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Food52's Editorial Assistant (and college student) Brette Warshaw is curating her very own first kitchen -- and she needs your help. Today: choosing the right kitchen gadgetry.
Sometimes, when my ingredients are laid out on my couch, and my mise en place is in plastic Solo cups, and I’m balancing a mixing bowl on my thigh because there’s no room left on the counter, I like to picture myself in another kitchen.
These kitchens have roaring hearths, endless counter space, and the colorations of an Instagram photo. Sometimes, out the window, I see the Tuscan countryside; other times, the bustling streets of Paris. Most likely, there’s a handsome man kneading bread in the corner, or an Italian nonna shelling beans.
These other-worldly kitchens, like my own, lack any gadgetry.
While it’s easy for me to fantasize about wooden cutting boards, vintage cutlery, and rows of speckled cookbooks, kitchen gadgets – the blenders, food processors, toasters, mixers, rice cookers, coffee makers, and other plug-ins – seem un-romantic, un-inspired, unnecessary. They’re too shiny for that Tuscan kitchen, too electric-cord-y for Paris. Their odd shapes and sizes – and unattractive names – deem them unfit for those hazy, lazy, sepia-toned afternoons, where things are chopped into uneven hunks and still cook perfectly, and where I have all the time in the world to whip, chop, stir, knead.
That’s why it’s the kitchen of my dreams.
In reality, I’m busy. Crazed, sometimes. Kitchen gadgets, so I’m told, will make my life easier, my prep quicker, my nights shorter. Anything that will make me want to cook more -- that will bring me into the kitchen and guide me towards dinner -- seems worth it.
Maybe gadgets can be dreamy, after all.
Stand mixers vs. hand mixers
I’m a knead-with-your-hands kind of girl. I’m also a making-bread-is-a-major-project-and-I’m-focusing-all-my-energy-on-it kind of girl. Fancy-schmancy stand mixers, like the Cuisinart 5.5 Quart Stand Mixer ($349), are great at kneading dough – but hey, so am I. And since when I’m making bread, I’m making bread – flour on my cheeks, determination in my eyes – I don’t need a handy little machine to make bread for me when I do other grand kitchen tasks. Making bread is my grand kitchen task.
A stand mixer’s other skills – paddling cookie dough, for instance, or whipping eggs and cream – can be accomplished with a simple hand mixer, for a fraction of the price (the Cook’s Illustrated-vetted Cuisinart Power Advantage 7-Speed Hand Mixer is $59.95). That is, when I don’t feel like doing it myself. Which, to be honest, is not that often.
Blenders vs. immersion blenders
Practically-speaking, this seems like an easy one.
Immersion blenders are givers. They’re smaller, they’re easily packed away, and they can do their job in any vessel: a saucepan, a mixing bowl, a stock pot, a cute little milkshake glass that I do not own. Plus, they’re cheaper – the KitchenAid 3-Speed Hand Blender, for instance, is $59.95.
But some home cooks swear by their blenders. They say they give food an airier, creamier texture, that they’re worth the counter space, the cleaning time, the potential spillage, everything. But are they worth the extra money? Are they really that much better?
I’ve already gotten all poetic and weird about how much I love knives. But in my reality-kitchen, I don’t have all of the time in the world to prep vegetables (wouldn’t that be nice?). When crunched for time, prep is not an entity onto itself; it is a hurdle to cross to get to dinner.
That’s when a food processor would come in handy.
But even beyond prep, a food processor would introduce me to culinary projects that I otherwise may shy away from: baking pies and other pastries, making chimichurris and other condiments, maybe trying my hand at some homemade nut butters. Having a tool that pushes you into the kitchen, to try new things, to challenge yourself? That seems essential. Even though a good one comes at the steep price of $199.
Toasters? Coffee makers? Rice cookers? Juicers?
While I’ve cast many gadgets aside as not-First-Kitchen-worthy, I’d love to hear your thoughts. What are your most essential kitchen gadgets, and what do you think I’d like for my First Kitchen?
As usual, I'll be pinning everything I'm coveting to my First Kitchen Pinterest board, so check it out!
Email me at [email protected] with your First Kitchen recommendations -- your favorite tools, your favorite cookware. All wisdom is appreciated.