Last week I was looking through a recent issue of one of my cooking magazines and I noticed they had asked the staff to identify their favorite things in the kitchen; tools, cooking vessels, appliances or heirlooms ( the things you get from grandma.) It got me to thinking about my favorite kitchen prep items. These are the ones I use with some regularity, the ones I can’t be without. So for the next few blogs I will occasionally be sharing my favorite things (there will be no girls in white dresses, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, or brown paper packages tied up in string, sorry.) Today I want to start with small tools.
I have a multitude of tools. And while I haven counted, I would imagine they number into the hundreds. Some of them have may get used only once or twice a year. Others are so necessary or versatile that they get used every week. Here are some of the more uncommon ones I use all the time.
Dishers These are great for so many things, scooping out cookie dough, transferring pancake batter to the griddle or muffin batter into the muffin cups. As you can see, I have several different sizes.
My favorite dishers
How big do you want your pancakes? How large do you want your cookies? These tools are perfect for ensuring uniform sizes. If you are interested in purchasing some of these for yourself I suggest you check out your local restaurant supply house. Most do not require you to be in the business to purchase from them and I can all but guarantee you they will be cheaper there than any cooking store.
Everyone has measuring spoons. A common set has a 1 tablespoon, 1 teaspoon , 1/2 teaspoon, 1/4 teaspoon and a 1/8 teaspoon. This would be all you needed if every recipe only called for these amounts. If only life were that simple. Granted, you can get to 1/2 tablespoon by using the doing the math and using existing measuring spoons, but how much better if you could just measure 1/2 tablespoon at once.
Measuring spoons – a standard set and a set of incremental measuring spoons.
So in addition to the standard measuring spoon set I have a set that includes a 1/2 tablespoon, 2 teaspoon, 1 1/2 tablespoon and 2 tablespoon measure. I have found these two sets cover just about every measurement I need.
I have also found that it is very helpful to have two sets of the ‘regular’ measuring spoon set. It saves time when you are doing alot of measuring of foods that can stick to the measuring spoons. And while all of these are dishwasher safe: I wash all of my measuring spoons by hand. It saves them from getting nicked in the dishwasher.
Ok, I’m not talking about the standard measuring cups here. These tools are something very different. How many times have you has to measure something sticky like peanut butter or viscous like honey and, after filling your measuring cup, have had to scrape everything out of the cup and into your work bowl? No matter how hard you try there is always something left behind. Meaning that you aren’t really getting the correct amount of the ingredient into the work bowl. In the past I tried the cooking spray trick. And while it allow for an easy release of the ingredient in the measuring cup, it also adds a small amount of oil to the ingredient.
Push up measuring cups
It was a always a problem for me until I found these! Push up measuring cups! These two devices have measurement marks for both liquid and dry ingredients. The beauty of these measuring cups is the ability to push ALL of the ingredient out of the cup and into the mixing bowl. Peanut butter, honey, oil, softened butter, mayonnaise, mustard, you name it – it comes out cleanly with nothing left behind. Accurate measurements with one push. The large Adjust-A Cup allows you to measure by Pint, Cups ( in 1/4 cup increments) ounces and ML. The smaller Adjust -A Cup allows you to measure by ounces, Tablespoons ( in 1/2 tablespoon increments), Teaspoons, and ML. The two of them should cover all of your measuring needs. And these are not hard to find. Check out your local Bed, Bath and Beyond or search for KitchenArt Adjust-A Cup on Amazon. And while we’re on the topic of measuring cups – if you can find a standard metal 1/8 cup measuring cup, grab it. I know it is two tablespoons and you could use a tablespoon measuring spoon – but why would you if you have a 1/8 cup measuring cup in your tool box!
Other Fun Things
Fun, yes. But these tools serve a real purpose and I use them on a regular basis. So here
Offset spatula, Corer, Egg Timer and Melon Baller
are four of my favorites. I use the offset spatula for more than icing cakes or cookies. It’s perfect for spreading anything when preparing a wrap, one of George’s favorite lunches, smoothing tops of food when necessary as part of the presentation, or “gasp” using it as a spatula to lift cookies off the baking sheet.
I use the corer when preparing fruit for the composed salad I serve at breakfast. I also use it to form perfectly round strips of fruit which can then be sliced into tiny disks. If you are going to buy one of these be sure to get one with a metal handle. It will stand up to the pressure exerted on hard foods such as apples or potatoes.
Next in line is the egg timer. Now I know everyone has their favorite method of turning out perfectly cooked eggs. But frankly, I’ve never had much luck with the whole timing thing. And boiling water at altitude brings another variable into the mix. So I cheat and use this. It has marks for soft, medium and hard boiled eggs. They turn out perfect every time. One less thing for me to stress over.
And last, but not least, is the mighty melon baller. The only thing I don’t use this tool for is to make melon balls. I use it to remove the seeds from tomatoes, to core out the seeds from pears before poaching, to make small balls of composed butter that sit atop steaks and it works great hollowing out cherry tomatoes.
So could I get by with just the tools describe in this blog? Probably. Am I always looking for new tools that make cooking more fun – after all I think of these as toys – Absolutely. Let me know your favorite tools and I may expand my list of favorites!