Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Top 10 "Can't Live Without"s: Kitchen Tools

Hey everyone! Happy Wednesday. So, I promised when I first started this blog that I would SHARE. Being that I spend every single day doing things in the kitchen, I have a pretty good idea about kitchen tools that are extraordinary, and ones that are not. And I'm not talking about fancy $500 stand- mixers or 14-cup food processors that cost an arm and a leg... I'm talking about simple, every day tools that I absolutely CAN NOT LIVE WITHOUT! I use these ten items on a daily basis, most of them many, many times a day. And they are all easy to come by- I've included links to where you can get them. :)

Here you go, in NO certain order:

1- Scotchbrite Soap Dispensing Dishwand: This handy tool fits beautifully in the palm of your hand and makes dishwashing a breeze. Just unscrew the blue top and pour in your favorite dish washing soap. Screw it back on, and the soap will come through the scrubbing sponge. It scours, it washes, it dispenses's a dream. And you don't have to get your hands all over that nasty, crumbly, smelly sponge ever again.

2- Wooden Cutting Board: I've tried them, granite, plastic...and none of them are as sturdy or make chopping easier than a good old wooden cutting board. You do have to take extra care of them, of course, because bacteria grows more easily on wood because it is more porous than the previous kinds I mentioned. Also, if you chop "with purpose" like I do, your cutting board will be covered in lovely hash-marks from the knife (which, in my opinion, gives it character!). But, all in all, a wooden cutting board is the way to go. They are less noisy than the others (tried chopping on granite before?? Do NOT let your knife slip or it will screech like nails on a chalkboard.) and seem to absorb the force from the knife better. Get one with non-slip pads on the bottom like this one.

3-A good Wire Whisk: If I ever HAD to get a tattoo, I would get a tiny whisk on my ankle or somewhere discreet. It is definitely my favorite tool...well, just because. If you know me, I like to make a lot of sauces. (Hahaha family!) :) And there is no way to make a smooth sauce without a great whisk. Find one that fits in your hand comfortably. My favorite one has an ergonomic wooden handle, but I have no idea where it came from. I also have this one below, which I love almost as much. Use it for sauces, whisking eggs, cake batters, whipped cream, and just about anything that needs stirring or a good whipping. Tee hee!

4- A Chef’s Knife: I've had my share of Wustoff, Henckle, yada yada knifes before, but I adore this Calphalon 8" Chef's knife. Gosh darnit, it stays sharp for eternity!! It has a smooth and comfortable handle, and man oh man, it is SHARP. It's not too heavy, either. It's great. You can get it at Target and I've even seen it at TJ Maxx.

5- Silicon Scraper/Spatula: What can you say about these but a bad one is REALLY bad, and a good one is REALLY good. I know you've had one of those cheap-o, flimsy, scrapers that melted as soon as it hit your pan? Yep, me too. Or the ones that crack and rip the more you use them. THROW THEM AWAY and go get yourself one of these. Useful in more ways than I could even begin to describe- scraping, stirring, getting all that goodness out of the corners and rims of bowls.....on and on and on. Find one to match your kitchen like I did. :)

6- Serrated knife: Slice bread, tomatoes, onions, meat, vegetables, sandwiches, and so forth. Some serrated knifes begin to weaken and curve with age, so it's better to get a sturdy one from the get-go. After working for a gourmet sandwich shop and slicing hundreds of paninis/baguettes/BLT's a day, this knife withstood all the abuse I gave it and is still going strong.

7- Garlic Press: STOP using canned garlic. Today. Right now. Stop. Go to Sam's Club or your favorite bulk-shopping center and buy one of those bushels of fresh garlic. The ones we get from Sam's cost like...three bucks I think? And come with 25+ bulbs of garlic...not cloves...BULBS. And they keep for a very, very long time. Just crack off a clove, peel off the skin, and throw it into this awesome garlic press. The canned stuff just doesn't cut it anymore. I would know, I just recently converted to fresh garlic. I was a firm believer in the convenient canned garlic, and I hated dicing the real stuff because it is so sticky and so smelly. This wonderful garlic press makes all the difference.

8- Non-stick skillet: Santa Claus was nice enough to bring me a 16-piece set of Calphalon-One Nonstick Cookware for Christmas a couple years ago which I ADORE. But that is extravagant and costly. You can get an awesome, non-stick skillet at Target or TJ Maxx again. They have tons and tons of colors to choose from, if that's something that matters to you. Here's another idea: My awesome cousin, Alee, decorated an entire wall in her kitchen by hanging color-coordinated skillets on nails. I wish I had a picture- it was a very creative way to decorate a statement wall in your kitchen.

9- Stainless Steel Tongs: these bad boys are used to pick up anything that is too hot or too messy for your fingers. :) While I love them dearly, they did burn me once when I used them for grilling- they heated up over the open flames and started to singe my palm. Get grillin' tongs for grilling (they have wooden or silicon-coated handles for that very reason) and keep your SS tongs for the inside stuff. You have to find the ones that work best for you: sometimes they are way too short or way too long, sometimes they are too weak to clasp foods or too strong and give you a wrist-workout even trying to close them. The little silver ring that keeps them shut in your drawer gets on my nerves, so I love these that don't have it. It's all up to you and your preferences, though.

10- Martha Stewart "Oven to Table" Rectangle Baking Dish: Beautiful and useful! This dish is perfect for just about anything you need to roast in the oven. Line it with foil to finish cooking pork tenderloins/chicken breasts/steaks, fill it with your favorite casserole or lasagna, lay some asparagus or potatoes in the bottom for oven-roasting, braise short ribs for long periods of time, and so on. It cleans up SO easily too...especially with #1. :)


The Chef Next Door

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