So here’s a confession: I’m not much into kitchen gadgets. I find that at least 50% of these ‘time saving tools’ are superfluous if you have a good set of sharp knives and opposable thumbs.
I’ve been gifted many gadgets over the years that I’ve used once or twice and then relegated to the drawer of unwanted kitchen tools (aka Oxo Purgatory). Case in point: a cilantro “keeper” that has no fewer than 5 parts, must be awkwardly assembled with each use, and that I actually managed to injure myself using. Turns out, the best way to store unused cilantro is stem-side down in a mug with a bit of water, in the fridge, with a plastic produce bag loosely fitted over the top. It’ll keep a couple weeks that way.
Having said this, there are six, rather basic, kitchen tools (in addition to the aforementioned sharp knives) that I simply can’t live without. I figured this would be a good time to share them with you as they make really terrific holiday gifts or stocking stuffers for the cooks on your list. Bundled together, they’re a great starter kit for a young adult setting up a first apartment or house. All of the items listed below have been in continuous use in my kitchen for more than a decade, and with the exception of the Zeroll ice cream scoop, are dishwasher safe:
Mini Spatula ($6.99, Amazon)
When I discovered this nifty, simple gadget about 10 years ago, I wondered where it had been all my cooking life. Sure, an actual spatula is good for flipping grilled cheese sandwiches, but most items I need a spatula for are smaller. Prying brownies or a wedge of pie out of a pan. Removing cookies from a baking sheet. Even turning over pancakes. Add this to your gadget drawer, and I promise you’ll flip for it. Sorry.
Citrus Squeezer ($16.95, Crate & Barrel)
I have several tools in my kitchen that perform this function, but this is the only one I use. I find it wrings the maximum amount of juice from lemons and limes, and traps all the seeds in the device. Pro tip: remember that if you have a recipe that calls for both citrus zest and juice to zest the fruit before squeezing it.
Cutco Kitchen Shears ($157.99, Amazon)
This is the biggest splurge item on my list, but worth every penny, especially if you have weak hands like I do, or small hands, unlike our President whose hands are massive, everyone knows that. I use these not just for cooking (they’re brilliant at cutting up a Rotisserie chicken or snipping herbs) but for household tasks like cutting into those godforsaken plastic clamshells they package batteries in. You can find videos on Youtube of people cutting pennies with them. This is just plain dumb. But I highly recommend them anyway.
Zeroll Ice Cream Scoop ($19.95, Sur la Table)
This may be the best thing that my husband brought to our marriage 28 years ago. Definitely better than his orange velour swivel-rocker, and rivaling his wry sense of humor and fail-proof moral code. It’s just that good. The handle is filled with anti-freeze and it helps you make short work of the most solid tub of Publix Chocolate Trinity (my kids’ favorite) or Peppermint Stick (my favorite). You can tell by the patina that mine has achieved that it’s scooped many a scoop in its day. You’ll never put your ice cream in the microwave again.
Zyliss Garlic Press ($22.99, Amazon)
So many of my favorite recipes begin with sautéing fresh minced garlic in olive oil. Yes, I realize that Jacques Pepin and Ina Garten effortlessly turn whole garlic into minced with the flat edge of a chef’s knife and a few quick chops. Try as I might, I’ve never been able to master the technique, and I suspect most other home cooks haven’t either. Thus, I highly recommend the Zyliss garlic press, which has gotten almost daily use in my house for 25 years. I’ve used some sorry garlic presses in friends’ kitchens and vacation rentals in my day. This one is a game-changer.
Epicurean Cutting Boards ($22-27, Sur la Table)
This is the best cutting board out there. Buy it in both sizes. It’s made of some sort of nifty wood-grain that is easy on your knives but that doesn’t develop grooves and slash marks like other wood boards. PLUS, and this is important, it’s dishwasher safe. Life’s too short to hand-wash cutting boards, don’t you think?
Well, there you have it, folks, my all-time favorite kitchen tools. I ho-ho-hope they’ll make holiday shopping a breeze for at least one person on your list this year.