Last week I gushed about the magic of restaurant supply stores and how they’re Mecca for bulletproof cookware at cheap prices. I got a lot of emails in response, asking me for more details, so I thought I’d share a little more about all the goodness you can find at your local restaurant supply store. I even went down to my local restaurant supplier and took a ton of photos, so you can see exactly why I’m so excited about shopping there.
Below is a handy list of some of the common things you need for your kitchen that you’ll find for cheaper at your local restaurant supply store. If you need help finding one near you, click here for a Google search that will show any in your area.
Restaurant supply stores: What to look for
You local restaurant supply store likely carries A TON of different cookware, and of course a wide selection of commercial-grade equipment like fryers, mega food processors, etc. So what can a home cook expect to find when shopping at a restaurant supplier? Here’s a quick list of some of my favorite buys:
If you bake a fair amount, then you’re probably aware of the cost of cake pans… and how quickly they can get rusty or dented at the drop of a hat. And if you’re at all like me, you like having more than one size cake pan around so you can make either small cakes or larger cakes. Well, good news: A lot of restaurant supply stores carry a good selection of cake pans for pretty cheap, in varying sizes and finishes. Here’s a photo of the insane selection of cake pans my local shop carries. So many that it requires two photos to show them all!
So many cake pans they wouldn’t all fit in one photo!
Some of the larger restaurant supply stores carry canning supplies (and suppliers in areas where there’s a lot of farming will likely have a good selection as well). As you can see from the image below, my local supplier is THE place to go if you’re in need of canning equipment. Besides jars, they have every every kind of lid, ladle, jar lifter, and strainer known to man, as well as a great selection of other random goodies. They even have grape spirals and berry screens! Hallelujah!
The restaurant supply store is also where restaurant owners buy supplies for their in-house bars. So if you’re a fan of cocktails and you’re tired of paying $50 for cocktail shakers at Williams Sonoma, check out this selection of commercial-grade bar goodies that are made to last a lot longer than the stuff meant for home use:
Cutting boards are often taken for granted, which is sad because they are one of the hardest working pieces of equipment in your kitchen. It’s important to have a nice, high-quality cutting boards, but have you ever priced those babies out at your local mall cookware store? I was looking at cutting boards the other day, and Bed Bath & Beyond wanted $25 for a large plastic board. It’s literally a sheet of plastic with a hole in it… no features besides the fact that it’s flat and impervious to the blade of a knife. So what exactly was I getting for $25? Not much.
A restaurant supply store will likely carry a good selection of cutting boards because this is one piece of equipment that chefs need all the time. A cutting board the exact same size and the exact same plastic as the one I saw at the mall was $10. That’s like 60% off! (Please, don’t make me math.) Check out the selection of cutting boards at my local supplier:
And even more cutting boards…
Probably the most important tool in your kitchen, knives are the one thing you need to invest in more than anything else. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve inspected the knives of my students, friend, and family, only to find they’re as dull as a rolling pin, often with chips and dings on the blade. Yikes. Dull, chipped knives don’t cut very well (duh) so you’re far more likely to cut yourself. Why? Two reasons: 1) you have to apply a lot more pressure to get a dull knife to do its job, and 2) dull blades slip on firm foods that require more pressure to cut. Both of these problems increase the chances of the knife slipping and going straight for your fingers. Ugh.
Because no one looks stylish while sporting an ER bracelet, I recommend having your knives professionally sharpened every six months (if you use them a lot). I also advocate spending a little more money on good knives that will hold their edge longer. The good news is that you don’t need to spend a fortune on cutlery because your local restaurant supply store stocks very good knives for FAR less money than the mall stores. You might not find the fancy luxury brands (sorry Wüsthof and Global!) but the knives you buy there will be the very same ones chefs use every day in their professional kitchens. And if a knife is good enough for a chef to use every day, it’s good enough for you. :)
Check out this crazy selection of knives at my local supplier, all for a lot cheaper than you’d expect. It took THREE PHOTOS to capture their entire selection:
And more knives…
AAAAAAAAND, even more knives.
Bulletproof pots and pans
My post last week talked a lot about pots and pans, and the photo below is exactly what I was talking about. Look at that selection! A lot of these pots are much less expensive than you’d find at a mall store, and they’re of sturdy stock. (lol)
In a pastry kitchen, you like and die by your spatula. Restaurant supply stores know this, so they tend to carry a huge selection. Check this out:
An endless selection of whisk sizes
Much like a good spatula, a good whisk is a MUST in a pro kitchen. A good supplier will have a good range of sizes and shapes, for pretty much any whisking needs knows to man. Just check out those crazy-huge whisks to the left of the photo!
My mixing bowls take a beating, and over the years they start to look like Caribbean steel drums. The last time I shopped at a mall store for mixing bowls, they tried to charge me $30 for three medium-sized bowls. (Um, no.) Your local restaurant supply store likely carries a variety of mixing bowls, in different shapes, sizes, and price points. Check out this huge selection of mixing bowls — at this shop I can literally pay $5 each for a medium bowl, or $9 for a huge bowl. WAY cheaper than the mall.
I have to admit: I’m a muffin pan nerd. That said, I have never in my life seen such a selection of muffin tins in all sizes, shapes, and finishes as they have at my local restaurant supply store. I’m adding this photo mostly because I’m impressed with their selection. Check this out!
Piping and cake decorating supplies
Restaurant supply stores cater to pastry chefs as well (see the afore-mentioned insane cake pan and muffin tin selection) so you’ll often find cake decorating supplies as well. Some suppliers will have a better pastry selection than others, so you’ll have to scout your local shops to see what they’ve got.
An endless selection of ladle sizes
Ok, this might not seem relevant to you, a home cook, but I just thought this selection of ladles was crazytown and wanted to share! Ladles are really important in restaurant kitchens because they’re used as measuring devices when portioning out food. (Like, you use a 2-ounce ladle to quickly scoop out exactly 2-ounces of sauce for every dish you plate. Easy!) But if you’re ever in the market for a specific size of ladle, your local restaurant supply store is THE place to go for it. Check these out:
Pizza pans and peels
Apparently there are a lot of pizza shops in my area, because this is a huge selection of pizza pans and peels. Wow.
Whew, that’s a lot of cooking equipment to choose from. If you’re checking out your local restaurant supply store for the first time, I recommend you set aside a little time to really explore — especially if you live near a large supplier, like I do.
Again, click here for a Google search that will show any restaurant supply stores located in your area. Have fun!