Essential Kitchen Gadgets
Quality and function are very important
Just as important as selecting a functional skillet or fry pan, stocking your kitchen with the right tools and gadgets makes for a better culinary experience. The writer is focusing on “Cooking for One” so some of your needs can be adjusted according to the number of individuals that you are serving. Here are some of the implements that the writer has in his personal arsenal.
Buy the ones that have names embossed in the handle with a hole cut out of it for hanging and they will likely be the ones that are made of stronger wood and cut from the wood properly where the recess of the spoon cup has nicely shaped spherical rings. Wood can be used in any cooking utensil without fear of scratching surfaces.
Silicone blades on either wood or stainless steel handles are non-marking, heat resistant and durable. The writer prefers the medium (2” wide) and small (1 1/4” Wide) versions for his needs. The writer is still looking for some better quality ultra-small spatulas that are not all plastic. Seems they don’t stand up to dishwasher use since they are so small and end up in the bottom of the washer next to the drying elements. The handle and blade also become unglued. The ultra-small size is useful for removing muffins from the pan, scraping foodstuff from small jars, and similar duties.
Stainless steel handles with rubber grips and stainless steel tips would be preferred over the plastic tips on the writer’s current best choice. The all plastic and plastic tips don’t grip the item as well as straight steel tips. Check to see that they open up wide enough for your purposes. The all plastic type have limited range.
The writer likes the digital version but even the Kitchen Aid unit doesn’t function well over time. It seems the buttons start to act up over the years. Using a rechargeable battery is a good idea. The traditional winding timer is not that precise since it is somewhat difficult to tell the difference between 3 and 4 minutes while setting it. If you aren’t using the microwave, it makes for a good timer but it ties up the oven for other uses.
The writer prefers a good stainless steel travel mug with plastic handle and lid which keeps liquids warmer for a longer period of time. A bell-shaped configuration is better especially if you are using it near a computer keyboard. The wider base makes it harder to tip over. Coffee is not good for the keyboard or laptop and can easily ruin it if spilled. Periodically letting the cup sit full of ordinary bleach will get rid of the stains that will certainly appear in the cup. Just treat bleach as you would any hazardous chemical. It would not be wise to drink it or let it stay in contact with skin for any period of time. Lots of water rinsing is in order for the cup after the bleach treatment. Needless to say, keep it out of the reach of children during this process.
Oven Mitts and Pot Holders
The mitts need to be long enough to cover a good part of your forearm so you don’t get rack burns while moving stuff out of the oven. Don’t buy cheap ones that have no real insulation value. Heavy gloves and even silicon are good but the latter are usually too short. A hybrid version of both cloth and silicon is a better idea. Pot holders that are constructed that way also work well as a trivet (placed under hot objects to save counter tops).
Plastic or wood is best for your knives. They also work very well as trivets. The thin plastic sheets are very useful for cutting food and dispensing into a cooking utensil. The writer uses one in between the regular board and chicken or stewing beef for cutting purposes. The writer uses a larger sheet called a pastry matt for rolling out pizza dough (made in the bread maker) with an all plastic rolling pin. Glass and marble boards are good for pastry work but are very expensive. They will dull a knife in a heartbeat. Clean any or all with antibacterial soap and water and rinse with cold water. If you need more trivets, go to Home Depot or Lowes and buy a few ceramic tiles from their open stock selections. You can put rubber or cork feet on them but the glue will dry out over time especially if you immerse the feet in water.
Measuring Cups and Spoons
All stainless steel construction is the writer’s preference. Just be careful of cheaper units since the welds will break with little effort. Easy grip rubber handles are not necessary but are not a bad idea especially if you are developing arthritis like the writer.
All the Rest
All of your flippers are best made out materials that will not scratch cooking utensils. All stainless steel construction is good for anything except spoons, flippers, potato mashers and other gadgets that could contact cooking utensil bottoms. The writer has still to find a really good potato masher since most of them are part of a set and the vertical handle just doesn’t work. The writer thinks that a better design would be more like a curling stone/brass knuckles/French fry cutting blade or a combination of all of those. A punching motion would be better than the standard approach you have to use now. The handle always slips or the hand cramps up.
The writer has gotten out of the dishwasher trap (since his new apartment doesn’t have one) and now washes everything by hand in the sink. Everything is cleaner than when it came out of the dishwasher since using non-marking sponges and brushes does a better job of cleaning the surfaces than just a hot water spray from the dishwasher. Also there is a tendency to leave dirty dishes too long in the dishwasher until you approach a full load which means the food gets a really good chance to dry rock hard and become part of the dish or utensil. The writer uses his mountain bike drinking bottle as the rinse bottle for dishes in the counter rack and tray. Less chance for mould to grow in the bottle that way since the bottle doesn’t get a lot of use in winter here in Canada.
Recently I added a Cuisinart Smart Stick (hand-held blender/chopper/grinder/whisk) which even comes with a nice-sized mixing/measuring cup. The components are mostly stainless steel and high-grade plastic and most are dishwasher safe (although I would hand wash them). It is an extremely well-designed kitchen gadget that uses an easily detachable power unit that stays plugged in the wall on my kitchen counter waiting for whatever attachment fits my culinary whim. I keep the attachments in a drawer right below the power unit and the mixing cup in the cupboard just above it.