As I’m running a Spring Baking Giveaway currently for which I’ve asked fellow foodies to share their favourite kitchen gadgets, I thought I’d compile a list of my own personal favourites.
I’m often hesitant to use the term ‘Best’ but for me, the items below have at some stage made this ole home chef’s life a little easier and fun. I’m of course more than keen to hear other people’s thoughts and opinions, and by doing so you might win yourself a prize pack :)
If you haven’t already visited my Giveaways page, please head on over and suggest me some cool Christmas kitchen gifts that won’t break the bank.
1. Potato Ricer (most kitchenware stores for about $25.00) – Don’t you hate mashing potatoes? I’ve never really come across a potato masher that quite does the job and most food processors turn mash into fix-hard glue.
I learnt some time ago that restaurant chefs run their cooked potato through a sieve to achieve sublime smoothness but you can get similar results faster with a potato ricer.
This contraption is also a must for gnocchi making (it doesn’t over process the spuds but makes it fine enough to knead) and making German Spätzle. Might be fun for making crazy cookies too.
2. Mandoline/Slicer (http://ow.ly/qs8hM or most kitchenware stores for about $30/35) – When I was on a raw diet (for all of 10 days…) this slicer was my saviour. It made so many vegetables and fruit easier and more fun to eat.
When my kids don’t fancy gnashing their way through a whole apple, I pass it through a mandoline. They love the wafer thin slices of fruit, skin and all.
This is also a must for potato bakes, as well as for prepping dehydrated vege and fruit chips. It’s magic as a grater too.
3. Silicone Baking Mats/Sheets (various sizes, most under $50 – or win this one!) – There’s a plethora of silicone baking products these days and I think you either love them or hate them. I am not a fan of silicone moulds for baking but I have to say that my silicone baking sheet gets a good amount of usage in my kitchen.
I don’t bake with my silicone sheet so much (although they’re great for preventing the bottoms of cookies from getting burnt) but I love using it as a secure surface to roll out pasty and cookie dough, and for any other food preparation process that requires a non-stick, heatproof surface such as making candy and nougat, gnocchi and chocolate/fondant shapes.
For bread makers, silicone mats are great for preparing dough and using as a wrap while proving or storing in the fridge until ready to bake. In general, the mats work well as trivets and you can use a corner to open stubborn jars.
4. Whisky Ice Blocks (http://ow.ly/qs9xs – under $20 in most stores) – When I saw these gorgeous looking cubes of stone last year, I had to have them. I’m not a fast drinker, especially if the beverage is alcoholic, so these blocks are great for keeping a drink cold and long. Great also for that friend who puts ice into their wine or champers :|
Made out of non-porous (and therefore odourless) soapstone, these blocks retain their temperature well and more efficiently than ice! Soapstone is quite soft so gentle against glass but do take care not to toss them into a drink. Once used, it’s just a matter of giving them a wash and placing back in the freezer.
Other applications? I think these would perfect for cooling down baby/toddler food when in a rush and I like to pop one into a cup of hot Japanese tea if it’s just a touch too hot to enjoy with my in-a-hurry sushi lunch. I’d also love a larger slab to use as a fancy dish to serve some sorbet on.
5. Protective Cookbook Stand – (various, most under $50) – I don’t actually have one of these but on many occasions I have wished these things existed… And apparently they do! I own quite a few cookbook stands but none are able to prevent food splatter landing on the pages. Try as I might, many of my books show clear evidence of having been used while cooking, and while I try to be careful with my iPad, sometimes it gets smeared with sauce too.
Protective cookbook stands come with a lovely perspex layer that covers your cookbook, preventing the pages from getting seasoned but all the while allowing you to keep an eye on the recipe. Some stands are able to accommodate larger books while others are geared towards protecting your virtual cookbooks. Once you’re done cooking, you only
need to give the protective layer a clean and away you go again.
I’d personally feel bad about buying another stand right now but this is a great idea for other people. Psst! If you do have a lot of stands already, get a piece of clear acrylic cut to A4 or A3 and use as an interim solution ;)
6. Zoku Pop Single – ($39.95 on eBay with Free Postage -> http://ow.ly/qscAe) – I wasn’t sure if I should include the Zoku family of fun iced lolly makers on this list but I couldn’t resist. I bought the 6-Pop maker a couple of years ago and my family still loves it.
We often have shop-bought custards or yoghurt that approach their Use By dates faster than we can eat it so Zoku prolongs the enjoyment by making creamy frozen treats.
Zoku kinda borders on being gimmicky and pretty much only has one usage but the fun factor is right up there. The selling point is of course being able to enjoy popsicles within 10 minutes as long as you keep Zoku in the freezer all the time. Don’t need 6 pops? You can now get single pop makers that are just toooo cute. There’s also a Zoku slushy maker now if you aren’t into icy treats on a stick. Frozen Margaritas anyone?