The Money-Saving Tip Pro Chefs Know (and Now You Do, Too)
Restaurant supply stores are a treasure trove of essential kitchen tools at unbeatable prices—chefs swear by them, and so should you. Here are the 10 best budget-friendly products to buy.
Whether you're moving, remodeling, or simply revamping, stocking your kitchen on a budget can be a daunting task. Save the stress—and your wallet—by buying the basics at your local restaurant supply store. This low-profile, one-stop shop sells essentials from commercial restaurant equipment to kitchen smallware at wholesale prices. Chefs covet restaurant supply stores for their outstanding value and unrivaled selection. If you’ve never paid this magical place a visit, it’s time for that to change. While you may not find the handsome cookware that retailers such as Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma typically stock, let’s face it—most chefs aren’t thinking about aesthetics. Chefs need reliable, functional, and durable workhorse equipment that will get them through a busy dinner service. A restaurant supply store offers just that without the price markup of a retail store.
Restaurant supply stores such as Restaurant Depot require a membership and valid business license, but many smaller, locally-run stores are open to the public. Some items are impractical for home kitchens, such as commercial grade gas ranges, two-foot-long immersion blenders, or heavy-duty deli meat slicers, but don’t be deterred. What you’re looking for are chef-approved basics such as stainless steel mixing bowls, tongs, serving spoons, vegetable peelers, skillets, and more. You’ll pay a fraction of the price without sacrificing quality. Below, we share the top 10 products that offer the best value for home cooks.
Carbon Steel Pan
Chefs love carbon steel pans for their low price point and ability to heat quickly and evenly. We don’t blame them. You can literally cook anything and everything in these all-purpose skillets. Less common at kitchen retailers, carbon steel is a mainstay at restaurant supply stores. Season carbon steel in the same way as cast-iron—our handy guide to carbon steel will help you get the job done.
Commonly used by professional bakers, the offset spatula is a home cook’s secret weapon. While the blunt, stainless steel blade is perfect for spreading icing onto cakes, its uses extend far beyond that. Blanket smashed avocados over toast, stuff hummus inside pita pockets, or flip delicate proteins such as skin-on salmon. Often times, you’ll find both small and large sizes—we recommend stocking both.
From traditional to perforated to slotted, restaurant supply stores sell these endlessly useful stainless steel spoons for just a few bucks each. They’re easy to use and fit neatly into a drawer or utensil holder. Perforated spoons are perfect for scooping up pint-sized vegetables such as green peas, while slotted spoons are ideal for lifting pieces of meat from broths and removing boiled potatoes from water.
Carbon Steel Wok
Like carbon steel pans, carbon steel woks are inexpensive, highly versatile, and are essentially non stick after seasoning. Apart from stir frying, a wok’s deep well is ideal for making popcorn, cooking mussels, and even deep frying. Look for a flat-bottomed, carbon steel wok that can sit securely on top of your kitchen stove burner. Don't waste your time (or money) with heavy stainless steel or slow-to-heat nonstick skillets.
Whether searing flank steak, mixing salads, sautéing greens, or searing scallops, chefs treat kitchen tongs like their third hand—and so should you. Tongs typically run for a few dollars at restaurant supply stores, about the same price as serving spoons and whisks. We love stainless steel for its durability, but be careful when using with non-stick skillets, as they can scratch the surface.
Forget flimsy cardboard-like cutting boards that warp over time—you deserve better. The restaurant supply store sells a well-priced selection of hardy boards that can easily take a beating from your knife or meat mallet. You’ll also find sturdy antimicrobial rubber boards that won’t dull your knives or absorb odors and liquids.
You simply can’t stock enough of these in your kitchen. In restaurants, mixing bowls are as essential as knives, cutting boards, and skillets. Restaurant supply stores offer stainless steel bowls in a variety of sizes, weights, and depths that offer a myriad of uses. A shallow bowl is perfect for whisking oil into vinegar for vinaigrette, while a deeper bowl works well for mixing batters.
Whether you’re scrambling eggs or emulsifying ingredients for a sauce, most of us can’t imagine cooking without a whisk. At restaurant supply stores, you’ll find a wide selection from traditional balloon whisks to long, narrow French whisks. Stock several in various sizes—the small ones are useful when working with smaller portions.
From full-size to quarter-size to even eighth-size, the restaurant supply store offers quality, heavy-duty aluminum sheet pans in every size imaginable. There are about a million and one things you can make with a sheet pan, from sizzling fajitas to gooey s’mores—take advantage of their low price and stock up!
See More: 17 Delicious Sheet Pan Dinners
Common in restaurants, a spider skimmer has a long handle and wide mesh basket that offers more precision than a strainer or colander. Use it to remove food from hot liquid, whether deep-frying, blanching vegetables, or even testing the doneness of pasta. Spiders with bamboo handles tend to be less expensive, but they’re harder to clean—opt for an all-stainless steel variety instead.
Lastly, here are a few additional restaurant supply store finds that you may want to consider:
- Food mill
- Japanese mandolin
- Bamboo steamer
- Propane torch
- Vegetable peeler
- Food thermometer
- Digital kitchen scale
So whether you’re a master home cook or a total novice, take a hint from chefs and make a trip to your local restaurant supply store or shop WebstaurantStore, a well-stocked online restaurant supply store.