Monday, 8 June 2009

Top Ten Kitchen 'Gadgets'

When it comes down to it, I mean really comes down to it, how many ‘essential’ gadgets or pieces of kit do you have in your kitchen?

The reason I ask is because a recent piece in Economist Intelligent Life got me thinking.

It suggested that men’s love of technology stretches far beyond the garden shed or whatever hobby is the current past-time du jour and well into that domain commonly known as the kitchen.

Those of us with a ‘y’ chromosome, it suggests, can resist a new contraption (with barely one specific purpose) no more than we can resist a cold lager, staring at that specific place where a girl’s knickers ride up above their jeans or any other sweeping generalisation you would care to mention.

I’ll admit I found the piece slightly clichéd and playing up to easy stereotypes but it did crank the cogs into gear and cause some deep whirring somewhere about what items in my culinary arsenal I would regard as essential.

I’ve bought the occasional ‘dud’ – I used to work in a cookware shop for goodness’ sake, I was surrounded by extraneous kitchen paraphernalia – but have never been tempted by a mango stoner, avocado scoop or small rubber tube used to remove the skin from garlic cloves (is it honestly that difficult a job? Come on…).

But mostly what I have is very simple. And cherished. Slightly too much in some cases.

In no particular order, here are the ten most useful items any cook could hope to have in their kitchen (NB – no disclosures necessary, no payments, samples or freebies here):

1. A decent frying pan

This is a 20cm De Buyer Blue Steel (not joking) frying pan. Although it isn’t non-stick, over the last five years it has developed a glorious patina making it better than any Teflon coated pan I’ve ever had the displeasure of using. The metal handle means it can go straight into the oven – perfect for browning then roasting meats. I just need a bigger one now…

2. A good knife (or two...)

The chef’s knife is the workhorse of the kitchen, a handheld food processor. A decent hunk of German steel might just outlive you. Depending on your sword skills, they come in sizes varying from about 12cm to 24cm (and beyond). After putting it off for years and muddling on with some lightweight cheapo blades, I finally gave in a couple of months ago and invested in a Henckels. It makes me happy.

3. A steel

If your willing to spend a three figure sum on a knife, it might be a good idea to buy something to keep it sharp. Despite the numerous gadgets on the market that claim to be up to the job, nothing comes close to a traditional steel. And once a year take your knives to your friendly neighbourhood butcher, ask nicely and he’ll grind a razor sharp edge back onto them for you.

4. Tongs

Nearly anything that needs turning can be turned with these. They are like a go-go gadget arm extension.

5. Palette knife

Ideal for flipping the four per cent of things that can’t be flipped with tongs.

6. Sieve

From draining rice, pasta and vegetables to straining stocka and sauces and making smooth purees, the sieve is one of the best kitchen investments it is possible to make.

7. Wooden Spoon

My guess is that this is possibly the oldest utensil in existence (I mean in general, not this specific spoon). That is reason enough for me. It has numerous uses, is almost indestructible and can be replaced for mere pennies

8. Microplane grater

Renders all other graters redundant. Turns Parmesan cheese into billowing clouds of deliciousness and decimates carrots in seconds.

9. Le Creuset Casserole

It boils, it sears, it slow cooks like a dream. These guys have been around almost 100 years, they probably know what they are doing. If your knife doesn’t last longer than you, your Le Creuset certainly will.

10. iSi Cream Whipper

OK, OK, it’s a gadget, it’s virtually pointless and is liable to go wrong at nearly every opportunity. But I am a man and this is my one concession to the article that spawned this list. Not only will it whip cream but also allows you to create a whole raft of elBulli inspired foams, mousses, airs and other such frippery. Enormous fun.

Hark, I hear the faint rumblings of dissent. Are they deserving of a place on The List? Where is the sushi rolling mat? How could I possibly forget cake mould? No baking sheet? How is one to de-stone cherries or de-bone fish?

Put me right and join the debate. What would you rescue first from your kitchen?


Tom Armitage said...

I miss having a Le Creuset; I still haven't managed to replace the one I lost in circumstances, and it makes me sad.

Decent knife and microplane are up there; I'd also add a decent food processor to the list. I don't use it often - I mainly prefer a knife - but there are certain tasks where it's just such a better idea, especially if you have a blender attachment for it as well. My Kenwood was a great investment.

About the most gadgety thing I own - and which has turned out blimming wonderful in my new, tiny flat - is my Joseph Joseph Folding Colander, which really does what it says: it's a jolly good colander, and it folds flat, which is useful not only for storage but also cleaning it. Totally impressed with it - thought it was a luxury, but it's spot on.

Oh, and a corkscrew. Specifically: a waiter's friend, ideally bought for about £2 from an off-licence. I've never used a better corkscrew than a bog-standard waiter's friend, and when they die, you can get another one cheaply. Anything more sophisticated is a waste.

Anonymous said...

Nearly identical. 2 Lodge cast-iron 12" pans, 1 Lodge enameled cast-iron stock pot (purchased on sale for $20) A set of Chicago Cutlery I've had for more than 30 years with the same steel. Several restaurant style tongs both in the 10" and 15" length. And a set of large fork & spoon that I used when I was a waiter at a French restaurant more than 25 years ago...I find that I continually grab them to stir, flip, etc. in just about every situation. Oh and a stainless steel bowl set I bought at Safeway, also more than 20 years ago. I have other things, gadgets and gizmos - many of which get used only once a year or so. Probably the only other thing I need is a good cutting board - I happen to have 5 that are color coded for the different meats and stages of cooked/uncooked.

Alicia Foodycat said...

My husband hates kitchen gadgets. If he can't do it with a stainless steel pan and a fork he isn't interested.

From your list, knives, steel, wooden spoon, le creuset, decent frying pan would all make my list. Chopping board would make my list before the cream whipper thing!

Will Critchlow said...

A proper chopping board as well - to go with your nice knives.

And yes, the cream whipper is just a little poncy. I'd have my kitchen aid before that...

rich (them apples) said...

Good list, and I'm with you right up until the cream whipper gadget. I'd replace that with a whisk...more versatile and cheaper, but I also understand the allure of a shiny gadget, and I've got cupboards full of various useless but impractical things.

The wooden spoon is vital. I have at least half a dozen available at all times.

Things I'd add:

- A good, thick, large, wooden chopping block is vital, complete with character enhancing cuts and scuffs.

- My wok has been with me for more years than I care to remember, too.

- A knife rack, magnetic, to keep your lovingly cared for German steel out of reach of little fingers. Six quid, Ikea, simple and stylish - the biggest kitchen bargain ever.

- kitchen scales, digital. Can't bake without them and also makes posting useless kitchen gear you've managed to flog on eBay much easier.

MJ said...

Hands Down, my number one favorite item in my kitchen is.... the pot scraper. Makes dishes so much easier.

Just Cook It said...

Tom - Yes, food processor is a gadget worth having, that's for sure. Especially if it is one that has multiple attachments for tasks like sausage stuffing or pasta making. I've seen those folding colanders, amazing little things, I can see those being very useful. And definitely with you on the corkscrew on all fronts. Waiter's friend, two quid is all you need.

Thanks CB - Stock pots are great, also good for making jams and chutneys. I know a chef who uses her fork in a similar way, for picking up almost everything. It's her third arm. Can't believe I forgot a cutting board!

Foodycat - I think you've spotted a vital omission on my list. I might have to do some re-jigging now.

Will - See above! Yes, you're absolutely right. Just make suer you avoid those nasty, nasty, nasty ceramic/glass ones. Eeesh. What they do to a knife edge is just wrong. Plus the noise they make!

Rich - Yes, I am beginning to have reservations about the whipper as well. I think there will be some re-jigging. And a knife rack is definitely important. Knives banging around in a draw is a bad thing. Guilty as charged.

MJ - Yes, agree with you there. I have three silicon ones and they are an excellent addition to the kitchen

Gudrun from Kitchen Gadget Girl said...

my list would be very similar! I just received a De Buyer crepe pan for Christmas, and it is fabulous. I did not realize they also made regular frying pans...

I would add immersion blender to your list, as well as instant read thermometer, kitchen scale, a good wine opener, and almost anything by Oxo.


Catastrophe Waitress said...

i love that picture of your baby-blue Le Creuset!
what a nice-looking blog you have.

FOOD IS LUV said...

hello! i just came across your blog for the 1st time and love it! great photos too! cheers!

TKTC said...

I love the visuals here. The opening shot is gorgeous but the whole thing is XY in a nice way. Also, the slat knife for your 4 percenters? Makes quick work of frosting as well.

onesilentwinter said...

great post. I have often observed that many men no matter what they get into have to outfit themselves with a lot of in my opinion non nescary things. my husband is not into gadgets, technology so i know better not to styreo type all men but must confess that his love for hiking has him buying all the best of equipment and consuming way more time then the hike itself!

i like you tools and cherish mine.

Nick said...

No chopping board?!

My knife would be the first...the most versatile tool in the world...thank you Mr. Satake!

Vincetastic said...

Fantastic list! This is like a essentials checklist for the kitchen, I love the pictures too.

Ryan said...

I think your list is pretty much perfect. I'll depart with you on the cream whipper (though I want one now, of course) and I'll take some welding gloves instead. I can't tell you how many times a good pair of welding gloves has enabled me to pick hot things up that I had no good business picking up in the first place. They're probably the only reason I still have finger prints!

Simones Kitchen said...

While it seems an easy question I find it hard to answer in a short way (as more people it appears while looking at the answers!!) but on my list is definitely a good knife first and I am also particularly fond of my Magimix for all the stuff that takes forever to cut with my beautiful knife... Wooden spoon and basically all the stuff you mentioned are pretty essential with the creamwhipper (or what did you call it) as the exception to the rule...

Salon de Sucre said...

I've never owned a Le Creuset .. this would go into one of my Birthday Wishlist items.. I guess..

The wooden Spoon I cant live without.. !!

Oh you have a great blog! I love it and I'm a follower now!

Jackie said...

Mine is the Messermeister julienne swivel peeler. I think it's THE best utensil for julienning vegetables. Is that a verb? Anyway, this tool is also very convenient to shred carrot and also to make the "stuffing" for eggrolls. It's fast, as well.

Hopie said...

I mostly have to agree with your very wise list. Although I have a cream whipper; it *always* goes wrong, and it was given to me by a man :-)

I dragged an entire set of good knives with me across the Atlantic Ocean, with steel and block to hold them ("um, no sir, I'm not a terrorist, just a chef...") and learned that according to airline weapon regulations, as long as a knife doesn't poke out of your suitcase, you can check it (damn, had to leave the samurai sword behind)!

Otherwise, I'd add a decent mixing bowl to that list.

Angry Brit said...

I am lost without my precious microplane. My list pretty much matches yours, but I would add a decent chopping board, a couple of mixing bowls, and a measuring jug to my list. Oh, and a vegetable peeler.

It's odd the number of items you take for granted in the kitchen. When I moved into my apartment we bought a 6-pack of bottled beer, only to find we didn't have anything which which to open it. The edge of the counter was brought into use, which was fine until I started chipping the tops of the bottles. Yeah. Add a corkscrew/bottle opener to my list.

Just Cook It said...

Gudrun - I've almost bought a de buyer crepe pan so many times but just haven't quite made the leap yet. They are great pans though. And so cheap.

The Projectivist - Thank you very much.

Thanks indeed Food is Luv.

TKTC - Thank you for the kind words. I don't do a huge amount of baking but great tip for the frosting.

onesilentwinter - So true. I am guilty of it too (DJ gear amongst others) but have managed to avoid it in the kitchen

Nick - I know, big omission

Thanks a lot Vincetastic.

Ryan - interesting call. I'm busy (accidentally) nurturing asbestos hands at the moment so a gauntlet would come in very handy!

Junglefrog - Yup, Magmix would be nice. I don't think we have room at the moment though!

Room Design Studio - Le Creu is fantastic. So versatile and solid. Well worth investing. Thanks very much for the comment

Jackie - Good shout. I have a peeler and a small mandolin but nothing that can julienne. Apart from a knife, of course!

Hopie - Never thought you'd be able to but it makes sense. And yes, mixing bowl would be useful. Eeek. I am finding glaring omissions every day now.

Angry Brit - Measuring jug would be handy, definitely. And you know you can use a piece of paper to open bottles?

Anonymous said...

All is good Except the isi is not as good as the Mosa Stainless Steel whipper,

it will never corrode and always be pulled apart to be cleaned in a dishwasher..

Excelent Product...

Aimée said...

Superb list, lovely blog.
Here's my list from last year.

Many things will be familiar to you!

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


CabinetGiant said...

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Rebeca said...

My onion chopper is probably in my top 10 of useful kitchen tools. While, yes, you can chop with a knife, my somewhat crappy knives slip on thin onion skins and on more than one occasion I have been milliseconds away from slicing off finger tips. With 4 pushes on the onion chopper I have chopped onions, non-teary eyes, AND fingertips! I call that success!

Andrew Saladino said...

I think you're missing the most important kitchen 'gadget', kitchen cabinets!! I think that you completely overlooked the simplest of all of the things that are inside your kitchen. You need a place to put all of these things

Kitchen gadget store said...

All are looking very small things but without these small things our kitchen is incomplete. all help us in our daily work and to kook delicious food.