Kitchen Equipment Worthy of a Professional Chef

When it comes to cooking, good equipment can make even the feeblest of talents great. I learned this six years ago when I bought a fancy gas range with burners spewing heat like some kind of wild Hawaiian volcano. Wanting to replicate an incredible scallop dish I ate at a restaurant, I poured a spot of oil into a sauté pan and lit the flame. Shazam. There was the perfect scallop: caramelized on the outside, toothsome yet tender on the inside. But it wasn't me; it was the appliance. I knew this because my scallops, sautéed so many times before on my old range, usually attained the consistency of a rubber eraser.

That culinary turning point led me to pursue the answers to other cooking mysteries. Are all knives created equal? Does the pot really matter? Which gadgets are truly indispensable? With so many shiny new products out there, I wanted to find out which were worth the price tag.

Among my most alarming findings: my 6-year-old gas range might soon be reduced to a quaint relic, courtesy of new lightning-quick induction cooktops. Using a magnetic field to heat cookware through a ceramic surface, induction burners can boil an inch of water in less than a minute. They're almost twice as efficient as gas, allowing kitchens to stay cooler. Viking has introduced the first all-induction range, available only in the 30-inch size with four burners. The stainless-steel model retails for $6,250, but 23 custom colors, including apple red, can be ordered for $250 extra (vikingrange.com).

The problem with induction is the learning curve. Unlike gas, whose heat is easy to control by sizing up the flame, induction doesn't have a visual cue. The dial says LOW, MEDIUM and HIGH, but only practice reveals what that really means. "It takes time to learn where the heat settings are or you'll burn stuff," says renowned Italian chef Giada De Laurentiis.

Not all pots and pans will work on induction cooktops. Typically, stainless steel, enamel and cast iron are induction-friendly, while copper, glass and aluminum are not. Viking makes a complete line of cookware that's compatible with gas, electric and induction stovetops. All-Clad also makes superior cookware for all three types of heat. The pots in its new brushed stainless-steel collection have a tasteful industrial-chic look and are made of five alternating layers of aluminum and stainless steel, which distribute heat evenly ($850 for a 10-piece set; all-clad.com).

When it comes to slicing and dicing, professional chefs say it's better to have one great knife than a whole block full of mediocre ones. Shun's indispensable eight-inch Ken Onion Chef's knife, which sells for $250, features an ebony Pakkawood handle and 32 layers of very hard steel, to help keep the edge sharper longer. The company's best eight-inch chef's knife, which sells for $340 and was designed by master blacksmith Bob Kramer, is so sharp you'll want to give it plenty of respect (shuncutlery.com). But it will treat your ingredients the same way.

Kitchen Equipment Worthy of a Professional Chef | World