HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >


Kitchen Tool you had an 'a ha' moment with ......

I am not the head cook in the family, but I LOVE gadgets.....I can't believe that I have lived these ## years without a cherry pitter- OMG I totally enjoy fresh cherries so much more when I can pit them in bulk and then eat (or GLOM) them easily!! Yeah Wegmans for using them in a sampling demonstration that was to showcase the cherries and NOT the tool.

What kitchen tool can't you live without or changed your kitchen life??


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My immersion blender. I didn't understand its awesomeness until i used one. i can't imagine a kitchen without one now.

    29 Replies
      1. re: ahuva

        Unlike, many here, I still don't understand the awesomeness of one. I had one, didn't find anything I could do with it I couldn't do with something else, gave it away.

        1. re: al b. darned

          Just being able to puree soup in the pot it was cooked in without having to transfer the soup, in batches, to a blender or a food processer or whatever, makes it worth the price of admission alone.

          1. re: flourgirl

            Good point. Less work and less to wash.

            1. re: flourgirl

              For so many things, so much easier than dealing w/ the blender.

              1. re: flourgirl

                I don't think I have ever made a soup that needed to be pureed. I don't even use the regular blender that much.

                1. re: al b. darned

                  That will save me alot of time in work and clean up when I make applebutter and plumbutter.

                    1. re: sunshine842

                      Agh, DON"T puree your pumpkin, just mash it with a potato masher. Try it, you won't go back to puree.

                      One of the main comments I get on my scratch pies is that they like the texture mine have compared to store pies. BTW, I only use Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins for my pies.

                      1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR

                        I agree! Don't puree the pumpkin. I love that stringy texture in a fresh pumpkin pie.
                        I pureed mine only one time, and it just felt like canned pumpkin.

                        1. re: BIGGUNDOCTOR

                          hated it.
                          We like a smooth, velvety texture with a pronounced pumpkin flavor.

                          I find jack o'lantern pumpkins to produce a watery, weak-flavored, stringy pie. I won't use them, ever. If it came down to that or no pie, there'd be no pie.

                          Jack o'lantern pumpkins are also only available in October where I live -- for a kings' ransom.

                          Potiron - the Cinderella-looking pumpkin -- has velvety stringless flesh, a fabulous flavor, and is dirt cheap where I live

                          Potiron it is.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Not watery at all if drained first. I also don't have strings, just bigger texture. My friends love the flavor, and spice mix I use-maybe a different variety of pumpkin then your Jack-O-Lanterns ? Price wise , I get them for around 5 cents a pound after Halloween, and buy upwards of 100# of them since they keep several months.

                      2. re: suzigirl

                        applebutter and plumbutter
                        Never made either. Never eaten either, and not currently on my radar.

                        Pumpkin puree for pies.
                        CI said canned pumpkin is fine.That's what we use for the few times a decade we make a pumpkin pie.

                        1. re: al b. darned

                          Okay. You don't use one.

                          (you'd find a way to make pureed pumpkin if canned pumpkin wasn't available where you live AND pumpkin pie is a family favorite, even made when it's not a holiday)

                          Also makes nice smooth bolognaise for lasagne.

                      3. re: al b. darned

                        See that, and I make puréed soups all the time. That's not the only thing I use my immersion blender for, I use it for almost anything I could put in the blender, it just depends on which appliance makes more sense at the time. But the primary reason I bought mine was for soup.

                    2. re: al b. darned

                      Geez, al, no one here claimed that EVERYONE should run out and buy an immersion blender. If you don't need one, you don't need one. The point is, that for those of us who often make stuff that would normally go in the blender, they can save a lot of time, and streamline prep, especially if pureeing would involve a transfer of the food from the vessel they were prepared in, into the blender.

                      1. re: al b. darned

                        I love to make my Italian salad dressing with it! It is the perfect tool to emulsify a dressing!

                      2. re: ahuva

                        I use mine almost every day to make my breakfast smoothie

                        1. re: ahuva

                          Ditto on the immersion blender. Never understood how easy it is to make smooth soup until I owned one.

                          1. re: bdachow

                            without splashing/spilling boiling hot soup trying to get it into/out of the blender. Yay.

                            1. re: sunshine842

                              Exactly. And then there is my microplane, from zest to nutmeg to cheese, so nice and easy to do now instead of grating my knuckles on an old box type one.

                          2. re: ahuva

                            I really have to get one of those things. Anybody have a favorite brand/model they would recommend?

                            1. re: aching

                              I've only ever bought one and I love it. I got my Bamix at the local annual fair/exhibition and really love the interchangeable blades for pureeing, frothing/foaming and grinding/chopping. Very easy to clean as well and I use it in the Le Creuset and it doesn't scratch the bottom.

                              1. re: bdachow

                                Gads! I had no idea you can get one with interchangeable parts! How much was it, may I pry?

                                1. re: Awwshucks

                                  Mine isn't a Bamix, but it also has those multi-blades. It was under $30.

                                2. re: bdachow

                                  Love my Bamix as well. It is many tools in one and I'm constantly pureeing in my le crueset too!

                                3. re: aching

                                  Got my Cuisinart at JC Penney in the catalog department and one for a wedding gift! Very reasonable pricing! You can order online.

                                  1. re: aching

                                    I picked up a KitchenAid SmartStick at BBB a few weeks ago, and you guys were right - it's fantastic! (I would have liked to have gotten a Bamix, but couldn't justify the $$$.) I'll probably never use my regular blender ever again!

                                  2. re: ahuva


                                    I am ashamed to admit that my mother gave me one I-don't-remember-how-many-years-ago, but it sat waaay up in a cabinet til late last year. I finally used it and felt terrible that I never truly appreciated what a thoughtful gift it was. There is one sauce/condiment I make all the time and it truly is a godsend to blend it so easily.

                                  3. Actually, I must join you as a member of the bulk cherry pitter fan club. I love mine. I can freeze and can pounds and pounds of cherries in no time.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: jmcarthur8

                                      OMG...It never occurred to me to look for a bulk cherry pitter! I just added one to my wish list.

                                    2. I'm really in love with the new can opener I just bought. I hate electric can openers, and have been on a search for a good manual one for years - I keep getting crappy ones. I just spent $18 on one, and it is wonderful. So easy to use and smooth. Hopefully I will still feel the same about it in a few years.

                                      I don't know if this qualifies as a gadget, but I love my slow cooker. I have chronic illness, and on days that I feel totally crappy, I can have it make dinner for me and my family. Last week did a turkey breast and Italian beef sandwiches in the slow cooker. Used my smaller slow cooker to caramelize some onions overnight. Friday I'll be doing a whole chicken in the slow cooker, and next week, corned beef and homemade chicken tortilla soup.

                                      14 Replies
                                        1. re: Stephanie Wong

                                          It's an OXO one - had good reviews on Amazon, so hopefully it will last.

                                          1. re: jw615

                                            I've had my OXO for 14 years. No complaints!

                                            1. re: dmjordan

                                              Awesome! I've been having to get a new one nearly every 6 months until now. I don't even open that many cans.

                                              My mother has had the same can opener since I was born. Clearly they don't make them like they used to. I have made it clear to my brother that I have dibs on the can opener.

                                              1. re: jw615

                                                Vintage Swing A Way can openers are great. They last for decades. Ours is probably from the 1960s and still going strong.

                                                1. re: jw615

                                                  I had a revelation that I didn't need a whole ice cream maker, just a freezer bowl. It's faster, easier to clean, and doesn't create kitchen clutter. Here's a video of making ice cream just in a freezer bowl (and the well-loved immersion blender makes an appearance, too--that was another Aha! moment for me): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAwLYG...

                                          2. re: jw615

                                            I love caramelized onions.... can you tell me how you do this in a slow cooker? Pretty please.

                                            1. re: debbypo

                                              Pretty simple. Slice up a whole mess of onions, throw into the slow cooker, add some melted butter and salt and stir. Run on low for as long as it takes - when I'm doing a huge batch it can take around 12 hours or so. Stir every 3 or 4 hours - though I've left it going overnight without stirring, and they have been fine, a few in the hotter spots got a little darker. If you have too much liquid, prop the lid on the slow cooker open a crack with a chopstick or a skewer so that it can evaporate.

                                              One of my big slow cookers does have a hot spot, so if I'm using that one to do a big batch I try to stir a bit more often.

                                              1. re: jw615

                                                Thanks much. I'm going to drag out the crockpot and go to town. Looking forward to the results.

                                                1. re: debbypo

                                                  it works well. mine didn't get quite dark enough for me, but finishing them on the stovetop was so much easier than doing them that way from scratch. they can also be done on a sheet pan in the oven. i just wish i could remember where I have that link saved.

                                              2. re: debbypo

                                                In the slow cooker, you are likely to get something more like smothered onions than caramelized, since it's all moist heat unless you are using a very small amount, or fiddle with it a lot, stirring and uncovering. At that point you may as well just use a pan on the stove.
                                                Easier, if you don't want to monitor the process much, is JoanN's method for caramelizing onions in the oven on a sheet pan. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6764...

                                                1. re: greygarious

                                                  Disagree vehemently! I do caramelized onions in the slowcooker all the time and they are perfect. I use a technique developed by CI, where they get a little head start in the microwave and then a quick drain to eliminate excess moisture. Perfect every time.

                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                    I've never had a problem. If I have a lot of moisture, then I prop the lid with a skewer or a chopstick, and keep going. I stir every once in a while. Sure, it takes some time, but they turn out delicious in the crockpot for me, and it makes things much easier as a chronically ill person.

                                                    1. re: jw615

                                                      Wow I can't wait to try this!

                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  I love my mortar and pestle. I have a very large granite one I bought for a song at Marshall's, and it's awesome. I've recently immersed myself into Mexican cooking and my mortar and pestle has been getting a great workout. I actually bought a molcajete a long time ago that I never got around to seasoing properly, and I realized, after all the reading I just did, that I bought a crappy one anyway that will always be gritty no matter what I do. Than it dawned on me that the granite mortar and pestle I had would work just fine and I had no need for a molcajete any way. (Can't believe I didn't realize that earlier.) The molcajete is going into the garage sale pile and now I love my mortar and peslte even more than I already did.

                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                    I had a recipe that called for 2 tablespoons of ground pepper. I could not see twisting my pepper mill for that long (or attaching a drill to it, like Alton showed). So I dragged out my stone M&P. :o)

                                                  2. Garlic press and a good sharp knife. Once I discovered the knife, I tossed the garlic press.

                                                    57 Replies
                                                    1. re: topbanana

                                                      + 100 on sharp knives! Drives me nuts when I have to cook at someone's house and they do not have a set sharp ones.

                                                      Also - don't laugh - kitchen towel to dry off my hands after washing them a gazillion of times during the dinner prep.

                                                      1. re: Marusik

                                                        I also do the gazillion times washing during puep. I have two towels because one is not enough.

                                                        1. re: suzigirl

                                                          Question is how many sets of towels do you have? I think I have 3 different sets - plus I have them in different drawers. I have a couple that I use only for baking - the type that goes directly over foods like bread dough.

                                                          I have the set that's used to clean pots, bowls, etc.

                                                          Then the final set that's used for hands and another for counter-top. This is the bastard pile that's interchangeable.

                                                          If me or a guest happens to use set 1 for set 2 or 3 purposes, that towel is demoted to bastard pile. LOL

                                                          And I don't wash my kitchen towels in the washer because you know... underwear is washed there.

                                                          Trust me, I'm not as neurotic as this appears. :)

                                                          1. re: nikkib99

                                                            I have about eight or so. But none have specific tasks. I am not that particular. :-)

                                                            1. re: nikkib99

                                                              Just curious, but where do you wash your kitchen towels?

                                                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                I'm guessing dishwasher. Am I right?!

                                                                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                    I have an 8qt mixing bowl that I use to watch kitchen towels with. The kitchen towel used to clean the counter-top is washed directly in the sink. The towels that touch food are washed in a bowl.

                                                                    And I wash them with dish soap.

                                                                  2. re: nikkib99

                                                                    I'm with you on the washing machine.... after taking microbiology this summer and being regaled with a lovely story about testing the inside of the washing machine, no more kitchen towels in there, EVER!!! AND periodic bleaching of the inside of it.

                                                                    1. re: kubasd

                                                                      Ah, but that's when the Magic House Theory kicks in! I don't doubt your knowledge of microbiology, but figure that generations of us have been exposed to heaven knows what and we're still here. In fact, I hope such exposure has improved my immune system....

                                                                      1. re: pine time

                                                                        Oh, for sure my house is magic most of the time, and my washer paranoia will pass. I'm all for exposure to bolster immune systems :)

                                                                      2. re: kubasd

                                                                        I was told by a repair man to run mine once a month empty on its highest heat setting. This apparently kills all (?) the bacteria and disolves all the human (sorry!) grease which does not happen during modern lower temperature cycles.

                                                                        1. re: kubasd

                                                                          I stopped using detergent for the most part and just use plain old white vinegar for most of my laundry. (My washer kept getting mildew-y... ick!) I can't believe how clean and fresh the clothes are, and my washer is sparkling too. Plus no lab-created chemicals. Try it - I swear you will feel better about washing your kitchen towels in there, LOL!

                                                                          1. re: Jaz Cooks

                                                                            Jaz Cooks. Will give distilled white vinegar a try. Have heard good for fancy bath towels. Do you use for everything? How much should I put in a load of wash? Also curious if you have noticed any faster deterioration of fabrics or colors?

                                                                            1. re: smaki

                                                                              Hey Smaki, I use about 1 cup per load, and I do use it for almost everything, but I add a little detergent to jeans. The laundry smells really nice - not at all vinegary, just clean and fresh, and the lint in my dryer seems lighter (quantity) too, so I am guessing it is better for the fabric.

                                                                              I am a late-comer to white vinegar, but I am learning to LOVE it - I have replaced probably half my cleaning products with it!

                                                                              1. re: Jaz Cooks

                                                                                Jaz Cooks, Thank you will give it a try. Appreciate the tips on use. And timing is good I just happen to be low on laundry soap with several gallons of extra vinegar (from pickle season).

                                                                                1. re: Jaz Cooks

                                                                                  Do you just put it in the normal holder in which you add the detergent or just pour it on the clothes and leave the detergent container empty?

                                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                    Personally I put a little in both the detergent and the fabric softener spaces, and then pour the rest just over the laundry. But I don't think it matters! Smaki: let me know what you think after you run a load. I really hope you are as happy as I was!

                                                                                    1. re: Jaz Cooks

                                                                                      I make homemade detergent. I have for a few years now, and wouldn't go back. It is SO much cheaper, and works better. I grate and then process one bar of soap ( I use fels naphtha, but a lot of people use a regular body soap), to one cup of borax, and one cup of arm and hammer washing soda.

                                                                                      I use vinegar in bleach loads, or for natural fabric softener.

                                                                                      1. re: Jaz Cooks

                                                                                        Jaz Cooks, Will do. Plan on running a couple loads this week. I think you are on to something as was given some expensive towels once and recall their instructions said to wash multiple times with vinegar in the wash water before use (no soap) to make soft and absorbent - has anyone else ever seen this?

                                                                                        1. re: smaki

                                                                                          I have been adding 1/2 to 1 cup vinegar a load for a week now (with a regular dose of laundry soap). I add the vinegar to first wash when washer is full of water. Have read vinegar can make soap more effective is why I use both. It does seem to make my mostly-cotton clothes softer and cleaner. Seems to better bring out the colors. Have not noticed it breaking fabrics down, but watching for that. Works great on making my towels soft, clean, and absorbent.


                                                                                          1) Do not combine vinegar with bleach. The fumes that arise from this mixture can be hazardous to your health.

                                                                                          2) The overuse of white, distilled vinegar in laundry can lead to a breakdown of clothes made of natural fibers. Articles made out of silk, rayon, acetate, and triacetate can be especially sensitive to white, distilled vinegar.

                                                                        2. re: Marusik

                                                                          I wash my hands so many times while cooking, I feel like I'm neurotic about it.
                                                                          * Take meat out of plastic, wash hands so I don't get meaty hands on spice jars.
                                                                          * Grab spice jars and apply to meat. oops, forgot to grab plate to put spiced meat on.
                                                                          * Wash hands, grab plate.
                                                                          * If I only use one hand, use clean hand to return jars.
                                                                          * Wash hands and knives, chopping board.
                                                                          * Place meat in cooking vessel
                                                                          * wash hands.
                                                                          On and on it goes. I'm surprised I eat before midnight.

                                                                          I can't wait to re-do my kitchen so I can get those built-in soap receptacles with the pump attachment. I find myself washing the dish soap body so many times because by touching the bottle with meaty/fishy/chickeny hands to get some soap, you're contaminating the bottle.

                                                                          1. re: nikkib99

                                                                            Were we separated at birth? To save myself a step or two, I put my hand in one of those cheapie small baggies (not ziplock kind - that would get expensive) to grab chicken or cuts of meat to turn them for seasoning and use my other hand for sprinkling the seasonings. Then I can save a washing or two, or three, or four....

                                                                            1. re: breadchick

                                                                              You can get a big box of disposable gloves pretty cheap. I'm neurotic about raw chicken, in particular; I cook it a lot more since I discovered the gloves.

                                                                              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                I buy my disposable latex gloves for the kitchen at Costco. You are not alone :)

                                                                                1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                  I keep a small packet of gloves in the kitchen for cake decorating (keeps you from having technicolor fingers for a few days....) and for chopping hot peppers.

                                                                                  I also throw one on if I have a wound on my hands or fingers -- saves on the squick out, but also keeps you from going through the roof if you get lemon/onion/garlic in an open wound.

                                                                                  1. re: CanadaGirl

                                                                                    Sam's Club sells boxes of very thin disposable gloves that are pretty much like a baggie, but shaped like a glove and quite large. Theyre perfect - I can put them on and take them off with one hand. I use them constantly and sometimes change them many, many times whenmaking a big meal if I'm multitasking and moving between fooling around with garlic or onions, then pleeling and slicing apples for pie, and then fooling around with a raw chicken.

                                                                                  2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                    Yeah, good idea. I'll probably go out and get some of the disposable gloves. In response to helou here, I'll see if there's a Sam's Club nearby - that sounds like the perfect solution! Thanks to all!

                                                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                      I also use them for making meatballs, meatloaf, and tossing any chicken/potato/pasta salads. I only make those kinds of things in large quantities and the spoon just doesn't get down there without catapulting ingredients all over the kitchen.

                                                                                      1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                        Ah, but NonnieMuss, if you have fur-bearing creatures hanging about they would just LOVE those bits flying about!

                                                                                        1. re: breadchick

                                                                                          That's part of the reason why. I have two opposing beasts who would tear each other up over a flying chicken shred. When I'm done, the kitty gets a bit in her bowl, and the dog gets to lick my gloved hands.

                                                                                          I am gross.

                                                                                    2. re: breadchick

                                                                                      My twin. I shop at webstaurantstore.com which is an online restaurant supply store open to all. I currently have a pack (1,000) of disposable kitchen gloves in my cart - only $5. That should last a while.

                                                                                      1. re: nikkib99

                                                                                        (Slaps her forehead...) I LOVE the webstaurantstore - I have the site in my favorites. Never thought to look for prep gloves. That price is great, and will add them to my current shopping cart. Thank you, nikkib99!

                                                                                        1. re: breadchick

                                                                                          You're welcome. That site has so many goodies so what I generally do is shop patiently.... so hard. Put a few items in your cart and wait a few days in case something comes to mind to average the shipping costs.

                                                                                          Great place to buy cling film and foil - the price might seem high, but it's about 20x what you get from the store.
                                                                                          Don't forget parchment sheets - 100 sheets for about $4. KAF sells it for $20.

                                                                                          And cake tins - after spending $20 on non-stick calphalon, I bought a few cake tins from them for under $4. Could not be any more perfect - releases eaily.

                                                                                          1. re: nikkib99

                                                                                            Also great prices on 1/2 sheet pans! I bought 10 of them for less than $50. Besides all the other thousand things I use them for, I use them as cookie sheets, with parchment liners. It's so nice to be able to load up pans without having to wait for them to cool.

                                                                                    3. re: nikkib99

                                                                                      2 suggestions: tongs and a stable soap dispenser with a big pump top (which you can push down with an uncontaminated part of your hand/wrist/forearm) or a touch-free one with sensor. I do all my meat prep on the board, wash hands (w/o contaminating the soap dispenser). Then for seasoning and transfer to the cooking vessel, handle the meat only with the tongs that I will cook with anyway, while my hands stay clean. (Someone else then washes the dirty knives, board etc. That's the deal in my house.)

                                                                                    4. re: Marusik

                                                                                      Another fan of stacks and stacks of clean white kitchen towels!
                                                                                      Mine are super cheap ( I think many have come from the Dollar Store?) and can be tossed in the (HE) washer with hot hot hot (it steams) water and bleach. When they get "icky" (threadbare) they live the rest of their short lives as cleaning rags.

                                                                                      And of course, sharp knives are a must-have. It's always weird to cook in someone else's kitchen and they have dull knives...and pretty, but useless, dish towels.

                                                                                      1. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                        I am with you on the white towels. I must have at least 75 white kitchen towels. I over wash my hands when I cook...I keep boxes of gloves from Sam's around at all times. I have a small laundry basket that I keep in the kitchen when I am cooking. I use a new towel almost every time I wipe counters, dry a pot, or wash my hands. At the end of my cooking, it all goes in the washing machine with a ton of bleach. I do not have one dish towel in my house that isn't white...every one of them gets bleach.

                                                                                        1. re: PanFreak

                                                                                          This is almost exactly my routine! Minus the disposable gloves - I do have some, but I only use those for hot peppers after an unfortunate experience last year after I cut up a basket of mystery peppers from the farmer's market that turned out to be unbelievably hot and my hands burned for a day and a half, despite milk/yogurt/ice/hydrocortisone cream - never again.

                                                                                          But I'm all about the constantly washing my hands and using up every white kitchen towel. I think I bought a pack of about 50 from Sam's Club and I love them. I can't imagine how I grew up with, like, two kitchen towels.

                                                                                        2. re: pedalfaster

                                                                                          I am another white kitchen towel addict. I have two deep drawers full. They go into bleach loads (which I do a couple of times a week, all our sheets and towels are white) on the sanitize cycle.

                                                                                          1. re: cleobeach

                                                                                            Where is the best place to buy white kitchen towels? Inexpensive is good. No Sam's Club here.

                                                                                        3. re: Marusik

                                                                                          My dad was always the one who cared about sharpening our knives, so after my parents split I just kind of got used to dull knives.

                                                                                          When I moved out, I got all of Dad's knives he'd left for me when he moved across the country, and I was in heaven! I have such a hard time when I go to Mom's to cook now. I actually cut myself last time because a super-dull knife slipped off an onion....

                                                                                          Sharp knives and a gas stove are my number one necessities now. (And a good wok!)

                                                                                          1. re: Marusik

                                                                                            In addition to knives at other's house, never realized how much I rely on rubber spatula/spoonula/squeegees whatever you call them. Friend only owned wooden spoons that she used for everything. So much food went to waste! No wonder the cakes at her house are dry, half the batter is on the side of the bowl!

                                                                                            1. re: melpy

                                                                                              I love my silicon spoonulas. No question about it, the right tools can make just as much of a difference to an outcome in the kitchen as the ingredients and the technique.

                                                                                              1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                I have recently noticed the spoonula/spatula obsession. Is there some benefit of a spoonula vs a silicone spatula?

                                                                                                1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                  I have both, and they just do different jobs. I use silicone spatulas for folding etc., but nothing beats a silicone spoonula for scraping down a bowl while using a stand mixer and really scraping every drop of batter out of the bowl into a pan. Spatulas can do those jobs - but spoonulas just do it that much better.

                                                                                            2. re: Marusik

                                                                                              I also have to have lotion by the sink. I have dry hands, and I can't stand to wash my hands and not have lotion.

                                                                                              1. re: Becca Porter

                                                                                                Oh wow, everyday now in the winter I am finding new cuts on my hands...ouchies.

                                                                                            3. re: topbanana

                                                                                              I think I am getting rid of the garlic press in this move. And the garlic peeler which I never use either!

                                                                                              1. re: melpy

                                                                                                I use my garlic peeler (the silicone tube type) all the time - a much-loved addition to my kitchen.

                                                                                                Busted my garlic press in a move 20+ years ago, never replaced it, and have never pined for another one. I have a knife, a microplane, and a mortar and pestle -- no reason to own a press.

                                                                                                1. re: melpy

                                                                                                  I've always hated my garlic press. I hate that thing! I hate using it, it doesn't work well when I do use it, and I hate cleaning it afterwards. I'm throwing it out.

                                                                                                  I always just use cut up fresh garlic anyway, or if I need it smooshed I've been buying these little frozen cubes from Trader Joes.

                                                                                                  1. re: khh1138

                                                                                                    <I've always hated my garlic press. I hate that thing! I hate using it, it doesn't work >

                                                                                                    Get yerself a microplane..stat! :D

                                                                                                    1. re: petek

                                                                                                      I love my microplane, but for minced garlic this little gadget is great. http://www.amazon.com/GARLIC-TWIST-CR...

                                                                                                      1. re: grampart

                                                                                                        petek and grampart, thanks for the recommendations! I'm getting both! They'll be gifts from the Great Pumpkin.

                                                                                                        1. re: petek

                                                                                                          I've had my pampered chef garlic press for years and love it. No need to peel the garlic beforehand, easy to use, and very sturdy.


                                                                                                  2. My Microplane grater--what a great gadget! I had been mostly using it for grating ginger and hard cheeses. But the other day I went to use my nutmeg grater, and it just fell apart in my hand. So I pulled out the Microplane grater and found it worked far better than the specialty one. Why didn't I try that before?

                                                                                                    I read an interesting article in the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/din... about the company that makes them. They thought they were in the business of making woodworking tools, until they realized that people were buying them to use in food prep. They were a little resistant to that at first--the head of the company actually called it a "personal disappointment"--but now culinary tools make up over half of their business. It's quite a versatile gadget--in fact, I saw a new use the other day. I was getting a pedicure, and the manicurist used one on the calluses on my feet! Who knew?

                                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                                                      Did you know there is a keychain size microplane? I keep mine stashed right inside my tin of nutmegs, and everyone who sees or uses this little kit demands one. Mess free, too.

                                                                                                      +1 on the immersion blender. I don't know how or why I cooked for 30+ years without one. Wait...did those even exist 30 years ago?

                                                                                                      1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                                                        Yep, I love my microplane grater too.

                                                                                                        1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                                                          I've often thought the Microplane would be great on feet. I have one of those egg-shaped foot implements and it looks like the Microplane. No, I've never actually used my Microplane on my feet.

                                                                                                            1. re: dmjordan

                                                                                                              It worked pretty well on mine--but if I decide to do it myself, I'll get a new one just for that purpose, I promise.

                                                                                                              1. re: dmjordan

                                                                                                                In the NY Times article MsMaryMc posted, at the end, it mentions that Microplane made a product specifically for grating callouses on the feet, I'm guessing it's probably the Ped-Egg. I have one too and they work great.

                                                                                                                1. re: amitys

                                                                                                                  We used to have those on the checkout counter at the Kitchen store I worked at. For me was something about foot scrapers and cooking utensils next to one another that I found really gross.

                                                                                                                  1. re: escondido123

                                                                                                                    not if they haven't been used....they're both just formed bits of metal until they've been used.....

                                                                                                                    because let's be realistic -- a microplane for zesting lemons, a microplane for woodworking, and a microplane for removing callouses is all *exactly* the same piece of metal, just with different packaging.

                                                                                                                    (although I'll concede that it's weird to sell a personal-care item at a kitchen store)

                                                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                      I know they're the same thing, but I really don't want to be thinking about the one while using the other--but then I find foot care to be a very personal thing.

                                                                                                                  2. re: amitys

                                                                                                                    No, somebody else makes that. This is a genuine microplane.

                                                                                                                2. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                                                                  another voice for the microplane -- I couldn't find my "official" nutmeg grater last night and grabbed the microplane - -shazam. I may not bother to look for the stupid grater any more....

                                                                                                                  ..and may put the little one on my Christmas list.

                                                                                                                  I used it for garlic one night, too -- yep, getting rid of my garlic grater, too (I hate unitaskers -- and the microplane rules as a multitasker!)

                                                                                                                3. +1 for the microplane. I also have lemon jucier I like. It one of the kind sold South of the boarder where the fruit is squeezed nutcraker stlye to extract the juice (kind of like a big garlic press). Quick, easy and efficient.

                                                                                                                  1. Agree with all that's been mentioned, but have 2 more:
                                                                                                                    1. instant read thermometer--what an improvement!
                                                                                                                    2. Craftsman "Baby Boa Constrictor"--technically not a kitchen gadget, but like the woodworker's microplane that became a kitchen go-to, so is the boa. Tight the strap around an impossible to open jar, brace the teeth again the lid and pop goes the lid. A godsend with my arthritis.

                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                      Yes! LOVE my instant read thermometer! And I never heard of the Baby Boa, my mom doesn't have arthritis, but she's getting up there and might appreciate this, Thanks so much for the heads up!

                                                                                                                      1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                        Yeah, Mr. Pine had to buy a 2nd one for his workshop, 'cause I appropriated it for the kitchen. Works like a charm.

                                                                                                                        1. re: pine time

                                                                                                                          Belated P.S. The baby boa is really called a strap wrench, per Mr. Pine, who wonders where his migrated to.

                                                                                                                    2. Pastry bag and tips... once I discovered how useful they are, I never looked back. How easy it is now to fill donuts, pastry, manicotti, to frost cakes, decorate cookies, pipe whipped potatoes, I could go on.
                                                                                                                      I feel like this made my cooking more "professional" almost immediately.

                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                      1. re: iluvcookies

                                                                                                                        I learned via another thread to use a pastry tip as a cherry pitter. Hold it, star tip up, flat against the counter, or over an empty small-mouthed bottle, and press the cherry onto it. I hate unitaskers so never would buy a cherry pitter.

                                                                                                                        I use a vegetable peeler to make curls or thin strips from the length of a chilled stick of butter.

                                                                                                                        1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                          try a paper clip.

                                                                                                                          I finally broke down and bought a cherry pitter because it gets nearly constant use at my house in the summer.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                            A cherry pitter can also be used as an olive pitter..or are they really the same thing?

                                                                                                                      2. I have to add another one.


                                                                                                                        1. I love my new Swing-A-Way can opener with the extra crank. It takes up more room in the drawer, but is so easy to use!

                                                                                                                          1. Meat probe and this little garlic chopper that I call the baby carrage- you put the garlic in and roll it on the counret and the wheels spin and rotate the blades. Invaluable.

                                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                                            1. re: suzigirl

                                                                                                                              I believe that's called the Chef'n Zoom or something like that. It's the best way to finely chop garlic I've ever used. When I want more pasty garlic I use the microplane as well.

                                                                                                                            2. My biggest kitchen epiphany is Japanese knives. Outperformed everything that I had used prior and made me rethink my knife beliefs.

                                                                                                                              7 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: JavaBean

                                                                                                                                Second. My carbon steel women's (small size) santoku and my enameled cast iron pot are tied. John Thorne's essay "My Knife, My Pot" (from Pot on the Fire) was the inspiration, and it's amazing how much you can do with one good knife and one good pot!

                                                                                                                                1. re: JavaBean

                                                                                                                                  JavaBean and Sarah - what brand of Japanese knives?

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Ummm

                                                                                                                                    Hi.  There are tons of great brands, but it's tough to name particular brands without knowing your budget, preferences, etc.  I prefer carbons myself, but I don't mind their additional care requirements.

                                                                                                                                    In general, something like a Tojiro DP is a great first jknife...stainless steel blade, inexpensive and provides a taste of what jknives are about.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Ummm

                                                                                                                                      I don't know the brand of mine - it was a gift.

                                                                                                                                    2. re: JavaBean

                                                                                                                                      +1, Totally agree. When started using a 7" Japanese Santoku J. A. Henckels knife I stopped using others. Grab multiple times a day. It works incredible. Santoku knifes works faster and better than any knife I've ever used. Often surprises me how much better it is than anything else. Did not even know what it is called until did some research. The word Santoku refers to the three cutting tasks which the knife performs well: slicing, dicing, and mincing.

                                                                                                                                      Bought because saw so many chefs on TV using them. The 7" Henckles knife works great for me. And it is an inexpensive knife do not exactly recall where I got, think probably Bi-Mart, but remember it was about $12 (check out the reviews at this link):

                                                                                                                                      Recently saw the same as part of a two piece set at Bed Bath and Beyond for $22:

                                                                                                                                      Will get the two piece set for a second 7" and also want to try the 5". The 7" is my go to knife. Like it so much I want to have two (to minimize washing when preparing a meal). Used to most often grab a same-line similar 8" J. A. Henckels chefs knife (but that one has seen daylight in years). The funny thing is bought the 8" and the 7" Santoku at the same time. Did not use the 7" Santoku for over a year, but once I did almost never put it down. Looks thick and usually go for thin knives, but find cutting thin slices of tomato or cheese or anything else it works fabulous. Better than anything I've ever had.

                                                                                                                                      I keep my knifes sharp with a round chain saw file nearly every use (every other use minimum). Have had it many years and still is razor sharp. It wears very well. Can hardly tell has been sharpened so much.

                                                                                                                                      The next step up from J. A. Henckels would be:

                                                                                                                                      And above that possibly is the Henckels Professional "S" knifes:

                                                                                                                                      Here is some background on Santoku I found after loving it so much:

                                                                                                                                      You will not go wrong with the most inexpensive J. A. Henckels 7" Santoku. It works surprisingly well. I've had and used lots of knifes through the years and this is my favorite ever by far.

                                                                                                                                    3. 1975, give or take a few months: The Cuisinart with the on/off switch controlled by turning the lid. Still have it, still use it occasionally (been replaced by a larger Cuisinart a couple of years ago).

                                                                                                                                      1. Well, many tools have given me the 'A Ha' moment, but some have more so than others. Probably by far the most profound ones are:

                                                                                                                                        A carbon steel wok
                                                                                                                                        A Calphalon cast iron skillet
                                                                                                                                        A sharpening waterstone (my first one).
                                                                                                                                        A Tojiro VG-10 gyuto
                                                                                                                                        A CCK Chinese thin cleaver
                                                                                                                                        An Aogami Tanaka nakiri
                                                                                                                                        A Debuyer carbon steel pan
                                                                                                                                        A Microplane-like grater (not exactly under Microplane brand, but the same design)

                                                                                                                                        11 Replies
                                                                                                                                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                          Chemicalkinetics..... You're a man after my own heart. The only difference is that I like my Takeda knives. They have some wabi to them.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: wabi

                                                                                                                                            :) Thanks. Yeah, I think I would like a Takeda knife too, which one did you get? In reality, my highest quality knife is probably my Watanabe Nakiri, but it wasn't the knife which gave me the biggest "A Ha" moment. Let me explain. My Tojiro VG-10 gyuto gave me the "A Ha" moment because it was such a good knife AND it was much cheaper than a Wusthof or a Henckels. My CCK knife pleasantly surprised me because it easily sliced through food due to its incredibly thin blade. The Tanaka Aogami nakiri is my very first Aogami knife. I was blown away by the quality of a Aogami steel. It took an edge that no other knives of mine at the time could. Later I bought the Watanabe Aogami nakiri which is even better. However, the mariginal improvement was somewhat expected, so it did not give me that "Wow" or "A ha" moment.

                                                                                                                                            Yes, Wabi knife for Wabi :)

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                              The Takedas are a bad habit. I have a Deba, a Guyoto, a Funayuki Bocho, and a petty knife. Each one is an absolute joy to use. They cut like Jedi light sabers. I want a Mioroshi Bocho to round out the collection.....

                                                                                                                                              1. re: wabi

                                                                                                                                                "The Takedas are a bad habit."

                                                                                                                                                that's a nice addiction..I mean collection you got there :D

                                                                                                                                                I guess it's true what they say.."once you go Takeda,you never go back"

                                                                                                                                                1. re: petek

                                                                                                                                                  <once you go Takeda,you never go back>

                                                                                                                                                  I don't think neither of us have started on Takeda yet. I do love the Kurouchi finish from Takeda, Tanaka and Moritaka. Like Wabi said, they are "Wabi"


                                                                                                                                                2. re: wabi

                                                                                                                                                  <I have a Deba, a Guyoto, a Funayuki Bocho, and a petty knife>

                                                                                                                                                  Awesome. I really should get a Takeda. I love the kurouchi finish, and Takeda is definitely one of the best knife makers in this field. Am I correct that his Funayuki is very much like a typical Santoku?

                                                                                                                                                  <They cut like Jedi light sabers>

                                                                                                                                                  You should know that I am a Sith, Darth Revan (see my icon photo). :D

                                                                                                                                                3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                                  Hmm I didn't know about Takeda, but they are actually pretty close to where I live, maybe a 10 minute train ride, and I was looking at their knives at one of the markets here, my fiancee is probably going to buy one of his smaller knives as she complains mine are too large.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TeRReT

                                                                                                                                                    From the American perspective, Takeda is considered one of the better rustic Japanese knife makers. Beautiful kurouchi (black) finish with Super Aogami steel. Does your fiancee care for carbon steel knives? I don't think Takeda makes stainless steel knives.

                                                                                                                                                    Quote from one of the old timers. Second poster on the link:

                                                                                                                                                    "BAck when I started on these forums (I think thats close to9 -10 years ago...?) there were 3 artisinal craftsmen...Carter, Takeda & Watanabe."


                                                                                                                                                    I am sure Takeda is very good. No question about it, but it is very likely that there are a few other Japanese knife makers who are equally talented and equally famous in Japan -- but may not be as well known to people outside of Japan. You are in a lucky situation where you can get knives made by locally respected knife makers.

                                                                                                                                                    Some knife makers are simply more famous. Let's look no further than Bob Kramer. No question that he is very good. He is probably 100X more famous than Murray Carter. Conversely, I am sure there are other Japanese knife markers who are just as good as Takeda.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                                      Yeah its just interesting, I didn't know any of the local knifemakers, I thought most were near Kyoto or Tokyo, and then i saw Takeda is in Niimi which is right beside me and I see their knives at all the markets here. I think they even have a workshop, and I might be able to make something there. My fiancee said she is buying a knife but I am not allowed to, no fair :P

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: TeRReT

                                                                                                                                                        Yes, the Takeda we are talking about is from Niimi. That being said, just so you know, Takeda is a big last name. By which, I mean it is a last name which many people have. :D

                                                                                                                                                        <and I might be able to make something there>

                                                                                                                                                        What do you want to make in their workshop?

                                                                                                                                                        <My fiancee said she is buying a knife but I am not allowed to, no fair :P>

                                                                                                                                                        I told you before, and I am telling you again. :) Take a little notebook and start keep score. :P

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                                    I don't know why I was resistant to this for so long, but after reading so many posts about the Tojiro VG-10 gyuto, I finally sprang for the 240mmm as my first japanese knife. Up until now I've been mostly relying on my 10 in. Victorionix, which has actually served my quite well, but I figured it was long past time that I tried a japanese chef's knife. (And it wasn't the money, I've spent a lot of money on kitchen equipment over the years, and because I'm both a passionate cook AND baker, I have a LOT of stuff.)

                                                                                                                                                    Well, so far, I absolutely love it. It was the perfect length for me, it feels great in my hand, and it's just a delightful tool to use. I'm really glad I finally made the leap. (Why did I wait so long?)

                                                                                                                                              2. I have been canning and pickling for over twenty years. It wasn't until last year that a friend came over to do a fifty pound project and brought a new gadget I'd never seen before...the magnetic canning lid lifter. I know it seems like a small thing, but after years of grabbing lids out of boiling water with tongs? It was one of those..."How have I never seen this before?!?" moments.

                                                                                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: Lauriero

                                                                                                                                                  Aren't those great? Such a simple thing and yet it makes the process SO much smoother.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: flourgirl

                                                                                                                                                    I knooooowwwww!!! My husband was like, can't you just tape a magnet onto a chopstick? He got me one for a stocking stuffer last Christmas though. So cheap and soooo useful.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Lauriero

                                                                                                                                                      My husband discovered mine for retrieving metal things that fell down the garbage disposal--now he's a fan, too.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Lauriero

                                                                                                                                                    We just used these for the first time this summer/fall too! Also, for the first time we had a funnel for the jars...THAT changed our canning drastically - way less clean up!

                                                                                                                                                  3. I have a couple of different Microplanes. They are great for nutmeg, Parmesan, zesting citrus, and mincing garlic.

                                                                                                                                                    1. A large, sturdy silicon spoonula. What an improvement over a rubber spatula, and over most cooking spoons. I use it whenever I'm mixing ingredients thoroughly because it seems to get the job done in half the time _and_ cleans the bowl out thoroughly when ingredients are transferred, and it can be used with hot ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                      One fewer tool needed, easier cleaning of bowls and pans after use, and less waste. Love it!

                                                                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                      1. re: ellabee

                                                                                                                                                        +1. Love the silicon spoonula.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                          +1 more--nothing like it for stirring preserves, caramel, and other things that tend to stick while cooking. I never have that problem anymore.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                                                                                                            +1, have six that are heat resistant. Love them. Use daily. Better than anything for what they do.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                                                                                                              I used my silicon spatula for baking - have different sizes. Nothing is best at getting out every single drop of batter.

                                                                                                                                                        2. Japanese knives(especially Konosuke)
                                                                                                                                                          deBuyer carbon steel pans
                                                                                                                                                          Kun Rikon veg peeler
                                                                                                                                                          Thermapen instant read thermometer

                                                                                                                                                          8 Replies
                                                                                                                                                          1. re: petek

                                                                                                                                                            I don't know how I cooked before the Thermapen.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: wabi

                                                                                                                                                              Everyone at work looks at me like I'm crazy when I tell em I spent $70.00 on it,but they all ask to borrow it eventually.. :)

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: petek

                                                                                                                                                                Dudes (you and wabi),

                                                                                                                                                                I don't get the big deals with Thermapen. Anyway. :P

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                                                  <I don't get the big deals with Thermapen>

                                                                                                                                                                  Have you tried one??

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: petek

                                                                                                                                                                    <Have you tried one??>

                                                                                                                                                                    No, but I cannot imagine what I will do with it. Currently, I use the sound of water as my gauge.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                                                                                                      <I use the sound of water as my gauge.>

                                                                                                                                                                  2. re: Chemicalkinetics


                                                                                                                                                                    I have both a Thermapen and Delta Track. If you can wait an extra 2-3 seconds (over the Thermapen) the Delta Track is a lower cost alternative to a Thermapen at 1/5th the price.

                                                                                                                                                                    I have model 11066 which has a cover with a magnet, so it stays on the fridge at home or in my sleeve pocket at work.

                                                                                                                                                                    I prefer using the Delta Track because (while working) it can fit in my Chef's coat sleeve pocket while the Thermapen is too bulky to be carried in one's pockets.

                                                                                                                                                                    My Thermapen had to be returned for servicing twice in about 5 years which adds to the cost of ownership.

                                                                                                                                                                    The Delta Track models are pretty rugged and designed for commercial use. My son left his out overnight in a rain storm and it still works fine.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: bbqJohn

                                                                                                                                                                      <the Thermapen is too bulky to be carried in one's pockets.>

                                                                                                                                                                      Buy a pair of Dikies with the side pocket..problem solved :)

                                                                                                                                                            2. My most recent one was my KitchenAid stand mixer, which I've been using my whole life, but only last weekend did I learn that it can be used to shred hot poached chicken (for use in enchiladas, for example). This totally blew my mind!

                                                                                                                                                              11 Replies
                                                                                                                                                              1. re: aching

                                                                                                                                                                humm did you see this on Pinterest too?

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: snax

                                                                                                                                                                  Yes! But I didn't believe it until I tried it.

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: aching

                                                                                                                                                                  I love this trick...every Friday night I pull out my KitchenAid for taco night

                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                                                                    Wait - what attachment do you use - the dough hook, or the spade-shaped thing? I need to try this as soon as possible!

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: NonnieMuss

                                                                                                                                                                      4 plastic bladed attachement I think.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: aching

                                                                                                                                                                          I guess we used the thick wire whip attachement the first time, I can't recall. We tried it again two days ago and let if run a little longer (I assume) because it completely schredded the chicken, like almost to mush.

                                                                                                                                                                    2. re: aching

                                                                                                                                                                      Based on this thread, I did this last night and it was awesome. I hate waiting for the chicken enough to cool to shred but not so cool that shredding is made more difficult.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Dax

                                                                                                                                                                        Isn't it the best trick? I love it.

                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: aching

                                                                                                                                                                        Would this work for pulled pork, do you think? We often do a Boston Butt slow cooked on the Big Green Egg, and by the time we shred the whole thing with forks we are almost too tired to eat.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: khh1138

                                                                                                                                                                          I don't see why not - definitely worth a try!

                                                                                                                                                                      3. Bamboo tongs for pulling out hot toast. They're pretty stiff so seemed more annoying than useful...then I moved my fingers closer to the tips (DUH) and they worked perfectly.

                                                                                                                                                                        1. Great topic!

                                                                                                                                                                          In order of discovery:
                                                                                                                                                                          Toaster oven. Who knew you could do so much in such a small box. You really *could* bake in it. I use it far more than the "big oven."

                                                                                                                                                                          Microwave. While I had a microwave in the mid 80's I primarily used it as most people did...pop corn and warming leftovers. Then in about 1986 or so, a friend of mine enlightened me. She was a good cook with a husband, four kids, and a life. She was an early adopter of actually cooking in her mw. Defrosting, veggies, fish, and a few other things. She also taught me what *not* to nuke. I'd be hard pressed to be without one.

                                                                                                                                                                          "Good" sharp knives. Mom always had the "sharp knives" in the holder attached to the side of the the kitchen cabinet. These were strictly *off limits* to the crumb snatchers. Years later when I was "allowed" to use one I was surprised to find how dull they were. MIL's are just as bad. (The glass cutting board doesn't help.) My first experience with a Henkels chef's knife was a real eye-opener.

                                                                                                                                                                          Instant read thermometer: I started with a dial type stolen from my air conditioning/refrigeration tool box. While Santa gifted me with a Thermapen few Xmases back, this CDN works just as fast for about 1/5 the price: http://www.amazon.com/CDN-DTQ450X-Pro... I also have a Delta Tak which I like because it can be run thru the dishwasher and the "hold" feature will tell you how hot the water was.

                                                                                                                                                                          Ceramic mandoline...this one: http://www.amazon.com/Kyocera-CSN-202... in black. I had tried a couple (fairly expensive) of steel-bladed models and wasn't impressed. This one is fantastic and for less than 25 bucks. It has only four settings, but they are fine for my purposes. I have sold at least five more people on this. They saw mine and then went out and bought one.

                                                                                                                                                                          Pressure cooker. When I told Mom I bought one about five years ago she said, "What took you so long?" I never knew how useful they are. No, I don't use it every day, but there are many times it is indispensable.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. Can't live without:
                                                                                                                                                                            -KA stand mixer (w/ attachments, of course)
                                                                                                                                                                            -John Boos Aztec Board (solved the never-ending issue with juices from well-rested lamb, turkey, prime rib etc. overflowing the well of my cutting board and getting all over the counters and floors)
                                                                                                                                                                            -Probe thermometers - how did we ever get by without them?
                                                                                                                                                                            -Electric ebelskiver maker. Most awesome breakfasts. EVER.
                                                                                                                                                                            -Refrigerator with a expedited defrosting bin. No more forgetting to move proteins from the sink to the fridge and throwing out expensive cuts of meat the next morning when you discover the error.
                                                                                                                                                                            -Not really "kitchen" per se, but my BBQ Guru w/ wifi. You mean to tell me that I don't have to babysit my smoker for 20 hours in order to maintain temperature? That I can just hook this thing up and it will modulate it all for me? And that I can check and/or adjust the current conditions of the smoker at any time from anywhere on earth via the internet? HELL YEAH!
                                                                                                                                                                            -Zojirushi rice maker. I always mocked people who would spend hundreds of dollars on something that does nothing but make rice. Then I got a wild hair one day and bought one, figuring I'd return it after a dinner party I was having. Now I wonder how I ever lived without it. Surprisingly versatile (porridges, cakes, different settings for different rices, etc.). Keeps rice warm and moist and perfect for more than 24 hours. It's earned a place of honour in my kitchen.
                                                                                                                                                                            -My knives. I'm such a knife snob that I travel with them when going to mates' houses for pot lucks or the like. A life without my Kasumi Titaniums, my Shuns, my Wusthof's, etc. is a life not worth living.

                                                                                                                                                                            Things that had a more profound impact on my time in the kitchen than I would have imagined:
                                                                                                                                                                            -OXO Good Grips Mango Slicer
                                                                                                                                                                            -Garlic peel remover (I laughed at this thing in the store...then I was given one and tried it.....)
                                                                                                                                                                            -Vac-U-Box. I don't even know if these things are made anymore. But if they are, everyone needs to buy one. They, quite literally, TRIPLE the amount of time my bread products stay fresh. I like it so much that I bought 6 extras and have them stored in my garage for when they break.
                                                                                                                                                                            -Whynter ice cream maker w/ built in compressor. No more freezing bowls for 24 hours and getting inconsistent results. We eat a lot more ice cream and gelato these days (I'm not 100% sure this is a good thing, but whatever, it's certainly delicious)
                                                                                                                                                                            -Ball Jam Maker. Newer product, just recently got one. Is it necessary? No, but it does exactly what it says it will do - makes absolutely flawless jams and jellies, every time
                                                                                                                                                                            -Breville Smart Oven. My big complaint with all toaster ovens was that they sucked at, you know, making toast. This one does everything I'd ever want and much more.
                                                                                                                                                                            -Sous Vide. I love being able to throw a couple fantastic pieces of salmon with herbs and butter into a device before I start work in the morning, and come home in the evening to a fantastic perfectly cooked meal already finished.

                                                                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Quintious

                                                                                                                                                                              I'd second the Breville Smart Oven. Bought one this year and wish I would have years ago. I've always used a toaster oven, but this one doest everything excellent. We rarely use the "real" oven now.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Quintious

                                                                                                                                                                                These come in 3 sizes. I like Breville a lot. Which size do you have and/or recommend? The big looks very big for my kitchen space but I've heard it's the best.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: debbypo

                                                                                                                                                                                  I have a full-sized Breville and I love it. And the big size, for me, was a selling point, even though I don't have a lot of counter space. Many of my pans can fit inside of it, which means I often use it instead of my range oven, and it also gives me an extra oven when I'm cooking for the holidays etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: debbypo

                                                                                                                                                                                    Bigger is (almost) always better is my motto :)

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: debbypo

                                                                                                                                                                                      We also have the big one and we love it. That is the only one with a convection feature.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: debbypo

                                                                                                                                                                                        For anyone interested in a Smart Oven, it's the Home Woot of the day, almost half off.


                                                                                                                                                                                    2. My Thermapen thermometers. They have paid for themselves in the food I have not ruined. I use them for almost everything - shrimp, mahi mahi, burgers, steaks, chicken, turkey, meatloaf, marshmallows, almost everything...

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. The damp sponge! (hand-size). For wiping down surfaces between tasks. I'm a vegetarian so don't have the same issues as carnivores with bacteria, etc.

                                                                                                                                                                                        A quick swipe of the cutting board between slicing tasks (small bits swept directly into kitchen trash). A wipe (very carefully) of the knife edge when it gets sticky or icky. A wipe of the countertop if there's a spill or pieces of vegetables slide off. Quick cleanup of a minor wine or tea spill. Around the stovetop for minor splashes.

                                                                                                                                                                                        I do a rinse of the sponge periodically, also a "wash" with dish detergent. But in use, the sponge isn't soapy, just damp.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Actually I have to put a good word in for the toaster oven too. I'd never had one before my son's friend offered us an old one, and it's great. We used to use our oven/broiler for the simplest of tasks, like making a melted cheese sandwich or heating pastries! And it's a gas oven with an electric igniter of a kind that eventually fails after X number of lights, with concomitant replacement expense.

                                                                                                                                                                                          So the toaster oven takes care of a lot of these tasks and allows us to save the oven for when we really need it.

                                                                                                                                                                                          1. My Potato Ricer: it gets me super smooth mashed potatoes in less time than actual mashing. Also, it's a lot quicker and easier than using a food mill for making gnocchi.

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. I got on a whim a formerly $300 electric soup maker/blender on closeout for what it really should have cost $50. I have found myself tossing scraps of a lot of things into a container rather then tossing them out like I would have in the past, and just dumping them into the soup maker. Easy cleanup, one device, if I do not like the "scrap soup" I have no qualms about tossing it out.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: exvaxman

                                                                                                                                                                                                that was termed "garbage soup" at my house -- as in "if it doesn't go into the soup, it goes in the garbage"

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. My MIL gave me a "Misto" (which is really kind of funny because she's from the South and uses a ton of oil/margarine/butter/Crisco to cook everything - she would never dream of using one). I filled it to use for most quick browning tasks and wound up using it for *months* before I had to refill it. It's stunning how much less oil I use because of this thing. I love it, I love it.
                                                                                                                                                                                                I've used olive oil sprays before (Trader Joe's has one) but I swear I could always taste the accelerant (or something). Anyway, this just tastes like whatever nice oil I put in it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: khh1138

                                                                                                                                                                                                  That's why I love my pump sprayer, too. No funny flavors, just clean oil.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: khh1138

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Okay, you've convinced me. Somebody just gave me an Amazon gift card, and I used it to buy two of these--one for olive oil and one for a more neutral vegetable oil. I've been thinking about it for a while--not fond of the propellants and gunk in Pam--but I had heard complaints that other refillable sprayers tended to leak. I'll look forward to trying these!

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. - microplane
                                                                                                                                                                                                      - Shun santoku
                                                                                                                                                                                                      - citrus press
                                                                                                                                                                                                      - immersion blender
                                                                                                                                                                                                      - Breville Smart Oven
                                                                                                                                                                                                      - cast iron skillet

                                                                                                                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                        After reading past posts about the Breville Smart Oven, I have cleared off a space on my countertop to accommodate one. Now I'm waiting for a good sale. I got the BBB coupon yesterday in the mail for 20% off, so that may be my best bet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: jmcarthur8

                                                                                                                                                                                                          you won't regret it - best $200 i ever spent on a kitchen appliance. and yes, get it at BBB, because you won't find a better price or a better *return policy* anywhere, and as much as i love mine, apparently there are some lemons out there and you should have the option to exchange it if something goes wrong.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Update with a happy dance accompaniment ...I got my Breville Smart Oven a few weeks ago and love it! I have used it for toast, pizza, brownies, bacon, frittata, rib roast ....
                                                                                                                                                                                                            This is the first countertop oven I've ever had and it really lives up to its reputation.
                                                                                                                                                                                                            Thanks to all who recommended it!

                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Cast iron pans & dutch oven. Great to brown. Oven safe. Work great on an open fire outside. Last forever with good care. Easy to clean when seasoned with no soap 'a ha'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Teflon pans (or other non-stick pans, now Teflon is no longer going to be made). Great for omelets. Supreme for low fat or no oil cooking. Example: toasting sesame seeds. Like to use camping / fishing as can minimize what bring. Easy to clean 'a ha'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Flexible cutting boards made of thin bendable plastic in various colors. Cut it up then easy to swipe into or on. Can bend them to poor powdered or finely chopped things into small container tops without a funnel 'a ha'. Inexpensive so have many. Can cut through them with a sharp knife if try so don't do that. At Bed, Bath, and Beyond package of 4 is $7: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/produ...

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Hand graters. Ekco makes a good one can get at Bi-Mart for about $3 that works great. Easy to use and clean. Is a medium grate and use often, smaller grate than my box grater. Now only use my box grater for carrots to contain them from flying all over. Hand graters are easier to clean 'a ha'. Also have a fine hand grater I recently got that is a step above a micro plane. Is curved and I like it very much. Easy to use / clean. Makes a little cheese go a long way and gets the most out of its flavor in something like tacos. First time used the fine grater surprised with an 'a ha' moment when used half as much cheese as normally do (recently bought my fine hand grater that is curved it at Winco for about $2.50).

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Egg slicers. Often under $4. Ekco makes one. Nothing makes little perfect cubes of egg all the same size like one of these 'a ha'. Example: like when putting egg in potato salad to add protein and flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Hand peelers. Nothing like them for what they do. My Ekco peeler is the one I grab most often to take the skin off of potatoes, cucumbers, carrots, ...

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Drip coffee maker. So easy to use with great results.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Coffee grinder. Beans ground at home fresh make great coffee 'a ha'. Instant does not compare. And the sound a coffee grinder makes helps wake me up in the morning when have coffee once or twice a week (when someone else in the house makes coffee and hear the sound is a reason to get up).

                                                                                                                                                                                                        If cooking for a crowd or want to make wavy slices of things a Salad Shooter with a bunch of different blades rocks 'a ha'. Can buy cheese in bulk and grate fast and easy with minimal clean up. Can grate my own hash browns out of potatoes fresh for a fraction of the price. Can make my own wavy slices of cucumbers for pickles or pickled beets. Does some things better than anything else 'a ha'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        A steamer juicer. Put a little water in it and get it boiling. Then can put fruit like concord grapes with skins and seeds and out comes awesome grape juice that tastes like Welches and makes great wine 'a ha'. Easily separates juice from skins, seeds, pulp. Plums, prunes, cherries, apples when on the tree and want to juice them it is what I grab. Also works good for apricots to make nectar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Vacuum sealer. Can buy in bulk. Keeps things in the freezer longer 'a ha'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Have a metal mixing bowl that is used almost daily. Hand wash and does not break 'a ha'. Can heat things on the stove. Example: when rise pizza dough can use as the lid on the sauce pan 'a ha'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Pizza stone. I now cook my thin crust on both sides before top and cook again 'a ha'. Makes the best think crispy pizza crust I've ever had 'a ha' (I like it to be almost like a cracker thin and crispy with tons of toppings).

                                                                                                                                                                                                        +1, Immersion Blender. Nothing better for making home-made mayo 'a ha' (I used to use a glass Coke cup, about 32 oz, that is narrow at the bottom and wider on top). Then got a Cuisinart 'Smart Stick' two speed as a gift as wanted the cup that comes with it then found I use the whisk and chopper attachment that comes with it all the time 'a ha'. Check out this video on how to make mayo 'a ha': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gz0fLT... Also for blending or partially blending hot soups 'a ha'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: smaki

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for including the YouTube video - I've never seen the method of using an immersion blender for mayo. It looks so much easier than slowly adding the oil into a blender. With our last, and first, batch of mayo, we broken the emulsion and had an oily mess, luckily we salvaged it - but it took a super long time!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          You might have just saved us hours :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: melval

                                                                                                                                                                                                            melval, you are welcome. That video got me making mayo with better oils. Gain taste with health beyond what get from any 'jar' from a store (mostly in 30oz plastic now leaching chemicals and sad unable to re-use pickling as used to). More thoughts with info shared on making homemade mayonnaise is at:


                                                                                                                                                                                                            Nice job on salvaging the mess. In the video Alten Brown Good Eats Mayo Clinic after making Party Mayonnaise the host explains when mayo 'breaks' to fix starting over with a new emulsion by hand whisk. NOTE: I've successfully used the whisk attachment on my "smart stick" or "hand blender" as like power tools instead of making my arm sore. Due to copywrite by Food Network it is now VERY hard to find their video online - media has been removed from Food Network and Good Eats websites when it used to be there => and YouTube accounts that had posted the video online are now deleted. Anyway, for anyone who doesn't know the process to 'fix' mayo when 'breaks', put an egg yolk in an empty bowl and begin to whisk until frothy. Add a very little, especially at first, of the broken mayo mess then whisk until you see a new emulsion going. Add a little more of the 'broken' mayo and whisk again. Repeat. To be clear, add a little at first and whisk, then can gradually add more and more whisking in between. Is how I fix mayo when 'breaks' - no reason to toss. Here is the transcript as unable to find the video online at this time - For more broken homemade mayonnaise info check out SCENE 6 at:


                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. KitchenAid - of course, it's a useful staple in my kitchen however it has become most handy on taco night when I need to shred a good amount of chicken. Poach chicken breasts, add to mixer, turn on medium-high (beware flying chicken pieces) for a minute or so and a bowl full of beautiful shredded chicken.

                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Hmmmm, like you, I love gadgets and tools. At any moment my favorite is probably the one I just used! But one that I would prefer to not live without is my mini food processor/chopper. I love that thing! For garlic, herbs, dried porcini muchrooms, shallots, hard cheese... It's so much nicer than dragging out the big guy, takes 2 seconds to clean and only uses about 4 inches on my countertop.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Most of the time iI just chop by hand, but for soups and casseroles and stuff, it's great to just zip through it in a few seconds!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Jaz Cooks

                                                                                                                                                                                                              A friend went on vacation in Alaska and brought me back an ulu knife. At first I thought, hmmm, whatever...but I've found that it's GREAT for chopping fresh herbs!

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                OH! I want one! I guess I need to go to Alaska!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Jaz Cooks

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It's a lovely place to visit, but you can buy an ulu in the lower 48. Amazon has several models. I don't know if the special bowl/cutting board is actually useful--I use mine on a normal cutting board.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: MsMaryMc

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Wouldn't a mezzaluna be better for chopping herbs? With the handles at both ends? Less wear and tear on your wrists?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: pdxgastro

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I haven't used a mezzaluna, but I don't feel especially fatigued using the ulu. It's pretty easy to roll back and forth one-handed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Late to the party, but my most recent "Aha!" moment was with dedicating one pan exclusively to omelets and crepes, and never washing it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Not a tool per se, more of a technique, was using two metal bowls to peel a boat load of garlic. Changed my life!


                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. There are two. I have a smooth edge can opener from pampered chef that is fantastic. Works like a charm, no sharp edges, and if you don't use the whole can, the lid fits pretty securely back on, so the can stores in fridge pretty well (but beware, really looks like the can hasn't been opened).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The other was a food mill, for processing large amounts of tomatoes from my garden, for making hot sauces, fruit sauce, and for making mashed potatoes, and all without ever having to peel or de-seed a darned thing!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. I recently purchased the OXO Grips turners: in large, medium, and small, because I wanted to replace some generic plastic turners that were getting a bit dodgy. Well! I absolutely love the OXO small one for nearly everything because of it's size, and it works for turning scrambled eggs perfectly. I had been using a silicon spatula, but the angle and flat surface of this turner has me hooked! It works well for sliders too. I use carbon steel pans and these turners can take the heat.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. I absolutely love my KA mixer, but recently I had an "a ha" moment with a super simple tool: our stainless steel handled, silicone spoon. I never thought there was any advantage for this over a wooden spoon, but when I was melting chocolate in a double boiler the other day I realized how valuable this was to stir and scrape at the same time - no reason to dirty a spatula :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. I saw pictures of an angel food pan being used to stuff sausage casings. Washed casings loaded onto the tube. One person held the pan upside down while the other forced handfuls of meat through the wider bottom opening. It could be a one-man job if you set the inverted pan (or just the tube insert if you have a 2-piece pan) atop a plastic milk crate that is turned on its side. Good multi-tasking alternative for people who don't make sausage often enough to merit buying special equipment..

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I like the looks of the square ladle Martha Stewart uses in her current PBS series. It looks like it gets every drop out of a pot, and is better for skimming than a round ladle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: greygarious

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I saw your post about the ladle, checked it out and immediately ordered one. It just came in and I LOVE it! Thank you so much for bringing this to our attention!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. My ulu chopper from Alaska. Best thing ever for chopping up a big bunch of herbs or whatever needs to be really finely chopped. Comes with a wooden block with a scooped out section that exactly fits the knife.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. My Hobart A-120 12qt mixer. Now I can make 8 pumpkin pies at once. Thank you Craigslist for this find for $295

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Another CL find was my barely used 3 year old Kenmore Elite 30" double convection oven for $100. Now my pies, and breads turn out great with no worries about burning.