The holiday shopping season has officially begun, the person on your shopping list is crazy about cooking, and you'd like to get that person a practical gift that they might actually use. Allow me, devoted reader, to lift the burden of your decision-making.
With decades of kitchen experience under my apron, so to speak, I have come to some very definite conclusions about kitchen tools and gadgets. Some, of course, are absolutely necessary, some are simply fun to use and nice to have, and some are downright laughable, utterly useless, most likely fated to languish in a cluttered kitchen drawer and left to die of neglect.
Let's face it: Does any cook worth his salt really need a strawberry stem remover or a mushroom brush? Why buy an expensive set of metal pie weights when a cup of dried beans or rice will serve the same purpose? And please, don't get me started on garlic presses.
But here, in no specific order, are 10 inexpensive, "hot," sensible gadgets that any "serious" cook would be happy to find under the tree this season.
- Kuhn Rikon Piranha Swivel Peeler. Great for removing the skin from tomatoes and peaches, this much-used implement has a super sharp serrated blade that lets you peel paper-thin layers. I actually surprised myself with how much I use this gadget. About $15
- Mexican Citrus Juicer. Convenient, easy to use and store, they come in different sizes for limes, lemons or oranges. Available now in most supermarkets for about $10.
- Egg Slicer. Not just for hard-boiled eggs, this device can be used to slice mushrooms and strawberries as well.
- Fish Turner. Not just for fish, it's a must-have tool for all of my culinary students at Kendall College. Flip, flatten and scrape all sorts of food from the skillet with ease. Oxo makes a good one for about $10.
- Micro-plane Grater. A stainless steel version of a carpenter's woodworking rasp, this is the best tool for grating chocolate, garlic and ginger. For grating cheese, get the coarse grater as well. About $15.
- Salad Spinner. I have an old one that uses a pull cord, but the new ones with the pump are even better and very useful for drying fresh herbs as well as salad greens. Oxo makes a good one for about $30.
- AccuSharp Knife Sharpener. A simple, inexpensive alternative to a sharpening stone, this hand-held device uses two diamond cutters to produce the correct beveled edge to your knives. About $10.
- Pineapple Corer/Cutter. The quickest way to get uniform pineapple slices. And it removes the core as well. I have one from Oxo. $10.
- Mango Splitter. This, too, was a gift I thought I would never use. To my surprise, it works like a charm. If you like mangoes you'll like this. $15.
- Whisky Stones. A slight departure from the savory kitchen, this intriguing item is super-hot right now, especially for those who savor fine spirits. Shaped like ice cubes but made from soapstone, these cubes chill your drink without diluting it. Just place them in the freezer for a few of hours and, voila, you're ready to go.
Happy holidays and happy shopping to all!