I Sent a Chef Photos of My Utensil Drawer — Here’s What He Told Me to Get Rid Of
Something about me: I love analyzing wedding registries. You learn so much about a couple from the kitchen items they keep on hand. Just when I thought the betrothed were regular ol’ folks, some hyper-specific registry item shakes me to my core. Specialized utensils for preparing homemade lobster or a torch for crème brulée suggest culinary expertise, or at least an innate ambition for such.
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When it comes down to it, I’m jealous of the home cook who can whip up a mouthwatering masterpiece in their own kitchen. Perhaps my own culinary ineptitude and unfamiliarity with specialized dishes is what sends me into a registry tailspin. Generally, couples aren’t carelessly tossing homegoods and cookware onto their wish lists like, at times, my husband and I did — which is how we became the proud owners of 100+ velvet hangers and two juicers.
Now that I’m suffering a kitchen utensil identity crisis, I reached out to an expert for reassurance. Or, in the case of Chef Costa Lapaseotes, a reality check. To Lapaseotes, a seasoned Nebraska-based private chef and consultant, co-owner of Harrison Quality Meats, a butcher, and a cattle rancher by trade, his chef’s knife is an extension of his limbs. But he’s not coming to a beef-butchering fight with just a steak knife. When it comes to expertly preparing dishes, specificity matters. I sent Lapaseotes some photos of my crowded utensil drawers, and here’s what he told me to get rid of.
Declutter the Excess
In my household of two adult humans, only one of us regularly consumes ice cream. And yet, here we are. “It looks like maybe you have three ice cream scoops? I really like the solid, red handled one for ice cream,” Chef Lapaseotes says, low-key roasting me. There’s simply no need for duplicate tools, each with slight differences in function.
So, why the red-handled scoop? “The other two don’t really stand up to ice cream in my experience, unless you let it sit out a bit or warm them up in warm water. And I never have that much patience with ice cream.” Fair enough. Whether paring down your scoop, spoon, or spatula collection, select the highest quality item you have that most effectively gets the job done, keeping in mind the job at hand, such as whether you use your ice cream scoop for ice cream, meatballs, or cookie dough. And remember: Highest quality doesn’t necessarily equate with “most expensive!”
Keep Bottle Service Simple
For someone whose go-to wine preference is “dry white, under $8, and with a screw top,” my household boasts a variety of bottle openers. What can I say? I’m the daughter of a bar and restaurant supply business owner. According to Lapaseotes, I’m overcomplicating things. “Maybe my wine bottles don’t stay undrunk as long as yours, but I’ve never had much use for complex wine preservation systems. Just put a stopper in and toss them in the fridge, they should last at least a few days, if not a week,” he says. For now, I’ll hang onto a basic corkscrew for occasions when my esteemed guests bring over bottles with an actual cork and ditch the excess.
Focus on Serving Size
If my lack of cooking prowess hasn’t already given me away, let me be clear: I rarely cook for a crowd. When I do, I pull a Mrs. Doubtfire and order takeout, carefully replating sides and mains, giving our collection of platters some use. Until Lapaseotes pointed it out, I had never really considered whether my utensils were better suited for big batches or basic meals.
“I usually just use a fork when making mashed potatoes at home. I wouldn’t use something like a masher unless I was making a big pot — like for Thanksgiving. But if I used that little guy in a Thanksgiving-sized pot of mashed, the handle would break off long before I was done,” he says. The takeaway? There are some utensils you can get by without, unless you’re cooking for a crowd. In that instance, higher quality utensils are a life-saver, especially when dealing with a pile of potatoes. Even writing this, I can’t recall the last time I mashed anything in my kitchen. Time to declutter and donate!
Ensure Food Safety
I’m thrilled to report that Lapaseotes approved of one particular tool in my drawer. “I love that you have a meat thermometer!” he says. Naturally, a rancher-turned-butcher-turned-chef would recommend an effective meat thermometer for maintaining safe food temperatures and determining not just when a cooked meat is safe for consumption, but also meets your preferred degree of doneness. Now all I have to do is take notes on the proper threshold for the one chicken dish in my rotation, and I’m golden.