15 Must Have Tools for the Kitchen
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Every cook has their own favorite tools to make preparing delicious meals easier and more efficient. Here are a few of my favorite gadgets that are simple and easy to use. I bought them at the cooking store and actually use them. This list may grow over time, because walking into a cooking store is like walking into a candy store to me.
Wash your fresh greens and then spin them dry. This nifty gadget comes with a bowl you fill up with water to clean the greens. Lift out the basket to drain, dump the water and put the lid on the strainer. Pump the lid and it rapidly spins, taking the extra water off of the lettuce. Give the greens a few spins and they are then ready to eat. There is also a button to push to stop the spinning to check on your greens.
I fill up a clean kitchen sink with cold water and add a splash of white vinegar and ice cubes to the water. The cold water seems to make the lettuce stay crisp and the vinegar cleans off any debris from the fresh greens. I never taste any vinegar after using this method.
Only need 2 tablespoons of real lemon juice for a recipe? This tool allows you to squeeze every drop of lemon juice there is. If you have any extra lemon juice left over, throw it in with a salad or some vegetables, or even your glass of water. No drop gets left behind with this baby. You can get more juice out of a lemon if it is at room temperature and rolling it on the counter with your hand a few times before cutting it in half. However, if you have a whole bag of oranges you need to juice every week, then you may want to invest in an electric juicer, one which spins and eliminates your twisting of the fruit yourself.
Mini 4-Cup Food Processor
This neat gadget comes in handy if you only need a small amount of sauce, dressing, or paste. I buy a block of parmesan cheese, slice it up into cubes and grate all of it to store in the freezer for future meals. Same for grating carrots for the carrot cake. It is small and compact and stores easily and does not take up too much space and it is very easy to take apart and clean.
Manual Food Chopper
This little gadget comes in very handy if you have a lot of garlic or fresh spices you want to chop up. It eliminates the need for pulling out a cutting board and knife and chopping away manually (unless of course you enjoy doing that, then have at it). You can also use it to easily chop nuts and onions (no more tears!). There is a rubber cap at the bottom which serves as a cutting board. Most models are easy to take apart and clean quickly. You can order the one pictured from Pampered Chef.
Some recipes may call for egg whites only. This gadget will conveniently lay across a bowl, freeing up your hands, while you crack the egg open into the separator and the egg white will flow easily into the bowl, leaving the yoke behind. You can save the yoke for another use.
This nifty guy is great for turning over items without having to use a spatula. They really come in handy while cooking chicken strips, removing the boil-in-a-bag rice from the water to the strainer, or handling spare ribs. They are also very convenient to use when grilling to flip hotdogs, burgers, chicken and ribs. There are models that come with nylon grips so nonstick cookware will not get scratched.
Portable Hand-held Mixer
This nifty gadget comes in handy if you don’t want to drop $200 - $300 for a standalone blender on the countertop. Nothing wrong with those more expensive countertop blenders – they are really nice and do a fantastic job, but if you only bake a few times a year like I do it’s not worth the expense. This little gadget can whip up some cookie dough, cake batter, or deviled egg mix in no time, and the cost is anywhere between $10 – 20.
This nifty gadget will crush a clove of garlic by pressing it through holes and the peel does not have to be removed. This gadget is a convenient alternative to mincing garlic with a knife. Some believe pressed garlic has a different flavor than minced garlic because during pressing of the garlic, more of the cell walls are broken down, which allows a more stronger flavor. Ginger can also be used in a garlic press.
These come in handy when using cutting boards and you don’t want the cutting board to slide all over the place while chopping. The next time you go to the Dollar store, keep your eyes open for a roll. Some of the newer cutting boards have non-skid corners already built in to keep the board steady.
One of the great kitchen inventions from the 70s, every kitchen must have one. They were thought to become just a fad, but crockpots have turned into a gadget every savvy home cook must have. Basically you throw all your ingredients into the crock pot in the morning before you go to work, turn it on, go to work, come home from work, and dinner is ready. Just throw together a quick salad or get some bread and butter and dinner is served. There are cookbooks dedicated to nothing but healthy crockpot cooking. They are also a great way to cook tougher, less expensive cuts of meats.
This nifty gadget sure beats peeling with a knife anyday! Can you believe people used to have to peel vegetables with knives? I shudder at the thought. Along comes the fabulous vegetable peeler! A vegetable peeler is used to easily and quickly take the skins off of potatoes, carrots, apples, and sweet potatoes, to name a few. You can also use a peeler to make "ribbons" from carrots and then throw the ribbons into a cold salad.
This nifty gadget comes in handy if you want to make a pie crust or biscuits from scratch. It is used to cut butter or shortening into flour. I have also used this tool to smash the lumps while preparing mashed potatoes. You can also use a hand-held blender to whip up cooked potatoes into creamy mashed potatoes, but this gadget helps smooth the lumps.
Manual Can Opener
Electric can openers are great and convenient to have around, but what if you lose power for a few days and need to open a few cans of food? A good solid manual can opener usually costs around $10 and they will last a while. Plus you save energy and money, even if it’s just a tiny amount, since a manual can opener does not require electricity to get the job done. They are also very convenient to take on a picnic or a camping trip.
Portable Knife Sharpener
This small, portable, lightweight, easy-to-use knife sharpener does the trick every time. QVC used to sell these and that is where I bought mine, however QVC currently no longer offers this product. You can still get these at Ace Hardware Stores at this link. Whenever you need to sharpen your knives, you don’t have to hire an expensive knife sharpener or spend hundreds of dollars on sharpening equipment. You can sharpen your own knives conveniently in your own home. You know when you need to sharpen a knife when they don’t cut through a tomato smooth and easy.
This tool is referred to as a Zester, but it also grates cheese as well. This tool can be used to "zest" any type of citrus fruit peel such as lemon, orange, or lime. Be careful not to get the white part of the peel, as that is bitter. Having some Italian fare this evening? Pull out the grater with your block of Parmesan Cheese (or any cheese of your liking) and grate away over your pasta. Want some chocolate sprinkles on a freshly iced cake? Get a block of chocolate of your choice and grate away over the cake for some fresh chocolate sprinkles.
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Which one of these nifty kitchen gadgets is your favorite?
© 2012 Michelle Dee