What Kitchen Gadgets Could You Simply Not Live Without?
Cooking for the ones you love can be truly be a satisfying experience, especially when you hear the “yums” as your family takes their first bit or maybe it’s just the quite that surrounds the dinner table as everyone is so occupied with eating their food that they don’t have time to talk. Cooking doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated, but often times having the right tool will be the difference between joy and frustration. A very talented mechanic, my Dad, Pug Steinhoff, taught me the importance of having the right tool for the job. Truly the same goes for cooking in a kitchen whether it be a commercial kitchen, a fire pit at your campsite or in the place you call home. Having the right kitchen tools will simply make preparation and cooking faster, more efficient and safer.
As many of you know, I simply LOVE TO COOK, call me a foodie if you must. Should you ever have the chance to step into my kitchen and cook beside me, you will learn that I am obsessed with a few of my kitchen tools.
#1 – An 8” Chef’s Knife
Yes, this is the #1 thing I cannot live without in my kitchen. I have taken this knife with me when I’ve cooked in the kitchens of friends, family and restaurants I’ve worked. Take away my paring knives, hand choppers, electric slicers and food processors. I can accomplish 90% of the jobs they do with a good, sharp chef’s knife. The combination of the length and weight make it the perfect for chopping, dicing, cubing, julienning, mincing, shredding, slicing, and scooping. My current model is an 8” J.A. Henckels Pro Chef’s Knife I’ve had since before I met Todd. It was a bit on the pricey side, but with proper care it should last my lifetime. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will improve your cooking enjoyment more than a good sharp knife.
#2 – Cast Iron Skillet
My 12” cast iron skillet is used so much that it’s a permanent fixture on my stove top. I cook in it, clean it, put in on a burner to dry, turn off and let cool until the next meal a few hours away. This is my go-to pan for searing meats, frying fish, making hash, roasting chicken, baking pineapple upside-down cake and making deep dish pizza, honestly the list goes on and on. It doubles as a casserole dish for the likes of homemade macaroni & cheese, scalloped potatoes and in fact, I made this year’s Thanksgiving stuffing in it. Why do I love this pan so much? The thick, heavy cast-iron distributes heat evenly. It goes from stove-top to oven, and when making baked goods, it produces a well-browned, nicely textured crust. It’s a real beauty that only get better with age.
#3 – Stainless Steel Tongs
In the kitchen, tongs are like an extension of your hand allowing you to easily and precisely grip foods. They can be used to grab items off the grill, stir dishes, flip food, grab pasta out of hot water and toss salads. A good strong pair can turn a whole roast and even can assist with removing a turkey from the pan (just slide one half into the cavity and clamp down, use a second set of tongs on the neck end and voila easy-peasy turkey transfer). The bowl like ends of the tongs work like a spoon for basting and stirring. Plus they are handy for grabbing items off the top shelf when my tall hubby is not around.
#4 – Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Yep you got it – number 4 is yet another cast iron pan! This pan is my go to for soups, stews, pot roasts, homemade spaghetti and béchamel sauce – I have even baked bread in it. It’s ideal for simmering, marinating, poaching, braising, and browning and goes beautifully from the stovetop or oven to the table. If you are in the market save up and splurge for the Le Creuset, my opinion is that it’s definitely worth the money and will last forever if you take care of it. But if you’re on a tight budget don’t let that stop you Lodge offers an affordable option.
#5 – Microplane Zester
This simple tool from humble woodworking beginnings gets daily use in my kitchen. This kitchen derivative of a carpenters’ rasp has sharp, stainless steel blades with an easy-to-grip handle. I use it to zest citrus, shred fresh hard cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago and Romano or even to grate garlic, nutmeg, and fresh ginger. Also ideal for creating chocolate dust for the top of a dessert. Pick one of these babies up on Amazon for $10 along with a hunk of fresh Parmesan cheese and throwaway that green jug of powdered cheese – your pizza, pasta and salads will thank you!
#6 – KitchenAid Artisan Mixer
At first glance a KitchenAid mixer seems like a luxury item rather than a must have. Admittedly, I once agreed with this precept. Yet for years I dreamed of having my very own KitchenAid stand mixer, then one Christmas season the stars aligned and this beautiful Empire Red KitchenAid Artisan Mixer found its way home to my kitchen. It has not left my kitchen counter ever since and as many KitchenAid mixer owners will tell you – “I don’t know how I lived without it!” I’ll even sheepishly admit; I have been caught hugging my mixer. This mixer simplifies the tasks of mixing, kneading or whipping and with its numerous available attachments baking is just the beginning with this kitchen workhorse. Now, if I can just talk my hubby into one of those new spiralizer attachments.
#7 – Oxo Salad Spinner
You spin me right round baby – right round! This little 80’s ditty always pops in my head as I pull this handy contraption out of the cupboard. I think it’s safe to say, nobody likes a soggy salad plus salad dressing adheres better to dry leaves. This simple tool makes rinsing and drying greens a breeze with the easy to use pump, it even doubles as a serving bowl. Yes, you could simply rinse your greens and let sit in strainer or towel to dry, but if you are busy like me, the spinner is a true time saver. Also, works great with berries, beans and herbs too, such as with basil when making pesto.
#8 – CrockPot/Slow Cooker
Although I love to cook, at times I find I am just too busy to carve out time to prepare a proper meal. Slow cookers are your time saving kitchen lifeline as they allow you to prepare one pot meals that are delicious and filling, without having to spend hours in the kitchen. Not to mention the wonderful aroma that hits you as you walk in the door from work or running errands. Tight on cash too? Turn to your slow cooker – the low and slow cooking time tenderizes more economical, tough cuts of meat. Additional benefits include keeping food warm on a buffet line for those large family dinners and the small 2 quart models keep hot dips the perfect serving temperature. If you don’t have one of these – do yourself a favor and order one today! Although there are expensive models on the market, I find my $30 Rival Crockpot I’ve had for over 15 years to be just as effective; if you are even more budget conscious checkout out your local thrift store – styles may have changed but the technology is the same.
#9 – Silicon Baking Mats
These handy little mats are great for keeping baked goods like breads, biscuits, cinnamon rolls and cookies from sticking to the pan – no added grease required. The silicone material distributes heat for more even baking and a better final product. And they also double for rolling out sticky dough; although for that purpose I prefer a pastry cloth, another tip I learned from Grandma Elsie. One of my Silpat/Mircoplane Zester favorite recipes is Parmesan Cheese Crisps.
#10 – Dual Side Magnetic Measuring Spoons
Have you ever measured out a teaspoon of vanilla and then need to measure a teaspoon of baking powder? Having a two sets of measuring spoons is one solution or these handy measuring spoons not only solve the wet/dry issue, but also nest perfectly and stay together with magnetic handles. If you want to keep them even handier use the magnets to stick them individually on the stove hood, top of stove or on the refrigerator.
Do you have tools or gadgets in your kitchens, that you simply could not live without? I love to hear what those items are, share your comments below!