As most of the people closest to me know, I am a kitchen gadget freak. I have a very big drawer in my kitchen that is stuffed to the gills with spatulas and whisks, garlic peelers, zesters and scoopers. Note that each of those items is pluralized... That's just how obsessed I am. But there are about a dozen or so gadgets that I use regularly that are must haves for anyone who cooks often. I list them here.
Mortar and Pestle: I got mine around ten years ago from my friend Tina and since I've moved to California (land of the avocado) I make guacamole in it at least once every month or so. This is the only way to make it. My culinary professor will not make basil pesto any other way than with a mortar and pestle. It's nice in this age of technology that such a primitive tool does the best job. I have found that the volcanic stone m & p work best!
Heat resistant spatula: I have a few of these in different materials, but I use the silicone one most often. You can use it to scrape down the bowl of cookie batter or to fold whipped egg whites into angel food cake batter or to scape the bottom of a pot of potato soup. Most silicone spatulas are heat resistant to 400 degrees F. It's great for use on non-stick surfaces because it doesn't scratch and they are typically dishwasher safe.
Hand held immersion blender: I have had my immersion blender for at least eight years... and use it every time I make soup from scratch. I love it because you can actually stick it into a hot pot of soup without having to wait until it's cooled to blend as you would with a regular counter blender. You can also use it to make smoothies, blend salad dressing and make fresh whipped cream. I love it because it doesn't take up as much space as a regular blender and you can get one for around $20. Mine is a Braun and I love it.
Stand Mixer: For anyone who bakes, this is a must, many of you saw my past blog entry which showed how I won a KitchenAid mixer from the Bite Me sisters. I have used it a bunch since I received it and I have to say - it's as good as "they" say it is. Easy to use, easy to clean, comes with great accessories and you can even do things like make pasta and grind meat if you get the right attachments.
Grater or microplane: I use this to grate cheese over pasta, to zest any citrus fruit, to grate whole nutmeg or ginger and to grate chocolate over ice cream. You can buy different sizes (from course to medium) depending on your use.
Pizza slicer: in addition to it's obvious use, I use this for cutting dough (ie. for breadsticks), for cutting baklava before baking. It has a very thin, precise blade that can reach spots that a regular knife can't.
Pepper grinder: I don't care what anyone says - you cannot beat the taste of freshly ground pepper. When grinding whole mixed peppercorns you are going to get a fresh kick of flavor when you grind into salads, soups and sauces. Way better than that pre-ground stuff in a can.
Sharp knives and sharpener: I recently invested in a new Asian style knife and received some German style knives for Christmas. Using those in place of my older knives was like night and day. Lucky for me, I also got a great KitchenAid counter-top sharpener for Christmas that allowed me to sharpen all of my older knives, too. Having a sharp knife is so important because a dull knife can slide off whatever you are cutting, but can still be sharp enough to slice you.
Tongs: I use my tongs ALL. THE. TIME. I honestly could write a blog entry just on the amount of uses for tongs. I use them when I barbecue to flip chicken or steak and/or catch anything that falls through the cracks. I use them when I am cooking bacon or sausage. I use them when I need to turn a pie pan in the oven. I use them to pull waffles of the waffle maker. I use them to pull a hard boiled egg from hot water. I even use them to reach for items in my cabinet that are too high for me to reach.
All in one timer/thermometer: I love this tool. In addition to being a regular old magnetized timer (sticks on my fridge right next to the stove), it also has a thermometer attachment that you can stick into a roast or turkey, set the thermometer alarm to go off when it hits a certain temperature and you stick the roast in the oven while keeping the thermometer on top of the stove. When the alarm goes off, your roast is done! No need to open the oven, lowering the temperature thus lengthening the amount of time the roast needs to cook! I use this every Thanksgiving and am so thankful I have it!
I hope that some of these tools are in your kitchen drawers! I know that some of you will have other gadgets that you use more often than these - it totally depends on what you cook! Some people will swear by a garlic press. Personally, I enjoy mincing garlic with a knife. Some people will say that they couldn't live without their food processor (I don't use mine often enough to make it a "must have" here.)
What are some of your favorite gadgets? Please feel free to share here.
Chow for Now!