Your favourite kitchen gizmo
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It's the speed of the thing as well as the consistency. Mayo is a breeze as well any of the emulsified sauces.
Cleaning is not as much trouble as you may think. I generally drop the parts I'm finished with into a sink (or on busy jobs, a bucket) of warm water as I finish with each one. Then a sink of hot, soapy water and a nylon scrubbing brush will fix everything. Watch the cutting edges, they're sharp!
If I haven't used it and I'm wiping the bench after some other task, a quick wipe down with the same cloth keeps it looking good on the bench.
It is definitely a personal choice and I did without one for years, and could do so again if I had to. I do like the convenience of having it right there on the bench should I want to use it though.
I like my dehydrator. I only use it once a year, really, when my apricots are ripe, but it makes great fruit leather.
By the way, I do realise someone is going to come along in a minute and say 'well, duh, what do you eat a lot of? If it's bread, get a bread-maker; if it's yoghurt, get a yoguhurt-maker etc' - the problem with that is that we eat a lot of whatever we happen to have in the house so if we had a bread-maker we'd eat a lot of bread (maybe not a good thing) etc. Perhaps I should make a condition that whatever gizmo I get should make things without calories taste like chocolate and double cream. Anybody got one of those?
A decent wooden large choppingboard - butcher's block style endgrain if you are really going for a treat. Expensive, but it looks good, and just feels nicer to cut onto. Lasts forever.
The other essential (operated with some skill by Mr Dajashby, this is Christine here) is the espresso machine. We have a top-of-the-range domestic model, a Rancilio Sylvia, and a burr grinder. But it's only essential if you're a coffee drinker.
So many people have told me that bread-making machines cost them a fortune in ingredients and shop-bought bread works out a million times cheaper. I wouldn't be doing it to save money, more for the flavour and general yumminess, but I am a bit cautious about spending a small fortune just to pile on millions of calories. And, btw, silly question, I know, but when you use a bread-maker do you still get the smell or is it all contained within the machine? When I made bread by hand (can no longer do that because back problems prevent me kneading properly) my favourite part of the process was that lovely bread-baking smell. And is there any particular make you would recommend or any particular features I shouldn't be without?
I must say I'm very tempted by one of these but I'm also still hovering over the ice-cream idea and wondering whether to stretch to both. Re the ice-cream - obviously I can see the advantages of making up your own recipes but how do you find the finished product compares price-wise? It would be lovely to feed guests with something really special and home-made but there wouldn't be much point if it worked out to be prohibitively expensive.
The bread machine's biggest point, for me, was the ability to set it and forget it (sorta). Otherwise breadmaking felt like a whole day's commitment. I'm much less concerned about the cost than the ability to experiment. I like to have fun with my food. I've done all sorts of experimenting with ingredients and have had lots of good results.
I don't use mine much now because I'm trying to go easy on wheat and I find non-wheat breads very fiddly. However, there is a newish Cuisinart-brand machine that has a "gluten-free" setting. That one has been on my radar.
I love my Cuisinart for when I'm making big batches of things like soups and am too impatient to whack everything up by hand. I've also done batters and even bread dough in it. If you need fine-ground nuts, or want pesto or hummus, it is indispensable.
My husband brought into the marriage one of those little mini-processors. I find it mostly useless, except for very small batches of things like nuts.
My stick blender I got as an incentive prize from something or other. I don't use it all the time, but when I do, it really does well what nothing else will do easily. (Does that parse?) I like it especially for soups and gravies. I can blend in all the vegetables. It's really easy to clean, too, just running water.
Price - hmm. 1.5kg bread flour is about £1.40 and enough for 2 loaves. yeast may 10p/sachet so each loaf is about 80p*, more expensive than cheapest shop bread, but cheaper than most expensive, and definetly tastes better! It won't keep as long though.
*+ a tiny bit of electricity and salt. You don't need any other ingrediants (esp sugar and fat not required) though you can use almost anything you want. It will all add to the price.
I've only tried the jam function once, but I can't see vinegar causing any particular problems. All the important bits are non-stick coated or PTFE bits anyway, and vinegar won't effect those, even when heated.
There is no instant coffee in my house!
Ed to fix wonky italics
I have a basic Fagor cooker (a well-known, easily obtainable brand). It's essentially just a very heavy duty stainless steel stock pot with a super-heavy, rimmed locking lid fitted with a rubber gasket and a steam/pressure control vent. I stick it on top of my gas stove and bring it to pressure just like I'd bring water to a boil. There are fancier versions with digital readouts and programmable functions, but I like this simple version best because it's the most intuitive (at least if you're used to cooking with direct heat like gas). Because the liquid in a pressure cooker gets super-heated, you can sterilize things like jam jars and baby bottles in it too and the big stock pot is useful just to have around as another...well, big stock pot! ;-)
For really small but awesome gizmos, I suggest Microplane graters in a variety of sizes. Best graters I have ever owned!
Also, not a gadget, and I know you've seen him before, but here's another link to my new chef's knife that includes my feedback to the knifemaker.
I don't write book reviews, but I wrote a knife review! Go figure.
I already have a pressure cooker and I'd agree with everyone who suggested that. Not sure what is meant by a 'stick blender' - is it one of those little hand-held ones? If so, I must admit I didn't find mine terribly helpful and much prefer using my 'proper-size' one. I guess the mini type is handy for small amounts but my problem is generally coping with large amounts of things rather than small (not because I have a huge family but because I like to cook in batches) so I'm usually after the bigger sizes.
ETA - I'd love that knife if only for its looks but I have a horrible feeling I just might be too tempted to kill someone with it - it looks as if that is its purpose in life that needs to be fulfilled.
My newest fabulous gadget is an ice cream maker. I just won a 2-qt Cuisinart ice cream maker as a 35-year service award from the agency for which I work. I'm delighted with it so far. Since I've had it (all of one week), I've made vanilla and strawberry (from fresh strawberries) ice cream. They're yummy. I can't wait to try other flavors. One of my friends is holding out for dark chocolate.
I have to admit that the ice cream maker had been on my kitchen gadget wish list for years. I didn't buy it for myself due to the price (although that didn't stop me from suggesting to my family members that they buy it for me - which they didn't!).
SqueakyChu - call them family? You should disown them all immediately.
The irony of the ice cream maker is that I'm trying to lose weight so that I allot myself only 1/4 cup a day (at least until I get down to my recommended BMR).
No, no, no! It is a finely crafted, beautiful piece of kitchenware. Sure, I could kill someone with it, but I could also do that with my rolling pin. Some would say that I could do it with my cooking as well, but that's just unkind!
And to throw in an actual book relation, I picked up The Spice Merchant's Daughter and I'm hoping to work through some of the spice mixes in it.
I got a cheap one on sale, but when this one dies I'm planning on looking for a model with a larger cover and ideally the top is actually a cup for easier extraction.
Know that the ice cream maker ideally stays in your freezer, both empty or full. Also tell yourself I will try frozen yougurt. No storage issue & makes healthy & luxury desserts.
The immersion blender, stick blender, wand etc. made a believer out of me when I mounted it to the inside of a cabinet door with attachments right there and not in a drawer. We eat home-made soup almost every week, this is wonderful to "immerse" right into the stock pot of my tomato basil soup and smooth the veggies out. It's pretty nice for shakes and drinks to place right in the pitcher as well. Oh & nice for home-made salad dressings and you won't buy store bought again to clutter your frig. Inside cabinet door, no storage issue.
OK, my Kitchen-Aid with attachments worth it's weight. Not one I use daily but that dough hook makes lovely gnocchi with sweet potato dough. Helps with Italian Wedding cake prep and has the ability to grow with extra attachments. I made pantry space for this one.
What about little items too like I have a tiny pottery egg poacher. In 35 seconds it's done and no more wet watery stove top method. Place poached egg, cottage cheese and a sliced tomato with a cup of coffee that the maker automatically came on ground the fresh beans and made the lovely coffee as I turned off the alarm and I am all set. Of dear, why won't it turn on my little hand held frother and froth the Italian creamer as well?
I love my lil' broiler too but it takes up counter space. I love toasted sandwhches. I like heating up things in it that would not do well in a micro. It's nice to toast pine nuts and it has many settings on it, Broil, Bake, Toast etc. Keeps the kitchen cooler & the kids would always use it too. But tiny broilers are not popular.
But I am with you on the clean up-darn quesadilla maker and George Foreman grill. I groan if I need to use those.
Use two unless you drink really really cheap coffee and don't care about flavor ;).
I'd even wager if you use a lot of really strong spices that taste different or different cuisines you might want more than one spice grinder. I do however and just one seems fine, although I make sure to really clean it out after grinding dried hot peppers. I've heard using dry rice once in a while can help clean it too, but haven't needed to try it yet.
Here's a list of a few of my favorites....
#1 the warming drawer - we entertain a lot and the warming drawer helps to keep things warm without having a second oven.
#2 my spice drawer - I use a lot of spices when I cook and now I can find the one I want in an instant.
#3 Stand mixer - I can finally mix anything and everything
#4 Jar opener - I never have to bother my husband to open a jar anymore.
My advice - go to a gadget store and splurge! I love all the gadgets that I added in my new kitchen.
One I iwsh I had is the mixer Lifter. It's a mechanism so you can store your stand mixer in the cabinet and wind it up and out without lifting. Darn, I wish I'd known about it before I finished my kitchen.
Not so cheap when you add international postage, but they are SO useful!
On the separate spice grinder debate, my Kenwood food processor came with two spice mill bowls and lids for them too. So only the plastic around the blades could become contaminated, which is good enough for me.
The other thing about all these gadgets is that you really only use them if they are easily accessible - a lot of my Kenwood stuff is in a drawer and I just never think to use it.
Re all the spice things - a couple of years ago that would have been just what I wanted but I eventually found two little 12-drawer (each) stone-fronted spice cabinets in a much-loved but sadly no-longer-with-us store called The Pier (one of those shops that sells so much yummy stuff that you just walked past the outside and discovered £300-worth of 'stuff' had leapt into your arms). I love these little cabintes to death and am basing the whole of the kitchen design/decor around them. To be honest, I could probably still do with more than 24 drawers but having even that for a limit has helped me to be a bit more selective with my spices, rather than just throw in everything bar the kitchen sink.
This thread is something I will keep starred for ever and keep coming back to over the years - so many brilliant ideas. Love the warming drawer and the mixer lifter idea too. It's not a particularly big kitchen (I wish) so anything that helps me keep things stored yet accessible is also a great idea.
Jim - another idea I have seen is to nail the lids of spice jars to the underside of a cabinet. Then you just unscrew the jar you want.
And one last idea: I have a very narrow shelf all around about 6" above the worktop. It's perfect for putting bottles and jars on. I'll post a pic later, if I can remember how to do it.
Ummm, yes... I'm not too good at tidy!
stick blenders are awesome for 'blendering' in situ.
I'm thinking a pressure cooker thread might be handy for all of those that have braved this one & enjoy it's use. I too, am a bit intimidated by it. My mother could not wait to buy one for me & it truly is in an extra closet. (it doesn't hiss at me in there) = )
Courage, mon ami! They're supposed to hiss at you! Modern pressure cookers have safety catch thingies and cannot explode.
At the moment there seems to be a fad for slow cookers, which are back in fashion now that the manufacturers assure us that they are no longer salmonella incubators. In fact the very same recipes can be made in the PC in a fraction of the time.
I use it for soups, stocks (though there are those who say it encourages cloudiness), braises (beef cheek in an hour!), lentils - anything liquid that requires long slow cooking. It really does cut the cooking time by two thirds.
The PC is usually complete with a trivet and can be used as a steamer - you wouldn't bother with veggies, but because of the size it's useful for puddings.
Also... I'm not sure what constitutes a 'gizmo', but like dajashby at #54 I suspect the involvement of a power cord or at least a battery in most cases.
And with all these powerful and hissing appliances ranged formidably on our counters and stove-tops, who will speak up for those small but indispensable tools retiring meekly in kitchen drawers around the world until that moment when they are retrieved to perform their magic? I'm thinking particularly of my plump and stylish little Zyliss zester which sits so comfortably in the palm of my hand and whch performs its tasks with such facility - unaided by power cord or battery.
So here's to all the unsung (and unplugged) little heroes of the culinary firmament.
Also, I'm another presssshhhure cooker 'fraidy cat.
59 - we make lots of veggies in ours not usually the gently steamed ones - usually veggies we mash up (potatoes, parsnips...)
I can second the use for stocks - although the fat seems to become part of the stock and does not separate easily (an observation, NOT a complaint).
A good pressure cooker is also a high quality, large, heavy, pot
Yes, exactly! I use mine fairly often as an extra stock pot and they're great for a mini crab/shrimp boil too.
Modern pressure cookers are really safe and their "hissing" is no worse than what you'd get from a poorly placed lid over a pot of boiling water. I use the vehemence of the hiss to regulate the pressure by ear-once I get a distinct hiss and a lot of steam, I lower the heat until there's just a gentle sussuration and the same sort of steam one would expect at mild boil.
If I'm making a stock I expect to be fatty in a pressure cooker, I let the stock cool down and pressure release naturally; by the time this is done, I can usually skim the fat off the top using a ladle or a fat separator. I don't make aspics or consommés too often so the cloudiness thing has never really bothered me ;-)
The pressure cooker is ideal for corned beef -this is where you've got to monitor the hissing, because if you turn the heat down too soon the pressure drops off.
I do agree that the most indispensible items are often the cheaper ones (I wouldn't even consider being stranded on a desert island without my zester), though I do have a bit of an in-built resistance to some of them because my father couldn't resist picking up little kitchen 'whatsits' wherever he saw them and my poor mum could harldy move in her kitchen for tacky bits of rubbish that, in theory, could chop everything from carrots to whole oxen into every shape and size you could possibly wish. Of course, in practice, they did none of those things and just stayed in the drawer collecting dust.
oh as well as having a home-made soup weekly we prepare a good bit of dried beans. That would be most helpful to cut down the use of energy & time.
I always tend to think of PC's as just canners.
My cheapie is the garlic press. I use fresh garlic so frequently. It's nice to not have to remove the skin or to chop or to turn blade sideways and smack! Yes, nice and it spoils me too!
You remind me of another of my gizmos - my garlic condom! It's a cylinder of rubbery stuff, probably silicone. You put the garlic clove in it and roll it on a hard surface with moderate pressure. Bingo! out comes the garlic completely peeled. I don't like garlic presses, they're too fiddly to clean. I squash garlic with the mortar and pestle.
I do have another gizmo, my four function timer. Battery powered. You can set the time for four different operations (I've never actually used four at once). Very handy if something's in the oven and that timer is occupied but you've got things cooking on the burners.
Speaking of silicone, I also like my lemon/lime squeezer. You can really get your thumb into the fruit with this and get a lot of juice out without a) getting squirted in the eye or, b) getting pips in the juice.
Thanks, Sophie - so do I! I wanted a strong colour, but bright, as the window is both north-facing and heavily shaded, with a fence three feet away. I had already decided on the metallic grey for the cabinets (car paint over basic Ikea units, in case anyone wants to know), and the yellow seems to work really well. And of course, I can easily change the colour scheme, since everything else is neutral. The only annoying issue is that Dulux no longer do that exact shade - just when I am having some shelves put in!
68: You should have put a coffee alert up! Had to show my colleague why I screamed with laughter!!
70: Silicone lemon squeezer. I've never seen one like this - looks really useful. Can you tell me where you got it? I have a reamer, but really you need two or three sizes to get all the juice out. And you get the pips.
I am all about that one as well. Looking for one.
There are a few gizmos around, but unless it's just a little squirt I'm happy with my Alessi stainless steel squeezer. It's in two pieces, a traditionally shaped top with little holes in it that sits over a dish with a pouring lip - two actually, one on each side.
We do all know that it's worth zapping the lemon for a few seconds in the microwave to maximize the juice?
This thread is fun!
I'll be glad to sing the praises of pressed coffee. I love using my Bodum french press (and am drinking its coffee, even as we speak).
It gets better because I have a local coffee roaster*, Mayorga, within a couple miles from where I live. I buy whole freshly-roasted coffee beans. I like medium or medium-dark roast. I try beans from different countries. Now I'm drinking Indian Monsooned Malabar coffee (medium roast).
I just put my beans in a small Krups coffee grinder (another favored kitchen gadget), grind them until they look fine enough (a minute or two). Then I put two level tablespoons of my freshly ground coffee into my Bodum, add boiling water, stir, cover it, and let it sit for two or three minutes to brew. Next, I pour my delicious coffee into a waiting cup. I like to add sweetener and some half-and-half. Yum!!
*By the way, good quality coffee is well worth any small increase in price you might pay for it. I've gotten to the point (spoiled, you might say), that I can no longer drink the generic coffee made in my office that sits on the burner for hours. Blech!!
My jjjjjchhhuuuzzzzggghhhher gave my drunken flatmates hours of fun one evening when they attemped to jjjjccchhhhzzzuuuggghhh everything they could get their hands on in the kitchen... the wall was never the same colour again and we lost most of our deposit.
By the time the water gets into the Bodum cup, you stir it around with a long handle (I use the plastic handle of a large plastic spoon), and you cover it, that water is no longer boiling. Trust me! :)
BTW, if anyone is unsure of whether or not to get an ice cream maker, listen to this. In under half an hour (except for chilling the batter), I was able to create an ice cream that was peanut butter flavor and contained small pieces of chocolate peanut butter chips (Trader Joe brand). It is sooooooooo yummy!
BTW - StunnedTuna, I love your name (very appropriate for a cooking thread and even more so when I first read it and thought it said 'StuffedTuna').
I love the idea of a stuffed tuna. Either roasted over a fire or in an umu. I wonder if there is such a dish. Probably a remote island somewhere does it up like a roast piggy.
The funny thing is I've also just purchased a 'baking' cook-book to complement the Kitchen-Aid, only to find that most of the recipes therein make use of either a balloon whisk or a food-processor.... (I have the food-processor and a small whisk) although there are some recipes that require an electric mixer. It's a beautiful book though and I know I'll use some of its recipes.
The book is Mix and Bake by Belinda Jeffery incidentally.
Edited to add: What are the main uses to which you other lucky owners of a Kitchen-Aid put your mixer? Hints and suggestions would be appreciated.
Then we'll all drop in for dinner!
By the way, re my post 84, I hadn't re-read this thread before posting and didn't realise that it was yours. Hope you don't mind my inadvertent hijacking.
Edited to add that I would correct the poor grammar in the last sentence above but it might provide a little amusement left as is.
#86 etc - I have started taking 'before' photos and will continue as the work goes on. It looks a lot like the aftermath of an earthquake right now so, love or hate the final effect, the difference should be dramatic!
As soon as I'd ordered and paid for the Kitchen-Aid I began to wonder if I'd done the right thing (all that dosh!), but knowledge of the whisk has palliated my unease to some extent.
Good luck! It will take longer and cost more, but when you look back it will be so well worth it.
Many thanks for everyone's wonderful suggestions - photos will be posted.
And have fun with the breadmaker... must fire mine up again.
- Breadmaker - does bread and jam/fruit compotes.
- A steamer - perfect for rice, vegetables and fish filets.
- A hand blender - for soups, vegetable purée and stiff egg whites.
- My old 1960s K*nwood chef - I found it cheap in a charity shop in Sheffield, and I bought the secondhand spares over the internet the following years - I make my own pasta, sausages, grated vegetables, potato mash, shortcrust pastry, cake mixes, soups + smoothies (with the blender bit) and fruit juices.
- A microwave - perfect for defrosting cooked meals in no time, especially when you have lots of guests and you need vegetable portions, or quick meals for two. And if you have babies/young children, this will be THE tool for meals (my mother was a childminder).
- a yogurt maker - great stuff, you can make yogurt with layers of jam, or use yogurt for indian curry dishes/low fat dips.
- a low/no fat fryer Act*fry oven (for 3% fat chips, no fat cooking for meat/poultry, sautéed veggies, etc.)
- a sandwich/waffle maker, for those evenings when you do not want to cook at all.
- and a whole set of Le Cre*set cast iron set, for slow cooking, saucepans and gridpans, cooking the French way! ;-)
You can tell we love food at home! ;-)
BTW, so many thanks to everyone who came up with suggestions for this thread! The new kitchen went in in the autumn of 2010 and I am thrilled with the result and spend many happy hours out there now (I used to avoid the place as much as possible because it was so depressing). I treated myself to both the bread maker and the ice-cream maker and now would hate to be without either. Sorry the photos never materialised but it's an odd shape and very difficult to get pictures that show more than about a third of each wall at the same time so in the end I gave up on that idea but because you're all readers I know you have wonderful imaginations(!) so will be able to picture it perfectly.
#102 I'm quite glad to hear that - it would have been too bad to have come up with a solution just as you no longer have yours, Cariola.