When I got married nearly 12 years ago, my husband and I got a lot of kitchen gadgets as wedding gifts. I think that is pretty common place but when you are giving a bride such as myself a kitchen gift, you can most likely expect it to be re-gifted in a couple of years. Some of the things we have collected over the years have such a thick layer of dust collecting on them, you can no longer read what it is that’s inside the box. And some things are just plain useless. But I have a bad habit…a habit of seeing that clever marketing tool known as packaging and I can’t stay away. So my rather large kitchen is stuffed to the brim with just about every kitchen gadget that exists today or has existed since the lightbulb was invented. We’ve got a grilled cheese maker, a quesadilla maker, a soft pretzel maker, a cake pop maker, a mini doughnut maker….do I need to go on? What I was seriously lacking was the actual tools to really cook. Since that day of making a beef and bean casserole without killing my husband and kids, I’ve collected the necessary “basics” such as a good set of knives (I like the cheap ceramic knives best), some spatulas and spoons, a couple decent pots and pans and so on. But I’ve also come across some, shall we say “Fu-Fu” items that I cannot live without. Well they are not all “Fu-Fu” so to speak…but you can easily cook a decent meal without them so I therefore categorize them as “Fu-Fu”. These are the items in my kitchen that I think you should invest in:
#1. Dough Cutter, General Kitchen Scraper.
I got this little tool from my dad for Christmas. He is an accomplished cook and I had asked him for some kitchen supplies for Christmas. I got a really nice basket full of stuff from him and my mom. This thing was in the basket and when I opened the gift, I had absolutely no idea what this was for or why I needed it (and I was too embarrassed to ask my dad). It went into my “Fu-Fu” drawer for a few months. Then one day I decided to make pizza dough and I needed to cut a large ball of sticky dough into three pieces. My knife was not cooperating at the time so I went searching for something else to use. I saw this little tool just patiently waiting its turn to shine. I pulled it out and it did not disappoint. It cut the dough so nicely. Months later, I was at a cooking class at Sur La Table and our instructor was using this tool to scrape the chopped veggies from his chopping board into the bowl and it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. Now I got it! And now you need to go buy one.
#2. Citrus Squeezer
I like to cook with lemon a lot. And all other citrus fruits for that matter. I use to have an old-fashioned citrus juicer that would take all day to give me what I want. And I am not what you would call a patient person…at all…by any means. I also have a very expensive, VERY heavy juicer. I need to hire a moving company just to lift it from the top shelf of my pantry to the kitchen counter. That was never handy. So again, I was at a cooking class at Sur La Table and our instructor used this to juice three lemons in less time than it took me to blink. It might not be something you will use everyday but when you need it, you’ll be glad you have it. I love this little gadget.
#3. Measuring/Prep Bowls
These were also in the Christmas gift basket from my mom and dad. I use these bowls so much that I bought an additional set. These bowls come in so handy for prepping and measuring things such as spices, liquids, sugar, flour, etc. If you look at the second photo (peppercorns), you will see that the bowls have two measurements on them. One at the top and then another one under the ridge. If you fill this bowl to the ridge, you have the amount shown BELOW the ridge. If you fill it all the way to the top, you have the measurement shown ABOVE the ridge. But more than anything, I just use these as prep bowls. If you have ever watched a cooking show, you will notice that the chef has everything already prepared (chopped, diced, measured, etc.) and while they are cooking, they just grab the item and dump it in. I know they do this to avoid down time during the show but it really is a fantastic idea and saves you so much time. I seriously cannot live without these little cuties. And they come in such vibrant colors. Mine are melamine…they also come in glass. I have two kids…enough said about my decision to go with Melamine.
#4. Color Coded Chopping Mats
I have several chopping mats but what I really like about these is the ability to separate food items to avoid contamination. They have a non-slip back, they are “self-healing” and dishwasher safe. I’ve seen fancier versions that actually had labels on them (chicken, seafood, meat, veggies) but they were quite a bit more expensive and I didn’t think I needed the labels. I thought I could just remember.Well that didn’t last and now I’ve written on the back of each one with a sharpie. It may not be as fancy but it works and I even managed to save a few bucks. Bonus: the mats pictured are several months old, have seen their fair share of abuse and many, many trips through the dishwasher and they still look brand new.
#5. Silpat, Silpain and Roul’Pat
I stumbled across these marvels accidentally. A group of our friends get together once a month and have a cooking party. We pick a theme and everyone contributes a dish. I’ll talk more about that in another blog post. The month of July is Asian and I signed up to make lettuce wraps AND fortune cookies. I had never made fortune cookies before and it sounded like a fun challenge (I’ll also get into that in another blog post). When researching recipes, I kept seeing an underlying necessary kitchen tool…the Silpat. I had no idea what a Silpat was so I googled it and ended up purchasing one from Amazon. These little things are not cheap but they are worth every penny. The Silpat is a silicone baking mat that nothing, and I mean, NOTHING sticks to this little guy. It replaces Parchment paper and having to grease your cookie sheet. I was so impressed with the Silpat, I researched other products made by the same company and eventually purchased the Silpain and Roul’Pat. The Silpain is specifically for bread. It is perforated to allow the air to circulate underneath the bread as it is baking. I have not had the chance to use it as of this post but I am pretty confident in saying that I won’t be disappointed. And finally…the Roul’Pat. This mat is used as a surface mat for rolling dough of any kind. It prevents the need to flour your work area because again…nothing sticks to it…EVER! It’s much larger than the Silpat and Silpain and therefore gives you a nice surface for rolling out doughs. When it comes to kitchen gadgets, these are a bit on the pricey side but if you bake or work with dough…I’d consider them necessary!!!!
USE THE GUARD! USE THE GUARD! USE THE GUARD!
Ok…now that I’ve so clearly posted my warning statement….USE THE GUARD! This little slicer comes in very handy when I don’t feel like dirtying the food processor (which I love by the way and believe is also a necessary kitchen component). It’s quick and handy and gets the job done. My daughter likes to cook with me a lot and this is the one thing in the kitchen that I will NOT allow her to use. She uses the knives and graters and other sharp instruments but this one scares me. It is handy though. It is fairly inexpensive and a lot less clean up than the food processor and all of its components. Note: there is a turn dial (or something similar) on the bottom of most mandolins that will change the depth of your slice. Anything from razor thin to nice thick slices. I did not know that for a long time and was disappointed in my mandolin’s performance. Turns out it wasn’t his fault at all. A perfect example of cooking by trial and error.
#7. Herb Scissors
These were also in the basket of goodies from my mom and dad. And much like the dough cutter (see #1), I had no idea what they were used for and I was too embarrassed to ask my dad. So into the drawer of “Fu-Fu” items they went…only to be brought out a few months ago for the very first time. One of my least favorite things to do is chop herbs. It is time consuming and difficult to get a good consistency. And the food processor pulverizes the herbs – sometimes that works and sometimes you need a coarser chop. So one day, my husband brought in a ton of fresh mint from our garden. (Side Note: as part of my cooking interest, I also became interested in growing my own veggies and herbs. I have a nice little garden on my property but I am no expert in gardening. I do NOT have a green thumb. I once killed an artificial plant….true story. I don’t even have enough success in gardening to write a blog about it. I may post about gardening on this blog page but I could never write an entire blog.) So anyway, back to the mint….there was a ton of it. I needed a coarse chop to add to my Vietnamese Spring Rolls. I could’t use the food processor and I wasn’t thrilled about having to chop it for the next three hours. So I dug these scissors out of the “Fu-Fu” drawer and gave them one chance. To my surprise, they didn’t disappoint. They gave me a nice coarse chop and got the job done in record time. To further test their ability, I took a handful of the mint and kept cutting to see just how fine I could get it and the results were fantastic. The more you chop, the finer your herb will get. If you use fresh herbs and want to save time, I recommend a pair of these scissors.
#8. Garlic Peeler
This is, without a doubt, the coolest and most convenient “Fu-Fu” gadget I own. And I’d be heart broken if I ever lost it. It is simply a silicone tube, open on both ends that takes the pain out of peeling garlic. Simply place one or two cloves in the center of the tube and roll on the counter. The skin comes right off and you have perfectly peeled garlic in seconds. And no sticky hands! I love this thing so much, I bought one for all of my friends that are a part of our cooking party group. Best $9 I have ever spent. No joke!
#9. Garlic Mincer
This item and the next one listed both do the same job. I prefer this gadget, my husband prefers the next one. Both were purchased about one year apart from each other for no other reason than we forgot we had the first one. So we purchased the other one for ourselves and our friend and I do use both. My friend seems to like her gadget…the one listed next. Anyway, this gadget is just fun and easy and fast. My kids like to use it. You simply open the top, place a clove or two of garlic inside, close the door and roll it rather vigorously back and forth on the counter. It has wheels on the bottom that you can’t really see in this picture. It gives a nice mince to the garlic in a matter of seconds and it looks cool while it’s doing the job. The blade inside does fall out very easily so be careful if you are letting your kids have fun with it. My kids love to roll it and then they hand it over to me to retrieve the garlic (which I do with a toothpick). It is dishwasher safe and easy to clean. I really like this garlic mincer. If you can find this one, this is the one to buy…at least in my opinion…but my husband isn’t writing this blog so it’s my opinion you’re going to get.
#10. Garlic Mincer and Slicer
As previously mentioned, this item and the one right above it, do the same thing…they both mince garlic. And I prefer the item listed above. But there is one thing that this gadget does that the one above does not. This one has an extra “grate” on the bottom that can be inserted and used for slicing garlic. I have not had much success with the slicing grate. I really didn’t see the difference between the minced and the supposedly sliced garlic. But this tool does get the job done quickly, does not have a sharp blade like the previous gadget and it has a nice little slide out cup that holds your garlic until you need it. So there are pros and cons to both gadgets and it would be a matter of personal preference. Whatever you prefer, a garlic mincer is an essential kitchen tool.
Like I said, I have many kitchen gadgets but these 10 (okay really 9 because two of them do the same job) are items I use on an almost daily basis and wouldn’t be happy without each and every one of them. Happy Cooking!