Thursday, September 16, 2010

All-time favorite lists: Top Kitchen Gadgets

This morning, when I opened my email, I found an email about Epicurious's 15th Anniversary. I'll admit, I'm new to the site, as a matter of fact, I probably only discovered it less than a year ago. I suspect I was late to the game, but if you don't know this website, by all means, go there right now through the link above. Yep, it's awesome.

At any rate, to commemorate their 15th Anniversary, they have all sorts of "Best of Epicurious" lists. Most influential chefs, biggest tv foodies, etc. As I was clicking through the "10 Most Important Kitchen Gadgets" list, I was thinking about how many of the things they mentioned that I own. So, I decided to make my own "Top Kitchen Gadgets" list.

I'll just point out from the get-go, that I love kitchen gadgets. But my love for kitchen gadgets is balanced by the voice of my mom in the back of my head saying "Now, how often would you really use that???" Because she's from the school of "my kitchen just isn't big enough to be cluttered up by all this stuff I never use." And, truth be told, mine probably isn't. So, here's the list of my all-time favorite kitchen gadgets that I actually use.

KitchenAid KPRA Pasta Roller Attachment for Stand MixersMy set didn't come with all 3. Just the roller and the fettucini cutter. I wanted it for a long time before I bought it, but wasn't it would be worth the price. But I got it for half-price on KitchenAid's website. And I use it. A lot. I haven't bought store bought lasagna or long noodles since I bought it. It took a couple tries to get the dough just how I like it, but I could do it with my eyes closed now. And the dough freezes nicely. So, I make a big batch of dough and freeze it in 1//4 pound or 1/2 pound portions. A quarter pound is the perfect amount for two people without leftover pasta.

Chicago Cutlery Forum 8-Piece Knife Set with BlockI put these on my wedding registry, for two reasons. First, and stupidly, because they have metal handles instead of wood, they wouldn't get all split and dried out by the dishwasher. Secondly, because they have the sharpening stick included. I won't tell you how long I used the sharpening stick backwards and complained that it just wasn't working, before I saw Guy Fieri do it on Guy's Big Bite and realized I was doing it wrong. Just for the record, hold stick perpendicular to the counter, turn knife upside down, and run it down the stick at a 20 degree angle. Do this to both sides. Now, I have sharp knives all the time. And as a good friend pointed out, most people cut themselves with knives because they are too dull. And also for the record, I DON'T put these in the dishwasher.

3. Onieda mini box grater

Progressive International Jumbo Tower GraterOkay, this isn't the exact one I have, but it's similar. I have a bigger box grater that I bought after I got the smaller one, because the small one is a little too small to grate a large volume of whatever. But I still use the small one the most. It's perfect for cheese when you want to add a little to the top of a dish. I guess that's what I grate a lot of. And it has three grating surfaces, depending on how finely you want your cheese food grated. I don't have a microplane grater, but it's something I've been wanting for a while... I'm waiting until I see one on sale.
4. Faberware kitchen scissors
J.A. Henckels International Kitchen ShearsAgain, this is not the BRAND I have. Mine are like this, but these are nicer. Maybe I should buy these. I am constantly having to dig mine out of the dishwasher to wash them because I need them again. And yes, I do put mine in the dishwasher. I need two pair. That's how much I use them. Just last night, I cut open a package of hamburger, cut open a package of fresh mozzarella, and cut the stems off cilantro. I washed them well after the hamburger, too, BTW.

Bosch : SHE55P02UC 24in Evolution 500 Series Full Console Dishwasher - WhiteAn appliance counts as a gadget, right? Well, it's my list, and on my list it does. I HATE doing dishes. Maybe it's because it was one of my chores growing up. And we had a dishwasher. But, I later realized we had a TERRIBLE dishwasher. I thought my mom was crazy at the time, but she insisted I wash all the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. What's the point in having a dishwasher?!?! But our dishwasher wouldn't do the job if you left food on the dishes. Booo! This is the cadillac of dishwashers. The lady we bought the house from had it installed before she listed the house and it was BRAND-R-NEW when we closed. I, well, our home inspector, was the first person to run it. At closing, she said, "Enjoy that dishwasher." We thought she was a little looney, but I'm on the  Bosch bandwagon now. I like that it is renowed for beging one of the best dishwashers at completely sanitizing dishes. And that there's no heating element in the bottom, meaning you don't have to live by the "Top Rack Only" rules. I assume it sanitzes by steam or something... or maybe it's just dishwasher magic. I don't know, and I don't care. It definitely gets the job done, and I don't have to wash the dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

Cuisinart Chef's Classic Enameled Cast Iron 7-Quart Round Covered Casserole, Cardinal RedI wanted the Le Creuset version for a long time, but damn, they are expensive. I "settled" for the cuisinart version, and haven't looked back since. I'm convinced (and I've never actually used the Le Creuset version) that this is one of those things that you are paying for the brand name. I couldn't be happier with the Cuisinart one. It's a little heavy and unwieldy for everyday use, but just make one batch of french onion soup in it, and tell me it's not wortht he hefty price tag. And, it will literally last forever. Like, I'll probably hand it down to my grandkids or something. I use mine quite a bit, actually, since I have a set of non-stick cookware. Sometimes, that's not the best thing for every recipe. That's where this jewel comes in. I wanted one, because I didn't have anything that you could take from the stovetop to the oven. Before, I had to pour whatever I was making from a cooker into a baking dish, and that was too many pots to clean. I'm going to make Coq Au Vin in mine tonight, actually.

Ball Home Canning KitI got this last year for Christmas, and although I've only been canning a year-ish, I'm a full-on convert. Times I bought canned diced tomatoes since last year: 0. Times I've bought jam since last year: 0. Not to mention the best applesauce I've ever eaten was some I canned last year. Plus, all kinds of other stuff. The Ball Blue Book that is included here is awesome. Say, you have a bunch of peppers someone gave you. Look in the index, and there are 17 different ways you can can peppers. The sky's the limit, folks. And while canning is super-easy, make sure you consult a trusted source for technique and recipes, like the Ball Blue Book or the National Center for Home Food Preservation, just so you don't make anyone sick.

NewLine Space Saver Digital Glass Kitchen ScaleDo not--I repeat--do not try to guess at weights of food if the only reference you have is a rarely-used 2 lb. handweight. It doesn't work. Trust me, I tried to make gnocchi once and didn't use enough potatoes. I don't know what happened, but it was kinda like potato pudding. It was gross. I mentioned something about my gnocchi flop, maybe here on this blog, and my girl Susan over at She's Becoming Doughmesstic recommended this one. It folds flat and is super easy to use. Just pull it out, turn it on, and go to measuring. It also has a feature that allows you to put a bowl or something on it if you need to measure out flour or something and have it start at zero with the bowl. You'll need this when you start canning with #7, because many of the recipes call for, say,  6 pounds of tomatoes. If you don't know how much that is, you could end up blanching, seeding, and dicing way too many tomatoes, and who wants to do that.

Oxo Good Grips Dough BlenderMeet the ultimate multi-tasker. Need a pie crust? Bingo. How about mashed potatoes? Check. Guacamole? You betcha! As a matter of fact, I use this for guacamole more than I do for pie crusts. It doesn't take up much space and is fairly cheap. Even if you don't make pie crusts or guacamole, you should own one. Unless you don't cook at all. That would be silly. But I'm sure you could come up with something to use this for. My pie crust recipe says to use a pastry cutter, but if you don't have one, it says you can use two butter knives and cut the butter into the flour in crisscross fashion. I tried that once and it sucked. That's why I got one of these.

10. A FoodSaver
FoodSaver V2040 Vacuum-Packaging System
I'll admit that I used this a lot more before I started making a concious effort to eat sustainably. Why? Well, I could buy a ton of pork chops at Sam's and bring them home and freeze them in 2-chop packages. Well, I don't buy meat at Sam's anymore, but I still use it a good bit. I was pretty bad about shelling out for a high-dollar ingredient for a specific recipe and letting half of it go to waste. Now, I just freeze it. Cheese comes to mind... This thing is good for sealing stuff up even if you aren't going to freeze it. It can make stuff last longer in the fridge just by getting all the air out. Mine also came with 3 canisters and an attachment to seal the lids. I keep brown sugar and coconut in them. The brown sugar doesn't get hard like it does when you just leave it stored in the bag closed with a twisty tie. But it's kind of a pain to get out and find counterspace to use, so I package a whole bunch of stuff at once, and only store baking ingredients in the canisters that I don't use that often.

So, there's my all-time favorite kitchen gadgets that I actually use. I could definitely have included some of the things on Epicurious's list that I have like the salad spinner and tongs with rubber tips. Two more gadgets I couldn't live without. But I didn't want to duplicate.

At any rate, holla back with your top 10 or just favorite kitchen gadget and why you like it. 

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