Food preparation equipment is intended to make your life easier, unfortunately, picking out the right pieces can be as frustrating as the work it is intended to simplify. There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for food preparation equipment that can make finding the right pieces easier.
Be on the lookout for “time wasters”: Food prep is full of repetitive actions. Examine where the most prep time could be saved by simplifying the monotonous steps on prep lists. For example, things like slicing or dicing tomatoes or other vegetables can take up a lot of time, but can be made easier by a vegetable cutter, tomato slicer, or a veggie dicer. Or in a small baker’s kitchen, an electric mixer can help reduce mixing times on things like meringues. Tools like these can shorten the time it takes to complete the less detail oriented tasks of a prep assignment, and allow your cooks to multi-task or focus on the steps that really make a dish take shape. Tasks like cutting French fries could take all day without the assistance of a fry-cutter, and like fry-cutters, some prep tools allow users to do things that they may not be able to do with out a tool (such as make curly-Q fries).
When is equipment needed?: Sometimes prep equipment doesn’t just make life easier, it is essential. Things like mixing bowls, can openers, salad spinners, and portion scales are examples of things that don’t necessarily have a counterpart, but serve an important purpose on their own. Even things like meat grinders / sausage stuffers, commercial food blenders, and food processors are starting to become indispensable in certain food preparation instances, so it is best to examine what is needed to complete a task first, and what would make it easier after.
When is it best to go electric?: There are many electric counterparts to manual tools that are intended to make prep work easier, but it can often be difficult to decide when to go electric. More often then not, electric prep equipment should be purchased when consistency and volume are a must. Electric slicers, for example, provide consistent slicing, and are capable of producing large quantities of evenly sliced meats and cheeses; a task that would be nearly impossible to do by hand. Or something like an electric vegetable / onion peeler can be a tremendous asset when peeling large quantities of onions that may be difficult for one person to do without taking a break.
Is this equipment multi-purpose?: Though you may buy a piece of food preparation equipment with one specific intended use, it may have other uses that can be just as helpful, or potentially, may save you from purchasing another piece of equipment in the future. Electric mixers are a perfect example of this. Even though the main reason to purchase a mixer is to mix, that doesn’t mean mixing is all it can do. Many large floor model mixers and even some countertop models can be equipped with attachments that turn them into meat grinders, sausage stuffers, graters, or slicers in no time flat. Or, often times, a food processor or food blender can accomplish many of the same tasks, like making salsa or emulsifying dressings. Examine the total usefulness a piece can have in your food preparation process.