Lots of action in the comment fields the last couple of days, keeping me busy! Some of the most interesting reader comments have had to do with professional versus home equipment. Ever since the rise of the foodie movement, a lot of home cooks have been making their home kitchens look and feel more “professional.” Appliance makers have of course complied with their wishes, producing all sorts of stainless appliances that mimic what you see in restaurants and other high production kitchens. A lot of this gear has a professional look but actually isn’t professional gear. And that’s a good thing.
Why? Because professional pieces of equipment are pretty blunt instruments, usually with nowhere near the versatility of home gear. I mentioned in the below post on mixers that my professional mixer is extremely powerful but doesn’t do small quantities. Why? Because it never occurred to the engineers who designed it that anyone would ever try to beat just three egg whites in it. It also sounds like a Harrier jet in hover mode. Professional ranges have the same problem. They’re great when it comes to turning out giant amounts of heat. That’s perfect if you’re a sauté cook on the line. But what if you’re a home cook trying to make a delicate stirred custard? Then they’re not so good. Not at all.
A close friend of mine learned about pro gear the hard way when he bought a commercial refrigerator to finish out his very, VERY expensive kitchen. Being a great cook he wanted a pro look and was ecstatic to discover that he could get twenty cubic feet of refrigerator space — all stainless — for less than a standard home refrigerator. Of course not a week later he was returning it because a.) it vibrated so much that it traveled across his hardwood floor even when the wheels were locked and b.) the compressor was so loud that it woke up everyone in the house when it kicked on at night. Plus it was unevenly cold if it wasn’t fully loaded up with at least ten cubic feet of food. His eggs froze if he didn’t keep several cases of bottled water in it.
All of which is to say that professional machines are designed for a specific environment. They’re usually very tough, they have to be. However because people working in commercial kitchens don’t really care how loud they are, how much they vibrate, what they look like, how well insulated they are or how much exhaust heat they throw off, they’re not built with, shall we say, the finer points in mind. Home kitchen machines are often maligned as “wimpy” when most of the time they’re far better engineered than their commercial counterparts. As a result they can do a lot more.
So when it comes to a major purchase like a range or mixer, I’m forever reminding friends and readers alike to think hard about how they’re going to use it. If I didn’t have a brick oven in my back yard that needed to be filled up with lots of dough every time I baked in it, I wouldn’t have any need for the Viking pro mixer at all. And my little girls wouldn’t have to plug their ears whenever daddy mixed anything.
Power. It’s loud.