HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >

Discussion

Favorite Kitchen Utensil....What's Your Fav that You Can't Do Without??

I'm looking for a couple of gifts and thought that some tried and true kitchen utensils (please be brand specific) that work better than any other similar products, might be a good choice. You know what I mean...that great potato peeler that is the best you found after using 20 other different kinds and scraping the skin off your fingers..LOL That's the type of knowledge I am seeking. Thanks in adavnce for your replies.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. You can't go wrong with a good knife, but I don't know your budget, and your friend may have all he/she needs. FWIW, I'm very happy with my Wusthoffs. Something that would make a good gift for the home chef is Henckels kitchen shears. They can cut through a chicken in no time. Not too expensive.

    1. I had to answer this question recently on my girly board... My absolute I'd buy again totally is our Spoontulas from Surfas. I bake quite a bit and I love it for mixing (Because you can spoon it up and scrape at the same time! :)) and I love it for getting ever last BIT of batter from the bowl to my pan. It also comes apart in two pieces so we can clean every last inch...

      They look kinda like this:

      http://www.amazon.com/KitchenAid-Sili...

      --Dommy!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Dommy

        I totally second the spoontula. Hands down, the utensil I use every time I cook. That, and my Swissmar potato peeler. Will never use any other type. Oh, and the Good Grips liquid measuring cup that has the graduated measurements on an angle so that you can view them from the top of the cup. Calphalon santoku knife. And lastly, definitively, the Microplane grater. Amazing.

      2. The Zyliss garlic press is the best thing I've added to my kitchen in a really long time.

        You can press garlic without peeling it and it's a charm to clean.

        http://www.surlatable.com/common/prod...

        1 Reply
        1. re: SnackHappy

          I got one as a present and I keep running out of garlic now. It's just too easy to add them to a dish! Great product.

        2. Stainless Steel Safe Hands Mandoline

          http://www.cutleryandmore.com/details...

          I just got this model to replace my old one. It gets used almost every day.

          1. Good knives, of course! But also first-class tongs are indispensable--they function like an extra hand. The best ones I've found are the ones from OXO which lock shut for storage.

            2 Replies
            1. re: fauchon

              Definitely my tongs. I use them for just about every kind of cooking. I don't like the ones that have that pull-tab at the end to open and close, though.

              1. re: SarahEats

                I just saw tongs in an English magazine that have silicone "ends" - looks perfect for non stick purposes.

            2. Our new hand blender, the so-called "stick" blender. I have desired one of these for a long time to do leek soup, and we found a low-priced one on sale. it also came with a whisk, and best of all a small food processor attachment. e find we use the small food processor attachment much more often than the big food processor, since it is far easier to clean.

              1. In addition to the other suggestions, the Oxo salad spinner which I bought thanks to CH recommendations. It's simply great.

                Wooden citrus reamer. This little doodad is cheap, works perfectly every time.

                Cutting boards. I have both wooden and plastic ones, you can't have too many.

                Whisks. Big and small, for making sauces.

                Silicon scrapers. I have about 6, seldom cook or bake without using at least 2. Also cheap and handy.

                Going up in price - Cuisinart immersion blender. I got one as a gift last Christmas, absolutely love it. I puree soups, cooked fruit, make salsas and scramble eggs with it.

                1. These citrus juicers:

                  http://www.surlatable.com/common/prod...

                  The lemon one works with limes, too; I bought a separate one for oranges. Especially if you have a lot of fruit to squeeze, these make the job go very fast.

                  If the person doesn't already have one, have you considered a microplane grater? For hard cheeses, zest, even nutmeg, I think these work better than anything.

                  http://www.surlatable.com/common/prod...

                  --Sarah
                  http://www.avenuefood.blogspot.com

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: slynnkiino

                    I second the vote for the citrus juicers and microplane grater. The juicers are fab for cocktails and any recipe calling for lime juice. They get every drop! And the grater can be used on anything you want grated, right at the table even.

                  2. Good blenders that you can make smoothies in and crush ice. I'm looking for one too. Can someone recommend a brand?

                    If your friend likes fresh juice, the Jack La Lanne Power Juicer is very good. It's powerful and my mom loves hers.

                    Rolling pins for bakers (don't know a brand because the one in my house is very old, well-used and well-loved).

                    If the person bakes or makes chocolates, a marble slab would also be appreciated.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: S_K

                      i have a Braun blender. Got it after trying 2 Osters and a Kitchen Aid from jr.com (well from the store since I live in NYC) and reading the consumer reports. If was $50

                    2. I certainly agree with those posters suggestion a good knife.

                      I can't live without my Henckle Santoku! It is so nicely weighted, looks great, sharp, and multi-functional.

                      It is my dicer, peeler, garlic mincer, egg slicer, it chops all sorts of veggies with ease.

                      After using my Henckles, I can't bear even picking up weightless cheepies!

                      Jenna

                      1. The best potato/ vegetable peeler, I think, are the cheapy all-metal swivel ones... I've had more expensive ones, and they just don't work as well or last as long!

                        A Microplane... I think it's the Microplane brand, if I'm not mistaken?

                        I like the French-style rolling pins... cheap and pretty much indestructable... no stupid ball bearings to mess with either!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Katie Nell

                          Actually, the best potato peeler is the Swissmar Classic Peeler/Prep tool, 18/10 stainless steel blade. Every professional kitchnen in NYC uses them. They are very inexpensive ( $3.00 w/ a plastic, square handle). They may be too inexpensive for a gift but they really work well.

                          1. re: tbear

                            Sorry but I like the Swiss one with the open handle much better

                            http://www.swissmade.com/en/web/index...

                            got mine a Tesco on a trip to England After I saw that english hawking and demoing them on the street in Brooklyn and Manhattna

                        2. Not a kitchen tool/gadget per se, but I can't live without my fat seperating measuring cups. Most of the cooking sites have them.

                          1. Anything from Crate & Barrel.

                            TT

                            1. Pedestrian, since they're not gadgets, but I like flour sack towels (no lint) and those 9x9 cellulose sponges (for quick clean ups).

                              1. My favorite utensil is a Kitchen Aid carrot peeler. It is similar to a regular potato peeler, but it has a curved blade to fit the contour of the carrot. I hate those slimy bags of already peeled carrots and peel a lot of carrots.

                                So, besides a good chef's knife this is the kitchen thing I use more than any other.

                                My second most used gadget is a cherry pitter. My household goes though pints and pints of cherries in the summer and a good cherry pitter (I bought mine from Williams Sonoma) is a must have for me.

                                1. The first thing that came to mind is my Oxo potato peeler. The best. Comfortable to hold and ever-sharp. Haven't tried the i-series with the blade you can change, keep telling myself one potato peeler is enough, but wanna try the new gadget..

                                  Also must have whisks of all sizes.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: slacker

                                    I also have used the Oxo peeler for years. I recently discovered they came out with a peeler with serrated edges. It is perfect for peeling fruit like peaches and kiwi.

                                    Other items that get used everyday are my John Boos cutting board (it never leaves the counter and sits on a non-slip pad) and my teeny 4 0z. Oxo measuring cup(perfect for salad dressings). Also, my beautiful wooden salad bowl, silicone brushes, Wusthoff sankuto knife, several pepper grinders (including a small Magnum), a kosher salt bowl, and many small cups/bowls for ingredients/sauces.

                                  2. A nice gift is a quality stockpot. Something like an 8 quart Calphalon pot which can be used to properly boil pasta, brown meats without spattering all over the stove, make a big pot of stew or soup, deep fry, cook artichokes, can fruits, etc.... Also, it is not something someone stocking a new kitchen usually buys on the first round. Something smaller? If the person likes good coffee, I'd buy a french press. Less expensive? The Microplane grater mentioned above, the Oxo potato peeler (I have arthritis & find the handle comfortable), again, like above, a cutting board - plastic so it can be disinfected with boiling water (my numerous maple ones now usually serve as trivets) ... or, maybe, one those thin plastic ones that can fold and be used like a funnel to pour chopped items. Small kitchen items will make a super gift basket in something clever that can become a utensil holder.

                                    1. The two things that get used every single day, without fail:

                                      Global 7-Inch Vegetable Knife: slices, chops and cuts anything.
                                      http://www.amazon.com/Global-7-Inch-V...

                                      John Boos & Co. Maple Chinese Chopping Block: gets more beauiful over time, and makes me happy every time I see it. Also brings my counter height up to a more managable cutting height (I am 6'2"). Include block oil so they take good care of it.
                                      http://www.amazon.com/John-Boos-Co-Ma...

                                      As for everyday tools, I constantly reach for:

                                      Chef'n® Spoon/Spatula: All silicone spoon/spatula
                                      http://www.surlatable.com/common/prod...

                                      A great set of wooden spoons (can't recommend a brand, I have my Mom's

                                      )

                                      Lodge cast iron pan - gets better every time you use it!

                                      HotSpot silicone potholders double as trivets. I have 6 of them.
                                      http://www.surlatable.com/common/prod...

                                      My Pedrini vegetable peeler is 6 years old and as perfect as the day I bought it.

                                      And my Rabbit corkscrew! Here's a gift version:
                                      http://www.amazon.com/Metrokane-Houdi...

                                      Lastly, I have been waiting for a reason to buy someone an herb and spice set from Penzey's:
                                      http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: Divamac

                                        ouch that chopping block is mighty expensive... but it sure is pretty. they sell ones for $10 in chinatown..... i don't think i could manage $140 for a chopping board.

                                        1. re: mabziegurl

                                          i got mine at an outlet store for $45. I would never have spent $140 before, but if something happened to it now, I'd gladly spend $140 to replace it!

                                      2. The microplane grater is the best I've used..lemon zest is seconds. Perfect for grated cheese, easy to clean.
                                        Use my 32 yr old cuisenart (which has been dropped twice) regularly.

                                        1. Silicone spatulas! I have several of them and can't imagine not having them to cook with nowadays. It's great for using on any type of pans as it won't melt nor would it scratch anything. It's the perfect tool for making candy. I used to use wooden spoons for making toffee and clean up is always a mess with the toffee sticking to them. Nowadays, the toffee comes right off without a fuss.

                                          1. A reliable kitchen timer... be sure to test them in-store to eliminate ones with irritating rings.

                                            1. One of those wire balloon whisks (which, incidentaly, came from crate & Barrel).

                                              TT

                                              1. I love my silicone coated whisk. It can be used in a non-stick pan, and doesn't make a lot of racket when you are whisking in a metal bowl, etc. Great for stirring dry ingredients together or whisking custard in a pan.

                                                My number one used tool is definitely my tongs though. Have to keep those at my fingertips.

                                                A stick blender is a great gift. Really useful and not terribly expensive.

                                                I also found a nice line of kitchen tools at Target manufactured under the Kitchen Aid brand name. Attractive bright colors, and they are very functional - the new spoonula spatula I got (in bright turquoise) is already my favorite!

                                                www.aliceqfoodie.blogspot.com

                                                1. I have to go with the spring loaded tongs myself. When I use them, I constantly find myself wishing I had another pair on hand. Another tool I find myself making surprisingly frequent use of is a small metal spatula I picked up for something like $5 at the supermarket. When I bought it, the cashier asked "what are you ever going to use that thing for?" The answer: Lots of stuff. It's great for scraping stuff, especially when deglazing (I own only two non-stick pans and rarely use them, so it works on all my frequently used pans,) works surprisingly well for stirring things (much more surface area to push stuff than a spoon would have,) can be used to chop soft items (this is most helpful for breaking up a big block of ground beef being browned) and, of course, I can pick stuff up with it too. For something the checkout lady thought was useless, it just might be the best multitasker I've got in my kitchen.

                                                  1. I gave away my old potato ricer when I bought a new Wm-Sonoma one -- it works SO MUCH EASIER. Costs about $20. After you boil the potatoes, put thru ricer. In another pot gently heat up half & half and butter. Mix into potatoes with salt and pepper. Very delicious.

                                                    1. 1. heavy duty stone mortar and pestle -- cannot live without it for making pesto, making up spice mixtures, bruising mint leaves

                                                      2. good quality cleaver -- use it for obvious meat & fish related stuff but its also my favorite thing to mince fresh herbs

                                                      3. tongs -- 'nuf said on tongs, i use cheap ones but you can never have enough tongs

                                                      1. I have and love Globals but my fave knife is my weirdo ergonomic Stirex chef's knife. Great design that all but eliminates wrist fatigue.

                                                        1. I'd make a nice little package of:

                                                          A Microplane grater
                                                          Three silicone spatulas/spoonulas (make sure they're really silicone)
                                                          Spring loaded tongs
                                                          And to add some "spice" a bottle of Fleur de Sel.

                                                          That's very close to what I gave a friend of mine for a birthday present just a few months ago.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Jennalynn

                                                            You can use the salad spinner as the basket - that would be a great presentation and no waste!

                                                          2. I heartily agree with..

                                                            Tongs, 2 pair, one with silicon ends one standard
                                                            OXO veggie peeler
                                                            OXO salad spinner
                                                            Braun immersion blender
                                                            Silicon spatulas

                                                            Some that may not have been mentioned:

                                                            Flat silicon whisk - I adore this, great for deglazing a pan
                                                            Probe digital thermometer (with the screen that sits outside the oven)this is worth it for Thanksgiving alone.

                                                            1. I second that probe digital themometer -- Alton Brown uses one. My Thanksgiving turkey comes out so much better with it. When I cook the turkey I do not use foil, only dampened cheesecloth draped around and tucked in and melted unsalted butter. Later on, dry white wine and some brandy -- it makes the gravy great.

                                                              1. My two most used items are my Good Grips jar opener. Perfect for when you don't have a man around! Opens everything from sauce jars, bottles of juice, anything screw-top (ever tried to crack open a 2-liter of soda w/wet or greasy hands?). I use it several times a week:
                                                                http://www.shop.com/op/~Good_Grips_Ja...

                                                                Another thing is my Pampered Chef thick terrycloth pot holders, square so you can use them as trivets, but with a slit in them so you can actually securely hold things with them. I can't find a picture, but I believe they're retired.

                                                                For potato peelers, I have one with a plastic handle, because the open metal one my mother used always hurt my hand.

                                                                1. I like my silicone spatulas quite alot -- functional but also fun colors. by le cruset.
                                                                  I have a kitchamajig that I use all the time -- essentially a rounded spatula w/ slits -- great for lifting out poached eggs, steamed vegetables.
                                                                  My mini mate Cuisart chopper sees alot of action when I have alot of garlic or ginger to chop, or to blend herbs w/ oil.
                                                                  Tongs are always in the dish drainer -- use them all the time.

                                                                  1. serrated peeler for peaches and other thin skinned fruit, microplane grater

                                                                    1. Thermapen digital food thermometer. Quite pricey but we've made up the price 10 times over in the cost of food not spoiled by overcooking.

                                                                      1. Set of 30 year old, Sabatier carbon steel knives.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. A nice French or Japanese knife. Wusthof is a great brand. I know it's been said, but I want to reiterate it. It's something someone will definitely will use... unless you're my mother who will lock it up because she thinks it should only be used for special occassions.

                                                                          1. Don't know if this qualifies as a utensil but it is something that is very important to me in my kitchen. A good sized wooden cutting board. Theres nothing worse than trying to use one of those little guys.
                                                                            And tongs are an essential (already mentioned)
                                                                            One of those little hand blender thingies. I call them Brr Mixers but they havr a name.

                                                                            1. The most indispensible item in my kitchen, by far, is my mandoline. Mine is a restaurant quality but I have seen many out there which would do nicely for far less cash.

                                                                              1. Happy thread!

                                                                                My faves:

                                                                                **Alligator Onion Chopper -- It rocks.

                                                                                http://surlatable.com/common/products...

                                                                                **Global knives -- lightweight, great grip, and fabulously sharp. I gave away all my Henckel Pro S knives once I discovered these. I can't figure out what all the fuss is about the Shun--tried those and found the grip uncomfortable.

                                                                                **Oxo mango slitter -- it really is worth getting... really. :

                                                                                )

                                                                                http://surlatable.com/common/products...

                                                                                Foodsaver handheld -- Instead of tupperware, I store a lot of stuff in mason jars, and used to always have to drag the full sized Foodsaver gizmo out of the drawer, which was PITA. They finally came out with a handheld version that just seals jars/canisters, and takes up minimal counter space. I use it daily.

                                                                                And yes, definitely the Cuisinart mini chopper gizmo. My full-sized Cuisinart pretty much collects dust these days.

                                                                                1. Knives are the most important tool in the kitchen, but you may not want to give them away. In many cultures, giving a knife as a gift is considered bad luck and in poor taste. Also, a knife is a very personal item, as the balance, size, and shape must be right for the person using it; it's like a glove.

                                                                                  If you still decide to go for a knife anyway, I'd steer clear from the santoku craze and go for a classic French-style chef knife. The best manufacturer is Messermeister and Bristol carries the best, most classic division of Messermeister. They're pretty price-comparable to Wusthof.

                                                                                  1. Yes, I actually come from such a cultural background and understand the implications of giving a knife (among other things) as a gift. However, in this case, it wasn't so much intended to be a gift, but rather, a hand-me-down. =) The recipient was happy to receive it, and no offense was given or taken.

                                                                                    Agreed about the santoku as far as a basic chef's knife.

                                                                                    1. Been cooking gourmet for 30 years, with a passion for improvisation. I praise the mighty onion and everything it does for dishes of every genre. My taste buds adore them, at the expense of my eyes, who detest them. To "keep peace" in these upper regions of my body, I have used the spring-plunger style choppers, which are too small and inconsistent to be of any value and my Cuisinart which I hate to drag out everytime, due to weight and cleaning etc. Neither of which make my eyes happy.

                                                                                      Eureka! I found my salvation while browsing the aisles at Linens N' Things (also available at Bed Bath and Beyond). My eyes couldn't believe my eyes, and my taste buds danced at the thought of peace in the family. Brand name is Progressive. It is a clam shell style, hinged chopper that is so darned simple in concept and so very fast to use with one down-stroke that I bought one, used it once and then returned to the store to buy two more (just in case it breaks and/or disappears from the shelf, which often happens to your favorite finds). Chops an absolutely perfect and uniform dice. Quarter your onion and place cut side down on the square cutting surface and give it one downward push and you're done. Pieces drop into a fully enclosed clear base that doubles as a measuring cup. Just leave them imprisoned there until they are needed in your concoction. Alas, my wife can no longer call me a cry-baby cook. You will never dice another onion by "hand" or "processor" after you use this "under $20" glorious tool.