Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sarah's Top 10 Kitchen Gadgets

When I finally moved to my own place in Massachusetts after graduating college, I was thrilled to have my own kitchen. Except... I had no idea what exactly I needed for my kitchen. I went a little crazy at first, buying a lot of gadgets that I didn't really need. I ended up with a lot of kitchen clutter, and I hate clutter.

Today's Tuesday Top 10 post is a list of the top ten things that I think everyone should have in their kitchen.

I'm hoping that some day someone will stumble across this in the same situation I was in (clueless and excited) and find this helpful. Most of the items in my list are "entry-level" kitchen items, but a couple are a bit of splurge with an alternative option listed.

1. Kitchen Scale
Salter 1020 Aquatronic Electronic Kitchen Scale
I'm listing this as number one because I honestly believe that everyone should have one of these. I know plenty of people who get along just fine without one, but it really does make cooking and baking a little bit easier. Why?
  • You won't need to do as many dishes. Scales come with a convenient "zero" feature so that you can measure multiple ingredients into the same bowl without ever touching a measuring cup. Less dirty dishes means less to cleanup. And don't we all hate cleaning up after we bake or cook?
  • It helps produce more repeatable results when you're baking. If you think about baking as a creating chemical formulation of ingredients, then you can see why having one of those ingredients (usually flour) out of whack can screw you up.
  • It makes getting your portions right that much easier, making it easier to understand how much food you're actually eating. This isn't as important if you aren't concerned with managing your dietary intake to lose weight or maintain a weight loss.
If I haven't convinced you to give kitchen scales a try, that's okay. We'll just move on to the next item.

2. Knife Set with Block
J.A. Henckels Black Mikado 13pc Block Set
I didn't own a good set of knives for the longest time. I managed to get by with some super cheap-o knives and butter knives. I cannot begin to tell you how fantastic it is to have decent set of knives to do cooking prep work with. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for my family last year, and I cannot even imagine having done that with my old cheap knives. Chopping celery would have driven me completely insane.

Pyrex Prepware 3-Piece Mixing Bowl Set, Clear3. Microwave Safe Mixing Bowls
I love these Pyrex bowls! You can use them in the microwave, you can make a double boiler with the appropriately sized pot from the next list item. They can be refrigerated, and they stack for storage. They're good to marinade chicken in, make pancake batter in, and measure out flours into.

4. Nonstick Pots and Pans
KitchenAid Hard Anodized Nonstick 10-Piece Cookware Set
Growing up, my mom didn't have a set of nonstick pans so much scrubbing was necessary (on her part, I'm just the dish dryer) to get them clean. Nonstick pans are much easier to clean and you don't have to use cooking spray every time you cook.

5. Griddle Pan
Calphalon Unison Nonstick 12-Inch Round Griddle Pan
I didn't have a griddle pan for the longest time. I bemoaned the fact that it was rather difficult to make pancakes in one of my nonstick pans (see list item #4!) because the sides were too high to get the spatula under the pancake properly. But last year for Christmas, my mom and dad came through and I've got my very own griddle pan now.  One caution about this pan though, if you ever want to cook anything that might splatter, you should use a bigger pan. The walls on this are designed for ease of access to things like pancakes and eggs, not to prevent chicken breast splatter.

6. Nonstick Safe Cooking Utensils
KitchenAid KAT560OB Cook's Series Ceramic Crock With Tools Set, Black
In order to preserve the life of your nonstick cookware, don't use metal tools on them. It's pretty common advice, but I definitely have a pretty scratched up pan because metal tools were often used to stir the food in it. The nonstick is almost completely gone, and it makes me a little bit crabby.

7. Set of measuring spoons (and cups if you don't want list item #1)
KitchenAid Measuring Spoons, Set of 5, Red

Even though I do most of my most of my ingredient measuring with the kitchen scale, sometimes I don't feel inclined to measure out a teaspoon of baking soda, baking powder or salt with my scale. I just use my little set of measuring spoons instead.

8. Liquid measuring cup
Pyrex Prepware 2-Cup Measuring Cup, Clear with Red Measurements

It's a good way to mix liquid ingredients together and then not dump them all over the counter when you pour them into the dry. The little pour spout is the key here.

9. KitchenAid Mixer or handheld mixer
KitchenAid KSM150PSBU Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer, Cobalt Blue
Sometimes you just need some horsepower to mix up a big batch of Christmas cookies. If you don't want to spring for the mixer, a handheld one will suffice. I think that my KitchenAid was one of my best initial purchases because it allows me to do everything. From baking cookies to kneading bread dough, the stand mixer rocks. You can also buy attachments for it! I bought a meat grinder attachment and I enjoy grinding up chicken breasts for my taco meat. I think it tastes fresher and you can guarantee that it's only one part of the chicken you're getting in the ground meat.

10. Scoops 
Norpro 3 Piece Stainless Steel Cookie Scoop Set

In my original storm of kitchen gadget purchases, I picked up some Norpro scoops (the 1.5 teaspoon and the 1/4 cup scoop). I love them. They make portioning out dough and batters that much simpler, plus they have the release bar in them to make dropping the cookies or batter out easier. This isn't necessary for everyone, but they're certainly convenient because I detest having to uses my measuring spoons to scoop out dough for portioning.

What are your top five favorite kitchen gadgets? Do you have any useless gadgets you wish you hadn't bought? Let me know in a comment below! :)