Sep 082010


I love my local restaurant supply store, Food Equipment Company. It’s a big ole, no frills warehouse, but they have a huge assortment of kitchenware and much of it is dirt cheap. I’ve got a post (or 2) in the works that tells you how to navigate a restaurant supply store, but in the meantime I thought I would share the four kitchen essentials that I wouldn’t buy anywhere else.

1. Ice Cream/Cookie Scoops

Cookie Scoops

2 of dozens of scoops for sale

At Christmas time, I make A LOT of cookies. We’re talking in the thousands. Cookie scoops (called Dishers at the store) are essential because this way each cookie is the same size and cooks in the same amount of time. I have different sizes of scoops depending on how big a cookie I want to make. (I have a note on my chocolate chip cookie recipe to remind me how long smaller cookies bake.)

I use the smallest scoop when I want to stretch a recipe or give people little tastes of several different kinds of cookies – or if I’m making mini muffins. Medium scoops for regular sized cookies when I’m serving only one or two varieties. I use the largest scoop to portion cupcake and muffin batter – scoop out 24 cupcakes in under 2 minutes!

Here’s a great tip: Make a double batch of your favorite cookie recipe, bake half of it, and freeze the rest scooped out on a cookie sheet. Once the balls are frozen, put them in a freezer bag and you’ll have cookies ready at a moment’s notice for a couple of months! Just add a few minutes to the baking time. (My husband is in heaven when I surprise him with fresh-baked cookies. I can do no wrong for the week. Cookies are very handy to have in the freezer.)

Oh, these work for ice cream, too, but I use the scoop that has antifreeze stuff in the handle for that. Makes life a little easier, and it’s in the same section of my restaurant supply store.

2. Flour Storage Containers

Storage Containers for Flour

An assortment of storage containers - great if you bake a lot!

Actually, I use them to store flour, sugar, dry beans, rice, chocolate, etc. I have separate containers for self rising flour, bread flour, all purpose flour, brown sugar, white sugar…you get the idea.

You can never have too many of these puppies. They’re airtight, so I don’t get any creepy-crawlies in my grains. They stack beautifully. You can get round ones, but the square are more space efficient. I use a label maker to identify what’s in each container, but a Sharpie would work just as well.

Yes, you can buy these on Amazon or the King Arthur Flour website, but I can buy them for 1/3 to 1/2 the price at the restaurant supply.

Just make sure to buy the lid too – those are sold separately.

3. Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

Stainless Steel Bowls

A bevy of shiny stainless steel bowls

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. I own SEVENTEEN of these bowls, multiples of each size, and they all nest into one leeeeeetle stack. They’re prep bowls, batter bowls, sifting bowls, salad bowls, mixing bowls, serving bowls, bread rising bowls, marinating bowls. I could use them around the house if I could bear to let them leave the kitchen. Lighter weight than pyrex, just as easy to clean, I use them every day, often multiple times a day. The only drawback I can think of is they’re not microwaveable. But I don’t use them for anything I’d need to microwave, so it’s never bothered me. Unlike glass or pyrex bowls, if I put raw meat in a stainless steel bowl, I can sanitize the bowl with boiling water and not worry about thermal shock.

Note: When purchasing these bowls, my supply store has two gauges of stainless steel bowls – a lighter weight and a heavier duty. I buy the heavy duty. You should be able to tell when you pick them up which one is sturdier. It’ll cost a little more too, but it’s worth it. I’ve given these as Christmas presents and wedding gifts. An essential kitchen item.

4. Half Sheet Pans

Half Sheet Pans

They say that eight is enough, but I could always use more...

Technically, these aren’t cookie sheets because cookie sheets are rimless to allow air to circulate blah blah blah. To me, they’re cookie sheets. And pizza pans, roasting pans, bread pans, cake pans, brownie pans, you name it. Heck, you can call them toasters because I make toast under the broiler every morning (often on a Quarter Sheet Pan, but same difference).

And do you see the price in the picture? FIVE BUCKS! I own 8 of these pans that I bought over the last 10 years (the price does fluctuate, but between $4-6) and I don’t know which are newer and which are older. If you use parchment paper you barely have to clean them. (But if you do have to clean them, don’t put them in the dishwasher or they’ll go all matte and weird looking. Still usable, but not shiny like mine. My sister-in-law did that.) They nest so 8 don’t take up that much more space than 1. And yes, I can easily use all eight at once, especially during the holidays.

Want the ultimate test of these pans’ durability? My mom owns a beach house. Renters do who-knows-what to the cookware in that house. These pans are so far nearly indestructible, though obviously some people put them in the dishwasher. When they look too matte because of the dishwasher, Mom replaces them for aesthetic reasons and takes the ugly pans home to use.

One more note: When you go to buy them, make sure you get the half or quarter sheet pans, not the full sheets. Those won’t fit in most home ovens. My store has a new 2/3 sheet pan, but I don’t think that’ll fit in my oven either. At least, not and allow air to circulate around it.

So there you have it. Four kitchen items that I couldn’t live without and wouldn’t buy anywhere else. These alone should make it worth the trip to your local restaurant supply store, but they have a gazillion other temptations, too.

Do you have a favorite local supply store? What’s the name and where is it? What’s essential to you?

Storage Containers for Flour

An assortment of storage containers - great if you bake a lot!

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