Friday, January 10, 2014

Kitchen Gadgets for the New Cook

A collection of colorful kitchen gadgets.
Some of My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

Before there was "an app for that," there was a kitchen gadget.

From gadgets that slice and dice and filet and chop to gadgets that stir and whip and blend and ball, there are some gadgets that are worth the money, and others that are just plain useless or even dangerous.  Here are some of my favorites from both categories.

Feel free to share your favorites in the comments!

The Bad and Ugly: Useless and Dangerous Kitchen Gadgets

Although many of these items have been "toyified" and call out to unsuspecting shoppers from colorful packages with photos of happy families on them, let me assure you, I have never found a use for them.  As a matter of fact, I have found that some of them are actually quite dangerous.
  • Banana Slicer: This item will take up space in your kitchen, and it will never be used.  Instead of nicely slicing your banana to use in your early morning cereal or breakfast smoothie, it will mash your banana into slices.  This mashing process will leave you with extra cleaning to do that could have been avoided if you had simply sliced the banana with a knife over your bowl or blender.
  • Stirring Machine: The milk will still scorch if you aren't watching it, and your gravy will still be lumpy.  If you're watching it, you may as well stir it and avoid having batteries so close to your hot, wet dinner.
  • Pizza Cutter: This is one of the most dangerous tools I have ever tried to use.  I should have never pressed my thumb down toward a round blade while rolling it back and forth over a scorching hot surface and into the coating of one of my nice baking sheets.  I now use kitchen shears, instead.
  • Food Shapers: Fried eggs were never meant to be round.  Bread was never meant to look like a dinosaur.  Hamburgers shaped like Texas are not tastier.
  • Convertible Whisk: While converting from a whisk that flares out to a whisk that flares in, I gave myself a blood blister.  I have converted to a regular whisk.

The Good: Kitchen Tools to Make You Smile

On the other hand, even though I am sure Chef Ramsay would not approve of these in a restaurant kitchen, the following items have become staples in my kitchen.  In addition to my vegetable peeler, can opener, measuring spoons, kitchen shears and assorted utensils, I have actually found the following "non-standard" kitchen gadgets extremely useful.
My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets - Image by Amy Lynn Hess
  • Spaghetti Portioner: It seems silly unless a person who is used to cooking for 4 starts cooking for 1, or vice-versa.  Not making enough can be embarrassing, and making too much can be wasteful.  My home is microwave free, so making the right amount of pasta means less waste.
  • Automatic Slicer: I use my off-brand automatic slicer a few times a month to slice potatoes and squash for soups and casseroles.  It's a lot easier than trying to slice these hard vegetables using my chef's knife.  I never have to worry about slicing my fingers.
  • 4-Sided Grater: I can use this grater to make my favorite homemade egg noodles, grate cheeses for casseroles and salads, zest fruit, or slice carrots and cucumbers when I don't feel like pulling out my off-brand automatic slicer.
  • Rubber-Bottom Ice Cream Scoop: I don't have to use my fingers to scoop the ice cream out of the ice cream scoop.  If I push on the rubber bottom, it just pops right out.  It also works for meatballs.
  • Pumpkin Cutter: When I was a kid we used a big knife to carve our Jack-O-Lantern.  It took a long time, and we weren't allowed to do it unsupervised.   Now, however, pumpkin cutters of various sizes exist, and they make the job safe, fast and fun.

A good rule of thumb when looking at gadgets in the never-ending aisles at your local department or dollar store is to take a moment to think about how that device could work for multiple tasks in your kitchen.  If it makes a cumbersome job safer or easier, or if you can see yourself using the gadget in multiple ways, it's probably a good buy.  However, if it seems too specialized or a little dangerous, better to leave it at the store.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.

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