start dipping. Dip apples into your caramel and turn to coat thoroughly. Drag across the lip of your pan to get off excess caramel, then turn upside down and hold it upside down for about 30 seconds. This helps minimize the foot of caramel that appears at the bottom of the apple when cooling. Place on a piece of parchment paper to cool. You can then dip your apples in chocolate and roll in nuts or candy pieces as desired!
Once you have gotten your 8 apples dipped you might notice there is still caramel in your pan sticking to the sides and such. Don’t scrap down your pan with a spatula and continue dipping. The caramel that is sticking to the sides of your pan have still been cooking quite a bit as you have dipped and will be a different consistency than the caramel in the mass. This extra caramel is great to scrap right onto your counter and eat as a snack while you are waiting for your delicious apples to be done!!