Thursday, October 18, 2007

Favorite kitchen gadgets

I love kitchen gadgets and small appliances! I could spend hours in places like Williams Sonoma and, my fav, A Southern Season. However, a person does not need a lot of gadgets to be a great cook. Some gadgets are so specialized that they get used once in a blue moon. Think pasta maker or fondue pot. Other gadgets are items that no one ever needs, like the $130 cast iron, made-in-France, mussel pot I saw at A Southern Season.

Some gadgets are worth having. My ten favorite ones:

1. Microplane rasp -- Ditch the box grater for fine grating. This grater gives much more control and will prevent you from grating your fingers. I use it for cheese, chocolate, and zests.

2. Chinois -- This is the queen of strainers. It is a very fine mess sieve with a mortar to push the food through the fine mess. It is perfect for smooth soups and sauces.

3. Garlic press -- Buy a good quality one that will allow you to press the garlic with the skin on.

4. Pastry brush with acrylic bristles -- Easy to clean and no annoying bristles that shed. You need one.

5. Cuisinart automatic grind and brew coffee pot -- It makes morning so much more bearable. An evil boyfriend bought this for me. I ditched him but I never hated a man enough to return presents!

6. A saucepan with a spout for pouring -- I have on by Analon that has a spout on each side and a lid w/ holes for straining. It is very convenient.

7. An old cast iron skillet -- If you haven't inherited one from a grandmother or a great aunt, go to a thrift store and buy one. A cast iron skillet takes a good 30 years to be seasoned to a nice, slick, black surface that is non-stick. Cast iron does need to be looked after. It requires oiling and re-seasoning from time to time, but I love it. I only bought a non-cast iron skillet for cooking tomato and other acidic sauces. Apparently cast iron is not good for those flat glass, electric stove tops.

8. A tiny whisk -- It's perfect for whisking up a quick vinaigrette for one or two people.

9. Mandoline -- For those of us lacking the patience or fine motor skills to slice things very thinly, a mandoline is a savior. It takes up a lot of room, I don't use it that often, but when I need it, I love it.

10. Bread knife -- Not only is the serrated knife good for bread but it is also great for tomatoes or other soft fruits/vegs.

What do you have in your kitchen?


Anonymous said...

Fun post!

Let's see, I have a mini-size rubber spatula that, while not used often, is the perfect tool at times.

And now I know that I need a chinois, thank you. I recently strained a pound of pureed raspberries (for cheesecake) and was whining at the length of time it took to get the goo through my wimpy little wire strainer. Am betting I won't find one at Roses Dept. Store, huh?


Kelly said...

Lisa, you can get a chinois at I think that is where my sister-in-law bought the one she gave me.

Michael Bacon said...

Garlic presses are such funny devices -- they seem to inspire such different responses in people.

The WaPo did a review of all sorts of garlic gadgets here:

I have to say, I tend to agree with their synopsis. I've never met a garlic press that I would think twice about tossing in favor of my trusty Henckels. But some people just swear by them.

Kelly said...

Michael, one garlic thing I do not understand is the silicon tube that is supposed to be a garlic peeler. It just doesn't work for me, but my mother likes it.

Phil said...

2 pts. to Michael Bacon for beating me to the Washington Post link!

As a traveling gypsy who housesits instead of keeping a permanent residence, I've had to "pare down" (get it? Hahahaha) on my kitchen wares. I don't have a "just gadgets" list, but here are the items that I consider essential and happy-making.

1. Two stainless steel Chinese cleavers -- A No. 2 and a No. 4, each ~$11 in Chinatown, SFO. The blade on the No. 4 is ~7" long, and the "height" of the blade (edge to top) is about 3". The smaller cleaver substitutes for a santoku blade and also takes care of most of a chef's knife duties.

2. I seem to have lost my 7" utility knife. I should go buy one.

3. Sharpener for the above.

4. 2-qt. saucepan with a steamer. Perfect for re-heating many many foods, including rice.

Those are pretty much all I carry with me. Most kitchens I arrive at have basics, but I often wish for better versions of a few things: a medium non-stick skillet, a good cutting board, and large stockpot, and sometimes a large skillet. When I entertain these days, it's usually for just two or three.

Bassgurl7 said...

A zester that peels little curls of of citrus fruit. Also Kitchen tongs.

Varmint said...

1. Shun Chef's knife
2. Sani-Tuff cutting board. These rubber cutting boards are heavy, but they're the best (and very knife friendly).
3. French press for coffee. Without this, everything else would be useless!!!
4. Microplanes. The single best gadget to come around in the last 10 years.
5. Bamix immersion blender. I use this a lot more than I thought I would. It's the best immersion blender on the market.
6. My name is Varmint. I am a garlic press-aholic. I like my press, and that's my dirty little secret.
7. Kitchen tongs. Absolutely essential.
8. Serrated and straight vegetable peelers. The serrated peeler was such a find, as it makes it very easy to peel peaches and tomatoes.
9. Sil-Pats. Even my wife uses these.
10. A corkscrew, of course! Along with the french press, the two most important items in the kitchen!

Now I haven't included my cookware and bakeware, whisks, spoons, spatulas (although an offset spatula is essential for cakes). I've also excluded mixers, processors, blenders, and other electronics (but I really do like my new Krups convection toaster oven). Boy, we could talk all day about this stuff!

Kelly said...

Oh, I love the silpat!

PeterB said...

After years of lusting for a mandoline, I bought an OXO and it is fantastic (and inexpensive). Spanish tortillas are a breeze with this gadget.

I echo the other comments about spring-loaded tongs. Herndon's Kitchen Supply on N. Roxboro is an excellent place to get them.

I also grabbed a set of santoku knives from Costco a while back and they have been a great addition to the knife collection.

Kira said...

You know, I'll do a garlic press or finely chop my garlic...either one...depending on mood or recipe. I remember watching Sara Moulton once on TV using a garlic press, announcing that her fellow chefs would crucify her for using it but that she didn't care because sometimes, it just was plain easier.

I really like my cuisinart because it makes certain items just so much easier to make, such as homemade mayonnaise. That'd be number one. Number two might be my stand mixer. It's just lovely for cookies, and I make a lot of cookies. Number three would be my really good knives, esp. the chef's knife, bread knife, and paring knife. If I have those three, I can suffer without the others because I can double-up (like use the bread knife for slicing tomatoes or whatnot). Let's see, what would be number four? I love my immersion blender for its portability and how easily it whips cream or mashes black beans. Fifth item, my belgian waffle maker. Waffles are a household favorite. Sixth item, a screwpull. It's just the easiest way to open up wine unless the bottle is a flange top. Seventh item, glasses for every occasion. I'm a hoarder of glasses, and I have the right size or shape for nearly every beverage one normally drinks. I insist that having the right class (along with having it at the right temp!) makes whatever you're drinking taste oh-so-much better. Eighth, a marble slab for rolling out dough, dumplings, etc. I realize that's not something one needs unless one does a lot of baking, but I was raised by a woman who baked something new every day of my childhood, so it's an inherited thing. Ninth, a teaball. We're a tea household instead of a coffee household, and loose tea is so much fun to use. Tenth, an insert steamer. I have one that fits nicely into one specific pot, and I love it.

My kitchen is small and about to burst at the seams. I have no idea why I feel the need to collect any item I run across that I don't already have, but if anybody needs to borrow a kitchen torch or strange cookie cutters, I'm the woman to come to.

durhamfood said...

In no particular order:
1. Food processor, KitchenAid KFP750
2. Chef's knife - HEAVY 8in Victorinox
3. 2 small Victorinox tomato/sausage knives. Good for cutting just about anything small, and cost $5 each.
4. Huge cutting board
5. French press, of course!
6. Bamboo steamers. Dumplings rock my world!
7. Three woks. God only knows why we have three of them, but they're awesome.

I'm going to stop there, because seven is objectively better than 10.