MY FAVORITE KITCHEN GADGETS
Here are some of the kitchen utensils, tools, gadgets and appliances that make my life easier. Some of the items pictured aren't exactly like mine, because some are so old that they've been discontinued, but you'll find similar products available in stores and online.
This is called Mushroom Xpress and is one of those "As seen on TV" products that actually works. You'll be amazed at how quickly and easily this slices mushrooms. The little mushroom brush is included. It is available at stores such as Bed Bath & Beyond. They run about $8-10.
UPDATE: This gadget broke after several uses so I no longer recommend it.
One of these gadgets is indespensible if you're going to hull a lot of berries and is still a great tool for hulling only a few. The model I like to use has grips to hold the huller onto your thumb. This saves you the trouble of having to constantly pick up and put down the huller. Although this kind is hard to find, I have seen them online. You can easily find the kind without the thumb grip.
This little tool is meant to be used to cut very fine strips of citrus peel, but I've found another use for mine. When I make Jalapeņo Poppers, this works great for scooping the seeds and membranes out of the jalapeņos. I'm not sure what I'd use for the job if I didn't have this tool.
I found these at The Container Store. I bought three of them and use them to store large batches of my Seasoning for Tacos, Seasoning Salt and Spicy Seasoning Salt. They are nice because the lid has holes for shaking out spices as well as an opening for scooping them out with a measuring spoon. They also come in smaller sizes.
LARGE SHEET PANS
These are the best kind of baking sheets in my opinion. I would never use that dark, nonstick kind for baking cookies or pizzas, etc. because of their tendency to burn the food. I bought my first one at Williams-Sonoma for around $16, but later found a second one at Wal-Mart for half the price or less. Half Sheet Pan
These are wonderful for reheating leftovers or for serving soup or chili. The ones that are available in stores these days come with plastic snap-on lids. Those are ok for food storage, but not suitable for reheating. Mine came with glass lids that are perfect for reheating in the microwave, but the only place you'll find those lids is on eBay or places like that. You can buy them at Target, Wal-Mart and I've even seen them at Kroger. Corningware Grab-Its
These are nice, sturdy cooling racks made by Wilton and the legs can be either extended or not, depending on how you're using them. They come in a set of three. Wilton Excelle Elite 3-Tier Cooling Rack
My electric wok is very old so the model is no longer available. I love having one of these for cooking stir-fries and other dishes that wouldn't fit in even my largest skillet. It's also great for times when all the stove burners are being used for other things. One drawback with my model is that I don't find that it's hot enough to stir-fry without the food steaming somewhat. Perhaps the newer models have higher heat settings. Be sure to get an immersible one or cleaning can be a bit of a pain. Electric Wok
Mine is made by Toastmaster, but they are all pretty similar. This is a wonderful gadget to have for low carbing. You can make thick, creamy soups by pureeing the vegetables right in the cooking pot. This is what you'll want to have if you make my Cauliflower Bisque or Emerald Isle Soup. It's also nice for making salad dressings. I recently used it to whip some cream and was surprised that it worked. You won't get much volume, but the cream will be thick enough to spoon over a dessert. I don't think that it whipped much faster than an electic mixer or a whisk will do, but the cream didn't spray all over the place like when you use a mixer. Toastmaster Immersion Blender
MINI MICROWAVE PLATE COVER
These are great for reheating a luncheon-sized plate of food in the microwave. I found mine at Wal-Mart. I also have dinner plate sized covers and use them all the time.
SWIVEL SPRAY AERATOR
I go nuts when I visit someone else's house and they don't have one of these on their kitchen faucet. It's great for rinsing dishes and the sink itself. You can find them at Wal-Mart for only a few dollars.
MINI FOOD PROCESSOR
Mine is made by Black & Decker. It's useful for chopping nuts, making small batches of salsa and grinding spice mixtures. I use it when I make a batch of Cajun Seasoning. I also make a butter spread with half butter and half oil and it just fits in this little food processor using 1/2 cup butter to 1/2 cup oil. It's great when you want to chop a small amount of food and don't want to dirty the big food processor or when it's not enough to come in contact with the blades. Mini Food Processor
This is a Pampered Chef product and one of my favorites. I use it all the time to chop the nuts for my Coconutty Crunch and to finely mince mushrooms for Dottie's Cream of Mushroom Soup for Recipes. It's a bit pricy at $28.50, but it's quite sturdy and well made.
MINI CAKE SERVER
This is another Pampered Chef product. I'm not sure if I'd say it was indespensible, but I do like the size of it because it's smaller than the average spatula.
If you use leaf lettuce and fresh greens for your salads, a salad spinner will be quite useful. I previously had the kind with a handle that had to be cranked and never used it because I hated it. The OXO spinner has an easy-to-use pump action that works great. I also use mine after I wash a bunch of fresh parsley to chop for freezing. You can find them at Target and any store that sells OXO brand products. OXO Salad Spinner
After making do for years with cheap food processors that would crack and fall apart in a short time, I finally splurged and got a Cuisinart. BUT, I bought their least expensive and simplest model which doesn't have the complicated feed tube that their higher end models have. Despite the lower price, the motor is still at least twice as powerful as any of the cheap processors I've owned. Mine doesn't have the largest size work bowl, but I find that it suits most of my needs just fine. I use mine all the time to shred cheese and make my Mexican Hot Sauce, Cilantro Pepita Dressing & Dip and things like Minced Ham. I bought mine at Bed Bath & Beyond because I had a 20% off coupon, but I'm not sure if they still sell this model. I did see it at Amazon: Cuisinart DLC-5 7-Cup Capacity Food Processor.
iSi CREAM WHIPPER
I consider this a luxury item and not really necessary for making whipped cream, but it is nice to have one. I received mine as a gift and probably would never have bought one for myself. I think they cost somewhere around $50 and a box of 10 chargers is around $10 (can be found much cheaper online). One thing I've discovered is that once a batch of cream will no longer dispense, the cannister usually isn't really empty. When you open it to clean it, be sure to scoop out any remaining whipped cream with a long-handled spoon or spatula. iSi 2350 One Pint Dessert Whip, White
GLASS PIE PLATES
I keep 4-5 of these in my cupboard so that I always have a clean one on hand for making quiche and other quiche-type low carb dishes. I use the ones that are a bit larger than 9-inch so that there's plenty of room for the fillings. They are available at Wal-Mart and I've even seen them at Kroger. I think they run about $5-6 each.
I have a lot of Rubbermaid storage containers, but I particularly like the Tellfresh Decor containers that they sell at The Container Store. They come in so many styles and sizes. The ones I use the most are tall and square, unlike the one in the picture. I use them to store my Cheese Crisps, Crispy Cheese Crackers and Almond Thins. For some reason the Container Store website only sells a few sizes of these, but the store has the complete line. They are fairly inexpensive too.
SALT & PEPPER GRINDER
I bought mine at Marks & Spencer's in England, after seeing the one my friend over there had, but later found out that they are available in the states as well at Bed Bath & Beyond for $19.99. What I like about this kind is the trigger action for dispensing and also how easy it is to refill. With my old wooden traditional-style grinder, I'd have to unscrew and take apart the whole grinding mechanism to refill it then try to guess at what setting I liked to use. This one has a little door that drops down for filling with peppercorns. The other side is used for coarse salt. When I bought it I'd hoped to use the salt side for another kind of pepper, but found that it has a plastic grinding mechanism instead of metal so I just keep kosher or sea salt in it.
Just a simple little gadget, but it's nice for draining cans of tuna or even canned mushrooms. Sure, you can just use the lid of the can, but they tend to bend with a little pressure and you end up with liquid all over your hands and half the tuna down the drain. This works very well and is simple to clean. I found this model at Kroger hanging from a peg near the canned tuna. There are similar kinds available if you can't find this exact one.
I've never had an interest in using an electric can opener and hate those little metal clamp-on openers that never work very well. Swing-A-Way is the only brand I will use because it's so easy to work and doesn't cost much. I've heard that Pampered Chef sells a very nice can opener, but it was too much for my budget at around $17.50. It's called the "Cutting Edge: Smooth-Edge Can Opener" and one of the nice features is that it extracts the lid for you automatically. If you're cheap, like me, go for the Swing-A-Way for around $5-6 at Wal-Mart and just about everywhere.
If you're counting carbs and really want to measure your food accurately, you definitely should own a food scale. I have one of those cheap old diet scales which I use to weigh small amounts of things, but this kind is great for weighing anything larger. Mine is a little different than the one in the picture, but it also has a bowl that reverses to become the cover when not in use. You're not limited to using the bowl that comes with it though. Just put the container of your choice on the scale and set the dial to zero before adding the food. If you can afford it, a digital scale is the most accurate way to go, but for home use, an analog scale does the job just fine. I've seen ones similar to mine at Target and Wal-Mart.
CANNING JAR LIDS
If you've ever been into canning and have a supply of old canning jars collecting dust in the basement or garage, put them to use as storage containers. I love these plastic screw-on caps and use my canning jars for storing everything from homemade salsa to salad dressings. They come in regular and wide-mouth sizes. They are $7.19 at Amazon.
OXO JULIENNE PEELER
I've only used mine once so far, but will definitely be using it again and again now that I know how easily it works for making Zucchini "Noodles". I made "spaghetti" with it that could even be twirled with a fork! Take your Bed Bath & Beyond discount coupon to the store and get one today. It's made by OXO and is $6.99 before your discount. OXO Good Grips 1054751 Julienne Peeler
WEST BEND TRIPLE TIMER
One single timer is never enough. I was always wanting to time more than one thing that was cooking so I got myself a West Bend Triple Timer over 20 years ago when I first got married. I can set one timer for my dryer and be timing two things on the stove at the same time. The model I use, and yes it's still working after 20 years and only needs new batteries once every couple years or so, has been discontinued, but I was pleased to see that West Bend is making a triple timer again. For a while only a double timer was available. I've seen them online at Amazon for $17.00 and Sur la Table has them for $29.99. The best price around is at Wal-Mart. They are selling these for $7.32 and they're exactly the same model as the ones at Amazon. I remember paying around $16 for mine over 20 years ago, so this is a great price! This new triple timer has an interesting feature that my old one doesn't have. If you don't hear the timer go off (it's very loud, by the way), it will start counting up so that, when you realize that you've missed it, you'll know how much time has elapsed since the timer went off. West Bend Triple Timer
Everyone loves George Foreman counter-top grills, but I don't like the idea that the grids aren't removeable for cleaning. My husband found a GE Contact Grill at Wal-Mart for about half the price of a George Foreman of the same size and gave it to me for my birthday. It has removeable grids and can even be opened up flat to double the cooking surface. Apparently the GE model is no longer made and a nearly identical version is made by Hamilton Beach. The one in the photo is very similar to mine right down to the little "drawer" in the side that catches the grease. I use mine all the time for grilling burgers, chicken breasts and other meats. This is probably one of my most useful appliances especially since our gas grill stopped working ages ago. I think they are available at Wal-Mart for around $50. By the way, George Foreman has recently come out with his own version with removeable grids. This model is very similar to mine: Hamilton Beach 25295 Indoor Contact Grill
This is my new after Christmas toy. If you're tired of having most of your lemon or orange peel stuck in your grater, you'll love this tool. The zest is removed with very little effort and all you have to do is scrape it off the other side with your finger. No waste at all. I bought mine at Bed Bath & Beyond with a discount coupon. They have two styles of zesters; one with a handle and one without. The one with the handle is $12.99 and the other is $9.99. Besides the cheaper price, I also decided on the handle-less zester because of its greater (no pun intended) surface area and that it would take up less room in the drawer. The handle is a little bulky. Mine came in a plastic sheath that can be used for storage. For a nifty tip, click here. Microplane 40020 Stainless Steel Zester Grater
Although not exacly a gadget, parchment paper is indispensible for low carb cooking. It keeps foods from sticking to baking pans that butter and cooking spray can't handle. You'll need it for recipes like Pork Rind Pizza and Cheese Crisps. I buy it at Kroger where they sell aluminum foil and wax paper. A 30 foot roll costs around $2.39. When you use your parchment paper, I recommend cutting it with scissors rather than use the cutting edge on the box. You'll get a much straighter cut and have less waste.
Because I have a dishwasher, I rarely have enough dishes to hand wash for it to be worth filling the sink with water and soap. So, I've been using one of these soap sponges for years and years. They are very handy for quickly washing one or two dishes or pots. Just fill the handle (not too full) with liquid dish soap and wet the sponge. These are made by many different companies and in different styles, but I prefer the kind without the rough pot scrubber surface and a regular sponge and not one of those airy foamy-type sponges. Be sure to stock up on sponge refills when you buy the handle just in case the brand you buy becomes hard to find. Do not use anti-bacterial dish detergent in one of these sponges. Something about them causes the sponge to disintegrate and turn black.
These are great for microwave cooking, measuring and beating eggs and cream for quiches. I have two sizes - 4 cup and 8 cup. The 4-cup size is just right for mixing up a quiche. The handle and pouring spout make it easy to evenly pour the egg mixture over the ingredients in the baking dish. I have an 8-cup one very similar to the one in the picture above, but my 4-cup is more like the ones that are sold by Pampered Chef for $10 (see photo below). They sell the 8-cup batter bowl for $13. Both come with lids.
MINI BUNDT PANS
I found a set of four of these at Wal-Mart and couldn't resist. I used them to make my Pound Cake recipe and they turned out so cute. I bet they'd work well as mini jello molds too. I think they were bewteen $4.00 and $5.00 for the set.
UPDATE 5/10/11: I never see these at Walmart anymore but I found some sold individually at World Market for $1.49 each. They look identical to the ones that I have.
BRITA WATER PITCHER
The water here in Houston tastes very bad so I was buying bottled water for years before I decided to invest in a water filtering pitcher. The refill filters aren't cheap at about $16.00 for three, but they only need to be changed every two months and it's much cheaper than the $1.00 per day I was spending on bottled water. Hauling home all those gallon jugs of water was no picnic either. Brita pitchers are available just about everywhere and the 3/4 gallon one I use costs around $25-30. I keep a 2 1/2 gallon water dispenser in my refrigerator and empty my pitcher into it daily. I always keep a full pitcher in the fridge. Brita Deluxe Water Pitcher
MINI FLUTED TUBE PAN
I bought myself a new toy so that I can make individual serving sized poundcakes. I thought they'd be fun for strawberry shortcake. I found it at Bed Bath & Beyond for $14.99. It's made by Wilton. Click here to see how the little pound cakes turned out. Wilton Mini Fluted Tube Pan
MUFFIN TOP PAN
I use this to make my Flax Sandwich Buns which are great for sandwiches. The best price I could find online for muffin top pans is through the Atkins website but they no longer sell them there. I bought two at $6.99 each plus shipping. Most other sites wanted around $12 or more. I recommend taking the advice on the label and set your oven 25 degrees lower than your recipe states. Otherwise the bottoms get too dark before the tops are done. Muffin Top Pan
UPDATE 11/9/11: Someone asked me if buns made in a muffin top pan would be large enough to use as hamburger buns. If they are all the same size as mine then the answer is "Yes". I measured mine and the cups are 4 inches in diameter. I had some standard size store-bought burger buns in the freezer as well as some of the jumbo size so I compared them both to the size of the pan. The muffin top pan is quite a bit larger than the standard buns and just a hair smaller than the jumbo buns. When I set a jumbo bun in the pan, it just slightly extended over the edge but not by much. Unless you're making really huge burger patties, the muffin top pan buns should be just the right size for most burgers. I've used buns made in my pan for half-pound hamburger patties. They were messy but they worked fine.
WIRE SPICE RACKS
My collection of spices and extracts keeps growing by the week so I needed to look for a way to add more storage in my kitchen. I don't have wall space for a fancy spice rack, so I found some functional ones that I've attached to the inside of my pantry door. I bought them at The Container Store. I would have liked the triple shelf unit, but it wouldn't work for me, so bought five of the individual racks for $2.99 each. The triple unit is $7.99. These will hold most standard spice tins and bottles. Click here to see how the racks look on my pantry door. Here is a shot of my spice cupboard now that I've freed up a lot of space.
I found these two little squeeze bottles at The Container Store in the Travel section. I often have trouble dispensing Trish's liquid Splenda by the drop from the bottle it comes in. I either get multiple drops at a time or it squirts all over the place. This little, leak-proof bottle dispenses perfect droplets and makes it much easier to squeeze into a measuring spoon as well. I recently bought some blackstrap molasses to give foods a brown sugar flavor, but trying to measure 1/2 teaspoon amounts from a sticky jar is no fun. It's easy and neat to measure it from this little bottle and the cap keeps out critters who would be attracted by the sweet molasses. The leak-proof Splenda bottle was $2.99 and the molasses bottle was only 89-cents. The leak-proof bottles come in various sizes, larger and smaller than this one, which is 4 inches tall. The molasses bottle, which is 6 inches tall, only comes in the one size.
After all these years, I finally decided to get my knives out of the drawer and into a knife block. The best deal I found, that would hold all of my knives, was this one from Bed Bath & Beyond. I paid $39.99 minus a 20% off coupon. It holds 19 knives and other utensils, such as my meat fork and sharpening steel. I've still got free slots for two more knives. This photo shows my knife collection, minus a few little specialty knives that I rarely use.
SILICONE BAKING LINER
I finally got around to buying myself a silicone baking liner and it works great. I went with Exopat, rather than the more popular Silpat, because the half sheet pan size was cheaper at Amazon. I use it all the time now when I make Zesty Cheddar Wafers. Matfer Exopat 11-5/8-by-16-3/8-Inch Nonstick Baking Sheet
HARD ANODIZED NONSTICK SKILLETS
I got three of these for Christmas a few years ago and they are still available, but only at Wal-Mart (stores only, not through their website). They're a bit pricy, but they are very heavy and well made. I've got the 8", 10" and 12" skillets. They are made by WearEver and here's how the WearEver website describes them:
"Metal-safe nonstick interior. Hard Anodized exterior for superior heat conduction. Soft-grip, stay-cool handles."
My good friend, Nancy, sent me this as a gift and it's very nice for chopping nuts or chocolate. The rubber ring around the base keeps it from sliding around on the counter and the soft rubber handle feels nice in my hand and makes it easy to turn the crank. You can easily find this model online by searching for "Progressive International heavy duty nut chopper". It seems to run between $6.99 to $9.00. Progressive International Heavy Duty Nut Chopper
GLASS BAKING AND STORAGE CONTAINERS
I recently discovered these nice Pyrex dishes at Wal-Mart. They're great for baking small casseroles, marinating meat and for storing leftovers. I love the plastic snap-on covers. Because the rectangular dishes are fairly thin, they're stackable in the refrigerator which saves a lot of space. The ones with the navy blue covers are made by Pyrex and you can find them at Wal-Mart stores. I bought the one with the green cover at K-Mart a few years ago. I just bought a Pyrex bowl and cover at Wal-Mart (see picture below) and the set of three is available at amazon.com (see the link below). The largest bowl is just the right size for a batch of coleslaw, Broccoli Salad or UnPotato Salad and it's pretty enough to put on the table for serving. Pyrex Serveware 3-Piece Bowl Set and Pyrex 10-Piece Food Storage Set with Lids
For more gadgets, go to page two