Let me preface this post by saying that I am not a huge fan of kitchen gadgets. By gadgets I mean fiddly utensils or machines that are supposed to make jobs in the kitchen easier, but usually make more work for the cook, because they are hard to clean and can only be used for one specific use. I steer clear of them because I prefer to use tools that are multi-taskers and that can be cleaned and stored easily. I am a very messy cook and so the less excess mess I create the better!
The following list are some of my all time favourite tools that I use again and again. They’re all other dishwasher safe or can be hand washed both quickly and easily!
1. Microplane Grater
I first spotted the microplane being used on The Rachel Ray Show, and have since spotted lots of TV cooks using them. They come in a variety of different sizes, and they are extremely sharp and effective at grating food. I use mine to grate garlic cloves, parmesan, ginger root, nutmeg (although I’ve since bought a smaller nutmeg specific microplane) and sometimes I use it to grate citrus zest as it will not pick up the bitter white pith. It is easy to clean and dishwasher safe, and seems to be really well made. I’ve have mine for 4 years now and it’s wearing really well.
They are made in the USA, so they’re about 50% cheaper to buy there. I got mine for about $15, but I think they are more like €25 here. I still think they are worth splashing out on though, as I use mine almost every time I make dinner. Sidenote: I use it instead of a garlic crusher, even though I have one but find it too fiddly to clean. Between the garlic, the parmesan and the lemon, it gets used multiple times a week!
2. Citrus Reamer
These little guys are so, so handy for juicing citrus fruit. I mostly use it for lemons, but it works equally well for limes, and you can get away with bigger citrus fruit too like oranges and grapefruit. Mine got a lot of use last Christmas juicing clementines. For recipes that require a lot of fresh juice, they are much handier to use than bigger juicing contraptions – because who wants to clean that out? (Unless you’re making juice to drink that is, and you need to strain it.)
And they will get every last drop of juice out of an unyielding lime. Lemon or orange pips might need to be caught or fished out, depending on the recipe, and some of the pulp will come out, but I like that. Very easy to clean too, either by hand or in the top drawer of your dishwasher. Last winter and spring, I used mine for juicing blood oranges and it never stained! This little reamer costs about €3.50 and you can pick them up in most kitchen stores or kitchen sections of bigger department stores. I wouldn’t be without it!
3. Silicone Spatula
This was another tool that I picked up in the States a few years ago and find indispensable!
In fact I’ve since bought another narrower one from Le Creuset (for scraping out jars – see below) and you can buy them in all kitchen shops and kitchen departments. Silicone is really durable and is heatproof up to about 300 celsius, meaning you can use it to stir food on the heat like a wooden spoon. It is also dishwasher safe and won’t stain or retain odours easily. Again I got my first one 4 years ago and it has worn really well.
I get a weird sense of satisfaction using spatulas to scrape out bowls – they are very handy in baking for that very reason! And these silicone ones are wearing much better than my old plastic ones. I think this one cost about 10 quid, so they’re not expensive and you’ll use it a lot.
4. Stainless steal pot with steamer insert
All my pots and pans are now stainless steel, bar my lovely le Creuset cast iron grill pan. (I’m planning on building up my cast iron Le Creuset collection in the future but they’re so expensive!) I used to use non-stick pans but after reading about the toxins that can be found in non stick coatings, I prefer not to use them anymore. Besides I always scraped them so they were not wearing well. This 5 litre stainless steel stock pot with a steamer insert is from Ikea and it costs €18 plus €8.25 for the steamer insert. What a bargain!
This pot gets used all the time for boiling pasta and making soups or stews – plus it’s oven proof so it’s even more useful. The steamer insert gets used a lot for steaming vegetables, especially potatoes. Steaming spuds is the best way to cook them if you’re making mash, as it keeps them dry and fluffy. Or if you’re using baby new potatoes, you can steam them with the skins on – yum! You can steam lots of other vegetables like carrots, squash, green beans, kale (see above) – the list is endless! And steaming retains more vitamins and minerals than other forms of cooking.
5. Potato Ricer
This one goes well with the steamer! If you’ve ever had trouble getting your mashed potatoes lump free then you need to try using a potato ricer. I used to always use one, but it was very awkward to clean and started to rust so we threw it out. But then I found this one:
I recently invested in this one from Marks and Spencer that is much easier to clean and produces soft, silky mash every time. It’s dishwasher safe and even looks nice hanging up on the wall. It’s listed on their website as large, but it’s actually quite compact and not at all bulky like my last one. It has no removable parts, which means it’s not in the least bit fiddly. You simply steam or boil your spuds, then squeeze them through this nifty gadget like you would a garlic press, and it produces ribbons of fluffy mash, which you can then enhance with milk, cream or butter. Perfect!
So that’s my top 5 kitchen tools that I wouldn’t be without. I have to say, it was very difficult to narrow it down to just 5, so I might have to a follow up post in the future! What about you? Are there any kitchen gadgets that you can’t live without? Have I left any off my list? Let me know in the comments!