Is there anything really good about the word gadget?
I mean, does the word gadget instill a feeling of confidence that the device is really worth having? Worth trying?
For me, when I hear the word gadget, I think of a one-trick pony, handheld something or other meant to make my life easier, less of a chore, less of a mess. I imagine it’s made of plastic and that it won’t last long before it breaks, dulls, chips or is relegated to the back of my junk drawer or cupboard, awaiting its final fate when I can throw it away sometime after the pain of my stupidity is a more distant memory.
Few gadgets have made it past my “American Tourister” test, but those few that have are cherished. And I’m not ashamed to admit to owning them.
You might think that having cooked professionally for over 40 years, I’d have a lot of gadgets. Truth be known, I don’t have as many as you might think.
Gadgets never seem to find a home in a professional kitchen, and the very few that do are usually hidden by their owners in a drawer and under the wrap of a kitchen towel to avoid the perception of amateurism.
Another thing I must confess is that once I adopt a gadget, its name gets changed to “Kuel Tuel” (cool tool) to relieve me of the embarrassment of owning a gadget. (I do have my reputation to protect you know.)
Ok, so in the event you are making an early gift shopping list for the holidays, I’ll divide my list between what might be considered kitchen “must haves” and the “rather obscure” but very “kuel” tools to have around when the need arises.
Before I begin, I’ll preface my list by saying that NOTHING is more worth your while than a great set of kitchen knives, and I’ll speak to that subject in a late November blog.
You’ll also see that many have NO moving parts–no electronics, and the few that do, have withstood the test of time (a.k.a. the Gorilla).
Pete’s Kuel Tuels (You will be able to find ALL of these items at Sur La Table, but many may also be found at William Sonoma, Bed Bath & Beyond or Crate & Barrel.
The Must Haves:
I’ve said it over and over again: what makes great food great is seasoning–sometimes just salt and pepper. Get yourself a Peugeot brand pepper mill–one with at least four grinder settings. NOTHING beats freshly ground pepper.
Silicone non-stick cookware and bakeware all started with SILPAT, a French company. These non-stick sheets are pretty much indestructible and a kitchen MUST! Buy the real deal starting at under 20 bucks.
I’m always talking about Mandolines (no, not the kind you play; the kind you slice). Most every professional kitchen has one, and most buy an inexpensive Benriner from an Asian Grocery store. They let you slice and julienne things with ease. (Just watch your fingers!)
Again, back to seasonings. I always tell people to buy a Salt Pig, which keeps your seasoning salt literally out on the counter, right in front of you, begging you to remember it.
Immersion Blender (stick blenders) have been around for quite a while. If you don’t have one, buy one. They’re great to blend hot liquids, salad dressings, milk shakes…you name it.
Tired of buying expensive spray oils like PAM®? Buy a Tabletop Mister and use whatever oil you like! It also works for other liquids too!
Like to bake? Those lattice-top cakes are “Kuel,” but weaving those dough strips are a PAIN. A lattice Pie Top Cutter makes that job easy and PERFECT in one roll of the dough.
And if you love Crème Brulee (and who doesn’t), you don’t have to go to fire up your oven’s broiler when what most Pastry Chef’s use is a mini-blowtorch. The Cheflamme Butane Culinary Torch can do it with the best of them!
The Rather Obscure But “Kuel”
Tired of getting nothing but OIL when you pour your oil & vinegar dressing out of the bottle? The jury is still out on Emulstir, but this clever bottle has a built-in stirrer that you activate with an outside lever as you pour. It works! But will the Gorilla do this fella in? Stay tuned!
Rabbit®, a well-known maker of wine tools, now has Flipper Stoppers that allow you to pour wine with a non-drip spout and reseal it by just turning a lever on the pourer. Good news is that they also work great on bottles of oil, vinegar, sauces and the like. Woo Hoo!
There are two good uses for this next “Kuel Tuel.” LeKue’s Citrus Sprayer couldn’t be easier (or more natural). Plunge it into a lemon or lime, and spray a mist of your favorite citrus on salads or on the rim of your favorite “beverage.”
And last (and least) is one gadget that I just recently saw at Sur La table, and although I don’t own it, I’m SURE many might find it very useful if they bake or make dressings. The Juicer/Measurer actually strains and captures the juice of a lemon or lime as you ream it–all in the clear, see-through handle, which also measures its volume. Kinda “Kuel,” for now.
So there you have it, a dozen kitchen toys you may want to consider for your own. Give them a try and let me know what you think. If you’d like more ideas, check out my Extreme Pantry Makeover blog.
Share your MUST HAVE kitchen “gadgets” right here!