There are many kitchen gadgets out there. No shortage of pans, pots, slicers, dicers, and the like which promise to cut time in the kitchen with easy clean up or some other shortcut to culinary success. Over the years I have found what one needs to be successful and efficient when cooking or baking are simple and low-cost kitchen tools.
Whether you are a novice in the kitchen or a well-seasoned home chef, you will find this list of twelve low-cost kitchen tools helpful. Number one being, if just starting out, getting the right tools right away will create good culinary habits early on. Also, I find when someone has been cooking for some time, they tend to just keep doing it the same way they have always been doing it. And there are a few tools out there that can make things easier and more efficient. Also, these suggestions make a great combination gift for a bridal shower. The suggestion may not be flashy or have a wow factor like a Robocoupe food processor (more about that in another post), but they are practical and super helpful when creating in the kitchen:
In my humble opinion here are the
Twelve Low-Cost Kitchen Tools That Make Cooking Easy
- Bench Scraper - Metal & Plastic: This is such a versatile tool. It is best to have both a metal and plastic bench scraper. The plastic is bendable for getting into the curve of a bowl for example. Where as the non-flexible metal blade scraper can easily scrape up stuck pieces of food on a work surface or pan. The original use is for dividing dough and lifting and moving sticky dough around on the work surface. But it is helpful for so much more. My favorite uses for it is to pick up whatever I have chopped and to clean up my work surface when I’m done. I always have one on my work surface ready to go for this reason. It easily scoops up food that has been chopped to place into a fry pan or bowl. Better than using my hands, as when I do, I always drop some of what I chopped on the floor. And when cleaning up, it easily scrapes up anything stuck to the work surface and acts as a plow to push the waste right into your garbage or compost bin. For those that use their good knives to scrape or clean up… stop! Use a bench scraper instead. Other uses include slicing brownies and lasagna and the like. It’s quicker and cleaner than cutting across with knife.
- Mortar & Pestle: This is one of the oldest pieces of cooking equipment you can own and it is the most expensive item on our list of twelve. If you opt for a smaller size you will pay less. For making quick work of smashing and blending herbs, garlic, citrus peel, ginger, nuts, seeds, etc. the mortar & pestle is the best choice. It does a better job than a food processer and in the end is faster and easier to clean. Make sure you get one that is heavy and on the larger size. It is easier to use as whatever is being smashed will not pop out onto the work surface. When making various dressing, I like to smash whatever I am using and then add the olive oil and vinegar right into the bowl of the mortar. This way it is easy to scrape out every bit of the herb or garlic I have crushed. Also for example, a larger size mortar and pestle makes a nice serving bowl for guacamole.
- Silicone Baking Mat and/or Parchment Paper: There is no reason to grease baking sheets when one can use these time saving items. I use parchment more often than silicone baking mats only because the parchment can be tossed in the trash. The silicone ones need to be wash and I dislike washing dishes! If you opt for the parchment, make sure to get sheets of parchment not parchment on a roll. What a pain in the neck a roll of parchment is! It always curls up. Then one needs to spend time cutting and rolling it backwards so it will become sort of flat enough to use. Use the silicone mats or parchment for baking, roasting vegetables, or meats. Makes clean up a breeze and keeps cook and bakeware looking better.
- White Ramakins: Small white ramakins match any table setting and come in handy when needing bowls for dipping sauces, puddings, crème brulee, miscellaneous pickles, nuts, condiments, etc. I use them all the time. Would be lost without them.
- Coffee Grinder: Other than the obvious reason, grinding the pounds of whole beans you will no doubt randomly get as gifts over the years, it makes a great spice grinder. I love using my mortar and pestle for pounding spices, but if I want to do more than a couple tablespoons at a time I reach for the coffee grinder. It also does a good job with nuts.
- Potato Ricer: Hands down a potato ricer makes the creamiest mashed potatoes. It can also be used to mash all manner of cooked vegetables and fruits. And it can mince a large quantity of garlic at one time.
- Wooden Utensils: They are heat resistant, so they don’t conduct heat which means they are not hot to the touch. And they are gentler to the surface of pots and pans. I also find the handles of wooden spoons easier to hold, which makes stirring and scraping the bottom of pots and pans more comfortable.
- Chef Knife: Everyone should have a go-to knife. A basic 8" chef knife can make quick work of most of the slicing, dicing and cutting that is needed when prepping. The dimples on the blade prevents food from sticking. This particular knife is a great value and has a German steel blade. It will give years of use. However, a knife is no good if it is not sharp. So, keep it sharp, keep your fingers away from the blade and you will make short work of all chopping and dicing tasks!
- Round Biscuit Cutter Set: One never knows when these will come in handy. Biscuits, cookies, cutting tea sandwiches, cutting puff pastry, making turnovers, cutting cheese. The uses are endless.
- Digital Kitchen Scale: Being a pastry chef, I believe having a scale is a necessity. It allows for accuracy when cooking and baking. It takes the guess work out of wanting to make 12 of “something” all the same size. Just weight it and what you get is consistency. Also, it is easier to get the correct amount of ingredients when they are thought about in terms of weight. And, yes, if you are into counting calories, a digital scale will be your best friend. I use this scale all the time. It's good up to 22 pounds
- Garlic Dicer: I love this little device. It makes quick work of chopping garlic into little uniform pieces that when sautéed will all cook at the same rate as they are all the same size. It is fast and easy to clean.
- 16 oz. Stainless Steel Saucepan: Often recipes call for melting/heating a small amount of something such as a stick of butter, 8 ounces of chocolate, 1 cup of milk. They can easily be heated in the microwave. However, you can't beat watching it and stirring it on the stove top. There is more control so in the end it is more efficient and does a better job.
Hope you have found one or two gems that will help!
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