An array of tools I didn't want to be without when I arrived in an unfamiliar kitchen.

If you’re on the road and will be cooking in unfamiliar kitchens, what are the essentials you cannot afford to be without? Thomas Keller once told me he always brought three things, kosher salt, string, and his pepper mill.  Everything else, a restaurant kitchen was likely to have. But what about when you’re traveling to a rental house, as I did last week. A rental house you count on providing you with one crappy non-stick pan, a small plastic cutting board, a cheap pot just big enough to cook a box of spaghetti in, and an array of dull and serrated knives.

Donna photographed the tools I brought with me to Key West to cook 9 consecutive dinners for 16 people.  A big cutting board is the first thing I set out. You’re badly handicapped without it. Sharp knives, flat-edged wood spoons, a perforated spoon (this is the best one made on earth, IMHO), and a basting-tasting offset spoon.  That old basting brush of my dad’s was a last minute addition, but I’m really glad I brought it as we grilled a lot and basted a lot. It fell apart on the last night. (All the linked tools, and other kitchen essentials, are at my Opensky store.)

Vessels, strainer, immersion circulator, and Lexan tub

Didn’t want to be without a really good saute pan, a sauce pan, and big vessels, the big pot, and my invaluable and trusty Le Creuset Dutch oven. The surprise was the grill basket. We used it to reheat big batches of green veg over hot coals, and it doubled as a big colander. The immersion circulator is from Polyscience. It’s old; their new ones are sleek BMWs compared with this Buick, and available for half the cost at Williams Sonoma). But it worked great, allowed me to cook big batches of proteins to specific temperatures (lobster tail, short ribs) and hold them there till I wanted them; I also reheated duck confit and simultaneously cooked 16 eggs in the tub. A huge help when cooking for a lot of people.

On Monday I’ll write about strategies I used in planning these menues and for cooking for large groups.