And Why You Need Them
I wanted to do a list of some of the smaller kitchen tools I find handy. The list is far from comprehensive and I did not include some of the tools which I consider basics which all cooks will have in their kitchen. For the most part I am excluding knives, pots pans, and appliances. I also excluded tools which take up large amounts of counter space. I wanted the list to reflect the need for multiple use simple tools instead of dedicated single purpose ones.
- Cast Iron Grill Pan
A cast iron grill an works great no matter what the season. I find they make some of the best grill marks. Cast Iron has the ability to retain heat so you do not get an intense temperature drop making the meat steam instead of sear. I do not like nonstick pans. Once it is well seasoned cast iron is forever. I also use it as a roaster in the oven so the meat stays out of the fat.
- Melon Baller
Even is you do not eat a lot of melons it is a great multi-tasking tool. It works well for coring fruits and vegetables. Is is great for making small uniform sized potato balls for deep frying. The thin wall edge makes seed removal from squash easier. I also like it as a scoop for portioning small meatballs, cookie dough or dumplings. Look for one with two different sized scoops and a comfortable but sturdy handle.
The idea for this kitchen essential was the sure form rasp made for wood work. I had used the carpentry version long before a kitchen version was made. Micro-planes come in different grades which correspond to the size of the gratings made. It works great for citrus zest, garlic, or hard cheese, such as Parmesan. A micro plane is much easier to use and clean than the old box style graters. and you are less liable to sustain a knuckle shredding accident.
When you have to make thin uniform slices quickly the Mandolin is the tool I go to every time. Regardless of your knife skills when you are faced with prepping pounds of vegetables , a mandolin will dramatically reduce the time needed. Many people have a fear of a mandolin, however if you use it wisely with the safety guards it can be your best kitchen friend. You d not need an expensive one, yes I have drooled over an 18" bed stainless steel machine covered in adjustment knobs; However I use an inexpensive simple model as my day to day workhorse.
- Egg Slicer
I can hear you ask the question: "Why do I need an egg slicer?". I'm glad you asked. Besides doing a great job slicing those hard-boiled eggs, it work well for slicing fresh mozzarella and Mushrooms. Any food that is small and tender can be sliced quickly.
- Pizza Cutter
A pizza cuter is not just the best way to slice a pizza. It is a versatile cutting tool. I use mine for noodle cutting and ravioli making, cutting any kind of dough from puff pastry to pie crust. I particularly like it when I am using a metal ruler. The blade runs along the edge and does not make you run the risk of ruining a good knife of greater value.
- Food Scale
I find a food scale to be an essential tool. It has many benefits: 1. Measuring by volume is the most inaccurate method even though we know the old rhyme a pint is a pound the world around. Bakers measure ingredients by weight with good reason, baking is an exact discipline. 2 It makes translating recipes from someone using metric units easy, and writing your own recipes easier to repeat when fine tuning it for publication. 3. When living in a nation that is obsessed with diets it is a good to know how much of what is in a portion. 4. Information is power enough said.
- Stainless Steel Colander
The humble colander has many uses besides draining liquid off of food. It can be used as an improvised steamer, pepper roaster or smoker for the more adventurous. It is also good for shaking off flour and small bits of dough when preparing fresh made pasta. I have even pressed one into service as a spaetzle maker.
- Parchment Paper
I know that these days new products like Silplat are all the rage. It is great stuff, however the price makes me catatonic from sticker shock. I can be a bit retro, so I still love the original non-stick baking surface, Parchment! Parchment paper is something I cant live without. When making Sunday brunch for a large number of people who in their right mind would fry bacon or sausage? Sheet pans lined with parchment works great. crispy bacon without the popping, splattering and time consuming hovering over a pan, priceless. It is the baker's friend, especially when making cookies or anything with sugars that will caramelize making them stick to the cookie sheet. There are also recipes where you make a parchment package of fish or fowl, aromatics, and a splash of wine. You roll and crimp the edges till you have a sealed packet. Bake them and serve still sealed, it is dramatic, keeps the food warm and juicy
- Propane Torch
I know you think I am kidding, but a propane torch can take your cooking style to a new level. Many impressive entrees and desserts can be made with the aid of a torch. It gives you pin-point control of surface browning. It makes exotic fare such as Baked Alaska simple and easy. It can also save a dish from blandness. Ever have a bread crumb topping on a casserole refuse to brown? If so torch it to get that golden brown and delicious look we all love.