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The "Best" Kitchen Utinsils

Updated on November 14, 2009

The "Best" Tools

I say "best" in quotes because, frankly, a lot of this is going to be opinion and matters of taste.  For whatever it's worth, I've actually gotten rid of more tools that I currently own. Those that I now own last and last and do exactly what I need them to do...work well. That said I do try to buy kitchen cooking tools that meet the following three requirements.

  1. Built to last and will work properly for years
  2. Multipurpose
  3. Will not damage the cookware

By applying these three "rules" judiciously I have a kitchen tool set that has served me well, makes my cooking chores faster and easier, and will not have to be replaced anytime soon.

I'd say the last was the most important, but the truth is that all of these points are requirements; no one item takes precedence over the other two.

Zyliss - Swiss

Zyliss, a Swiss company founded over fifty years ago, is very popular in Europe due to it's well crafted and ergonomic kitchen tools. Known for durability, quality and first-rate engineering, Zyliss tools have been chef's favorites for many years.

I currently own some spreaders, zesters, citrus presses, and measuring devices all made by Zyliss. I have had them for years now and they function (and look) as good now as they did when I bought them. Perhaps best of all they are comfortable in my hand and nice to look at.

Mix and Measure Set with Lid

This is a set of measuring cups (in Imperial & metric units) that nest within each other. The red areas are rubberized to prevent slipping and tipping. This rubberized coating extends to the handle*. The units of measure are clearly marked and the handles quite sturdy and comfortable. They neatly nest, one within the other, and are graduated at 1 Cup, 2 Cup & 4 Cup capacities. Nested, the entire set takes up little shelf space and the included lid keeps out dust and cooking debris while in storage. The largest (4 Cup) is also wide enough to admit a whisk or other stirring tool. As I'm a clean freak another plus (for me at least) is that even after repeated washings and scrubbing the measure marks remain legible and the cups remain clear and transparent.

I often store pancake batter in the largest of these with the lid turned in such a way that there is a complete "air-tight" seal. With the lid turned at ninety degrees to this, the 4 Cup measure can be used to pour from. These measuring cups are dishwasher safe.

* In the four years I've had this set the rubber remains firmly in place with no hint of separation from the acrylic. Also, the measure marks, printed on the outside, are as sharp and legible as when new.

White Measuring Cups

These cups are quite durable and like the Mix-n-Measure set above are ergonomically designed to fit nicely in the hand; they also nest, one within the other, for minimal storage space. This set also includes a "leveler" to allow the cook to level off dry powdered ingredients. Because these cups have four straight sides and (slightly) rounded corners it is quite easy to get these into boxes or round containers while measuring ingredients.

As with the Mix-n-Measure set above they are very durable and have had an honored place in my kitchen for years. They are also dishwasher safe.

Four in One Grater/Slicer

One of my biggest beefs with graters is not using them so much as cleaning them. I long ago gave up the box grater for no other reason that I didn't like the hassle and careful drying required to keep this tool functional and rust free. There's nothing as distasteful to me as finding dried food on a "clean" tool. Then there's the distinct possibility of grated knuckles and fingertips.

There had to be a better way and Zyliss has come up with it.

This tool has two interchangeable grater inserts and two slicer inserts. What I find wonderful about this is they are easy to remove, wash, and rack/towel dry, thus ending the problem of trying to clean the tool completely before storage. The grater also includes a "knob" to help protect knuckles/fingers. This will take a bit of getting used to (too much pressure can be exerted with this), but it's worth the effort. Of course there will be some wastage, but I consider this a small problem compared to the typical cleaning and injury problems.

The grater body has rubberized feet on the "front" end for maintaining a positive grip on the work surface and the food "knob" has pins to help grasp and hold the food to be grated and sliced. Be careful; the blades are SHARP!

Finally, as with all Zyliss products, the component parts snap together for neat - nested storage.

If you are sick of "mandolins" this may be the way to go.

Easy Slice 2 Folding Mandolin

If you aren't tied of mandolins yet, this may be worth a lookt. As with many (if not all) Zyliss products it is designed to be easy to clean, easy to use, and easy to store.

Unlike many mandolins out there this one has a dial to raise and lower cutting thickness and the julienne blades. This has pluses and minuses, but lets get to the benefits first.

Because no special attachments or blade changes are necessary, a simple turn of the dial will get you the cutting thickness you need. On the down side this makes the machine slightly harder to clean. The dial gives you four slicing thicknesses plus a julienne setting. Marvelous.

As with the grater the mandolin includes rubberized feet, a vegetable "knob" with food gripping pins (which is large and comfortable in the hand) and a wire bail for raising the back-end of the machine away from the workspace. The mandolin also folds up for easy storage.

Oxo - American

Zyliss is not the only company out there making functional, long lasting, multipurpose kitchen tools. Oxo was founded by Sam Farber who asked his wife a simple question. "What kitchen tools hurt your hands?" Being slightly arthritic, Sam's wife inspired a line of kitchen tools that were easier to grip and hang on to. The first result was a can opener designed specifically for arthritics. The tool was the Oxo Can opener (featured).

OXO (pronounced Ox-Oh) now makes over five hundred (500) different kitchen tools and has won numerous design awards. Best of all the core principals of the business remain. Provide the consumer with good tools with comfortable grips that provide easy and durable use. Oxo is also the icon for Universal Design. As you may see from this link, Universal Design means attractive, functional tools, buildings and environments that serve all people, not just those with disabilities. Universal Design also means that left or right handedness should not be a factor.

I don't know about you, but most of my cookware is Teflon lined. To be honest it took me years to trust this stuff and for many of those years I bought stainless steel or cast iron (I still use cast iron for brazing) cookware. But these days the non-stick surfaces adhere much better to the underlying metals and the Teflon lined cookware is indispensable for low calorie cooking. It's also a great deal easier to clean up.

Because of the Teflon linings I never use metal utensils in my pans...ever! And my reasoning has been born out because my cookware set is now seven years old and almost as slick (except for the fry pan) and pristine as the day I bought it. I credit the company that made them that way, but also my own non-abusive treatment of them.

By the way, OXO also makes a line of office supplies including staplers (handheld and desk), scissors, and hole punches. They even make a pocket stapler. All adhering to Universal Design.

Oxo Good Grips Nylon Tool Set

Includes a pasta scoop, slotted and un-slotted spoons, and two spatulas. This makes an ideal "first" set for the kitchen. They are easy to clean, will not burn or melt, will not impart any flavor to the food, have large comfortable grips, and have a highly functional design.

This is another set of kitchen items I've had for years. They've held up well and continue to function as they were designed. They still look good too as they are easy to clean.

Oxo Good Grips Nylon Whisk

I don't use this tool all that often, but it's indispensable when making a sauce in one of my Teflon lined sauce pans. No one, as far as I know, makes a wooden whisk and I'm not about to put one of my metal wonders in there to scour the surface of my valuable cookware. This is the only whisk I'll use when making an Alfredo.

As with the tool set (above) this whisk has a large handle, is easy to clean, and is quite easy to use. It won't melt or impart any flavors to the food. My only complaint is that the business end is just a tad too large.

Oxo SteeL Can Opener

This was the tool that put Oxo in the forefront of utensil design and made it a forerunner of the Universal Design movement. It has large rubberized handles, opens to over 180 degrees (for easy cleaning) and has a very large and comfortable turning handle. Though I don't open all that many cans these days this is the only tool I'll use to do it. It's even easy on the wrist though I'm not sure why. I gave up on the lid circumference openers as the edge of the cutting wheel breaks down and the opener becomes non-functional in a short time.

Good Grips Nylon Turner

Granted there are turners featured at the top of this section, but this one is quite large. Perfect for pancakes, quesadillas, or other large cooked item. As with other Oxo "Good Grips" products it has a large handle, is easy to clean, highly functional, and is easy on the joints & hands.

Arthritics rejoice. There is a company out there that considers your needs. If you are not arthritic consider Oxo anyway; their tools make many manual operations required of cooking much easier and much less tiresome.

Other Vital Tools

Wooden Spoons/Turners: Beside the nylon utensils I also use wooden spoons. Lately, I've stopped using the pine spoons/turners so much in favor of bamboo. Bamboo holds up better than than pine, does not absorb flavors as readily, and is still gentle on the Teflon surface.

Though I do not own the particular set shown what I do have is very similar. I find the turners are particularly good for scrambled eggs since the nylon turners are not as squared off on the end and leave too much of the egg mixture on the pan. No, the bamboo turners are much better at scraping the egg from the fry pan for turning.

Microplane

by Microplane. This is one of the best tools of recent purchase. It has a large comfortable handle, small rubber feet on the far end, makes quick work of hard cheeses, and is easy to clean and store. It includes a thick clear plastic cover to protect the fine cutting surfaces.

Initially I was really worried about keeping this clean, but moving the sponge in one direction (back toward the handle) and turning the tool over to clean the "Inside" is quite easy. Just be sure the plane is completely dry before putting it back in it's sheath.

Note: this tool does not work well with softer cheeses and I only use it with Parmesan, Romano, and the like. It is also an excellent zester and grater.

When I make mashed potatoes I like to add a bit of nutmeg. This enhances the flavor of the potato and since I prefer "fresh" whole nutmeg grating is essential. This tool does an excellent job.

Oxo Good Grips Mixing Bowls

by Oxo: These are some of the best mixing bowls I've ever owned. This is a recent purchase and there are very few things I can fault with them. One is the limited number of sizes at only three. 1 1/2 Quart, 3 Quart, and 5 Quart. The other drawback is the lack of covers in order to use them for refrigerated storage. As with most good utensil design these bowls nest.

On the plus side they are stainless steel with a plastic outer coating which is dishwasher safe. The rims are wide and easy to grasp. The bottoms are rubberized, which makes keeping them on the counter-top while mixing a joy. They also have steep sides and are fully rounded on the inside. These last two features make them perfect for mixing all manner of batters, doughs, and custards.

Disclaimer

The author, LiamBean, does not own stock or other holdings in any of the companies mentioned in this article. LiamBean has not been compensated monetarily, with free products, or discounts on those products for these evaluations. LiamBean bought these products outright and has written this review based solely on direct experience with these products.

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