Friday, December 11, 2009

My Favorite Kitchen Tools

I use the following kitchen tools all the time whether I’m cooking or baking. In one way or another, I couldn’t cook without them—or at least I couldn’t cook with as much ease and grace as I do. If you are searching for a stocking stuffer or a little something to give to a friend or loved one who cooks, look no further. You can find many of these items at Sur la Table or Bed, Bath, and Beyond, except where noted. Best wishes for a lovely holiday seasons filled with wonderful food coming from your kitchen.

Japanese knives. These are just the best. When I reach in the drawer for a knife, I reach for one of these. They keep their sharpness. In the Bay area, you can find great Japanese knives at The Japanese Woodworker in Alameda, CA or Hida Tool and Hardware in Berkeley.
Microplane grater. Great for grating cheese, ginger, lemon zest. Easy to use. I really like the handle on mine. If you grate a lot, it will grow dull—in which you need to get yourself a new one.
Pastry cutter. I’ve called for this tool in a number of recipes on this blog, including Apple Crisp, Apple Crumb Pie, Biscuits, and the Breakfast Cake. Probably others as well. Lots easier to clean than the Cuisinart and easier to use than your fingers.
Silicon pastry brush. I use this to paint anything that calls for being painted. Its primary advantage is ease of cleaning. Most pastry brushes have bristles like paint brushes and are the dickens to clean, especially if you’ve been painting with butter or an egg yolk mixture.

Silicon spatula. I love these most when I am trying to get every last drop out of a mixing bowl. They work better than anything else. Period.
Egg beater. Of course you can also use a whip or an electric mixer, but the hand egg beater works really well for whipped cream without the extreme effort of the whip or the noise of the electric version.
Measuring pitcher. This pitcher has the advantage of being able to read the measurement by looking down inside the pitcher itself as opposed to the traditional one which you read from the side. Why didn’t someone think of this sooner?
Potato ricer. I think making really excellent mashed potatoes is both a science and an art. You use the ricer after the potatoes have been properly boiled. The riced potatoes are light and fluffy ready for the warm cream, butter, and salt. No lumps.

Suribachi. This Japanese bowl has a rough surface on the inside and comes with a wooden pestle. The rough surface makes it really easy to make a paste of ginger and garlic, for example. I find it much easier to use than a regular mortar and pestle. You can find them at a store selling Japanese cooking equipment, like Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley.

Lemon juicer (electric). You may have noticed that I use a lot of lemon/lime/orange juices in my food. I just love the citrusy flavor. This machine makes it so easy to squeeze your juices. Those glass pitcher juicers are hopeless.
Spice/coffee grinder (electric). First off I want to say that I no longer ever use this grinder for coffee. If you want to use yours for both, make sure to clean it out very well between times. There is nothing that grinds up hard spices—like star anise or cinnamon sticks (broken up)—better than this kind of grinder. The one in the photo is over 30 years old but new models abound.


Tinky said...

Great ideas! Here are a couple more:

a silicone mat--for baking, pastry, whatever! I love these. Look for the harder ones like those made by Silpat & Calphalon

an immersion blender (handy if luxurious)

knives by Lamson & Goodnow--stylish and sharp! (they're local to me in MA)

wooden mushrooms for crushing garlic


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