Behind the Scenes

Too Many Cooks: What's your Favorite Kitchen Gadget?

By • March 23, 2012 • 36 Comments

You'll be hearing from the staff at FOOD52 every week in Too Many Cooks, our group column in which we pool our answers to questions about food, cooking, life, and more.

The New York Times Dining section ran a piece this week about those kitchen gadgets that you buy thinking they'll make your life easier -- oyster knife, bread machine, milk frother -- but that end up gathering dust in a cabinet.

But sometimes more is more, even if those pickle tongs take up too much space in your cutlery drawer. Here are our favorite kitchen utensils -- the ones we won't give up in favor of a simpler life. It's funny how so many of our answers are about tools that are just so "satisfying" to use!

Amanda:
You might be able to guess mine -- meat pounder. So handy for crushing garlic, pitting olives (even cherries if you don't have Nozlee's beloved cherry pitter), bruising herbs, pulverizing nuts, and, oh, pounding meat flat.

Merrill:
I love my avocado slicer. I could easily do the same job with a paring knife, but the thrill of watching and feeling that web of thin wire tines slip through the flesh of the avocado never gets old. Plus, every time it's a personal challenge to see how little avocado I can manage to leave behind.

Kristen (pictured above with her salad spinner!):
My salad spinner: the blasted thing takes up approximately 1/10th of my tiny kitchen, but it's worth it. Picture me (pre-salad spinner but finally fed up with damp salad), standing on my fire escape, flinging a towelful of wet leaves in a circle like a windmill, like my chef friend told me to do. Then picture me getting a salad spinner.

Kristy:
I have this squash scraper that looks kind of like an ice cream scoop. It must have been a family hand-me-down when I moved from CA. It's only meant for winter squash, so I only use it for a few months every year. It seemed silly at first because I could just use a spoon to do the same task but the way it scoops the seeds and stringy flesh away is so satisfying. So clean and precise!

Peter:
I think it would be my Typhoon Professional Cook's Torch. I bought it for $5 at a yard sale down the block and have used it for creme bruleés of course, but also for finishing off frittatas, caramelizing sugar on bananas, making asiago cheese crackers, even toasting marshmallows for S'Mores. Why can I not live without it? Well, honestly I could live without it just fine but if you're wearing your wife's yellow-print Marimekko sunflower apron I think it's critical to man it up as much as possible by always having an blowtorch at the ready!

Nozlee:
Two years ago at the end of cherry season, I found a gorgeous all-metal cherry pitter at a thrift store. All throughout the cold season, its shiny handles were a promise of the pies, tarts, jams, and more that I was sure I'd make come warm weather. Of course summer came and went with only one cobbler -- 99% of the time, cherries are too good not to eat on their own. But the soft smoosh and pop of the pitter on the pound-plus of cherries was a joy, and the tool isn't going anywhere. After all, who knows what will happen next summer?

Anna:
I'm going to say a cheese slicer. You might think a knife will do the trick, but nothing can beat the satisfyingly thin curl of cheese rising smoothly away from the block of cheddar in one momentary gesture.

Alaina:
Reversible citrus juicer. Something so satisfying about taking an oversized knuckle to half a lemon and pressing it to a pulp. Or squeezing fresh OJ manually just because you can.

Laura:
The first thing that comes to mind is my mandoline. It's not a necessary tool, as I could simply use a knife, but I couldn't do without it, particularly when it comes to slicing and roasting fennel (I love making crispy fennel - it usually doesn't make it from the baking sheet to my plate).

Tags: too many cooks, in the kitchen, food52 staff, kitchen tools

Comments (36)

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over 2 years ago Karen P. Dabbour

Ah, I so agree cdilaura. You nailed it on the head. A day doesn't go by that I don't use my microplane either!!!! It's great for Parmesan cheese too. I have 2 sizes also. The larger whole one is quite evil if your not super-duper careful though. I have taken off a hunk of skin more than once.
Also it is an affordable piece of equipment I might add. Wash it by hand, keep it in its cover when not being used and it will last a very long time. I've had mine for 2 to 3 years and its still SHARP!!

Me

over 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

Immersion blender! Mostly because I love soup, so I use it ALL the time.

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over 2 years ago Karen P. Dabbour

I must agree with you also ChezSuzanne!! I have had one for years, but alas I am ashamed to admit it was in a drawer and forgotten. I rediscovered it recently and it also is one of my favorite tools now.

Me

over 2 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I had a similar experience! and now i use it constantly it seems. soooo much easier than the food processor!

Burnt_offering

over 2 years ago Burnt Offerings

Agree 150%. I use that thing DAILY for smoothies, soups, and with the mini prep bowl - garlic, herbs, salad dressings, marinades, you name it. Most used hand held appliance I own.

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over 2 years ago thurston

krups coffee/spice grinder! makes short work of prepping dry rubs, spice blends, even small amounts of parmesan cheese. and i'd have to agree with the salad spinner nod. given the amount of amazing greens i get from my local csa, the salad spinner gets spun numerous times a week!

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over 2 years ago Patrisha

It has to be my trusty ole' mortar & pestle...keeps me grounded and there is nothing like grinding your own seeds & herbs.

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over 2 years ago LucyS

They call it a Cuisinart 'smart stick' - it attaches to a mini bowl-shaped blender, whisk, and blending stick. I use it all. the. time. And it works really smoothly. Perfect for small kitcheners.

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over 2 years ago sfmiller

I have one of these, too, and love it. I didn't think I'd use the mini-food-processor attachment much, but I ended up using it more than I do my 11-cup FP. It's great for chopping small quantities nuts or other things you don't want to reduce to a paste and for making a cup or so of salsa, pesto, etc. And much easier to clean than a full-sized FP.

Claire

over 2 years ago midnitechef

Cheese, lots of cheese.
Milk for coffee and the kids (I don't drink it much, maybe with a warm cookie)
butter
fruit
peanut butter
honey
seasonal veggies
yogurt

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over 2 years ago mward

My favorite is my Kyocera adjustible mandoline slicer. I've never been able to get my OXO mandolin to work properly, but this inexpensive tool allows you to slice 4 different thicknesses. It's especially great for salad vegetables like cucumber, fennel, radishes, carrots, etc., but also for vegetable soups and slicing onions.

Zester_003

over 2 years ago pierino

pierino is a trusted source on General Cooking and Tough Love.

Another KitchenAid user here, and I own two. I had to make two cheese cakes this week and today I'll be using the grinder attachment for sausage. Runner up would be the KitchenAid mid-sized food processor which I use all the time for smaller jobs.
But I wouldn't mind owning those snail tongs mentioned in the Times article. I sometimes go to antinque stores in search of old kitchen tools. But last time I walked out with a 60's Underwood typewriter instead.

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over 2 years ago sunday lunch

I have a cheese slicer that some guy from Sweden gave me on a date about 20 years ago. I haven't seen him since, but the slicer is still going strong. It slices cheese like a dream, but can also be put to use as a chocolate curler, pie server, and spatula, among other things.

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over 2 years ago slothrop

OK, in addition to the KitchenAid that I rhapsodized about, a simple gadget that I just used today, and which my kids just love to watch (for the 3 seconds it takes) is my pineapple corer. So quick and easy!

Another gadget that I bought on a whim, as it was on sale for next to nothing, was a bean frencher. I figured I might use it on occasion, but now I rarely make green beans without using it.

Jay_salt

over 2 years ago ChefSalt

The peeler!!

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over 2 years ago Louisa

My flat whisk. I didn't even know it existed until someone gave me one last year. I use it constantly--so great for sauces and anytime you need to stir into the corners of your pot.
Second is bench scraper.

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over 2 years ago BavarianCook

I'm with calendar girl: my egg slicer. I use that thing every day! I eat toast with a perfectly sliced hardboiled egg every day for lunch at work. So good! The egg slicer gives me just the perfect amount of slices and in the right thickness.

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over 2 years ago nzle

Bench scraper! Microplane! Meat grinder! Kitchen scale! I couldn't live without them, either. And now I'm half-convinced I need a slap chop...

Burnt_offering

over 2 years ago Burnt Offerings

You do NOT need a slap chop! But everything else you just mentioned - absolutely.

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over 2 years ago Jennifer Ann

A no frills pressure cooker changed my life. It puts so many long-cooking favorites (beans, legumes, brown rice . . .) within reach any night of the week.

Buddhacat

over 2 years ago SKK

mrslarkin - I checked out the Slap Chop Rap - love it! "Slap your troubles away" My current favorite is my kitchen scale. I way everything. So much more satisfying than weighing myself.

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over 2 years ago Panfusine

My table top stone grinder (its a teensy portable version of a chocolate concher), Absolutely indispensable for making batter for Indian Dosa & Idlis

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over 2 years ago slothrop

So many of the things people have already mention are on my list, but I think I'd have to go with my KitchenAid mixer+attachments. I have an older meat grinder attachment (the blade on the current one is crap), and I use that all of the time. Of course, the pasta rollers make pasta making a breeze. And the fruit and vegetable grinder/strainer thing, though a bit messy, is way easier than using a food mill to separate tomato seeds/skin from the juice, to make a smooth tomato sauce.

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over 2 years ago calendargirl

Love my hard boiled egg slicer -- a heavy stainless steel jobbie. I don't use it more than half a dozen times a year, but it's oh so satisfying to get all those pretty slices with one smooth drop of the guillotine.

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over 2 years ago Aime.See

Two words: bench scraper

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over 2 years ago rapearson

yes! can't live without it.