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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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).