If you cook, write about food or just enjoy a good meal, chances are that you own a kitchen tool or two. If you fall into all three categories, then you may be like me — swamped with cooking gadgets. Over the years I’ve compiled a mental list of what’s fun, what’s functional and what’s foolish for the home cook. Below are some of the best that I’ve collected. Relatively inexpensive and easy to find, they’re bound to delight you and/or the food lovers in your life.
I love a little kitsch in the kitchen. Hence my delight over these quirky kitchen timers. Functional and fun, no one will mind owning more than one. Along with lady bugs and cats, chickens, cows, frogs, dogs, ducks and portly chefs all can keep track of your cooking times. How could you not enjoy cooking with these cheerful guys taking care of your casserole count down?
I can’t help it — graters are great! Although you truly only need one all-purpose, hand-held grater, I’ve ended up with five. (Needless to say, they’re excellent stocking stuffers.) While cookware shops promote graters for soft cheeses, hard cheeses, chocolate, citrus, nutmeg and, oh yes, coconut, I generally use the “Parmesan, zest, coconut” tool (pictured above at center and left) for all my grating and zesting jobs.
My first experience with an immersion blender was disastrous. Steaming potato leek soup in my hair, on the wall, my face, my shirt . … And then I received one as a gift. Much to my shock, I fell in love with this handy, hand-held blender. No more spilling soup as I transferred it from stockpot to traditional blender or cleaning up leaks from my food processor. No extra cleaning, period. Fast and easy, it’s a one of this cook’s best kitchen friends.
Normally I avoid plugging a particular brand but, as I’m so smitten with this tool, I’ll forgo that usual rule. Cheap, sharp, fast and efficient, Kuhn Rikon peelers make peeling vegetables a breeze. They’re so sturdy that I’ve even used them to shave chocolate and cheese. Available in a rainbow of colors, they’re the best $3.50 that you’ll ever spend.
Since I’m discussing inexpensive but useful tools, I can’t overlook digital thermometers. Ideal for fish, poultry and thin cuts of meat, these slender thermometers provide quick, accurate temperature reads. Plus, their plastic sheaths provide not only protection but also cooking temperature guides. So much essential information in such a simple tool.
A bit more costly but no less useful, insulated pitchers hold a special place in my heart and on my work desk. After brewing my morning coffee and heating the accompanying milk, I pour the steaming liquids into these carafes and enjoy hot cafe au lait all day. Ideal for dinner parties or just long, cold days, the thermoses keep coffee and tea hot for almost 24 hours.
Whether you’re messy, always in a rush, or like me and a bit clumsy, you’ll appreciate owning a saucepan with spouts. Pouring gravy, melted butter, warmed milk or stock becomes a snap with this type of pan. Everyone from Emeril to All-Clad offers a version of this saucepan. Prices and sizes will vary.
It goes without saying that a good quality, forged, eight-inch chef’s knife, sharp paring knife or serrated bread knife can’t be beat. Likewise, a decent kitchen scale, an electric hand or stand mixer, or food processor will always be appreciated. Mixing bowls, whisks, spatulas and the like, these are only a few of the fantastic gifts that you could give or receive this holiday season.