Some might find restaurant supply stores unattractive and utilitarian, but I can't pass by one without going in. Sure, there aren't any items with pretty packaging or cutesy gadgets vying for my attention, but I just love wandering down the aisles and seeing what restaurants use to efficiently get food out to their guests.
There are so many things to choose from in restaurant supply stores, and usually at such great prices. So what's worth getting there for the home kitchen, especially if you're on a budget? Here are my five top picks of the best values from restaurant supply stores (and online restaurant suppliers).
1. Baking Sheets
Also known in the restaurant industry as sheet pans, these are the pans that can do it all: bake cookies, roast vegetables, or even act as jelly roll pans. You want heavy-duty baking sheets that won't buckle or warp, and restaurant supply stores have never failed to offer good quality at great values. Make sure you stock up on half-sheet pans, which fit in standard ovens, as well as quarter-sheet pans, which are great for toasting nuts or other little baking or prep projects.
2. Chef's Knives
If you can't afford a more expensive designer knife, restaurant supply stores have lightweight but sharp chef's knives with plastic handles, usually around $10 to $15. When I taught at a cooking school, we always had a bin of these knives around for students to use, and they held a good edge for a long time.
3. Frying Pans
Not everyone can buy a set of All-Clad pans, and neither do most restaurants. Instead, they rely on strong aluminum pans that can take the high heat and high-stress cooking that goes on in restaurant kitchens. These pans get a lot of use yet still do a great job of searing and sautéing, and they can do the same thing in a home kitchen for a fraction of the cost of name-brand pans.
4. Plastic Cutting Boards
A good set of plain, plastic cutting boards is always needed in the kitchen. Even if you have a great butcher block, plastic boards are good for cutting meat and are also easier to maneuver in the kitchen. Restaurant supply stores have a wide range of boards in multiple sizes that will hold up for years.
5. Mixing Bowls
Restaurant supply stores are great for getting a sturdy set of metal or glass mixing bowls. I find that I always need two big bowls for mixing salad or for the wet and dry ingredients in baking, and a few smaller ones don't hurt for whisking up salad dressings or beating eggs. The ones from the restaurant supply stores are inexpensive, can be used as makeshift double boilers, and are virtually indestructible.
What things do you buy at restaurant supply stores?