Yosmar's Choices: Kitchen Gadgets

Kitchen gadgets… There are so many! 

How do I chose? 

Which ones are necessary and which ones are not? 

Aren’t they all created equal? 

These are common questions people have when stocking a kitchen or buying gadgets.  In this post, I share some  some of my top choices of  kitchen gadgets.  Before I get into the specific gadgets, I want to share some general thoughts about gadget shopping:

1.     With rare exceptions, stay away from one-use tools.  Nowadays, there are gazillions tools out there and you really need to ask yourself how many things you can do with it.  For instance, take a banana slicer… It has a very unique shape that will only allow you to slice one thing… bananas!

2.     Before buying a gadget, ask yourself if you don’t already have another gadget or tool that can achieve the same result.   For instance, in the banana slicer example above, won’t a good old-fashioned knife be just as good and as easy? Plus, I’m pretty sure the knife will be much easier to clean!  This brings me to my next thought…

3.     When deciding on a gadget, think about the cleaning process.  If a particular gadget is too hard to clean, the odds are you might use it only once or twice and then it will live its remaining days gathering dust!

4.     Stay away from gadgets that are just plain cute…   The kitchen gadget industry is full of incredibly cute things.  But many times these cute things are just plain useless.  Take for instance a measuring spoon set for smidgens, dashes, and pinches… I was given a set over 15 years ago and they are SO cute.  But guess when was the last time I used them?  Never!  Technically, there is a difference between the three measurements.  Here is Wikipedia’s explanation.  But trust me… No real cook is really that precise and if in fact a pinch will drastically alter the end result, he or she will just grab a pinch with their fingers.

5.     Buy good quality gadgets.   There is a huge price range for any particular kitchen gadget.  It is easy to gravitate towards the most inexpensive… But often, the saying “you get what you pay for” is spot on when it comes to kitchen gadgets. When you are cooking, you want your gadgets not only to function at top performance, but you want them to last many years.  There is nothing more frustrating than when one of your tools breaks in the middle of a task…  It not only breaks your flow but it has the potential of halting your cooking process altogether!

Now that I have shared some general thoughts on buying kitchen gadgets, let me share some of my favorite gadgets. Please note that I have had all these tools for AT LEAST 15 years and they are still going strong!

1.     Microplane Zester/Grater– A microplane is an exceptionally sharp grater that makes zesting and grating essentially effortless!  This is due to the manufacturing process.  Most graters on the market are made by using stamped metal, rendering each tooth the same thickness of the rest of the blade on the grater.  The teeth of a microplane on the other hand are treated and sharpened with photo-etching, rendering them far sharper and precise than a regular grater.  When I first got my microplane, there was only one model.  Nowadays, there are so many variations… fine grater, coarse grater, ribbon grater, etc.  If you are buying your first microplane, I recommend the classic zester-grater.  It is essentially an all-purpose microplane.  If you like the feel of a big box grater, you can get the four blade, four sided box grater.

2.     OXO measuring cups – OXO has tons of innovative kitchen tools and gadgets at reasonable prices.  I love pretty much everything they produce but my favorite OXO product has to be their angled measuring cups.  Traditional measuring cups are round and the measurements are printed on the side.  So once you pour the liquid that you are trying to measure, you then have to bend down at eye level to make sure you have the right quantity and then adjust accordingly.  The OXO angled measuring cups are oval and have an angled surface inside the cup with the measurement marks.  This allows you to accurately measure from above the first time around!  I love my OXO measuring cups so much that I have their three piece set, comprising the one-cup, two-cup, and  four-cup sizes.  In addition, I have the mini cups that are great for measuring small quantities of liquid up to four tablespoons.

3.     Westmark Germany Multipurpose Egg slicer – Here is a tool that many of you may think that has only one use… slicing eggs.  But I use my egg slicer to slice strawberries, mushrooms, and kiwis among other things.  This is one tool that you definitely want to get the best you can get as the wires of a cheap egg slicer tend to snap only after a few uses. Made in Germany, the Westmark egg slicer has a solid die cast aluminum construction and strong stainless steel wires that don’t snap or rust.  You really can’t beat this egg slicer!

4.     OXO Melon baller – A melon baller is way more versatile than you might think.  Not only it is used to scoop out little balls of melons that are traditionally paired with prosciutto, but you can use it to core apples, deseed cucumbers, and form truffles among other things. The OXO melon baller has two different sized stainless steel heads allowing me to customize the size of the scoop depending on what I’m doing.  I typically use the large head for truffles or melon for instance.  But for coring an apple or deseeding cucumber I prefer the smaller head to avoid wasting food.  The other thing I like about this melon baller is that it has a nice, soft handle with a rubber grip allowing me to single-handedly flip it easily from one head to the other.

5.     Messermeister tomato shark – A tomato shark resembles a melon baller but has some teeth (hence the “shark” reference in its name) around the circumference of the head.  These teeth help grab the soft flesh of tomatoes when you are removing the core. It is also great at deseeding tomatoes.  Finally, I even use mine to hull strawberries.  When I’m making a strawberry pie or making batches of strawberry jam, it is great having such an efficient tool at hand!

6.     Rosle garlic press – This is truly a single use gadget, but it is one that I ABSOLUTELY love and have gifted to numerous friends.  Many people have a love-hate relationship with their garlic presses… They love them because they make mincing garlic so much easier… But they hate them because they can be a pain to clean!  Well, it doesn’t have to be that way…  The German designed Rosle garlic press has a pretty clever design.  The compartment that holds the garlic pops up making the cleaning process a breeze!  In addition, the compartment is larger than that of the average garlic press, which is great when you have a larger-than-average clove.  The handles also lock for storage.  Finally, the construction is all solid stainless steel and it is dishwasher safe.

7.     Rosle can opener – This can opener is like no other!  You see… most can openers cut the lid on top of the can.  In doing so, the lid may have sharp edges.  In addition, it tends to fall into the food contents making its removal a bit difficult.  The Rosle can opener instead cuts the lid along the side of the can right below the rim.  The can opener never comes in contact with the contents of the can and the lid can’t fall inside… Totally ingenious!

8.     Amco Rub-A-Way Stainless Steel Bar – For all of you who don’t know how to remove the smell of onions or garlic from your hands, this little piece of stainless in the shape of a soap bar is what you’ve been looking for!  You simply rub it in your hands as you would with a regular bar of soap under running water.  When you are done the smells on your hand will be gone!

These tools should make your cooking so much easier so go ahead and stock up or better yet, gift them to your culinarily inclined friends... They will really appreciate them!