Tools of the Trade

What do Madison’s foodies consider must-haves for their kitchen arsenal? We found out.

Leah Caplan

Executive chef and local food liaison, Metcalfe’s Market

Rasp (bottom left)
This was originally used in woodworking as a tool for finely contouring things. It’s a very fine grater—it’s excellent for grating fresh nutmeg, chocolate, parmesan cheese and getting the zest off of citrus without getting the white pith, so you get the flavor without the bitterness. There are various shapes and sizes, but I use the original long, narrow rectangle.

Spider (middle left)
Used in Chinese cooking—there’s usually a wooden handle with a brass mesh cup—it’s like a flat ladle. It’s used for scooping things out of liquid easily. It’s good for blanching veggies, scooping pasta out of water and it’s essential if you’re deep-frying things like donuts.

Flat wooden angled spatula (left)
It’s like a wooden spoon but flat. You use it for sauteeing or stirring stock and sauces because you really do cover the bottom of the pot, whereas if you use a spoon you’re not getting to the bottom as well.

Offset bread knife (top right)
The handle is offset, so it’s higher than the blade. When you cut down your knuckles don’t touch the cutting board, and you can get a nice clean cut on a sandwich.


Dan Curd

Food writer and blogger, Madison Magazine

Marble slab (left)
For rolling out pastry—my kitchen has marble countertops.

Mortar and Pestle (bottom)
One of the oldest kitchen gadgets around, basically supplanted by the food processor, but for certain items—like making paste of garlic or crushing spice—it is a lot more efficient.

Silicone spatulas (right)
These can withstand high heat unlike the old rubber kind, so they’re a lot more versatile. Traditionally, rubber spatulas were used just to scrape out the contents from a jar or bowl, but silicone spatulas can be used in cooking instead of a wooden spoon, and you get better contact between the utensil and the bottom of the pan. Also, food doesn’t stick to them like it does with a conventional spoon or metal spatula.



Bill Peterson

Owner, Wisconsin Cutlery and Kitchen Supply

PoachPod (bottom)
It doesn’t sound sexy, but it’s a really neat tool—it’s an egg poacher made out of silicone. It holds two eggs. You boil water, then place the PoachPod in there and cover the pan. It doesn’t leave a mess in the pan, which can sometimes be a pain to clean.

Ceramic sharpener (left)
It doesn’t sharpen dull knives—it keeps a sharp knife sharp. It’s a great tool.

Microplane (right)
It’s one of the best tools for grating cheese and zesting lemon and lime. It’s a kitchen staple. If someone’s looking for a gift that’s usually the first item I recommend. I have three different types of microplanes—and that tells you something.

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