I am probably the most anti-gadget chef and hunter around, though I like things that work and accomplish a task every single time without making a fuss. Over the years, I have come across a few things I never thought at the time I would deem as “must-have.” But the truth is these items have now become necessities in my kitchen. I hope they find their way to yours.
Apron—Yes, even the most rugged guy or gal cooking in the kitchen needs one. An apron is an invaluable tool for cleanliness and safety. After years of wearing chef whites, I rebelled against an apron when cooking at home for family functions or recipe-testing or even butchering game. Eventually, that mind-set changed. A few years ago I met Corey Fair of Butcher Baker, an American culinary textile company. He makes real chef aprons with thought and passion evident in their design. Corey brought his years of culinary influence to bear to create the cross-back apron, which gets the weight off your neck and onto your shoulders. It’s made of heavy-duty denim and stitched proudly in the U.S.A., bringing American textile business back to Philadelphia.
Cutting Board—Few things in a kitchen are as important as a sharp knife and a place to do your prep work. Wood boards have been around for centuries and with good reason: they are user- and knife-friendly. If cared for properly, they will last for generations to enjoy. There are many great makers of fine cutting boards, but for me and my prepping needs I look no further than BOOS. A quality wood board should be in every kitchen, and this will be in mine for many years to come.
Cast Iron—If you saw my recipe for “Guava Braised Pork” in the February print edition of AH, you may have noticed a green cast iron Dutch oven—yes, a ceramic-coated cast iron pan. While I love the way a great seasoned cast iron pan cooks (I still use my grandmother’s), I find the coated pots to be even easier to clean and more user-friendly.
My choice has been Le Creuset for home. I use mine for everything from braises to cream sauces. For such work, even, consistent heat is a must; I find Le Creuset’s Dutch ovens to be invaluable tools for every hunter’s kitchen.
Knives—I have some trepidation in discussing knives, as a knife is as personal a choice as selecting broadheads. Such topics are known to be turned into 23-page debates on Internet forums, after all. But I can’t forgo mention of a good knife; it’s a must. For my butchering needs, over the years I have looked no further than Frost Cutlery. Frost makes a quality knife for a great price and, in my opinion, its knives provide excellent “feel” in the hand, and they hold a fine edge for my butchering needs. I find the company’s semi-flexible boning knife to be my go-to blade for butchering deer to ducks.
Knife Sharpener—We have all heard the old saying “a sharp knife is a safe knife.” When it comes to my utility and butchering needs, I have found no better tool for the job of knife-sharpening than a unit from Work Sharp, its Ken Onion Edition (AH’s Gear of the Year for 2014). I am a bit late to the party on this tool, as I have always used water stones to sharpen my knives, but I do realize some folks do not have the patience for this method of sharpening. TheWork Sharp Ken Onion Edition gives a hunter/cook everything needed to sharpen every knife used from field to kitchen.