What's your favorite kitchen gadget?
- DanM Feb 26, 2005 12:12 PM
If you had to name your single favorite gadget, the one you just can't live without, what would it be? I want to buy something interesting and useful as a gift for a serious cook, but can't come up with any ideas.
Thanks in advance...
There's a few things I use very often: citrus zester, cheese grater, small fine mesh strainer. But probably my favorite kitchen tool (not sure if it would count as a gadget) is about a dozen little Pyrex bowls. When I'm prepping a meal, I use them to divide all the prepared ingredients before actually cooking. Its very easy to set up mise en place with them. It impresses dinner guests too, when they walk in and see all the ingredients neatly arrayed in little bowls.
Here's a picture of what I'm talking about. I have four each of some of the smaller bowls. You can get them at places like Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, or restaurant supply stores.
I am in complete agreement. A large number of very small bowls, for ginger, garlic, spices, herbs, plus a few 1-2 cup sized bowls, for chopped vegetables and so on, will take you far.
I also like my zester, a small cutting board, a really big ladle, my 5 cup Pyrex measure, and my set of nested round cutters. I gave a friend a set of alphabet cutters, which she loves passionately and uses constantly. (She has children. Her pies read "Eat me," her cookies can be used for spelling lessons, her cakes say Happy Birthday in marzipan.)
Oh, and I yearn for small versions of both my OXO salad spinner and my colander. You can find little ones now for rinsing/spinning a bunch of parsley or a pint of blueberries. These things take up a lot of room on the drying rack, so there would be something beyond satisfaction in having mini versions.
This isn't so much of a gadget, but I love my spoon rest. I throw all of my utensils on it as I'm cooking so the counter doesn't get all gross.
Does your friend have the mircroplane grater? Great for cheese, nuts, etc.
Also, I have a mini wooden cutting board thats great for just chopping a clove of garlic or slicing an apple or something.
my husband and i love to cook. and often we plan a weekend getaway involving a house rental. so these are the things that we can easily pack to take with us in case we find ourselves with an inadequately equipped kitchen. unfortunately, i can't name just one "i can't live without" gadget so here are my top picks:
2)flexi cutting boards
3)microplane (but a box grater will work just fine as well)
4)immersion blender and/or mini cusinart (but if you make margaritas or a smooth creamy soup at the last minute, you'll be happy to have the immersion blender).
5)a durable long steel for sharpening the knives
6)tongs, long and short
7)flexible spatula (for turning delicate things like fish fillets or silver dollar pancakes)
8)silpat (for anything but especially cookies)
9)joy of cooking cookbook(if you need a reference, or simply to be inspired)
10)a cast-iron pan. preferably seasoned but an enameled one will suffice.
and of last but certainly not least, 11)a good set of knives! if you have to pick one then it'd have to be a chef's knife.
now in terms of what things i don't have, probably don't really need but wish that a friend or a loved one would buy for me are:
1)hand held torch (for creme brulee, etc.)
2)ice cream/yoghurt maker
3)a potted planter of herbs that are ready to be used (no waiting for maturity)
5)knife sharpening stone
6)a really good espresso machine
I agree with all of the items mentioned and I also think Kuhn Rikon veggy peelers are the best. They are the Y shaped ones and very sharp, I have 6 of them. Then there is my silicon basting brush, no more hairs in my food and it cleans in the dishwasher beautifully, I love the Zyliss can opener that leaves no sharp edges, you can actually put the lid back on the can. Those French clothes pins that are plastic coated or stainless and so handy for clipping all sorts of things closed. Also, odd sized measuring spoons and cups. I got mine at WS and they are time savers. 2 C. 1.5 C 3/4 C. 2/3 C the spoons are 2 Tbs. 1 1/2 Tbs and 2 tsp. When I was doing a lot of baking in December I was surprised at how much faster it was not have to measure twice for 2/3 C etc. Another thing I refer to all of the time is a magnet that was produced by a cooking shop that I used to work in many years ago. It is a list of measurments and their equlivents 1 C= 8 fl oz=
16 Tbs = 48 tsp = 237 ml. A Suzi garlic press, my meat thermometer that is digital and while the probe goes in to the meat the meter sits outside the oven. No need to open the door. I also have one that has a wireless remote that I can clip to a belt and keep track of the temperature from anywhere around the house. I keep forgetting how to set the temperature on that one, the other is easier. But, what I love most of all is my desk in my kitchen with my lap top. I can cook, work and keep in touch with my clients all at one time.
There are several types of silicon basting brushes I've seen. Some with tapered bristles, some with "knobbed" bristles. Some with plastic handles, some with metal. Some short handles and some longer handles for using with a BBQ or oven I guess. They all run from $7-20.
I like all the suggestions so far and heartily second, or third, the Microplane suggestion.
But if I were giving a gift, either to a new cook or an experienced one, the gift I'd give is a very good quality set of stainless steel dry-measuring cups and measuring spoons. Several companies make good ones. You want the heavy-ish ones, not the cheapest ones like they sell at the grocery store.
These will last several lifetimes, and because they're heavy and well made, are safe in the dishwasher and won't bend out of shape, thus making them less accurate. It's one of those "everyday luxury" items that I love to give -- very practical and useful, but the best of its kind. I'd rather give the finest quality of something simple/inexpensive, rather than a lesser quality of something more, em, flamboyant.
It's hard to pick just one, so . . .
My single favorite item in my kitchen is my half-sized chinese cleaver. I bought it at a Chinese Restaurant Supply store in Chinatown in Boston. Lamson & Goodnow, in Shelburne Falls, MA, makes a well balanced one that isn't too expensive.
If I were buying presents for someone, though, I'd likely give any one of the following, depending on my budget and the occasion:
Silpat sheet pan liners, which make roasting vegetables and baking cookies soo much easier. If your friend is a baker, a counter-top sized one is a lovely treat, it's sometimes called the Roulpat. King Arthur's website has a good sized one.
An Oxo vegetable peeler and an Oxo Can Opener (the swingaway kind).
A microplane grater with the plastic handle-- not the plain metal one. Or go hog wild and buy a bouquet of microplanes, in different grater sizes.
I love my Benriner V-Slicer, about $25 and I use it all the time to julienne and slice vegetables. The OXO mandoline and other mandolines have all been reviewed on this site before, but I like my V-slicer just as well. I have a $12 cut-proof glove that I bought at Kitchen Arts on Newbury Street in Boston that I use to hold the veggies I'm slicing-- works better than the pusher, and I don't nick my fingertips anymore.
An immersion blender with the chopper and whire whisk attachments. One with a metal stem, and a higher-power motor. The ones costing less than $50 tend to burn out, I've found.
Silicone or other heat-resistant spatulas, in a variety of colors and sizes, from spoonulas to big spatulas to half-size spatulas.
10 inch tongs with non-stick tips.
A 12 inch stainless steel saute pan from the Martha Stewart collection at K-Mart.
And, a pot I use at least once a week, a 4.5 quart Le Creuset dutch oven. Target sells a grey enameled dutch oven for half the price, if your friend doesn't mind the utilitarian color, but I like the colors on my Le Creusets.
I don't know about using this as a gift, but my totally favorite thing in my kitchen is my extendable faucet. I love being able to pull it out and use it anywhere in the sink, or out of it, like to fill my water purifier pitcher.
Other things: triangular jar opener (saves the fingers and wrists a lot of effort); OXO can opener; extra long ladle, slotted spoon and solid spoon (good for short people to reach into big pots!); extra large microwave dish cover; etc. etc. etc.
Have fun picking stuff out for your friend!
Not sure these make a good gift, but agree with all who mentioned tongs, and I also love my kitchen shears. I use the shears for so many things.
My favorite gadget is pretty low tech: It's a manual sesame seed grinder (yes, there are battery operated ones). The manual sesame seed grinder is compact, usually a clear body (so you can see the level of seeds), a red base and red or white head. There is a cover that goes over the head that may or may not be attached to the body. They are available at Japanese or Korean housewares stores or groceries. The manual grinder has a little crank at the head--it's really cute and make great stocking stuffers. They are $4.00-5.00 (maybe cheaper). I have a couple (you can use them to grind other things) and I've given them as gifts to favored friends over the years.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the OXO magnetic clamp clips. Those are great. I also have something which is simple but extremely useful for me: a painted ceramic magnet that says "Clean" on one half, and "Dirty" on the other. I have used it for about ten years to indicate the state of items in my dishwasher.
I have a carbon steel Chinese cleaver that a former coworker bought for me over 30 years ago. It is a wonderful cutting tool that I use at least 4 times a week. The blade is discolored because it is not stainless steel, but it slices and dices very nicely. Sharpening is easy. It is made in the US by Russell Harrington. I have never been able to become adept with a French chef's knife. I think the Chinese cleaver is a better kitchen tool.
This is the knife I posted about earlier. It's wonderful.
Every Christmas we have a Yankee Swap for the guests and family at dinner, and this knife is always my contribution. I am under orders to keep buying it until everyone who comes to dinner every year gets their own through the swap.
I find a corkscrew to be the ultimate indespensible kitchen gadget. Have you ever tried opening wine without one? A major hassle. I like the simple waiter's corkscrew after having experimented with many others.
So many wonderful items already listed, but here is my contribution: how about a gift pack of several types of thermometers? Candy, oven, meat, fridge, etc.
I think of this because although I have many of the items already suggested (and love to use them) I have yet to gather all the thermometers I should have for someone who cooks often. Perhaps that is the case with your "serious cook" friend too. ;)
my two sided Pampered Chef (yes, a home party I was dragged to) grapefruit section tool..one end has a double sided serated tool and one has a thin scooping knife..LOVE IT