Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Kitchen Tools We Can’t Live Without

Over the years we have purchased dozens of kitchen tools and gadgets. We can’t resist those rows of gleaming utensils and tools in cooking stores. And believe it or not we use the vast majority of them. A few have gone by the wayside (those miracle choppers are worthless) and many of them only get used occasionally because they are specialized tools like our spaetzle maker. (Yes, we actually make spaetzle; we’ll make some this weekend and blog about it.) A few tools though have become almost as important as our knives. Here’s three of our most trusty aids.
Cool Cooking Tools 

Microplane Zester
My personal favorite is the microplane zester (the long, narrow grater on the right). I love to put zest in recipes that call for citrus, the finely grated peel really boosts the flavor quotient. If you’ve ever painstakingly peeled and minced the zest of an orange, lemon or lime, you’ll never go back to the manual way once you try this incredibly efficient tool. You can zest any citrus in five seconds. You’ll want to put zest in everything. You can also use the zester to grate onions and garlic, as well. And they’re cheap—around $10. Here’s an interesting little factoid: Microplane zesters are decedents of the tool used to smooth the rough edges of wood.

Water Knife Sharpener
The device in the back with the knife resting in it is a water knife sharpener. We used an electric sharpener until we had our knives professionally sharpened. The shop owner asked how often we sharpened our knives at home and when we told her every time we use them (what can I say we like sharp knives!), she recommended we get the water sharpener. Electric sharpeners tend to wear down the blade when used frequently and water sharpeners keep a professionally-sharpened edge longer because the water protects the blade during the sharpening process. We were delighted with the results, so much so we’ve given several as gifts and have given away the electric sharpener. The water sharpener is simple to use and is so small we just leave it on the counter top next to our knives (a small added benefit—it doesn’t use any electricity). Just fill it up with water, swipe your knife through a half a dozen times and you have a super sharp blade ready for business. They cost about $40, but are well worth the price.

Consider getting your knives professionally sharpened if you haven’t done this before. Prices vary, but it’s usually about $1-3 per blade. We get ours sharpened once a year, but depending on how much you cook, you can do it every 2-3 years. You’ll be thrilled with the difference in your knives, although watch your fingers when you first get them home!

Silicone Basting Brush
If you’re into barbequing you probably already have this silicone basting brush, but if you haven’t used one yet, they’re terrific. Not only do they go in the dishwasher (no more nasty, gunky natural bristle brushes that are never truly get clean after the first use), they work great for any kind of basting you do indoors as well. But my other favorite use for them is to put butter on grilled-cheese sandwiches. Melt a bit of butter in the microwave and use this brush to put just a light layer of butter on the outside of the bread. This lets you use much less butter than if you put it on with a knife and it’s much more evenly spread!

Good ideas for holiday gifts!

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