Cooking Tips and Questions - Favorite Kitchen Gadgets ??... I'm changing up my kitchen




Sweetcaroline
03-23-2008, 02:13 PM
Hi, I'm in the process of changing-up my kitchen so it is healthy cooking/eating friendly, changing plates, bowls, utensils, cookware etc. I've decided to 'set the table' at night, use pretty plates, adding a prayer, intent or mantra and make dinner more ritualistic..

So.... I would like to know what your favorite under $50 kitchen gadgets are... from salad spinners to woks... What do you use ?..., What can't you live without ?....I want new stuff, but don't know what I want... If you have favorites, I'd love to know what they are...

I especially need knives... but there are so many and they are so expensive. Any input on a couple of good sizes would be helpful...


zenor77
03-23-2008, 02:28 PM
I'm not a big fan of gadgets that only do one thing, but here are my favorite kitchen items:

Cast Iron Cookware~I collect older items, but Lodge is quite affordable. You have to treat it a bit differently from other cookware, but it's almost completely nonstick and you don't have to worry about chemical laden coatings flaking off into your food.

Carbon Steel Wok~Woks should never be nonstick!!! You use them at such a high heat that nonstick ones will burn/melt. Regular steel is the best and they are cheap too. You have to season them and make sure they stay dry to prevent rust. I love my wok!

My 6QT Kitchen Aid Mixer~I make bread every week and my stand mixer is a lifesaver! I love it! We bought a refurbished one, it was cheaper and it works great! Also great for making other things that require a lot of mixing power.

Burr Coffee Grinder/French Press~We're coffee snobs, what can I say... DH roasts our coffee in a popcorn popper too. :)

Regular Coffee Grinder~For flax seeds and whole spices.

Along with:

Good Wooden Spoons~Made from one piece of wood.
Silicone Spatulas~One piece of silicone (no handle to break off.)
Lockable Stainless Steel Tongs
Brass Spider~Asian type strainer
Strainers, Colanders, etc.
Glass and metal measuring cups/Measuring spoons
Kitchen Scale (A must for portioning)
Various sizes of mixing bowls

My salad spinner is from Tupperware, but when it breaks I'm buying the OXO one. You don't have to have one though. A colander and a towel will work.

A good pepper grinder is a must! Also, don't forget the importance of good kitchen knives! Buy the best you can afford. Gerber, Wustoff, Henkels, Shun, Cutco etc. are all good brands. Find ones that fit well in your hand. I would say buy a good chefs knife (or santuko), a pairing knife, and a serrated bread knife (which can cut tomatoes too.) Those will see you through most chopping, slicing, etc. Make sure to keep them sharp too.

I would suggest that you check out your neighborhood restaurant supply store. They have good quality pans, cook sheets, decent knives, etc. for really good prices.

I've also had good luck at yard sales. I found both my yogurt maker and Cuisinart food processor at yard sales (new still in the package.) Yes, a yogurt maker only does one thing, but it was $2 and I use it at least twice a week. ;)

These are what I can absolutely do without:

Garlic press (chop it, a press damages the garlic)
Apple corer
Avocado slicer
Egg slicer
Electric can opener (a swingaway works just fine)
Microwave (yes, I'm weird)
Nonstick anything
Garlic peeler (smash with your knife)
Citrus juicer (use a fork)

junebug41
03-23-2008, 02:32 PM
Salad spinner! Also, a cut set of chopping knives, pepper grinder, garlic crusher (I just mince mine with a knife), a good wood cutting board and easy to wash and lift plastic ones as well, baking dishes.. you know, I think Zenor got them all!


Tomato
03-23-2008, 02:35 PM
Start with a good Santoku knife. You will never use anything else! I have two - one in the classic 7" size and the other in 5". I bought both at Home Sense (I don't think the chain exists in the US) and the bigger one was $14.99.

Both are godsent. I even bought one and mailed it to mom who lives in Europe. She has cut with anything else since the day she received it. Everybody who I gave or recommended one swears by it. I think mine is CuisineArt but they come in different brands.

What is a Santoku knife? (http://housewares.about.com/od/cutleryknives/f/santokuknives.htm)

Also, a good (I mean heavy duty) garlic press.

fiberlover
03-23-2008, 03:00 PM
a microplane grater - this thing is great for shredding parmesan cheese, nutmeg, dark chocolate.

I agree on the popcorn popper for roasting coffee - I do that myself. Nothing is better than fresh roasted.

The Magic Bullet blender is also great for scaled down stuff. I use it to make individual smoothies, chopping nuts, pureeing soups and stuff. We use it several times a week at least.

My kitchenaid mixer is the best! We use it for all kinds of things. It's great for home made pizza crusts and breads, with the dough hook attachment.
I actually have named it the tool of the devil, because you can make the most decadent stuff easily with it. So, you can get carried away.

a good digital scale. We use a Salter scale and have had it for years and I love it!

meowee
03-23-2008, 03:09 PM
An immersion blender . . . and I realy like my Braun.

weegreenlassie
03-23-2008, 03:49 PM
I can't live without my lemon zester and pot-sticker press! You can jazz up any meal with the zester (which I usually use on chocolate to "zest" my strawberries and cool whip), and the pot sticker press is an easy way to use your left-over chicken, veggies, (and even Thanksgiving Stuffing) and jazz it up a bit by putting it into a little potsticker wrapper!

Knives... I hate most of my knives. NEVER buy the $30-$100 "pack o' knives" from Target (or the like)--yes they have a LOT of knives in it, but they all STINK! The best knives I have are stainless steel all the way through (so the wood handle has steel through it that you can see)-- and I bought them at GoodWill.

And I agree with Zenor-- Wooden Utensils are the BEST!! When you use too much metal, you get a funky taste in your food... as well as the fact that your metal spoons and spatulas can scrape off any teflon on your pans (and you don't want to eat that!!)

Have fun shopping for your new kitchen!!!

BlueToBlue
03-23-2008, 03:58 PM
The two kitchen gadgets that I use every day and that I almost never bother to put away are my little OXO salad spinner (http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?order_num=-1&SKU=12208570&RN=939&KSKU=111373) (which I love--the small size is perfect for me) and my Salter digital scale (which is okay, but I wish I'd bought one with an on/off switch--my model eats batteries).

I also love my Cuisinart food processor, but that is a much bigger investment. I don't use it that often, but the recipes I use it for I couldn't make without it and they are some of my favs. I also love being able to buy the leanest cuts of pork and chicken and grind the meat myself--leaner than pre-ground chicken and pork.

Suzanne 3FC
03-23-2008, 04:11 PM
I love my potato ricer - but not for potatoes! I put thawed, frozen spinach in it and use it to squeeze out the water before using the spinach in recipes. It's easy and super efficient :)

rockinrobin
03-23-2008, 04:52 PM
I love my:
-tongs, great for salads and flipping over broiled tomatoes and other veggies that I'm broiling and mixing up roasted veggies
-kitchen shears, great for trimming green beans, chicken cutlet strips
-lemon reamer, gets SO much juice out of a tiny lemon
-hand grater, great for cabbage slaw
-immersion blender, great for making creamy soups
-knives, yup the Santoku is one of my favorites
-garlic press
-ice cube trays, I freeze homemade pesto in there, then pop them out and store in a container. Great for having a little TASTY pesto on hand for fish or salads.
-all different sized containers, great for storing leftovers and traveling

Zenor, we've got the French Press too. And a coffee grinder. I don't drink coffee, but my DH is a FANATIC. He's got umpteen different coffees always on hand. Everyone says he makes thee very best coffee.

On a more expensive note, I too have and ADORE my Cuisinart Food processor and Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.

I know there's got to be lots more, but I'm pressed for time. The above is what first came to mind. It's sooo important to have the right tools on hand. It makes all this prep work and all this cooking so much easier and more enjoyable.

Sweetcaroline
03-23-2008, 07:08 PM
Thank you everybody for the great ideas and suggestions... I'm hoping to go on a little shopping spree with my tax return... I think having 'new toys' will encourage me to try new recipes etc... Now if I can just get some one to clean up after my cooking adventures I'd be thrilled....

rockinrobin
03-23-2008, 08:20 PM
Caroline, I hear you. I actually enjoy just about every aspect of all the healthy cooking that I do - except the one that you mention - the clean up. Oh well. To try and combat it and keep it to a minimum, I clean up as I go along. I've just accepted the fact that it's all part and parcel to what I'm doing. I mean, I LOVE good food and the only way to get good HEALTHY food is to make it myself. It would be nice though if somehow the mess cleaned itself up.........

Have fun shopping!!! I love all those kitchen stores. :)

gailr42
03-23-2008, 10:09 PM
My favorites:

I have two heavy, rimmed, baking sheets that look like the old fashioned metal lunch trays we used to get lunch on at school. They are about 13" x 18". I use them all the time. They were pretty much an inexpensive impulse purchase at Sam's that I am really glad I got. I actually think it is their heaviness and generous size that make them so handy.

Years ago, I bought a Zyliss salad spinner at a thrift shop for 25 cents. Love it. This was way before Zyliss was commonly available in the US, so maybe someone brought it back from a european trip.

My DIL bought me a Wusthof Santoku style knife - one of the shorter ones. It is a wonderful knife.

Cuisinart food scale - got it on sale at some now defunct department store for about $4.00.

I have read that the Forschner knives are very good for inexpensive knives. You might look at them and see what you think.

walking2lose
03-25-2008, 05:53 PM
Cool thread and great idea Caroline! Sounds like you will be eating very mindfully once you have your kitchen set.

Most of my favs have been listed, but I will second the immersion blender. I would never have bought one, but I got it as a gift and love it.

I also use the OXO salad spinner several times a week and I have a drawer full of measuring cups (for yogurt, cereal, etc)

mandalinn82
03-25-2008, 06:04 PM
My knife of choice is a Global Chef knife...supersharp, superwonderful, and makes prep a breeze.

Measuring cups...many sizes.

Ramekins - small - great for single portions of desserts and prepping ingredients.

My Cuisinart 2-in-1...one base with a blender top as well as a food processor. Great stuff.

Good quality, heavy, non-stick pans. Reduces the oil you need SO much when you know your food isn't going to stick.

Nonstick foil. Same reason as above.

Silicone tools, including spatulas, bowl scrapers, spoonulas, whisks, spoons, etc. A good pair of tongs will be great, too. You want heat-resistant stuff that won't scratch your finishes.

No kitchen should be without a microplane. So far, I've purchased 3 for people who didn't have them...if I am cooking at your house, you'd better have a microplane or expect one for the next gift-giving excursion. So many high-flavor ingredients (like parmesan and lemon zest) require the microplane.

I go by the Alton Brown rule - never buy something that you use only for one task, unless that task is nearly daily for you. So think about how you'll use things!

PhotoChick
03-26-2008, 02:28 PM
I go by the Alton Brown rule - never buy something that you use only for one task, unless that task is nearly daily for you.
I knew there was a reason I liked you mandalinn! :) I am a big AB fan and I subscribe completely to his idea that everything in your kitchen should multitask.

These are a couple of larger ticket things, but they're invaluable to me:

Toaster oven I bake a lot of things and for my husband and I (or just for me) it makes more sense to bake in a toaster oven, than to heat up the whole big oven. Mine is just big enough that I can roast a chicken in it, or cook a small frozen pizza for DH, or put the square pyrex baking pan in it (for baked rice). I bake fish in it at least 2x a week and roast veggies at least that often as well. I have used my big oven maybe 5 times all year.

George Foreman Grill I buy boneless skinless chicken breasts at Sam's club, marinade them in light italian dressing or a homemade teryaki mix and then grill 5 or 6 of them at a time (in 2 batches). They're great hot off the grill for dinner and I refrigerate or freeze the rest to use in salads, pasta, rice, etc. for lunches and dinners on nights I don't want to cook. It's also great for pork chops, hamburger patties when it's too cold to grill out, and a handful of other things. I also have used the grill to make homemade panini type sandwiches with whole grain pita and lean turkey or ham. Yummy.

I'll also second the microplane grater and a good knife. I also like and use the Global knives. I have a friend's house where I actually refused to cook unless she bought better knives - bad knives aren't only annoying, they're actively dangerous!

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