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No gadgets needed: Cooking tasks you enjoy

As I was prepping to cook dinner tonight I had an ephihany - I hate kitchen gadgets. I am a "nothing but the basics" kind of cook. Pots, pans, spoon, chef's knife, cutting board and tongs. Don't get me wrong, there are a few things I love, like my fat separator pitcher and my immersible blender. But for the most part I don't want to have to clean a bunch of things afterwards.

I realized that there is something relaxing about all the chopping. I was having a Zen moment I suppose. I always knew that cooking was my way of relaxing, but I never really gave it any thought beyond knowing that.

So, no choppers, garlic peelers or presses, zesters, etc. for me. How about you... what tasks do you enjoy? What gadgets annoy you?

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  1. couldn't agree more, I am pretty non gadget in the kitchen as well. The idea of buying things like an egg seperator, a corn on the cob cutter offer(?), egg slicer, garlic press, avocado pitter/slicer, etc....(can you tell I just visited the WS website (btw a favorite store)...is not my thing.

    But, the one gadget I just bought myself, which is my new favorite, is a tool for canning, basically a pencil lengthened tool with a magnet on the end to get canning lids out of hot water - this has made this step of canning so wonderful:)

    1. Pretty funny, me too not too many gadgets, although I'm lately doing mega amounts of fresh squeezed lemons/limes (dressings mostly) so I bought one of those hand squeeze juicer - completely broke in half the second time I used it. I've reverted to using Gram/Gramps antique porcelain tabletop press. Nothing like the old stuff.

      9 Replies
      1. re: lexpatti

        I do oogle at times when I see Ina use her electric juicer...especially after I made lemoncello last fall and had a ton of lemons to juice...

        1. re: geminigirl

          I have a nice electric juicer and haven't used it. Was thinking about getting rid of it. Should I keep it?

          1. re: karykat

            We have one of those antique glass juicers that you put the lemon half on top of the grooved cone and proceed to squish back and forth. It's my Grandmother's. Works a treat, as Jamie would say.

            1. re: Gio

              Thats just like mine (or Gram/Gramps) although mine in a beautiful floral porcelain. I do love it, but always afraid I'm going to break it. It's most likely an old antique.

              1. re: lexpatti

                Your juicer sound gorgeous...mine is just a simple clear glass but Very heavy. I love using it.

                1. re: Gio

                  I also have gparents old handheld mixer and several old bowls - big yellow one that reminds of making cookies with gram. Fun isn't it - food & love

                  1. re: lexpatti

                    Definitely fun - I, too, have many bowls, platters, sets of kitchen/refridgerator containers...the ones with the thick ridges. Wonderful memories return when I use these old things.

            2. re: karykat

              Hi KK, not sure what I would do, but with my hoarding I might keep it:) although might only use it once a year for Lemoncello or a batch of lemonde, etc...

            3. re: geminigirl

              I love my electric juicer, I use it all the time. I bought it off ebay for 10 bucks, and it is so worth it. It's the only gadget I own. And I got the idea from watching Ina juice everything! lol. She has a fancy shmancy one tho. ; )

          2. Electric can openers, IMO are a total waste of time, space and money!!!! It must have been a strong opinion past down, my family has never had one -I have 3 sisters and none of them have one either.

            3 Replies
            1. re: lexpatti

              It's funny you mention an electric can opener b/c it's one of the few gadgets I like - ha! In fact, my neighbor just came over a couple of hours ago and borrowed mine b/c hers broke. Like her, I have tossed out all my manual ones b/c they always left me frustrated. I'm sure one day it will come back to haunt me.

              p.s. I just read what I typed and it sounds...well... odd. Just to clarify, I was frustrated opening cans manually - oh, hell, nevermind. Ha!

              1. re: lynnlato

                Actually, I've gotten rid of my electric can opener and use a nice, new Oxo manual. When we lose our power, as has happened all too often, I can still open a can of tuna.

                1. re: Deenso

                  The first cooking tool we bought as newlyweds (many many MANY years ago) was a Swingline manual can opener. Still have it, still works. I have always thought electric can openers were pointless.

            2. There was just an article in our local paper (from a story published elsewhere) about five gadgets you should have. Most seemed superflous to me. One was a three-compartment salad spinner. Why three compartments? It's all going to end up in the salad anyway. Another was an apple corer. Good if you're doing lots and lots of apples, but a knife works just fine. Another thing was a special scissors for chopping herbs. I just use a regular one.

              One thing I do like a special gadget for and that is the sharp fork-like thing for chopping chocolate. It seems to work better than a regular knife for me.

              I do agree with your premise. I like dinking around in the kitchen and find it relaxing.

              I don't have a dishwasher and wash everything by hand, and don't mind doing that (most days anyway!)

              3 Replies
              1. re: karykat

                "I like dinking around in the kitchen"... love that!

                I have a dishwasher, but we still wash most of dishes by hand. I guess it's the same thing - getting lost in a mindless task. I do hate washing glasses though!

                1. re: karykat

                  i love my apple corer in the fall when i have to do tons of apples for baking...and i'd be lost without my mandoline for slicing all those apples.

                  i use my shears a lot for cutting dried fruit - they often work better than a knife, particularly with sticky fruits.

                  i like to juice lemons & limes with a fork, but sometimes a reamer does come in handy when there are many to do...and it's helpful for catching the seeds.

                  i love my mini burr grinder for whizzing spices.

                  oh, and the dough scoops in various sizes that i use for dispensing muffin batter ensure that the size remains relatively consistent.

                  i hate garlic presses, and peelers take some of the satisfaction out of giving the clove that solid whack to loosen the skin.

                  and for general chopping, slicing, dicing, etc., i prefer to do it myself - it's therapeutic for me. [those herb scissors are silly, i love to chop fresh herbs with a good, sharp knife.]

                2. I don't have many gadgets. I am a total phobe when it comes to things on surfaces so the less things on my counter the better. There is one gadget that I use a lot though. When i received it as a housewarming gift I actually scoffed because I initially thought it was just goofy. The Vidalia Chop Wizard. I love this thing. My knife skills are not all that great and I cut myself ALL the time. If I can avoid chopping a lot of something I will, if only for the sake of my blood supply. The other day I made fresh pico de galo in maybe five minutes start to finish. I have made salsa in less than 1/3 of the time it typically takes. I needed to finely chop 8 tomatoes for two tomato pies a couple of weeks ago and I had it done in 3-4 minutes if that. In the 3 months or so I've had it I've used it for tomatoes, peppers, jalapenos, onions, apples, pears, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, eggs, grilled chicken breasts, ham, cheese, and olives. It's surprisingly sturdy too. Love it.

                  Whoops I totally forgot to add the cooking task I love. McCain has me all distracted =) I love cleaning and prepping all my produce. I do it when I get home from shopping. I play music and it's like 45 minutes of zen and an end result of big bowls of nice clean fruit and veggies in your fridge.

                  1. I'm all about manual labor in the kitchen.

                    - Knife-work. Love chopping, dicing, julienne-ing, etc.

                    - Kneading dough.

                    - Rolling dough for dumpling and wonton wrappers

                    - Noodles. Working and pulling dough to make noodles.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      You sound like me. Most people thought it was drudgery but I actually enjoyed breaking down pounds of veggies when I worked on the line.I hate peeling potatoes and fruits, but a hour of prep' was a very relaxing introduction to 12 hours of culinary insanity.

                      I have a Kitchen-Aid w/ a dough hook, but 90% of the time I prefer to do it myself.

                      There are many times that I would love to make a 3-4 course meal, but the last thing I want to do after I finish something fancy and tedious is to eat it. My friends rave about my cooking, but I have no appetite left by the time it is plated. I know this is a common feeling on the line but I wonder how many c home cooks feel the same way.

                      1. re: Kelli2006

                        Same here Kelli.

                        After I've finished a meal -- all done by hand, no gadgets -- I have very little desire to eat it. I might be hungry, but just not for what I've just made.

                        The only time I've used a machine to make dough is when I used to work at restaurants as a baker. At home? Never.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I started on the savory line but there was a opening and I much preferred the pasty station. The restaurant closed a year later and I worked at 2 different bakeries and loved it until after I graduated college. We had the usual assortments of Hobarts and such, but I agree that doing it by hand is much more satisfying. I loved to see happy customers and a full case but I never ate the pastry that I had worked 10 hours to produce.

                          I have been working in architecture but I'm giving serious consideration into going back to the kitchen.

                          1. re: Kelli2006

                            Spoken like a kindred spirit.

                            Worst part of working as a baker is opening bake. Waking up when most people go to bed to do the prep work for the restaurant opening gets old real real quick.

                            On the other hand, closing bake can be quite a treat. Literally. All those leftovers to take home ...

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              The hours have never been a problem because I am quite nocturnal naturally and rarely go to bed before 300am. I liked running the pastry station in the restaurant, but I much preferred the pace of work in a stand alone bakery.

                        2. re: Kelli2006

                          What I want, first and foremost, is a glass of wine. I typically have a glass while I'm cooking, but if it's a big dinner, I don't usually have the time to sip wine.

                          I get what you are saying about not being hungry after cooking a big dinner. Not having worked on the line, but rather in the FOH, we were always too wired to eat afterwards.

                        3. re: ipsedixit

                          Although I have several gadgets they are used more for my instructing cooking classes and catering (like my professional series KitchenAid). I like to get really involved with (hearing and feeling) the ingredients with my hands.

                          Sounds like me for the most part, too. There is nothing more relaxing than kneading dough. I would never, ever purchase a bread maker.

                          Another favourite thing is to use my huge mortar and pestle. It weighs about 18 lb. There is something so primal about it somehow. Grinding herbs and spices gives me better control of what I want in rubs, blends, mixes, etc. (not to mention better flavour and all that). I still maintain that sauces, pestos, etc. taste better using a mortar and pestle than a food processor. My life truly would not be the same without it (I'm not kidding).

                          I love knife work, too. Only when I am catering an event do I use my food processor for chopping onions, grating carrots, etc. I usually do not like to use gadgets just to save time. Otherwise I enjoy honing my knife skills. I even find knife sharpening enjoyable!

                          Pasta making is glorious fun! So is making phyllo dough and intricate pastries.

                          Kelli, I have to say that I love eating my own cooking! Sounds weird but I would rather eat my own than anyone else's. I regularly make 4-5 course meals, about 4 or 5 days a week. The more tedious, intricate, challenging and technically interesting the more enjoyable for me (while I recognize that some of the simplest things are best). It is just how I love to cook. I cook with soul, passion and a huge pile of love! :-)

                        4. I love to mince garlic. I love everything about it - the smell, the sticky garlic on my hands, and the way my knife makes short work of it. Which is sort of odd, because I don't like chopping/slicing things in general. Just garlic.

                          A "gadget" I love, love love is my mortar and pestle and use it pretty regularly. It is a very satisfying tool.

                          Like lexpatti, I don't understand the electric can opener at all. Our house came with one installed under one of the cabinets: I removed it within the first day. I just don't open that number of cans and the ones I do, open quite well with a manual can opener.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mirage

                            I share your garlic passion! I use a lot of it in my cooking and have wondered about getting a garlic press. But to me, there's something almost sensuous about chopping garlic: the smell, the stickiness, the way it gets all over my finger, even picking one out! So for now, I'm happy to continue chopping my garlic.

                            I also have an aversion to using a brand-new food processer that's been sitting in my kitchen since 2002.

                          2. hmmm i love chopping and slicing &tc, but i'm not anti gadget (though i own more than i actually use)

                            I have 2 mortar and pestles i use all the (small metal one with a thai granite pestle is a dedicate dpepper grinder, thai granite 8" with large thai pestle for everything else.. grinding spices pastes and pestos (yeah in know those last 2 words are the same)
                            salad spinner - indispensable in my opinion blender very useful i use the food prcessor sometimes, but not all that often anymore. got a garlic opress from the ex's mom as a stocking stuffer a few years ago... pretty much only use it when i make meatballs w/ the 3 year old.

                            1. Love my mortar and pestle to grind freshly roasted spices, pepper, garlic pastes-makes me feel connected with the ancients! I have watched Jamie Oliver using his shker thingy, but I can resist.

                              But I do find that apple corer a useful thing...I missed mine when it finally fell apart in my hands and replaced it.

                              I also find my pastry blender indispensable, for what it was intended, yes, but also for chopping eggs/mixing for egg salad sandwiches, my families' go-to-road trip fave.

                              1. Because there are only two people at a meal in our house, yeah, I agree with the OP for most tasks. There are notable exceptions. I'd much rather blend a soup into a silky puree than make my shoulders and forearms sore with the fod mill (but maybe my food mill is just a piece of cr@p?) If I'm making something requiring pounds of grated carrots or beets, I'd rather wash the food processor and shred disc than spend twenty minutes shredding by hand. I also grind nuts in a food processor, for most tasks, though there are some I chop by hand (for granola, for instance.) I knead the last few minutes by hand after I've let the stand mixer and dough hook get me past the sticky stage. If a recipe has more than one egg white to beat to stiff peaks, I let the stand mixer do that for me. One is fine, three is much more laborious.

                                You know, I see a trend here, and am thinking I might need more upper body strength! But, yeah, I almost never chop vegetables except by hand. I don't like the job that food processors do. I don't get what's difficult about chopping onion or garlic or other veggies, etc. and will admit I'm not all that fast, either. There's pleasure in a good knife and a wooden board. I suppose people who prefer gadgets for such things just don't find the enjoyment in it that I do, and hey, different strokes for different folks. I do observe that with some friends and family, for instance, it's a matter of poor equipment, and not knowing any better. There are some, though, who inherited a bad attitude from mom via negative commentary. That stuff is hard to unlearn. I feel sorry for these people, because in the long run they spend sooo much more money on take out and pre prepped, poor quality foods.

                                1. I experience a zen moment every time I visit my local taco truck...

                                  1. Another zen moment comes every time I fire up my hibachi....


                                    1. I have gotten to the point where I love the process of mis-en-place -- getting everything ready before starting the cooking. If I am entertaining and all the cleaning and shopping is done, then I am ready to go. I put on a long musical work (a Monteverdi opera, a Bach oratorio, or the Saturday NPR talk shows ... go figure), and then I get organized. I have large jelly roll type pans that will hold the bowls of readied ingredients. I stage my prep bowls on the upper counter, I sharpen my chef's knife. Then I chop, slice, dice, deshell, etc. The filled bowls are arranged on the trays (things that must be kept cold are put in the fridge). I make the ingredients that become ingredients (the shrimp shell stock if I'm doing Jambalaya).

                                      Then I start the cooking. When the guests arrive, I turn off the Monteverdi (tends to be a conversation killer).

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: MartinDC

                                        I love the idea of putting the bowls on jelly roll pans - never thought of it, and given my tiny kitchen, I could then put those pans in the living room while I'm doing other things. Thanks for the tip.

                                      2. I like a few gadgets, but less than I used to have. I really like chopping by hand. Preparing a meal for others can be an act of love, and the time and effort to prep by hand is time I use to think about who I'm cooking for. And I think the love shows in hand cut vegetables, etc. I enjoy the look and feel of hand prepared food vs. the sterile look of machine cut stuff.

                                        1. The only gadgets I use with some regularity are a small-sized food processor for things like fresh bread crumbs or bzzt-ing up some shrimp for shumai, and an immersion blender for some soups and sauces. Oh, and I have a KA stand mixer for some big jobs. Most of the cooking I like to do, though, just takes a knife and a spatula.

                                          1. I have just about every gadget invented, but I hardly ever use them. I love whipping by hand, I love chopping and mincing as fine as possible. I would kill for a mortal and pestle.
                                            I also love shining my all-clads.

                                            1. I have a ton of gadgets - partly because my OH likes to buy them for me for Christmas! The most useful ones are the eighties food processor my parents never used, my immersion blender and my plastic lemon juicer. I recently got a seventies Spong meat grinder from my parents as well - it's bright orange plastic and I love it!

                                              1. I am very comfortable and content with my board and knife. I can prep just about anything with those two tools.

                                                Gadgets that annoy would be uni-taskers. Certainly not all but most.

                                                1. I love to chop an make beautiful mis en places (I even photo them!) prior to cooking. The process is meditative - I focus only only the food. Pasta making has the same effect. Its probably the only time I am not thinking about what has happened or what will happen.

                                                  It all changes though when I start to cook. I am always thinking forward (or rather backward since I begin with the meal time an work back). The pace also definately changes.

                                                  I live urban so have virtually no kitchen space so no mixer, blender, crockpot, etc. My only appliance - my rice cooker. Perfect everytime.

                                                  1. My Loves:
                                                    10" Henkels chef knife and a beat up wooden cutting board.
                                                    12" non coated skillet
                                                    I could feed an army with these babys

                                                    food processors, see my loves - they can do the same thing
                                                    electric can openers, I'd rather open a can with my swiss army knife

                                                    <a href="http://pandacurry.com/&quot;&gt;P. Andy <b>|</b> PandaCurry.com</a>

                                                    1. I love chopping garlic the most. Small, smaller, smallest... I use the knife blade to smash down on the clove with my palm to loosen the skin, then get to work. It's my favorite because it doesn't hurt my eyes like onions and jalapenos, it's not too wet like other veg and it makes everything taste happy.
                                                      If there is zucchini around, that isn't bad to chop because it's not too wet. I will strive to make most of the pieces the same size-this frustrates others that watch me because I'm not fast. Why hurry, it's fun to not think about anything but chopping.
                                                      I do use and deeply care about my garlic press for some things, but chopping is where it's at...

                                                      Next love is adding (insert food item here) to a hot, hot, hot oiled pan. That first sizzle is my favorite. Once the sizzle is over, I feel a little bit sad.

                                                      I also like plating. I do it every night and most mornings for us. I like to find unusual dishes when I'm out shopping and use them to serve the rest of the food family style. I really HATE to plop a pot down on the table and have people serve themselves-but if we are rushed I will do it. It makes me feel anxious to have any kind of pot/pan on the table. Can't help it. I mean we may as well all just stand around the stove with spoons and eat straight from the pots if that's the case.

                                                      Gadgets are fun, I love my zester, my mini-chop (for onions) my magic bullet and the snow cone maker for the crushed ice action.... but I hate to use the electric griddle to fry bacon because it's such a pain to clean.

                                                      1. Along the same line as others I prefer to do things by hand. I can't stand anything on my incredibly lovely Italian granite counters so appliances are stored and brought out only when needed. I honestly work mostly with one pan and one pot. Tongs I adore (I pair from WS that were cheap but have great hand feel- almost like using big chopsticks). A spatula, a big scooping serving spoon, a veg peeler mostly to make nice carrot shreds for salad, 2 wooden spoons (one sweet & one savory) are the basics. I use a food processor to do my salsa cuz we like it really fine, and have an old immersion blender for creamy soups that was a hand me down from sis when she went down under where the voltage is different. Oh!- and my giant red dented rice cooker- I can easily cook rice in a pot, but I like the hold warm function especially when I have people over for many hours and we are going back to nibble some more. Everything else I prefer to chop, slice by hand. Yes- it is like a Zen moment when everything is on the counter and the process begins. Gosh, I am easily pleased!