Gear Guide

Many people who have purchased Modernist Cuisine and are waiting for it to arrive have written to ask us what new tools they should buy to outfit their kitchen for Modernist cooking. The answer can be found in four helpful tables at the beginning of chapter 10 on The Modernist Kitchen, which we provide below, enhanced with links to models recommended by our culinary team. If you’d like to share or gather suggestions about cooking gear, head over to the “Help with Equipment” section of the Cooks Forum.

Must-Have Tools for the Modernist Kitchen

In making this book, we had the opportunity to work with many different kinds of equipment. Some of the tools we purchased; others were sent on loan or donated to be cut in half. All that experience has left us with some favorite kinds of tools and techniques that we feel are must-haves for practicing Modernist cooking. Below is our top-ten list, ranked so that those items that offer the greatest value for the price appear higher on the list. If used properly, these tools will eventually pay for themselves in convenience and results. Not all available brands are listed; those given are the ones used in our research kitchen, arranged from least to most expensive. In most cases there are other manufacturers who offer similar products, which may be as good or better.
RankToolKindBrandRecommended modelsNote
1water bathcirculatingPolyScienceProfessional:Sous Vide Professional CHEF Series
Home: Sous Vide Prfoessional CREATIVE Series
the best tool for cooking sous vide or for any cooking task that requires precise temperature control; it is useful to have several baths for preparing several dishes at different temperatures simultaneously
1nonstirredSousVide Supreme10-Liter SousVide Supreme
2liquid nitrogenDewar Flask, Fisher ScientificFisher ScientificFisher Scientific Dry Ice/Liquid Nitrogen Trapuseful for myriad prep tasks and for producing special effects
3modern ovencombi ovenRationalthe kitchen's most versatile tool
water-vapor ovenWinston IndustriesCVapeffective for some combi oven tasks or for sous vide with or without bags
4sealerimpulse sealerHualianvacuum sealing greatly improves the precision and flexibility of cooking water baths and combi ovens, and sealers are also useful for preserving, compressing, and expanding foods; chamber sealers are best
edge vacuum sealerFoodSaver, SousVide Supreme, RivalFoodSaver V3835 Vacuum Food Sealer with SmartSeal Technology
SousVide Supreme Vacuum Sealer
Rival Vacuum Sealer
FoodSaver FSFRSH0051 FreshSaver Handheld Vacuum-Sealing System
chamber vacuum sealerHenkelman, ARY, Multivac, VacMasterVacMaster VP210C Dry Piston Pump Chamber Machine
5homogenizerrotor-stator homogenizerTorbedo, Omni, IKATorbeo Hand-Held Homogenizer; capacity 1 to 200 mL; stator size; 1.3 cm; 230 VAC, 0.6 Aa tabletop homogenizer produces the smoothest and most stable sauces, purees, and emulsions
Torbeo Hand-Held Homogenizer; capacity, 1 to 200 mL; stator size; 1.3 cm; 110 VAC, 1.2 A
colloid millIKA, Chinese brands
high-pressure Avestin
6PacojetPacojetthis powerful grinder makes ice cream, superfine pastes, and purees
7vacuum pumpfaucet aspirator vacuum pumpNalgene, Bel-ArtBel-Art 329470000 Scienceware High Density Polyethylene Vacuum Aspirator Pump, 11psiuseful for filtering and desiccation; faucet aspirators save on cost but waste water
motorized aspirator vacuum pumpBinkmann, Oakton
membrane vacuum pumpBüchi
8magnetic stirrer with hotplatelaboratory Corning, Cimarec, IKAuseful for temperature-controlled heating and stirring tasks, such as dispersing and hydrating hydrocolloids
9centrifugeBeckman Coulter, Sorvall (now ThermoScientific)Thermo Scientific Sorvall RC-4 General-Purpose Floor Model Centrifuge; 120V, 60Hz, 20Auseful for rapidly and thoroughly clarifying liquids and separating fats
10autoclaveYamato, Tuttnaueran incredibly useful automated pressure cooker; comes in many sizes

Handy Special-Purpose Tools

Although we would suffer without a good smoker, and we love our peristaltic pump, they don't get used as often as our must-have tools do. Not every kitchen needs the kinds of tools listed below, but they fulfill their special roles with excellent usability and performance. Brands listed are those we have used in our research kitchen.
RankToolKindBrandRecommended ModelNotes
1ultrasonic bathBransoncleans small items, extracts locked-in flavors
2vacuum tumbleranyaccelerates brining, curing, and marinating of meats
3blast chilleranychills large amounts of food; useful for quickly chilling items cooked sous vide
4smokerSawdust puck smokerBradleyBradley Digital 4-Rack Smokeruses a hopper and sawdust pucks; electrically heated
Bradley BCOLD Smoker Cold Smoke Adapter
Pellet hot smokerTraegar, CookshackTraeger Lil' Tex Smokeruses wood pellets; generates a particular kind of smoke and temperature performance
Computer controller for custom smokerBBQ Guruconverts an existing smoker into one with digital control
Digital smoke oven with humidity control and cold-smoking capabilityEnviro-Pakfeatures full digital control of temperature and humidity
5freeze dryerTaxidermy or florist gradeFreeze Dry Co.freeze-dries foods for extended storage or to enhance flavors in unique ways
Pharmaceutical gradeVirTis
6rotary evaporatorBüchi, YamatoRotary Evaporator, Safety-Coated Vertical Condenser, 115Vmakes essential oils, extracts, and alcohols
Yamato Basic Rotary Evaporator System
7chilling water bathPolySciencecools foods to precise temperatures; useful when cooking sous vide
8vacuum ovenFisher ScientificFisher Isotemp Model 281A Vacuum Oven, Standard Capacity 281A, 120Vbakes the lightest meringue imaginable
9meat band sawHobart, GrizzlyGrizzly H6246 Heavy-Duty Meat Saw w/ Sliding Tableuseful for butchering whole animals and meat cuts for stockmaking
10peristaltic pumpMasterflexuseful for making long gel noodles
11spray dryerYamatomakes fine powders from any liquid
12vacuum concentratorGenevac Rocket Evaporatorreduces sauce and stock; very low heat yields bright flavors

Inexpensive but Invaluable Modernist Tools

Gadgets? Not exactly. These are items that we have come to rely on for efficiency and consistent results. Scales, silicone molds, siphons, blowtorches, and lav sieves; we can't imagine cooking without them.
RankToolKindBrandRecommended ModelNotes
1digital scaleOhaus, American Weigh, GrobetAmerican Weigh Signature Series Black Digital Pocket Scale, 1000 by 0.1 gramsa must-have; every recipe in Modernist Cuisine requires accurate weighing
2thermometerdigital thermometerThermapen, Fluke, ExTechExtech EA10 EasyView -200 Degrees to 1999 Degrees Farenheit and -200 Degree to 1360 Degree Celsius Dual Input Thermometer with 2 Type K Probesa must-have; precise temperature control is crucial in Modernist cooking
Fluke 52-2 Dual Input Digital Thermometer, 50 Series II
Taylor Professional 9306 Dual Temp IR/Thermocouple Thermometer
Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen
infrared thermometerFlukeFluke 62 Mini Infrared Thermometer
Fluke 561,IR Thermometer, With Contact Thermometer, To 1022F
3pressure cookerKuhn Rikon, FagorKuhn Rikon 2 1/2-Liter Stainless Steel Pressure Cookera must-have; essential for stocks, tenderizing tough grains and seeds
Kuhn Rikon 3344 7.4-Quart Stainless-Steel Pressure Cooker
Fagor Splendid 6-Quart Pressure Cooker
Kuhn Rikon 12-Quart Duromatic Professional Stockpot Pressure Cooker
Kuhn Rikon Duromatic 8-1/2-Quart Stockpot
4blowtorchMAPP gas or propaneTurboTorch, BernzomaticBernzomatic TS4000 Trigger Start TorchMAPP gas makes it easier to avoid tainting food with combustion products.
Bernzomatic BZ8250HT Trigger-Start Hose Torch
oxyacetyleneLenox, Campbell HausfeldCampbell Hausfeld WT400000AV Oxy-Acetylene Torch Kit
5lab sieveassorted sizesNewark, COLE-PARMERSieve, brass, 200 mm OD, 0.500 mm openings, full height, No. 35 meshsieves to very fine levels with little fuss or expense
6foam-whipping siphoniSiprofessional-grade models with durable motors are best
7hand blenderstick typeBamix, BoschBosch MSM6A60UC Mixxo Cordless Handheld Blender and Chopper, Black/White
Bamix 391203 deluxe hand mixer in silver
Bamix 391300 Hand Mixer Gastro
8silicone mathalf-sheet and full-sheet sizeSilpatSilpat Non-Stick Matuseful for food that sticks
9surgical forcepsanyhave several sizes on hand
10meat tenderizerhandheldJaccardJaccard Supertendermatic 48-Blade Tenderizer
11dehydratorwith Para-Flexx sheetsExcalibur
12vacuum desiccatorNalgeneanyThermo Scientific Nalgene Vacuum Desiccator, PC cover and body, 280 mm OD
13vacuum-filtering setupfilter flask, Büchner funnel, filter media, and pumpWhatman (media)useful for clarifying broth or consommé
14vacuum jarsassorted sizesFoodSaver
15meat slicercommercial gradeBiro, Berkel
16silicone moldsassorted sizesanyWorld Cuisine Non-Stick Silicone Mold, Hemispherea must-have for casting gels and setting shapes
17carbonator soda siphonanyfor do-it-yourself soda
18skin-puncturing toolwire brushanyuseful for quickly perforating pastry or skin
19pressure-filtering kitBuon Vinoclarifies liquids quickly with minimal waste or flavor change
20coffee cold-brewing kitToddyToddy T2N Cold Brew Systemmakes full-flavored extracts for use in cooking

Classic Tools for Modernist Cooks

Not everything has to be cutting edge. Some traditional tools, such as a wok burner and a griddle, will always have a place in our kitchen. In selecting traditional tools, we focused on price, quality, and efficiency. Good prices can often be found on refurbished or used items. The brands listed are those used; many others are available.
RankToolKindBrandRecommended ModelNotes
1induction cooktop1,800 W inductionSunhom, Sunpentown, Cooktek, Max Burton, othersMax Burton 6200 Deluxe 1800-Watt Induction Cooktopcan handle most needs filled by traditional ranges
Cooktek MCD2500 MagnaWave Single Drop-In Induction Cooktop
3-5 kW inductionThirode, others
2broilergas catalytic TEC, others
electric broilerDeLonghi, Star-MaxDeLonghi Electric Indoor Grill with Broiler
3blendercommercialVita-Mix, Waringcommerical blenders are faster and produce smoother results
4microwave ovencommercialAmana, Panasonic, others
5mixerstand KitchenAid, Hobart
6milk shake machinecommercialWaringWaring PDM1 Drink Mixeruseful for creating thick foams
7griddle (plancha)commercialAccu-Steam, others
8deep fryercommercial WaringWaring Pro DF250B 1800-Watt Deep Fryer, Brushed Stainless
Waring Countertop Electric Commercial Deep Fryer: 10 lb Capacity
9wok burnercommercialImperial, Vikinguseful when high heat output is necessary
10espresso machinecommercialLa MarzoccoProfessional: Strada
the best-built espresso machine we have tried
11espresso grindercommercialMazzerMazzer Mini Espresso Grinderthe grinder is as important as the espresso machine