Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Favorite: Kitchen Tools

 Totally odd post, I know, but I really really love my mango splitter, so you must be informed of this love, and while I'm at it some of my other useful lesser known kitchen tools. I decided to go with a baker's dozen just because I was having a hard time narrowing it down and a baker's dozen just seemed so apt for a kitchen post, right?

First, of course, the aforementioned mango splitter (lower lefthand corner). Fabulously useful. One of those one shot tools that is actually well worth owning if you make mango salsa as often as we do. It takes a wee bit of practice to be able to pick up a mango and choose correctly where to cut it, but after awhile you can identify the slight indention that tells you where the pit lies. This cutter leaves very little flesh on the pit and cuts the mango evenly into two large pieces. I recommend peeling the mango after cutting because it makes it less slippery. Also, you should know that this works slightly less well on the smaller variety of mangos you occasionally find in the produce section, so don't buy those.

Above the mango splitter is the ever-useful mortar and pestle, which was once an anniversary gift from Nathan. It's a nice marble one that has a lovely heft to it and has survived its share of knocks and tumbles. I firmly tout that there's nothing that adds better depth to a dish than freshly ground spices, and it's really satisfying to grind them to a powder with the little mortar (plus you get to feel a bit like a mad scientist).

For bigger spices like cinnamon and large amounts of peppercorns, I turn to my spice grinder (top left). Yeah, sure that may be sold as a coffee bean grinder, but it is fabulously useful in grinding my spices. I would certainly recommend buying a separate grinder for spices than the one you typically use for coffee beans because your coffee may end up tasting like cinnamon (yum) or tumeric (seriously yuck).

I really only use my biscotti pans to make biscotti, but you really can't make biscotti taste as good without them, so in my opinion it's another one of those one use tools that really are worth it to own. Still, I think these pans would be great to make some interesting shaped cakes or brownies if I ever have the urge.

The parchment paper you see in the pans is super useful to have on hand for practically anything in your kitchen. Not only does putting it in/on your cake pans and cookie sheets make clean up so much easier, but you can use it in making patterns for sewing and other crafts and as a disposable surface to save wiping up. Also, you can mimic the fancy bakeries by cutting this into squares and using in as muffin liners for baked goods. I haven't tried this, but I should. Actually, I'm pretty sure I just used up the last of my muffin liners, so in fact, I will be trying this.

Below the parchment paper is the difficult-to-find-in-stores garlic twist. It's kind of ridiculously expensive right now, but I cannot emphasize enough how useful it is to have. We use it for both garlic and fresh ginger; it takes seconds to mince three cloves of garlic and then even less time to clean. The cleaning part is what makes this hands-down better than a garlic press. I believe so firmly that this is worth having that I have given it as a gift in the past though every time it has been met with puzzled and dubious looks. Still, I persist.

If I had to use only one knife for the rest of my life, it would definitely be a  7-inch santoku knife (it practically already is the only one I ever use already). It's the perfect size to tackle anything in the kitchen without feeling like any second I'm going to chop off one of my fingers. Perhaps if I had better knife skills, this would change, but better knife skills don't seem a likely development so I will continue to turn to my favorite knife.

I use my kitchen shears for everything from cutting parchment paper to snipping herbs to trimming the fat off of meat. Sometimes even in preparing the same meal (though I end with the meat and always wash them very well after).

I actually grew up with this cake tester in our kitchen, so I asked for it when I had a kitchen of my own. It sort of reminds me of a oil dipstick, but I am reasonably sure that it's only use has ever been in the kitchen.  Using a metal cake tester, as opposed to a toothpick for example, makes it easier to see if your batter is set, and it's reusable so you're saving on waste. Sure this is another of those one use tools, but it doesn't take up any extra room.
A mini whisk is a surprisingly handy tool to have around. I find myself searching for it when I'm making small batches of batters, when I'm making mixed drinks, and when I just need to mix the salt and baking powder into the flour quickly before I add it to the wet ingredients.

We got the silicone muddler for a wedding gift, so we've really only had this a short while, but it is turning out to be a go-to kitchen tool. I use it for everything from squishing berries for toppings to actually muddling drink ingredients. The little waffle pattern on the bottom makes it very effective in squishing things.

I use my fine cheese grater for grating cheese, of course, but also for grating carrots for my tuna fish salad, and nutmeg (and less successfully, cinnamon sticks).

Finally, last but not least, I use my flour sack towels for everything in the kitchen. I tie them around my waist to use as an apron, use them as my surface for dusting raw fish or chicken with flour and spices, and even use them as actual towels occasionally.

There you have it, an immensely long post publicizing my love for kitchen tools. Like I said, odd, but hopefully helpful. Did I miss any tools or gadgets you can't live without?

*All pictures by me at night with the flash on, so forgive the poor quality. Perhaps I'll get around to replacing these with better ones, but it's about as likely as improving my knife skills. So. Well, don't bet a finger on it, I guess.


  1. Unlike my sister, I was actually very interested in this post and did find it quite useful. I have never made biscotti but it seems to be a staple in your house. Can you explain why and also pass on a recipe?

  2. I am also curious about the biscotti. And while Matt usually does our cooking, you have given me several ideas for things to get him!!

  3. Good collection of kitchen tools and equipments. You seems little kitchen savvy and have nice collection too. I suggest you to find more good tools at best rate from www.planetappliance.com.

    I Hope at there you will find the best offer for kitchen tools.

  4. Good information on this post. Also, it is really nice to listen all your words. Thanks for sharing this.
    Kitchen Equipment

  5. Awesome post you have here. A very helpful one. Thanks for sharing! I'd like to share LPG cylinder I'm using. I'm sure this will help you in the kitchen.