With so many kitchen gadgets on the market, it can be tough to know which truly live up to the hype—and, better yet, which are actually worth the hefty price tags they’re accompanied by. After all, do high-priced blenders, coffee machines, and cutting boards actually far out-perform their more affordable counterparts–or is it all merely about the brand name?
Luckily for us, San Diego-based chef Brian Malarkey, who serves as a judge on Food Network's Guy's Grocery Games, gave us the scoop. Ahead, find five expensive kitchen tools that the Top Chef Season 3 finalist assures us are well worth the splurge.
A professional chef's "worth it" kitchen essentials
Sure, we love a convenient, colorful BlendJet as much as the next person, but have you ever thought about sprucing up your at-home blending station with a top-quality option? According to Malarkey, who is the founder of the newly launched line of cooking oils, Chefs Life, you should. “You can use a KitchenAid blender for everything, from vinaigrettes to smoothies and marinades, and even mayonnaise,” he says. “It’s perfect because you can adjust the gears from slow to fast, so you don’t make a mess in the kitchen. These are top of the line, and every chef has one.”
If you love sipping on delicious coffee each morning but are tired of having to go out to buy it, Malarkey can’t recommend a top-notch coffee machine enough. “A Breville Espresso Machine is worth every penny,” he assures us. “I’ve had one for forever, and truly believe there is nothing better than a proper cup of coffee in the morning to get the day started. When it comes to coffee, I believe in quality over quantity, meaning I’d rather have one great cup of coffee to start the day rather than many bad cups of coffee throughout the day.”
Breville is known for making coffee shop-quality espresso—and you don’t need to be a trained barista to do it. The machines are easy to use, make espresso (and steamed milk!) in about 60 seconds, and they’re simple to take care of, too. For a cheaper option, we also love Breville’s Bambino Plus. It doesn’t have as many bells and whistles, but it’ll give you delicious espresso and steamed/frothed milk (and it’s got the same Breville top-notch quality).
As gorgeous and beloved as Le Creuset and Staub cast iron is, Malarkey admits that you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg when outfitting your kitchen with this essential item. “You don’t need to break the bank, but everyone needs a great cast iron pan that you can pass on from generation to generation to generation,” he says. “They’re easy to clean, the more you use them the better they get, and they’re bulletproof—literally.”
Many people believe that knife sets are essential in any kitchen. To Malarkey, though, less is more. “I always like to say, every good chef really only needs two knives—serrated and not serrated,” he says. “If you have a Miyabi, you won’t need a million different knives.” Still, he points out that if you’re of the “more is more” mindset, Miyabi has many iterations to offer. “These are one of my favorite kitchen items, these Japanese knives come in so many different styles and selections,” he adds.
This Japanese-crafted Demascus knife is the perfect weight, and is sturdy enough to last you several lifetimes if cared for properly (i.e. don’t ever throw it in the dishwasher, and make sure to sharpen it when it starts to get dull). The precision you get out of a Miyabi is unparalleled.
Last but not least, Malarkey says to skip the basic plastic cutting board in favor of a high-quality Hiawatha WoodWorks option. “These are my favorite cutting boards—they are beautifully hand crafted and you’re able to customize them with a name, message, or brand to personalize your gift,” he shares. “All the boards are incredible and durable, and purchasing them is a great way to support authentic craftsmanship.”
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