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Kitchen Gadgets You've Come Around to Liking

ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 06:02 AM

I used to make fun of people who used salad spinners. The spinner seemed like such a '70s waste-of-space/invented-need gadget, and besides, how hard is it to drain lettuce? Then---surprise---we moved into a kitchen with a salad spinner, and I've been totally won over. It's amazing how much water a salad spinner can remove from rinsed lettuce, damp sliced veggies, etc. No more wet sandwiches, watery stir fries, or soggy salads.

Same thing with a kitchen scale. I was convinced people who went on and on about how great they were were just being pretentious. Plus, they're not cheap. But having actually used one regularly, I'm completely convinced it makes for better, more precise baking. It's great to be able to make metric recipes without all kinds of crazy googling.

What gadgets have you fallen in love with, despite your initial skepticism?

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  1. linguafood RE: ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 06:09 AM

    I seriously could not live w/out a salad spinner. I keep one in Berlin!

    2 Replies
    1. re: linguafood
      cityhopper RE: linguafood Jun 13, 2010 05:37 PM

      Another salad spinner convert. I have the smaller version of the OXO. I have used it nearly everyday that I have cooked since I purchased it.

      1. re: cityhopper
        m
        megmosa RE: cityhopper Jun 16, 2010 06:44 PM

        I was somewhere where the people were making fun of salad spinners...while simultaneously using copious amounts of paper towels to do a poor job of drying out their salad greens. I wanted to roll my eyes, but restrained myself.

    2. q
      qianning RE: ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 07:03 AM

      serrated peeler for soft fruit & veggies. i can't believe how well it works, and how much easier and better it is than the blanching and peeling technique.

      6 Replies
      1. re: qianning
        roxlet RE: qianning Jun 13, 2010 10:00 PM

        I agree with that! It's a fantastic little gadget. I never thought that skinning peaches could be so easy.

        1. re: qianning
          d
          DGresh RE: qianning Jun 14, 2010 03:07 AM

          I've never seen one those serrated peeler. Is that a typical BB&Beyond kind of gadget?

          1. re: DGresh
            roxlet RE: DGresh Jun 14, 2010 03:34 AM

            Mine is a Messemeister, which I don't remember where I purchased, but it definitely wasn't BB&B. I just googles it and I see that Amazon has it, and that Oxo has come out with one as well. Maybe you would find the Oxo one at BB&B though. Truly it is a great gadget. I used to dread standing over a pot of hot water boiling peaches to get the skins off. This is so much easier!

            Here's a link to BB&B -- they do carry the Oxo one:
            http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/produ...

            1. re: roxlet
              q
              qianning RE: roxlet Jun 14, 2010 04:54 AM

              I have the Oxo one and it works fine on peaches, plums, and tomatoes. The better kitchen gadget stores in my area usually have in a variety of different brands, but the Oxo one is fine. I think they are sometimes labelled/marketed as "soft fruit peeler".

              1. re: roxlet
                d
                DGresh RE: roxlet Jun 14, 2010 05:46 AM

                cool- thanks! That's something I never would have thought I "needed" :)
                Just like the lemon squeezer :)

                1. re: roxlet
                  Paulustrious RE: roxlet Jun 17, 2010 07:30 AM

                  I would recommend the Zyliss version. http://www.amazon.com/Zyliss-Soft-Ski...

                  Wickedly sharp, and the pointy bits can catch you. Not enough to do any real damage though.

                  Although it says it is for soft skins, I find it works very well on tougher skins like yams and arrowroot. I've had mine for about two years and it is still very sharp.

                  Enough of this proselytizing !

            2. m
              MCFAC RE: ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 07:20 AM

              My little wire and plastic egg slicer. Used once or twice, until my two year old found it. Now it gets a lot of use. Ice cream maker, even though I don't use it too often. Also, finally picked up a good little paring knife after making due with a steak knife for years. I really believe in getting any tool that makes me more excited about being in the kitchen. I calculate the price of using the item one or more times vs. the cost of eating out. That cooking at home to eating out gap will more than pay for a lot of kitchen toys! A better kitchen scale is on my wish list right now.

              1. d
                DGresh RE: ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 08:06 AM

                I totally agree about the scale, but for a different reason-- I don't bake that much, and what I do bake has always come out fine with my typical sloppy ways. But I never realized how many recipes call for "a pound of potatoes" or "8 ounces of tomatillos". Sure I can sometimes weigh at the store if I'm buying just for that recipe, but I often found myself holding a 15 ounce can in one hand and a few potatoes in the other trying to decide if they were the same!

                2 Replies
                1. re: DGresh
                  Caroline1 RE: DGresh Jun 13, 2010 02:37 PM

                  My microwave oven has an "auto-defrost" setting that is fantastic *IF* you know exactly how much what you want to defrost weighs. I frequently buy "family packs" and repackage them into smaller portions, so the label weight is useless. I LOVE my ktchen scale!

                  EDIT! EDIT! EDIT! I have to come back to add my nutmeg grinder. I've been using one of these:
                  http://www.cookware.com/William-Bound...
                  for at least thirty years now, and cannot imagine going back to the scrape-your-knuckles method! Looks great, stores a bunch of extra nutmegs under the lexan dome, and works perfectly every time!

                  1. re: Caroline1
                    Paulustrious RE: Caroline1 Jun 17, 2010 08:02 AM

                    I use a fine microplane look-alike for nutmeg. In fact I have a special little one that folds and the nutmeg stays in the middle.

                    In terms of knuckles. I am a profligate waster of nutmeg. Once I am down to the last quarter of an inch it is history.

                    Now the salad spinner. I just got a Guzzini (http://www.redcandy.co.uk/product-guz... ) and it is not a uni-tasker. The acrylic bowl is doubles up as a serving bowl and as one of those upside-down keep-the-flies-off-the-cake things. And the revolving basket server as a vegetable strainer.

                    In terms of the OP's question, a frying-pan splash-guard from Ikea.

                2. John E. RE: ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 08:50 AM

                  I usually follow Alton Brown's advice and avoid uni-taskers. I do however use a garlic press when I need more than a couple of garlic cloves minced. I also like a microplaner. (I got it for 99 cents at Goodwill). I concur about the serrated peeler. While I don't use the salad spinner on a weekly basis, when I use it I'm glad to have it.

                  There is one gadget I'd like to have if found cheaply enough, just for laughs. I saw it on TV. It's a device used to crack and/or separate eggs. It's hilarious.

                  1. chef chicklet RE: ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 08:56 AM

                    Ditto to the spinner and scale, exactly my thoughts.
                    I love my little grater and microplanes. I love my little nutmeg house, built in grater and holder for the nutmeg -perfect.
                    Also I can't live without my lemon and cirtrus reamer, the oxo soft handle, it really does the job. Now, If I could only get busy with the mandoline. I'm actually going to pull it out of its hiding place today and see why I wanted it so much.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: chef chicklet
                      ChristinaMason RE: chef chicklet Jun 13, 2010 09:24 AM

                      hmm maybe you should prep for a stir fry, that would highlight the mandoline's usefulness! or an apple galette?

                      1. re: ChristinaMason
                        chef chicklet RE: ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 01:06 PM

                        That is right up my alley, in fact both are. I need some inspiration with this tool.

                        I love that idea to use if for french fries too. In fact somebody was eating deep fried zucchini on tv, forget who. But that would be delicious too. I love homemade french fries. Grilling burgers and dogs this week for the family and homemade fries cut perfectly is a great idea! I love apple galette too, I have this love for apples. Do you use a recipe or ????

                        thanks!

                        1. re: chef chicklet
                          ChristinaMason RE: chef chicklet Jun 13, 2010 03:33 PM

                          No real recipe. I've only made one, but thought it was great for the little amount of work involved. This website has lots of great tips: http://www.finecooking.com/articles/h...

                      2. re: chef chicklet
                        linguafood RE: chef chicklet Jun 13, 2010 09:31 AM

                        OMG. I just recently used my mandoline for homemade french fries. I was so proud having those tater sticks come out just perfectly!!

                        Also, it's a great time saver for slicing cukes and potatoes, like for gratin. Or julienne carrots... yah, I think I like mine.

                        1. re: linguafood
                          chef chicklet RE: linguafood Jun 13, 2010 03:39 PM

                          What thickness did you make them?? What else did you make? I have some more salmon. I was sort of tossing around a salmon filet sandwich with a mustard and chive mayonnaise and the fries might be the perfect additon?
                          I make my own hand sliced fries, they are delicious. I sort of like mine soft, and dh likes them crunchy. The battle of the fries, when he's doing the frying I have to watch him, he'll let them go a little longer.

                          Also looking forward to the fried zucchini, have you done that?

                          A gratin YES! actually, I just bought a lot of cheeses today. Nothing exoctic the just the usual working cheeses. But thank you, I appreciate the recommendation, gratins are truly one of my favorite dishes to make. Potato of course, zucchini and a vegetable one that I've made for years. Do you have one you especially love?

                          1. re: chef chicklet
                            linguafood RE: chef chicklet Jun 14, 2010 03:57 AM

                            My (very cheap no-name) Mandoline has an extra setting for fries. I'd say they come out fry-size. Sorry, jk. I mean, they are the perfect size - not as skinny as McD's, and not as fat as steak fries. And they come out all the same. It's a little miracle, really haha.

                            My potato gratin recipe is pretty easy. Slice a boatload of potatoes real thinly, arrange them in a buttered baking pan, slightly overlapping. Mix together a cup of light cream, TONS of crushed garlic (that's where my other favorite gadget, my 20 yr. old garlic press, comes in), s&p to taste, maybe even some cayenne, herbs if you want but not necessarily. Pour over potatoes. Cover with grated cheese. Any cheese you like. Lots of it. Bake at 350˚F for about 45 min, or until top is golden brown and crispy. Inhale.

                        2. re: chef chicklet
                          alanbarnes RE: chef chicklet Jun 13, 2010 09:38 AM

                          Three words: homemade potato chips.

                          1. re: alanbarnes
                            chef chicklet RE: alanbarnes Jun 13, 2010 01:08 PM

                            really? How do you fry them, and in what kind of oil? Would be cool to do too... hmm.
                            I need to figure out how to set the blades in and all...

                            1. re: chef chicklet
                              alanbarnes RE: chef chicklet Jun 13, 2010 02:40 PM

                              Set the mandoline over a big bowl of cold water and slice russet potatoes very thinly into the water. Rinse a couple of times and dry thoroughly.

                              Put some oil into a heavy pot. I like pomace oil, but soybean oil works fine, too; I find that canola tends to smell fishy. Don't fill the pot more than halfway. Heat to 350F, and drop in the potato slices one by one.

                              Keep an eye on the oil temp and limit the amount of chips you cook in each batch - you don't want things to drop below 300F. Stir gently to keep chips from sticking together. When they're golden brown and delicious, remove, drain (I use a huge wire strainer), and season to taste.

                              1. re: alanbarnes
                                Caroline1 RE: alanbarnes Jun 13, 2010 03:11 PM

                                ORRRRRRR.... Cook as Alan directs, drain, coat liberally with dill weed and some sea salt. Cool and dip in chocolate ganache. Set aside to harden. Sent them all to me because they are FANTASTIC....!!! '-)

                        3. b
                          blackpippi RE: ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 10:43 AM

                          I have a crescent shaped pasta strainer. Frankly, it seems totally trashy. But a friend of mine, who is a better cook than I will ever be, said she got one as a gift and thought "I will never use this." Then she used it and was won over. I've been using mine for over five years. Figured on occasion it would slip and all my pasta would fall into the sink, but believe it or not, that's never happened.
                          Of course, the beauty of the device is that it's so small relative to a colander.

                           
                          3 Replies
                          1. re: blackpippi
                            Chemicalkinetics RE: blackpippi Jun 13, 2010 01:32 PM

                            That looks like a weapon.

                            1. re: blackpippi
                              m
                              MCFAC RE: blackpippi Jun 14, 2010 07:35 AM

                              That looks awesome! I'd buy it just to have one less colander to wash out.

                              1. re: blackpippi
                                d
                                dmd_kc RE: blackpippi Jun 14, 2010 08:41 AM

                                I own a similar one that has a smaller handle on the opposite side as well, and I love it. I align the long handle with the handle of the pot, slip a tubular leather pot holder around that, and then pour away. With only two of us, I rarely need to make pasta in a pot so big that this strainer won't handle it.

                              2. Chemicalkinetics RE: ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 01:18 PM

                                Well, I always like a salad spinner even before I bought it. I just didn't know I would use it more often than I did.

                                For things which I actually had doubts and later convinced.

                                1) The Microplane Grater. (really better than normal grater)
                                2) The thin blade CCK Chinese Chef's knife.
                                3) A carbon steel wok (I bought one before knowing what "seasoning" means. It opens doors for all the other carbon steel and cast iron cookware for me)
                                4) Coffee grinder for spices

                                Things which went the other way:

                                Stainless steel soap (not even sure it actually worked)
                                Garlic press. (It worked, but apparently I don't use garlic enough, so I went back to using a knife)
                                Calphalon Infused One cookware
                                Enameled cast iron Dutch Oven (just didn't work out)

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                  ChristinaMason RE: Chemicalkinetics Jun 13, 2010 03:37 PM

                                  I used to hate the garlic press. Turns out it was just because I had a really crappy one that didn't have a removable garlic compartment....was way too hard to clean. I like the one Ikea sells...you can pop both parts into the dishwasher.

                                  http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/pro...

                                  1. re: ChristinaMason
                                    Chemicalkinetics RE: ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 03:55 PM

                                    Hi Christina,

                                    I have the Oxo SteeL. Not bad, except what you mentioned: cleaning. In rare occasions where I need to crush a lot of garlic cloves, then I will use it. Otherwise, anything between 1-2 cloves just not enough to motivate me to use it. Glad you like your Ikea garlic press.

                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                    cityhopper RE: Chemicalkinetics Jun 13, 2010 05:48 PM

                                    New (coffee) grinder convert for spices, too.

                                  3. cityhopper RE: ChristinaMason Jun 13, 2010 05:46 PM

                                    Ditto on the scale!!! I am not good at "eyeballing" method of measuring.

                                    I love my Titan veggie peeler. I am probably going to buy another pair just in case the company disappears.

                                    Mandoline. I spent $40-$50 on a mandoline from Sam's a few years back and absolutely hated it. I should have returned it. I still did not have the space for a food processor and I already had a mixer so I purchased the Swissmar Borner with detachable bowl. Absolutely love, love, love.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: cityhopper
                                      Chemicalkinetics RE: cityhopper Jun 13, 2010 05:57 PM

                                      City,

                                      I have never own a good mandoline. I had those really cheap ones and it is not surprising that I dislike them What is your reason for not liking yours? It does not perform, or it takes too much effort to clean

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                        cityhopper RE: Chemicalkinetics Jun 16, 2010 05:18 PM

                                        The mandoline that I hate was purchased from Sam's Club. The mandoline took up half of the counter place. The counter grips were at times faulty. Plus, changing the blades and gauge were a huge pain.

                                        However, I love the Swissmar Borner mandoline. The unit is small and lightweight; this does NOT detract from its sturdiness and performance. Cleaning is a dream and blade storage is great. Cuts are perfect and I do not have to waste energy. Here is the model I purchased (available at Amazon) : http://www.swisscatalogue.com/swissma...

                                    2. d
                                      damiano RE: ChristinaMason Jun 14, 2010 03:01 AM

                                      I've used my cheap salad spinner almost daily for years now. Many people coming over for dinner were at first ironic about it, but are now converted. Another utensil I use often is my mortar and pestle. I use it daily for crushing garlic. Just put the clove in, pound once and you'll be able to peel the skin off in a second. Pound again and you'll have crushed garlic ready to use.

                                      1. s
                                        smkit RE: ChristinaMason Jun 18, 2010 07:19 AM

                                        It's not really a kitchen gadget, but I bought one of those crumbers that they use at restaurants to scrape food off the table. At first I felt a bit goofy using it at home, but now I use it all the time. Also, after years of questioning their usefulness, I finally bought a spider skimmer and love it. With a lot of pastas, I don't have to use a colander or dump the water when its hot. You also don't have to worry about reserving pasta water.

                                        14 Replies
                                        1. re: smkit
                                          i
                                          iyc_nyc RE: smkit Jun 18, 2010 04:14 PM

                                          smkit, where did you get the crumber, and how does the spider skimmer work with the pasta? thanks!

                                          1. re: iyc_nyc
                                            liu RE: iyc_nyc Jun 18, 2010 09:26 PM

                                            You can find crumb cleaners at restaurant supply stores, or Amazon.com carries a variety of such items:

                                            http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_...

                                            1. re: iyc_nyc
                                              s
                                              smkit RE: iyc_nyc Jun 18, 2010 09:47 PM

                                              I got my crumber at a nice kitchen store. It is a nicer looking swiss one, but you can also get cheaper ones (as liu said) at restaurant supply stores.

                                              My spider skimmer is Helen Chen. You basically spoon out larger pastas like tortellini, ravioli, or penne. It is basically a strainer spoon.

                                              1. re: smkit
                                                i
                                                iyc_nyc RE: smkit Jun 19, 2010 07:00 AM

                                                Thanks smkit and liu! Sorry for this clueless question - but re: the skimmer, how do you get the last bit of pasta out? Do you have to end up straining/dumping water out?

                                                Thanks again!

                                                1. re: iyc_nyc
                                                  Chemicalkinetics RE: iyc_nyc Jun 19, 2010 07:50 AM

                                                  iyc_nyc,

                                                  In my experience, you can usually get almost all of the pasta out by just "fishing" them out with the skimmer, but you can certainly "dump" the water out through the skimmer.

                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                    Paulustrious RE: Chemicalkinetics Jun 19, 2010 09:09 AM

                                                    1) The closer the skimmer is to the pan size the easier it is.
                                                    2) Rolling boil brings round to the top
                                                    3) If you miss a piece, just suck it (metaphorically)

                                                    1. re: Paulustrious
                                                      Chemicalkinetics RE: Paulustrious Jun 19, 2010 09:10 AM

                                                      Paul,

                                                      Ha ha ha. I love the last one. I love the fact that you wrote "metaphorically".

                                                  2. re: iyc_nyc
                                                    i
                                                    iyc_nyc RE: iyc_nyc Jun 19, 2010 05:54 PM

                                                    Awesome, thanks all!

                                                2. re: iyc_nyc
                                                  Paulustrious RE: iyc_nyc Jun 19, 2010 05:43 AM

                                                  Any Asian supermarket has skimmers, and cheap as well.

                                                  1. re: Paulustrious
                                                    Chemicalkinetics RE: Paulustrious Jun 19, 2010 07:49 AM

                                                    Hey Paul and smkit,

                                                    I got my Asian skimmer (spider skimmer) as a compliment from the Wokshop. It is one of those $4-6 worth brass skimmer -- very traditional, looks like this:

                                                    http://www.wokshop.com/HTML/products/...

                                                    Do you guys have the fancier stainless steel version? like this one:

                                                    http://www.williams-sonoma.com/produc...

                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                      s
                                                      smkit RE: Chemicalkinetics Jun 19, 2010 12:25 PM

                                                      Nope. I don't have anything fancy. Mine looks like your first example.
                                                      The Helen Chen one cost me about $10 and has a bamboo handle. I am not sure whether they go in the dishwasher or not as I don't use my dishwasher, but mine has held up well so far.

                                                      Just to clarify, I still use my regular strainer/colander for spaghetti and smaller pastas.

                                                      1. re: smkit
                                                        Chemicalkinetics RE: smkit Jun 19, 2010 12:58 PM

                                                        I know. I think I messed up my cheap spider skimmer by using it for deep frying in oil. I didn't clean it right away. In fact, I used it over and over a few more times for deep frying French fries. It had developed these sticky oil residue on it all over. It is a pain to clean. The residue also turned greenish which is probably developed from oxidized copper. I boiled it in baking soda solution and few time and washed out a good amount of these oil residue but there are still some, which got me thinking if a fancier stainless steel one will work better.

                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                                          SanityRemoved RE: Chemicalkinetics Jun 19, 2010 01:14 PM

                                                          I have the fancier stainless steel one. It's also available at Chefscatalog which is where I got mine. Here is the actual manufacturers page: http://www.wmf.com/profi-plus-_825112...

                                                          Although it's a German company the wok strainer is made in China. The quality is nice and should last a long time.

                                                          1. re: SanityRemoved
                                                            Chemicalkinetics RE: SanityRemoved Jun 19, 2010 01:16 PM

                                                            Oh yeah, I think that was the one I were looking at, or very close to it. I remember the handle and it was also a high quality 18/10 stainless steel too. Thanks.

                                              2. j
                                                johnlockedema RE: ChristinaMason Jun 19, 2010 12:33 PM

                                                Cherry/olive pitter, and I never use it-I let the kids do it and they have a lot of fun for about ten minutes before they realize it's work.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: johnlockedema
                                                  flourgirl RE: johnlockedema Jun 19, 2010 01:22 PM

                                                  I LOVE my cherry/olive pitter - especially during sour cherry season when I make pocket pies.

                                                2. tanuki soup RE: ChristinaMason Jun 19, 2010 03:58 PM

                                                  I don't believe anyone has mentioned a pasta insert yet. (Is it because nobody is as clueless and me and everybody has always recognized their usefulness???)

                                                  In any case, I always had a cheap stockpot with a pasta insert, but never used it. When I bought a Calphalon Contemporary multipot, I used a pasta insert for the first time. What a revelation! I'd always thought that it was just a more bulky and troublesome version of a colander or some sort of dumb gimmick, but I now appreciate that one of its (many) great benefits is that the pasta never gets stuck to and burned onto the bottom of the pot.

                                                  1. JerryMe RE: ChristinaMason Jun 19, 2010 04:02 PM

                                                    An old hand crank mixer - It's perfect when the hand (electric) mixer is in the dough and you need to mix something else up. I'm so glad I have it. It's also my quasi-blender for putting into soups to puree. I don't have a stick blender but the hand crank works pretty good - altho I'm sure not as fast.

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