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Can one achieve professional results in a home kitchen these days?

I remember the first specialized kitchen tool I used. It was an apple core-er, and I was probably about 8 years old. My favorite thing to make was apple crisp and the biggest part of that dish is cutting up the apples – it takes ages. Eventually my repertoire expanded to melon baller, garlic press, Cuisinart, a whipped cream dispenser with cartridges, etc. Perhaps you have noticed there is a theme here. Everything mentioned is designed to make tedious tasks easier and things that carried over from high volume professional kitchens. But there is a whole wave of new kitchen equipment, nay machines, that have migrated from professional kitchens and into the hands of home cooks. Blame the foodie movement and the upswing of professional competitive cooking shows, but it’s official….home cooking has gone high tech and professional. Now it is possible to take  your cooking to the next (professional) level.

Do you know your sous vide from your pacojet or combi oven? If not, read on.

Immersion Blenders – I had one of these about 8 or 9 years ago…they were called hand blenders at that time. These are great for homemade salad dressings, pureeing soups in the pot, whipping up a quick smoothie and mixing up small batches of things without breaking out the full-on blender or mixer. Now they are called immersion blenders thanks to the general public taking on chef lingo courtesy of Top Chef, Kitchen Nightmares, et al.

Worth it? Definitely worth it and relatively inexpensive. Mostly likely device to become a “go to” tool in your kitchen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sous Vide – “sous vide” actually is French for “under vacum”, and literally sous vide is vacuum sealing foods and cooking them in a water bath. Why would one sous vide? It’s really about absolute precision of the temperature and time and a process that preserves all the liquid and flavours. Sous vide can be done for fish, meat, eggs, vegetables…most everything.  I read a story once of a guy in a NYC apartment without a proper kitchen and he prepared a dinner for 8 people using only sous vide! The only down side is that meats don’t get browned, so they might require a quick sear for that crispy brown outside. And while this is a machine that is associated with high end gourmet cooking, actually it can be a real tool of convenience for the home chef and gadget geeks. Cooking is foolproof and you can really just walk away and let the sous vide do its thing with no supervision. If you words alone aren’t enough, check out this video from the Voltaggio brothers from Top Chef.

Worth it? It’s not inexpensive, but if you are someone likes to cook, this might just stimulate a whole new approach and inspire new dishes. Plus the home units are much smaller and less industrial looking than the ones you have seen on TV. I for one am excited to make summer salads with perfectly poached eggs this summer.

Pacojet – this is a device that allows the cook to puree frozen foods into delicate mousses, fine sauces and creams. Imagine whipping up a bowl of ice cream or sorbet in seconds or a crafting a terrine or salmon mousse – even cocktails are possible. It’s actually not a large machine, probably about the size of a coffee maker. But this isn’t in your average kitchen store, most likely it would require special order from a kitchen supply store. And it’s not cheap at about $3,500 – 4,000 USD.

Worth it? Unless you are knee deep in making terrines and mousses and ice creams already, I am not sure it’s worth it, even for the most advanced home chef. For the same price you could fly to Paris and eat in Michelin-starred meals for a few days
;)

 

Combi oven – as the name suggests there are a combination of cooking functions in a combi oven. Convection (with circulated dry heat), Steam (injects water to poach or steam) and Combination (dry heat with adjustable steam to maintain exact moisture levels).  Why would combination cooking be interesting? Because you can cook at very high heats without drying foods out. A combi oven enables you to make “dry fried” potato chips, perfect roast chickens, baker breads with a nice crust, or defrost frozen food super quickly and more. But, a combi oven requires a water and electric hook up, so professional installation is required. A restaurant combi oven would cost about $13,000 – $20,000 USD. Electrolux has introduced a mini version for smaller professional kitchens, but that could also be used at home – it costs about $2,000 USD

Worth it? While expensive, I would consider investing in a combi oven. See it as a replacement not a supplement to your oven, steamer and microwave. And then there’s the cool factor – this would be the culinary equivalent of having the first iPhone back in the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Centrifuge – this is a device that spins at high speeds and separates solid suspended in liquids by their density. So imaging clarifying juice to get the pulp out, or separating a sauce to remove the fat, or spinning a fruit sauce to concentrate it by removing the water. The faster the centrifuge spins, the more separation is possible. The challenge is centrifuges are expensive and in some cases can be dangerous with cases of flying rotor blades in cases where they are not changed regularly and have gotten dull. It is ill advised to “experiment” with a centrifuge considering the risk. I didn’t have a picture of a centrifuge on hand for this article, but if you want to see it in action, watch a video here.

Worth it? Well if you have a few thousand dollars lying around and you like an element of danger when separating your juice, then sure… why not?

Has cooking gone high tech? Yes, indeed. But I guess it’s no different than the first time you walked in someone’s home and saw a Viking stove or even the more humble Panini press. What is impressive today  is likely to become common tomorrow. Professional results are now yours….at a price.

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