Kitchen Gadgets You Need
If you’re like me, when you walk into a kitchen gadget store, you get a little overwhelmed by the sheer number and variety of kitchen tools. A lot of them are the basics (rubber spatulas, whisks, cheese graters, etc.) but a lot of them are what I consider niche – they just aren’t necessary unless you happen to be preparing a certain food item. Sometimes I’m just not sure of what I actually need, versus what is completely unnecessary (like the big watermelon slicer my husband bought and we never used).
Below are my top 10 items that might not be in your kitchen, but definitely should be.
- Rice Cooker
Aroma Housewares ARC-914SBD 8-Cup (Cooked) Digital Cool-Touch Rice Cooker and Food Steamer, Stainless Steel
I never thought this was necessary. I learned how to prepare rice from a Chinese woman and that method worked. However, once I got my hands on a rice steamer, I thought “where have you been all my life?!” They are super simple to use, easy to clean up, and inexpensive. Sure, there are $300 rice cookers, but you really don’t need one. You can pick up perfectly good rice cookers for under $30.
Microplane 46020 Premium Black Zester/Grater
- Rice Cooker
I was at a knife skills class a couple years ago, and of course at the end of the class purchased a nice chef’s knife. The chef (who also managed the store and taught the class) asked if I needed anything else, and I’m not sure why, but I decided I needed a good tool for shredding parmigiana cheese because a regular cheese grater just wasn’t quite right. “Microplane!” he said. “A what?” He was stunned that a person like me who loved to cook didn’t have one. Well guess what? Not only is it a perfect parmigiana grater, it’s also ace for zesting lemons and limes, and grating ginger. I use mine at least 3-4 times a week
3. A Good Chef’s Knife
Global G-2 – 8 inch, 20cm Chef’s Knife
A knife isn’t a knife, my friends. When I read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, I learned that all I needed was a good chef’s knife, and maybe a paring knife for the small stuff. I read that, and watched enough online cooking shows to know that I needed a knife class! Luckily, a local store that offers cooking classes also offers a knife skills class. I took it, and am so glad I did. I’m no knife wielding whiz, but my skills have definitely improved AND I was inspired to buy a good knife, because just like Bourdain, our instructor taught us that really, all you need is a good one. Now, which to buy? I had planned on buying a German knife, but decided on a Japanese knife. Chef Matt explained the difference between German and Japanese like this: A German knife is like a tank, dependable sturdy, indestructible and able to handle anything. A Japanese knife is like a luxury sports car – light weight, fast, and good looking. I went with the Japanese knife because it felt better in my hand. My advice? Go somewhere where the sales people know knives, and handle them, try them out.
4. Citrus Press/Juicer
Top Rated Zulay Premium Quality Metal Lemon Lime Squeezer – Manual Citrus Press Juicer
This handheld tool is great for squeezing lemons and limes. It really gets more juice out than if you just squeeze it yourself. Get one big enough to do oranges – if you settle for a small one, you won’t be able to do the bigger fruits.
5. Corn Peeler/Scraper
OXO Good Grips Corn Peeler
This seems like a silly little tool, but I have to admit it is super helpful! I used to saw corn off the cob with a knife, which can be a bit precarious. A handheld corn scraper like this one from OXO easily shaves the kernels off the cob without risking a digit.
6. Mini Whisk
Fox Run 16607 Mini Whisks, Chrome Plated, Set of 4 They’re cute and make nice stocking stuffers, but they actually do come in handy when you need to mix up a small amount of sauce. The mini whisks are small enough to use in a ramekin or prep dish. I use mine all the time when I’m finishing a dish with a quick little sauce.
7. Mini Food Processor
Cuisinart Mini-Prep Plus 4-Cup Processor
I’ve had a Cuisinart Mini Prep in my kitchen for as long as I’ve had a kitchen. My mom handed hers down to me and it lasts for nearly two decades. Eventually the blades dulled, and then I dropped the lid on the floor and it shattered – I guess because it was so old. Cheapo me was going to buy the replacement lid on Amazon, and then thought I should get a new blade as well and then realized I might as well get a whole new Mini Prep! It definitely lasted longer than any other small appliance I’ve ever had. The mini prep is great for crushing nuts, chopping up onions, making salsa, all kinds of stuff that might be a little too small to put in the full size food processor. Plus, it’s light weight, small and easy to handle.
8. Electric Knife –
Hamilton Beach Electric Carving Knife with Case (74275)
Another tool that seems silly at first, but really is useful for slicing a nice loaf of bread or a standing rib roast. Really, if you ever cut a large piece of meat or poultry – ham, turkey, beef roasts – you need one of these. It makes the job so much easier. And if you are a fresh baked bread fanatic, an electric knife glides through a crusty crust without smooshing the soft bread inside. Careful, tho – they can be dangerous!
9. Herb Scissors
Jenaluca Herb Scissors Stainless Steel – Multipurpose Kitchen Shear with 5 Blades and Cover with Cleaning Comb
I’m actually on the fence about this one. They are super handy because they have multiple blades, they can cut up herbs quickly and easily. I use mine frequently. However, since I did take that knife skill class, I can chop up parsley and cilantro pretty quickly with just a knife!
10. Ramekins and Prep Bowls
Luminarc 10-Piece Set Stackable Bowl Set
Bellemain 4 oz. Porcelain Ramekins, Set of 6
These are a must, especially if you prep your ingredients before you start cooking (called “mise en place”). I usually chop, dice, grate, and measure into small dishes like ramekins and prep bowls to get all of my items ready. They are also great for serving sauces and dressings on the side – I’ll give each person an individual little cup of sauce or dressing along with their plated meal.
Obviously, there are lots of other things I use, like all of the basic spoons, spatulas, scrapers, and tongs, but these items may be things that you’ve thought, “Do I really need that?” I’ve asked those questions myself, but for these items, I’m glad I made the investment!
What are some of your “must have” kitchen tools?