As told by Chef Maxime Bilet of Modernist Cuisine.
I’m often asked about my favorite kitchen tools. The answer is equally as difficult to define as what my favorite food is, or what type of food I like to cook: I love all of it!
Fact is, there are a few essential tools I always have on hand whether I’m at Imagine Food in Seattle or on the road. The Microplane is one of those tools. It’s certainly lighter than traveling with my centrifuge, and humor aside, it is one the most practical and versatile modern tools.
Its noble predecessor, the box grater is unfortunately often violent, scraping away the delicate surfaces of ingredients and numbing their most enjoyable elements. The Microplane on the other hand requires a calmer finesse and delivers a beautiful aesthetic and fundamental accuracy in the amount of ingredients distributed on a dish.
I’ve found a wide range of applications for the Microplane in my time in the kitchen and on the road including:
- Shaving leftover nobs and ends of cured meats, such as prosciutto or salami, into a stock or on top of a dish for refined, salty, and savory flavors. (To utilize this method with fatty meats like lardo and cured bacon, freeze the bits first so they are easier to handle and produce the desired texture.)
- Microplaning a Yukon gold potato over a hot skillet creates crispy bits that can be used as a garnish. The tool allows you to move beyond the classic hash brown and create a crispier finished product by producing more surface area on the potato pieces.
- Running a Microplane over meat prior to brining, curing, or marinating, as the blades finely cut the meat and increase the surface area for better seasoning and flavor. A brine or marinade typically penetrates meat 1mm a day. But that rate is tripled when there are more areas for the flavor to seep into the meat.
- Grating whole spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and star anise, instead of grinding or milling them, for a stronger aromatic aroma and flavor.
- Utilizing a Microplane to shave garlic and ginger, rather than mincing it, to create a finer finish and avoid the smelly and sticky cleanup. To make cleanup even easier, hold the Microplane upright to shave your garlic or ginger and simply rinse the metal once you’re finished.
The list goes on and I’m sure there are many other uses I have yet to think of. With only a few small gestures, this versatile tool can truly elevate any dish.