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Dec 17, 2008 11:44 AM

5 Kitchen Gadgets you can't live without???

As I reorganized my kitchen cupboards looking for food to donate to the annual food drive in my town, I was astonished at how many gadgets I've accrued over the years. All of them are important for one reason or another, but I began to wonder "hmmm... if I could only keep five, what would they be, and why??".

So here's my list (at least for today!):

1. Kitchen timer- Without it, my kitchen would be in a perpetual state of smokiness due to burned foods

2. Chef's Knife- Ok, so you expected this one... Slices, dices, chops, and essentially makes me feel like a "real chef"...

3. Baking Stone- Always in my oven, it regulates the oven temperature even when the door is opened to check on food. Baked goods rise super high, and get light texture, pizza gets a nice crispy crust

4. Microwave Oven- (does that count as a "gadget"?)- Plate warmer, re-heater, defroster and can be used to cook lots of quickie foods (nachos anyone?)

5. Grater- I used it to grate veggies, of course cheese, but also to grate whole nutmeg and other spices (the grater edged my coffee grinder out due to its versatility)

I'm eager to hear what other Chowhounders would choose and why... who knows, maybe we'll discover some new gadgets that might displace ones on our current lists!

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  1. In no particular order

    Instant read thermometer (Thermapen)


    Chef's knife

    Cutting board (not really a gadget)

    bench scraper

    5 Replies
    1. re: bnemes3343

      bnemes3343, I've been wanting one of those Thermapens for so long... are they expensive? Is it a digital readout or analog (I have a meat thermometer but it is analog and moves slowly; hence, it's easy to overcook things!)?

      1. re: ideabaker

        Yea, somewhat expensive. Close to $100. But so nice. digital readout that only takes a few seconds. Americas Test Kitchen rated a less expensive one fairly high too. Can't remember which one it was, but you might find it on their site. I just purchased a remote thermometer (probe in the meat and readout outside the oven on the counter); will try it for the first time next week at Christmas.

        1. re: bnemes3343

          I have an "AccuRite' instant read thermometer that runs off a tiny battery, has an off/on button, a F/C button, and comes with a pocket sleeve with clip for chef's. It's extremely accurate and fast. Got it at Walmart for under ten bucks.

          1. re: Caroline1

            I'm on my second AccuRite in under 2 years. It works alright, but it is not very durable. Just before Xmas ours went wonky, then stopped working and finally the battery holder thingie broke when we tried to put in a new battery. Consider it a disposable gadget - which you would expect for $10.

          2. re: bnemes3343

            Is America's Test Kitchen a reliable source for such things? A lot of their reviews are outdated. I think in general people have a Love/Hate relationship with Kimball and Crew.

      2. Spider (strainer thingy...)
        pasta rolling/ cutting attachment for my kitchenaid
        silicone spatula
        dutch oven (not really a gadget....guess we all have one on our lists) Adam

        7 Replies
        1. re: adamshoe

          adamshoe, a lot of folks are going for the microplane, I need to check that out. As for the Spider, I can't imagine what that must look like. Does it take up a lot of space?

          1. re: ideabaker

            I have two spiders (different sizes) and I love them. They sit in my utensil jug on my counter. There are a few different kinds out there, but mine look like woven wire baskets, roughly 4-5 in. across, attached to bamboo handles. (Some are all metl, and some have finer meshes than others.) They are terrific for removing fried food from hot oil, dumplings from their liquid, etc., anything where you need to remove solids from liquids quickly without draining the cooking liquid away. And because of their size and shape you get a lot of the food out at one sweep of the spider.

            1. re: flourgirl

              Flourgirl, I see those in my Chinese cookbooks a lot. Outside of frying, do they have other uses (I rarely fry in oil deep enough to use the spider)?

              1. re: ideabaker

                Useful to pull out things out of boiling water or stock, ie cooking dumplings, blanching vegetables, pasta

                1. re: chocolateman

                  Chocolateman, I usually steam dumplings... could I have been boiling them all this time without the whole steamer contraption? If so, I've gotta get a Spider...

              2. re: flourgirl

                I've got 3 spiders: wire/bamboo one used most often, nearly flat stainless one that is terrific for skimming foam from chicken broth, and a bowlpshaped one made of hard plastic that I guess was originally designed for pasta that I seldom use. I'd definitely go for the wire one--cheap and they really work!

            2. re: adamshoe

              Silicone spatula - amen. I have several and use them all the time.
              Kitchen Aid stand mixer
              Two ovens - don't know how I survived the holidays with only one

            3. Knives, pots, pans, cutting boards, and the like I exclude because they really aren't gadgets. We use the timer on our range, so no separate gadget required. Somehow survived lo these many years without a microwave. Toasters, blenders, mixers and coffemakers fall in the "too big to be a gadget" realm.

              Box grater
              Oxo Peeler
              Garlic Press
              Immersion blender
              Cast iron waffle irons

              5 Replies
              1. re: MikeB3542

                Agreeing w/re to non-gadgets, timer and small appiances.
                can opener

                1. re: MikeB3542

                  Mike B3542, what exactly is an immersion blender, and how do you use it in your kitchen?

                  1. re: ideabaker

                    An immersion blender is a small appliance that allows you to process (blend) things in a bowl or a pot that you would normally use a blender for, without needing to transfer to a special container. Say you have potato leek soup on the stove, you would blend the contents with an immersion blender in the pot on the stove. Sometimes it is also known as a stick blender.

                    There is talk about the best one here.

                    1. re: chocolateman

                      Thanks, chocolateman, I've seen those before, just didn't know what they'd be used for. I especially like the fact that with one it is not necessary to mess up a whole blender container. Thanks also for the link, would hate to be disappointed with the wrong one!

                  2. re: MikeB3542

                    Mike and Sarah, I need that separate timer (though I have one on the digital readout of the oven) because I tend to wander off, particularly when toasting bread in the oven for crostinis or other starters. Something interesting comes on tv, I decide to throw the wash in the dryer, etc. and the next thing I know smoke alarms are going off. If i use the detached timer, I just take it with me and when it goes off I can get back to the kitchen in time. Guess my screen name is wrong... should be "distractedcook" :-).

                  3. 1. One particularly beautiful, but more importantly *functional*, stainless steel sieve

                    2. My beloved whisks, collectively.

                    3. Curved OXO hand grater

                    4. 10" Chef's knife

                    5. (Three-way tie, sorry) My LC silicon spatulas, spoonulas (again, collectively); one especially durable hand can opener; my pour spouts for my EVOO and vinegar bottles

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Steady Habits

                      Steady Habits, I got a giggle with your three-way tie... I also had a hard time not putting my silicon spatulas and spoonulas on the list... I use them every day for something! I've been using a regular metal funnel to pour EVOO/vinegar and it is so messy. Maybe need to invest in those pour spouts. Are they the same ones that can be used with wine bottles?

                      1. re: ideabaker

                        And one of the gadgets I'm *missing*, idea, is a funnel to pour my EVOO from the tin into my bottles. Eek, you're right--what a mess, LOL. I'm looking for a funnel (casually), but I only seem to see plastic, melamine or collapsible silicon. I want stainless steel, in two or three sizes. I don't want to have to sell one of the kids to get them, but I am willing to pay a fair price so I can finally get the funnels of my dreams, buy 'em once, and forget about it.

                        I don't actually know if the pour spouts I have are used for wines. Are you talking about the liquor jigger tops (sorry, don't know what they're called) that allow out a pre-measured amount? If so, mine aren't that high tech. They all have one-sized fits many rubber gaskets that allow me to use them in a few different sized bottle openings. A couple of them have two different sized apertures in them, so that you can pour the condiment fairly quickly from one side, or drizzle it in smaller amounts from the other. Except for the rubber gasket, they are stainless steel. You can often get a freebee plastic, but metal-toned one when you purchase a boutique oil or vinegar, etc., but that metallic paint doesn't survive the dishwasher, and I wouldn't reuse them without running them through that. Hence, my preference for the SS.

                        Not to hijack your thread, idea, but if things are working better for you now that you've reorganized the cabinets, I'd love to hear if you any wonder solutions for...general mess, ha! No, it's really not that bad. I do have some designated pan drawers, which are great, and certain drawers that are outfitted nicely for their use (e.g., knife drawers, silver ware drawers)...but, OMG, my junk drawers. If they really *were* junk drawers, that would be fine, but they actually contain things I use often and they drive me crazy. I know I could fix 'em up by dispensing some of the universal cure-all (money), but I'd prefer to organize AND keep my right arm, if at all possible.

                        1. re: Steady Habits

                          Steady Habits, my funnels are all plastic, and while the one with a more squared off bowl is a little less messy, they both pose a problem because the oil forms a residue in the funnel itself and it is very hard to clean out (I end up soaking them in a basin of bleach/dishwashing liquid and hot water solution to loosen the oil up. I too would love to get a great set of affordable metal funnels.

                          As for your junk drawer, wish I could help... I have two of them full of gadgets and it takes an average of three attempts to open or close the drawers due to handles or oddly shaped implements poking out. I did get a large crockery utensil holder which made some space, but then I rapidly filled it up with other stuff. I'd be interested in how to better organize the gadgets (pizza cutter, apple corer, sushi paddle, rice spoon, onion holder (for slicing). Right now, mine are fitted around each other like an puzzle with no solution!

                          1. re: ideabaker

                            I have metal and plastic funnels and have never had a problem cleaning. I just toss them in with all the other hand washing stuff. Dawn and hot water. No problem

                            1. re: c oliver

                              I have a half dozen plastic funnels that run in size from very small to pretty large and have never had a problem cleaning them. I just put them in the top shelf of the dishwasher. Squeaky clean!

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                I've always done the dishwasher in the past, however at this time I don't have access to one! But the hot soak in soapy water with the capful of bleach (a trick I learned twenty years ago when teaching pre-school) has always done the trick!

                            2. re: ideabaker

                              I'm one to talk, since I've never been there, but Ikea (and others), have all sorts of adjustable drawers, racks and specialized implement holders. I am planning the remodel of my kitchen and plan on having runners to hang our wine glasses from, wire racks for vertical storage of lids (that mount on the inside of a cabinet door) and then utilize bins and adjustable dividers to control the rest. Sounds like your drawers are too shallow.
                              At the moment, my biggest (minor), problem is when our maid comes, and like the absent-minded professor, puts things in the oddest places. Then it becomes like an Easter Egg hunt!

                      2. Chef knife
                        Can opener

                        Additional things that are important peeler, paring knife, thermometer, tongs, wine key

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: chocolateman

                          chocolateman, how do you use a wine key??

                          1. re: ideabaker

                            A winekey is another name for a corkscrew. Usually it comes with a foil-cutter and a bottle opener. They come in so many permutations, but I prefer the simple waiter's winekey. There are those that are gas powered, table mounted, double action, etc.

                            I tend to use a bit of wine in my cooking, in addition to the normal use.

                            1. re: chocolateman

                              Ah, chocolateman! I do have several of those around (they become harder to find the more glasses of wine one enjoys). Haven't needed one in a while as I've been drinking a lot of New Zealand wines which tend to be screw top. Now that you mention the winekey, I think I may stroll over to the cellar and see if I can make use of mine right now :-).

                              1. re: chocolateman

                                ""I tend to use a bit of wine in my cooking, in addition to the normal use.""

                                Zver zet zoaded? Zic! ;-)

                                (Ever get loaded? Hic!)