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Dec 15, 2013 06:23 AM

The best cooking tools and tips you discovered in 2013

Thanks to a post here on CH, I recently discovered this handy-dandy cooking tool called the Chopstir. I use it when I'm browning ground beef for sauce and ground turkey for chili, and also for crushing tomatoes. I like it so much, I'd call it my "kitchen find of the year."

What tools or tips have you discovered recently that's made cooking easier, more enjoyable or more efficient?

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  1. My Bradley smoker!!!!! How did we ever get along without being able to easily smoke meats and other things at home?

    1. I have a chop stir too that I really dig. :) My new-to-me finds were an immersion blender, and a pastry blender.

      I also learned how to make creme fraiche and discovered the awesomeness of pan sauces so that's cool.

      1 Reply
      1. re: WishyFish

        "...discovered the awesomeness of pan sauces..." That's high on my to-do list. Oh, I've made pan sauces by deglazing the pan with wine and adding butter, but I want to learn how to make and use demi-glace. I made an incredibly rich veal stock over the weekend, and I think that's a good base. Now I need to do some demi-glace research.

      2. Super simple - my kitchen shears! I didn't realize their full capabilities until this year and now I use them for nearly everything.

        1. Food saver. Wasted a lot less of some foods. Need to figure out how to deal with so much lettuce from CSA.

          My mason jar of pork fat. Rendering fats from pieces of meat with excess and then saving for later uses. Also saving bacon fat.

          Using the slow cooker for stock and letting it go for a longer time for gelatin

          Using a dish rag instead for sponges, less waste.

          Cushioned mat at my prep island saves my back.

          Using food processor to make pasta dough instead of old fashioned hand method.

          6 Replies
          1. re: melpy

            What brand food saver did you buy? I love buying in bulk and am tired of triple wrapping everything :) It might be dangerous for me to have a food saver but at least I have yet to give in to the chest freezer to accompany.

            Thanks for the reminder. I learned the greatness of homemade stock this year - simmered as you mention for a very long time to get thick gelatin. I often now drink a mug of broth with breakfast and crave soup. I don't think I'll be buying stock much anymore.

            1. re: fldhkybnva

              I think we actually got the food saver brand. It was being sold at target. We do not have a chest freezer. I have to use what is in the freezer each week. However, our freezer is pretty big.

              Probably will be breaking out the Food Saver tonight to break down some meat we bought this week.

              Apparently you can preshred and freeze zucchini for baked goods. I have two cups I should probably break out for muffins or bread.

              1. re: melpy

                I shred and freeze zucchini all the time, it works well.

                1. re: fldhkybnva

                  Do you just freeze it without blanching first?

                  And then do you add it to batter frozen, or thaw first?

                  Thanks in advance, I have 3 lbs. of zucchini in the fridge about to turn and no time to make zucchini bread today.

                  1. re: nothingswrong

                    I shoul dhave mentioned, I don't usually bake with it but use it mixed with ground turkey and to make zucchini butter. I just grate in the food processor and freeze in a tightly sealed bag. If I were baking with it, I'd think it'd be OK to add frozen unless you usually salt it to remove some of the water. Otherwise it should release the same amount of water into the batter. Have you tried zucchini butter? It's basically slow sauteed zucchini and it's surprisingly delicious, a great way to use up a lot of zucchini in case you run into another pile of it.

                    1. re: fldhkybnva

                      Not exactly, but I've made something similar by accident when trying to sauté a ton of shredded zucchini in a too-small skillet. I ended up just adding MORE water and letting it cook down, added some garlic and pepper, and spread on toasted French bread with some grated cheese.

                      I love shredded zucchini. I usually try and cook some of the liquid out in a pan, then season, and put in a quesadilla late at night. Mmm, quesadilla.

                      As to baking, I'll try throwing it in frozen sometime. I don't usually salt/squeeze the zucchini much since it adds a lot of moisture.

          2. This little beauty of an indoor grill:

            I've been wanting a little grill I could use indoors and get a real grill effect with meaning that the fat drips out between the grate and you get that high heat sear effect. I had previous tried the George Foreman type grills but not matter which brand I used, I hated that I was using high heat under non stick plates which would burn marinades and juices into the valleys between the ridges making them hard to clean unless you only cooked one around of food. With the Livart I can keep going and going if I have big parties to serve and just quickly brush off the char in between like on a real out door grill. There's also very little to no smoke.