Your favourite kitchen gizmo

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Your favourite kitchen gizmo

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1Booksloth
May 17, 2010, 11:57am

I'm not sure this is the right group for my question but I think it's the nearest I'm going to get so I hope no-one will mind me posting here. I'm in the fortunate position of planning my new kitchen and I am promising myself a treat - I just haven't decided yet what it will be. I started off planning a bread-maker, then wondered about an ice-cream maker - I hope this goes some way to giving an idea of the kind of gadget/gizmo I have in mind. Whenever I've bought things like this in the past they've often ended up in the back of the cupboard because they are so fiddly to clean so ease of care must be a major consideration. Do you have a favourite 'thingy' that you couldn't bear to be without. I'm not a big fan of everyday cooking but I do love to go nuts every now and then and spend the whole day in the kitchen, often cooking in bulk for the freezer or doing something special for guests. Any thoughts?

2justjim
May 17, 2010, 4:32pm

My Magimix food processor stays on the kitchen bench at all times. I got the 4200XL with the wide feed mouth. It also comes with 3 bowls and a swing top box full off accessories which also stays on the bench (mostly, unless I need lots of room).

3Booksloth
May 17, 2010, 4:41pm

Isn't that one of those things that is notoriously fiddly to clean? I've so far managed without a food processor of any kind as I'm not convinced they can do anything that I can't do without one. Now I want you to change my mind.

4justjim
May 17, 2010, 5:19pm

You can do most of what they do with either a sharp knife, a whisk or a mortar and pestle. Indeed if I'm just chopping a couple of cloves of garlic or whisking an egg, I'll do it the traditional way. I almost always make pesto in the Magimix now though instead of the mortar and pestle method. I'd never make fresh breadcrumbs with a knife now either.

It's the speed of the thing as well as the consistency. Mayo is a breeze as well any of the emulsified sauces.

Cleaning is not as much trouble as you may think. I generally drop the parts I'm finished with into a sink (or on busy jobs, a bucket) of warm water as I finish with each one. Then a sink of hot, soapy water and a nylon scrubbing brush will fix everything. Watch the cutting edges, they're sharp!

If I haven't used it and I'm wiping the bench after some other task, a quick wipe down with the same cloth keeps it looking good on the bench.

It is definitely a personal choice and I did without one for years, and could do so again if I had to. I do like the convenience of having it right there on the bench should I want to use it though.

5cmbohn
May 17, 2010, 11:17pm

My husband bought an ice cream maker attachment for our KitchenAid mixer and it is really nice. You keep it in the freezer. It doesn't make a big batch of ice cream, but it's just enough for everyone in our family to have a bit.

I like my dehydrator. I only use it once a year, really, when my apricots are ripe, but it makes great fruit leather.

6Sophie236
May 18, 2010, 3:52am

I too managed without a food processor for a long time, but my soups were always lumpy - now I've married a man with a good food processor, it really does make life easier and soups smoother! (The marriage is nicely unlumpy, too ...!)

7justjim
May 18, 2010, 4:07am

Hmm, there may be hope for me yet! ;)

8Booksloth
May 18, 2010, 5:40am

I suspect I'll keep going with my blender and sharp knives for the time being though you are convincing me somewhat. I'm drawn to that ice-cream maker attachment but I simply don't have room for anything that isn't food in my freezer. I'm not sure I ever heard of a dehydrator and I'd love to know more. It sounds to me as if it's only of practical use to those with large amounts of fruit that needs preserving and I suspect it would just be overkill for my blackberries which we can usually eat as fast as I can pick them (and with a bit fo help from the neighbours at their peak) but please tell me more all the same. Does anyone else use one?

By the way, I do realise someone is going to come along in a minute and say 'well, duh, what do you eat a lot of? If it's bread, get a bread-maker; if it's yoghurt, get a yoguhurt-maker etc' - the problem with that is that we eat a lot of whatever we happen to have in the house so if we had a bread-maker we'd eat a lot of bread (maybe not a good thing) etc. Perhaps I should make a condition that whatever gizmo I get should make things without calories taste like chocolate and double cream. Anybody got one of those?

9reading_fox
May 18, 2010, 6:26am

I've completely stopped buying shopmade bread ever since I bought my first breadmaker. Although not every loaf has been an unqualified success they've all had more flavour and texture than any shoploaf. So if you eat bread regularly (sandwiches for lunch?) I consider it a must. Cleaning isn't too much faff, just one pan and the blade - but because of the seals they tend not to be dishwasherable. I do dishwash my blender/processor bowls etc.

A decent wooden large choppingboard - butcher's block style endgrain if you are really going for a treat. Expensive, but it looks good, and just feels nicer to cut onto. Lasts forever.

10dajashby
May 18, 2010, 6:42am

Couldn't imagine life without the stick blender. Fabulous for pureeing soups in the saucepan, or doing small quantities of stuff you might otherwise do in the food processor. Also does a not bad job on mayonnaise and even whisking egg whites.

The other essential (operated with some skill by Mr Dajashby, this is Christine here) is the espresso machine. We have a top-of-the-range domestic model, a Rancilio Sylvia, and a burr grinder. But it's only essential if you're a coffee drinker.

11Booksloth
May 18, 2010, 6:45am

#9 Sounds very tempting (actually they both do). Washing by hand isn't a problem because I've never wanted a dishwasher and don't mind a bit standing at the sink for 10 minutes just as long as I can get things clean in the end - that's my problem with things that are fiddly to clean, when you wash for hours and there's still that little bit near the mechanism that always has a bit of gunk left behind.

So many people have told me that bread-making machines cost them a fortune in ingredients and shop-bought bread works out a million times cheaper. I wouldn't be doing it to save money, more for the flavour and general yumminess, but I am a bit cautious about spending a small fortune just to pile on millions of calories. And, btw, silly question, I know, but when you use a bread-maker do you still get the smell or is it all contained within the machine? When I made bread by hand (can no longer do that because back problems prevent me kneading properly) my favourite part of the process was that lovely bread-baking smell. And is there any particular make you would recommend or any particular features I shouldn't be without?

I must say I'm very tempted by one of these but I'm also still hovering over the ice-cream idea and wondering whether to stretch to both. Re the ice-cream - obviously I can see the advantages of making up your own recipes but how do you find the finished product compares price-wise? It would be lovely to feed guests with something really special and home-made but there wouldn't be much point if it worked out to be prohibitively expensive.

12PhaedraB
May 18, 2010, 8:45am

I love my breadmaker, Cuisinart (had it for mebbe 25-30 years now) and my stick blender.

The bread machine's biggest point, for me, was the ability to set it and forget it (sorta). Otherwise breadmaking felt like a whole day's commitment. I'm much less concerned about the cost than the ability to experiment. I like to have fun with my food. I've done all sorts of experimenting with ingredients and have had lots of good results.

I don't use mine much now because I'm trying to go easy on wheat and I find non-wheat breads very fiddly. However, there is a newish Cuisinart-brand machine that has a "gluten-free" setting. That one has been on my radar.

I love my Cuisinart for when I'm making big batches of things like soups and am too impatient to whack everything up by hand. I've also done batters and even bread dough in it. If you need fine-ground nuts, or want pesto or hummus, it is indispensable.

My husband brought into the marriage one of those little mini-processors. I find it mostly useless, except for very small batches of things like nuts.

My stick blender I got as an incentive prize from something or other. I don't use it all the time, but when I do, it really does well what nothing else will do easily. (Does that parse?) I like it especially for soups and gravies. I can blend in all the vegetables. It's really easy to clean, too, just running water.

13reading_fox
May 18, 2010, 8:57am

#11 Definetly you do get that wonderful bread smell thoughout the house. things to consider: loaf size/weight - shop loaves are 800g homemade is denser and hence smaller, so you really need a 'large' machine if you're looking to make equivalent amounts. Loaf shape - this is surprisingly important if you're making sandwichs to toast - the bread pan should be loaf shaped. Not all of them are! Most of the machines are otherwise about equivalent we're on our third by now wish they still lasted 25 years! A fast (1hr) program is useful for when you've forgotten to make some! As is a delay feature to run it overnight or whilst you're out. Two blades or one - not a lot of difference. Window - nice to see the bread rising, but it tends to bake it unevenly because of the temperature variation!

Price - hmm. 1.5kg bread flour is about £1.40 and enough for 2 loaves. yeast may 10p/sachet so each loaf is about 80p*, more expensive than cheapest shop bread, but cheaper than most expensive, and definetly tastes better! It won't keep as long though.

*+ a tiny bit of electricity and salt. You don't need any other ingrediants (esp sugar and fat not required) though you can use almost anything you want. It will all add to the price.

14Booksloth
May 18, 2010, 10:44am

You're winning me over! Is it a case of getting what you pay for or are the cheaper versions as good as the expensive ones?

15sarahemmm
May 18, 2010, 12:07pm

In the UK, the Panasonic SD253 is reckoned to be about the best (I think there may be a later model now). I am certainly very pleased with mine. It makes a nice shaped loaf, though the extra-large is a bit tall. There are two versions, with the more expensive one having a nut and raisin dispenser and able to bake rye bread. I have the cheaper model, so can't say if those are really worth having.

16cmbohn
May 18, 2010, 12:08pm

As for the dehydrator, I think that it's really only useful if you grow your own fruit. I love being able to dry apricots and plums for later. You can also use it to dry your own herbs. I have had 2, but my first one broke so I bought a new one. I don't remember the brand, but I got it at a local store for about $40. You can also use it to make your own beef jerky, but I have never tried that. It's amazing when I use it - the whole house smells like fruit or herbs. But it's not going to be useful for everyone.

17Booksloth
May 18, 2010, 1:08pm

The SD253 seems to now be available on many sites right now for under £20, which looks like a real bargain as my first web search brought it up at £95. Another question - I see many of the machines also make jam; I'm not likely to use that because we don't eat a lot of jam but I wonder whether that means they can also be used for chutney-making or whether the high vinegar content makes it unsuitable? Does anyone know?

18Mr.Durick
May 18, 2010, 5:55pm

If I were rebuilding my kitchen the first appliance after the major ones would be a five quart KitchenAid mixer with various rotating things including a dough hook. I used to make all my own bread without a special machine; very heavy doughs can damage the KitchenAid mixer, however. I used to make all my own yoghurt in a big ceramic pot. But the quality and versatility of the big KitchenAid mixer was irreplaceable.

Robert

19reading_fox
May 19, 2010, 4:44am

"I'm not likely to use that because we don't eat a lot of jam but I wonder whether that means they can also be used for chutney-making or whether the high vinegar content makes it unsuitable? Does anyone know?"

I've only tried the jam function once, but I can't see vinegar causing any particular problems. All the important bits are non-stick coated or PTFE bits anyway, and vinegar won't effect those, even when heated.

20Booksloth
May 19, 2010, 5:52am

This is turning into my 'thread of temptation'! Thank you all for so many great suggestions. They haven't helped me make up my mind one bit because now I want one of everything but I have a couple of months yet before the kitchen goes in so I might be able to either whittle the list donw by then or create extra storage so that I can fit in every one of these brilliant ideas. Right now I desperately want the bread-maker, ice-cream maker, yoghurt-maker, food processor, chopping block, even the dehydrator for which I have no use at all sounds incredibly tempting. I just love kitchen gizmos. I do love good coffee too and always wanted an espresso machine but I now find I'm far too attached to my simple cafetiere to need to change that particular one.

21justjim
May 19, 2010, 6:20am

Ah, but you need backup caffeine delivery systems. I have a drip filter machine as my main 'fix'. I also have a small espresso machine, a plunger, and of course a caffettiera. I also have a copper Turkish sort of jug on a stick thing that you're supposed to boil on a bed of hot sand. That one doesn't get used often.

There is no instant coffee in my house!

22Booksloth
Edited: May 19, 2010, 6:51am

#21 When you say 'a drip filter' do you mean intravenous? Sounds useful. Like your Turkish 'jug on a stick thing' I long for a really nice Greek vriki but I know it would only ever be ornamental - I take my coffee in bucket-sized mugs - and those kitchen benches look like getting pretty full without adding things I won't actually use. (And, while I can also tolerate instant as a quick fix, there is no de-caf in my house!)

Ed to fix wonky italics

23flemmily
May 19, 2010, 12:06pm

I've got a very small kitchen, but because I worked in a deli for a few years, I've decided that in my dream kitchen I'd have a Meat Slicer. Sure you can use a mandolin for paper thin slices of veggies, but an electric slicer would give you so many more options. Think of the sandwiches you could make! Fresh cold cuts! You can also use it to slice up raw meat if you wanted to make carpaccio or jerky. I think you can also slice bread with it. If you cook for large groups, it would make prep very quick. My dream hasn't gotten elaborate enough to choose my preferred model, but this is something like what I mean. http://www.amazon.com/Choice-610-Premium-Electric-Slicer/dp/B0002AKCOC/ref=sr_1_...

24Booksloth
May 19, 2010, 12:46pm

Definitely not one for me - don't eat meat!

25readwritethink2
May 19, 2010, 12:48pm

One gizmo that I bought and used for quite a while was an apple corer and peeler. It worked by hand crank and actually was handy for preparing lots of apples at a time for recipes. One gizmo that I would like and haven't bought yet is a cooking torch for finishing off creme brulee etc...

26marietherese
May 20, 2010, 12:35am

I'll throw in my secondary votes for the stick blender (great for purees) and heavy duty Kitchen Aid mixer (indispensable if you bake a lot), but I think what any well-equipped, efficient modern kitchen really needs is a pressure-cooker. They are amazing, mostly low-tech, generally low-cost appliances that can cut the cooking times of certain foods (beans, fibrous vegetables, stocks, stewing meat) in half or more.

I have a basic Fagor cooker (a well-known, easily obtainable brand). It's essentially just a very heavy duty stainless steel stock pot with a super-heavy, rimmed locking lid fitted with a rubber gasket and a steam/pressure control vent. I stick it on top of my gas stove and bring it to pressure just like I'd bring water to a boil. There are fancier versions with digital readouts and programmable functions, but I like this simple version best because it's the most intuitive (at least if you're used to cooking with direct heat like gas). Because the liquid in a pressure cooker gets super-heated, you can sterilize things like jam jars and baby bottles in it too and the big stock pot is useful just to have around as another...well, big stock pot! ;-)

For really small but awesome gizmos, I suggest Microplane graters in a variety of sizes. Best graters I have ever owned!

27justjim
Edited: Jul 8, 2011, 10:18pm

I agree with the presssssshhhure cooker (although it scares the bejebus out of me when I'm using mine).

Also, not a gadget, and I know you've seen him before, but here's another link to my new chef's knife that includes my feedback to the knifemaker.

I don't write book reviews, but I wrote a knife review! Go figure.

28Booksloth
Edited: May 20, 2010, 6:50am

Wow! That knife is a beautiful thing!

I already have a pressure cooker and I'd agree with everyone who suggested that. Not sure what is meant by a 'stick blender' - is it one of those little hand-held ones? If so, I must admit I didn't find mine terribly helpful and much prefer using my 'proper-size' one. I guess the mini type is handy for small amounts but my problem is generally coping with large amounts of things rather than small (not because I have a huge family but because I like to cook in batches) so I'm usually after the bigger sizes.

ETA - I'd love that knife if only for its looks but I have a horrible feeling I just might be too tempted to kill someone with it - it looks as if that is its purpose in life that needs to be fulfilled.

29SqueakyChu
May 20, 2010, 7:54am

My most used kitchen gadget is a Bodum coffee press. I use it every morning.

My newest fabulous gadget is an ice cream maker. I just won a 2-qt Cuisinart ice cream maker as a 35-year service award from the agency for which I work. I'm delighted with it so far. Since I've had it (all of one week), I've made vanilla and strawberry (from fresh strawberries) ice cream. They're yummy. I can't wait to try other flavors. One of my friends is holding out for dark chocolate.

I have to admit that the ice cream maker had been on my kitchen gadget wish list for years. I didn't buy it for myself due to the price (although that didn't stop me from suggesting to my family members that they buy it for me - which they didn't!).

30Booksloth
May 20, 2010, 7:59am

Okay, this thread is just making me feel too hungry. I really need to know what the results from all your wonderful gadgets taste like. Don't you think it would be a brilliant idea if you all sent me samples to try? Still drawn to the bread-maker and the ice-cream maker. I could get both but a lot will depend on how much bench-space (or storage space) I end up with.

SqueakyChu - call them family? You should disown them all immediately.

31SqueakyChu
May 20, 2010, 8:08am

I can't do that. For Mothers' Day, hubby bought me roses. ROSES!! My daughter got me a GPS. If I got lost and never made it back home, who would make the ice cream? My family only eats food already made! :)

The irony of the ice cream maker is that I'm trying to lose weight so that I allot myself only 1/4 cup a day (at least until I get down to my recommended BMR).

32Booksloth
May 20, 2010, 8:31am

Well, that just confirms that if you can lose weight AND own an ice-cream maker so can I.

33SqueakyChu
May 20, 2010, 8:34am

Well, you need to cut back on other things beside the ice cream... :D

34justjim
May 20, 2010, 8:41am

I'd love that knife if only for its looks but I have a horrible feeling I just might be too tempted to kill someone with it - it looks as if that is its purpose in life that needs to be fulfilled.

No, no, no! It is a finely crafted, beautiful piece of kitchenware. Sure, I could kill someone with it, but I could also do that with my rolling pin. Some would say that I could do it with my cooking as well, but that's just unkind!

35JonathanGorman
May 20, 2010, 11:45am

This is a little tricky since I don't know what you already have, but one thing I've found very useful is a coffee grinder that I actually use for spices. I'm really liking using fresh spices and the grinder comes in handy. I imagine this would be particularly true if you want to cook in bulk. It makes it really quick to make a custom spice blend.

And to throw in an actual book relation, I picked up The Spice Merchant's Daughter and I'm hoping to work through some of the spice mixes in it.

I got a cheap one on sale, but when this one dies I'm planning on looking for a model with a larger cover and ideally the top is actually a cup for easier extraction.

36Booksloth
May 20, 2010, 11:51am

I do use a lot of spices and drink a lot of coffee so that one's probably more of a 'must' than a treat. Do you have one for coffee and one for spices? I would imagine both flavours might be quite hard to shift if you are combining the two.

37BONS
May 20, 2010, 3:08pm

Hey Booksloth, My kitchen is getting ripped out in June (that is if I will just go ahead and commit to a cabinet quote). So when you posted this, I decided to sit back to watch!

Know that the ice cream maker ideally stays in your freezer, both empty or full. Also tell yourself I will try frozen yougurt. No storage issue & makes healthy & luxury desserts.

The immersion blender, stick blender, wand etc. made a believer out of me when I mounted it to the inside of a cabinet door with attachments right there and not in a drawer. We eat home-made soup almost every week, this is wonderful to "immerse" right into the stock pot of my tomato basil soup and smooth the veggies out. It's pretty nice for shakes and drinks to place right in the pitcher as well. Oh & nice for home-made salad dressings and you won't buy store bought again to clutter your frig. Inside cabinet door, no storage issue.

OK, my Kitchen-Aid with attachments worth it's weight. Not one I use daily but that dough hook makes lovely gnocchi with sweet potato dough. Helps with Italian Wedding cake prep and has the ability to grow with extra attachments. I made pantry space for this one.

What about little items too like I have a tiny pottery egg poacher. In 35 seconds it's done and no more wet watery stove top method. Place poached egg, cottage cheese and a sliced tomato with a cup of coffee that the maker automatically came on ground the fresh beans and made the lovely coffee as I turned off the alarm and I am all set. Of dear, why won't it turn on my little hand held frother and froth the Italian creamer as well?

I love my lil' broiler too but it takes up counter space. I love toasted sandwhches. I like heating up things in it that would not do well in a micro. It's nice to toast pine nuts and it has many settings on it, Broil, Bake, Toast etc. Keeps the kitchen cooler & the kids would always use it too. But tiny broilers are not popular.

But I am with you on the clean up-darn quesadilla maker and George Foreman grill. I groan if I need to use those.

38JonathanGorman
May 20, 2010, 6:18pm

>36 Booksloth:

Use two unless you drink really really cheap coffee and don't care about flavor ;).

I'd even wager if you use a lot of really strong spices that taste different or different cuisines you might want more than one spice grinder. I do however and just one seems fine, although I make sure to really clean it out after grinding dried hot peppers. I've heard using dry rice once in a while can help clean it too, but haven't needed to try it yet.

39cyderry
May 20, 2010, 10:47pm

I remodelled my kitchen about 5 years ago and not only did I remodel the cabinets, I remodelled all the gadgets too.

Here's a list of a few of my favorites....

#1 the warming drawer - we entertain a lot and the warming drawer helps to keep things warm without having a second oven.
#2 my spice drawer - I use a lot of spices when I cook and now I can find the one I want in an instant.

#3 Stand mixer - I can finally mix anything and everything

#4 Jar opener - I never have to bother my husband to open a jar anymore.

My advice - go to a gadget store and splurge! I love all the gadgets that I added in my new kitchen.

One I iwsh I had is the mixer Lifter. It's a mechanism so you can store your stand mixer in the cabinet and wind it up and out without lifting. Darn, I wish I'd known about it before I finished my kitchen.

40sarahemmm
May 21, 2010, 4:09am

Talking about spices - these are not exactly 'a gadget' but I think they are really great: http://www.custommagneticspicerack.com/

Not so cheap when you add international postage, but they are SO useful!

On the separate spice grinder debate, my Kenwood food processor came with two spice mill bowls and lids for them too. So only the plastic around the blades could become contaminated, which is good enough for me.

The other thing about all these gadgets is that you really only use them if they are easily accessible - a lot of my Kenwood stuff is in a drawer and I just never think to use it.

41Booksloth
May 21, 2010, 6:10am

JonathanGorman - Thank you for that rice tip - it sounds like a brilliant and much needed idea.

Re all the spice things - a couple of years ago that would have been just what I wanted but I eventually found two little 12-drawer (each) stone-fronted spice cabinets in a much-loved but sadly no-longer-with-us store called The Pier (one of those shops that sells so much yummy stuff that you just walked past the outside and discovered £300-worth of 'stuff' had leapt into your arms). I love these little cabintes to death and am basing the whole of the kitchen design/decor around them. To be honest, I could probably still do with more than 24 drawers but having even that for a limit has helped me to be a bit more selective with my spices, rather than just throw in everything bar the kitchen sink.

This thread is something I will keep starred for ever and keep coming back to over the years - so many brilliant ideas. Love the warming drawer and the mixer lifter idea too. It's not a particularly big kitchen (I wish) so anything that helps me keep things stored yet accessible is also a great idea.

42justjim
May 21, 2010, 7:03am

That magnetic spice rack website has given me some great DIY ideas. Thanks for the link.

43Mr.Durick
May 21, 2010, 4:33pm

Sarahemmm brought up an important idea. If you're building your kitchen, put in thirty inch counters and leave most of your small appliances out and plugged in.

Robert

44sarahemmm
May 29, 2010, 5:29am

Absolutely, Robert! About half of my worktop is permanently covered with gadgets and such like; the rest is just covered with 'stuff'!

Jim - another idea I have seen is to nail the lids of spice jars to the underside of a cabinet. Then you just unscrew the jar you want.

And one last idea: I have a very narrow shelf all around about 6" above the worktop. It's perfect for putting bottles and jars on. I'll post a pic later, if I can remember how to do it.

45Booksloth
May 29, 2010, 6:14am

I wasn't expecting to get so many tips about things besides large expensive gizmos. I love the one about the spice jars ('44) and the itty bitty shelf (I have one of those but it's higher up and I think the 'just above the bench' idea is better.

46Sophie236
May 29, 2010, 7:47am

... but shouldn't jars of herbs and spices be kept somewhere cool and dark?

47Booksloth
May 29, 2010, 7:56am

Not a problem here - cool and dark describes my kitchen perfectly!

48sarahemmm
Edited: May 30, 2010, 1:12pm

Here are a couple of pics of my shelf, Booksloth. As you can see, its under 2" deep. I can't claim the original idea, but (as you can see) I find it really useful.





Ummm, yes... I'm not too good at tidy!

49Booksloth
May 30, 2010, 1:41pm

Thank you. That looks really useful and it's something I'll definitely think about incorporating when we get started.

50justjim
May 30, 2010, 7:59pm

Jalapeno and lime HP sauce? How long has that been going on? We don't get that here.

51sarahemmm
May 31, 2010, 10:22am

Can't remember where that came from, but probably a special purchase in Lidl or Roy's (Norfolk's answer to Tesco). Don't bother, though - its not very hot.

52justjim
May 31, 2010, 5:08pm

OK, thanks for the info. I'll stick with Mr McIlhenny's Tabasco sauce then.

53StunnedTuna
May 31, 2010, 5:12pm

yay for pressure cooker. big price hurdle, worth it.
stick blenders are awesome for 'blendering' in situ.

54dajashby
Jun 1, 2010, 1:03am

I have this problem with thinking of the pressure cooker as a 'gizmo'. There was a time when I didn't have one, but I now regard it as a basic part of my batterie de cuisine. Is it because it doesn't have a power cord? (Perhaps that's the reason I suspect the microwave of being a gizmo...)

55Booksloth
Jun 1, 2010, 5:32am

#29 I overlooked your bit about the coffee press, Squeaky. What exactly is a coffee press? And at what stage does one press the coffee? That's one of those things I never knew I might need until now - please tell me more.

56justjim
Jun 1, 2010, 5:38am

Seeing as I'm around, a coffee press is the same as a plunger or French press. They are also known, by association, as a Bodum. They do make good coffee, but you've got to be careful of the fineness of the grind. Too coarse and you don't get the flavour, too fine and it will pass through the filter.

57Booksloth
Jun 1, 2010, 12:23pm

Aha! A cafetiere! Got one of those. Thanks Jim (one day I will bust my way through this language barrier).

58BONS
Jun 1, 2010, 1:25pm

Pressure Cookers
I'm thinking a pressure cooker thread might be handy for all of those that have braved this one & enjoy it's use. I too, am a bit intimidated by it. My mother could not wait to buy one for me & it truly is in an extra closet. (it doesn't hiss at me in there) = )

59dajashby
Jun 1, 2010, 7:57pm

#58
Courage, mon ami! They're supposed to hiss at you! Modern pressure cookers have safety catch thingies and cannot explode.

At the moment there seems to be a fad for slow cookers, which are back in fashion now that the manufacturers assure us that they are no longer salmonella incubators. In fact the very same recipes can be made in the PC in a fraction of the time.

I use it for soups, stocks (though there are those who say it encourages cloudiness), braises (beef cheek in an hour!), lentils - anything liquid that requires long slow cooking. It really does cut the cooking time by two thirds.

The PC is usually complete with a trivet and can be used as a steamer - you wouldn't bother with veggies, but because of the size it's useful for puddings.

60Thrin
Jun 1, 2010, 8:23pm

#58 BONS - It's the hissing isn't it? Do you think there's a word for pressure-cooker phobia?

Also... I'm not sure what constitutes a 'gizmo', but like dajashby at #54 I suspect the involvement of a power cord or at least a battery in most cases.

And with all these powerful and hissing appliances ranged formidably on our counters and stove-tops, who will speak up for those small but indispensable tools retiring meekly in kitchen drawers around the world until that moment when they are retrieved to perform their magic? I'm thinking particularly of my plump and stylish little Zyliss zester which sits so comfortably in the palm of my hand and whch performs its tasks with such facility - unaided by power cord or battery.

So here's to all the unsung (and unplugged) little heroes of the culinary firmament.

Cheers!

61justjim
Jun 1, 2010, 8:35pm

Yes, bravo to the 'second drawer' gadgets. I love my zester and use it a lot. I also like my baster although I never use it for basting roasts. It has a detachable silicone brush for the nozzle end and I use it a lot for 'syruping' cakes. It provides just the right flow rate that almost every drop of syrup ends up inside the cake instead of on the tray underneath.

Also, I'm another presssshhhure cooker 'fraidy cat.

62StunnedTuna
Jun 1, 2010, 9:08pm

A PC thread is a great idea.
59 - we make lots of veggies in ours not usually the gently steamed ones - usually veggies we mash up (potatoes, parsnips...)
I can second the use for stocks - although the fat seems to become part of the stock and does not separate easily (an observation, NOT a complaint).
A good pressure cooker is also a high quality, large, heavy, pot

63marietherese
Jun 1, 2010, 11:31pm

Stunned Tuna: A good pressure cooker is also a high quality, large, heavy, pot

Yes, exactly! I use mine fairly often as an extra stock pot and they're great for a mini crab/shrimp boil too.

Modern pressure cookers are really safe and their "hissing" is no worse than what you'd get from a poorly placed lid over a pot of boiling water. I use the vehemence of the hiss to regulate the pressure by ear-once I get a distinct hiss and a lot of steam, I lower the heat until there's just a gentle sussuration and the same sort of steam one would expect at mild boil.

If I'm making a stock I expect to be fatty in a pressure cooker, I let the stock cool down and pressure release naturally; by the time this is done, I can usually skim the fat off the top using a ladle or a fat separator. I don't make aspics or consommés too often so the cloudiness thing has never really bothered me ;-)

64Sophie236
Jun 2, 2010, 4:17am

Sarahemm, I love your yellow walls - that's exactly the colour our kitchen's going to be (when we get round to it - this big old flat needs a LOT of renovation - siiiiggghhhh)!

65dajashby
Jun 2, 2010, 5:30am

I've got a few things in the 'second drawer' category. A cherry -pipper, fish tweezers, a couple of egg-coddlers. None of them used that often, but invaluable when needed. Microplane graters are fantastic, too. And you've gotta have a mouli mill - you can pulp cooked tomatoes but leave the skins behind, which is impossible in a food processor.

The pressure cooker is ideal for corned beef -this is where you've got to monitor the hissing, because if you turn the heat down too soon the pressure drops off.

66Booksloth
Jun 2, 2010, 6:21am

#60 What constitutes a 'gizmo'? Well, I deliberately used that word to leave the field as open as possible. Originally I was thinking of the more expensive items that make great 'gifts to oneself' but since this thread has expanded and started to include such great ideas for smaller items too, I'm really keen that poeple conitnue along both lines as I'm picking up some wonderful tips

I do agree that the most indispensible items are often the cheaper ones (I wouldn't even consider being stranded on a desert island without my zester), though I do have a bit of an in-built resistance to some of them because my father couldn't resist picking up little kitchen 'whatsits' wherever he saw them and my poor mum could harldy move in her kitchen for tacky bits of rubbish that, in theory, could chop everything from carrots to whole oxen into every shape and size you could possibly wish. Of course, in practice, they did none of those things and just stayed in the drawer collecting dust.

67BONS
Jun 2, 2010, 12:22pm

Pressure Cooker Uses
oh as well as having a home-made soup weekly we prepare a good bit of dried beans. That would be most helpful to cut down the use of energy & time.

I always tend to think of PC's as just canners.

My cheapie is the garlic press. I use fresh garlic so frequently. It's nice to not have to remove the skin or to chop or to turn blade sideways and smack! Yes, nice and it spoils me too!

68dajashby
Jun 2, 2010, 6:07pm

#67
You remind me of another of my gizmos - my garlic condom! It's a cylinder of rubbery stuff, probably silicone. You put the garlic clove in it and roll it on a hard surface with moderate pressure. Bingo! out comes the garlic completely peeled. I don't like garlic presses, they're too fiddly to clean. I squash garlic with the mortar and pestle.

I do have another gizmo, my four function timer. Battery powered. You can set the time for four different operations (I've never actually used four at once). Very handy if something's in the oven and that timer is occupied but you've got things cooking on the burners.

69Booksloth
Jun 3, 2010, 5:09am

#68 That timer sounds useful and the garlic condom leaves me almost speechless. I'm a big fan of my garlic press too - not sure I could take the excitement of the condom!

70justjim
Edited: Jun 3, 2010, 5:55am

I have a garlic tube as well. It is a very useful implement. I don't think of it as a 'garlic condom', possibly because I don't roll it on the bench, but between my hands!

Speaking of silicone, I also like my lemon/lime squeezer. You can really get your thumb into the fruit with this and get a lot of juice out without a) getting squirted in the eye or, b) getting pips in the juice.

71sarahemmm
Edited: Jun 3, 2010, 9:19am

64: I love your yellow walls

Thanks, Sophie - so do I! I wanted a strong colour, but bright, as the window is both north-facing and heavily shaded, with a fence three feet away. I had already decided on the metallic grey for the cabinets (car paint over basic Ikea units, in case anyone wants to know), and the yellow seems to work really well. And of course, I can easily change the colour scheme, since everything else is neutral. The only annoying issue is that Dulux no longer do that exact shade - just when I am having some shelves put in!

68: You should have put a coffee alert up! Had to show my colleague why I screamed with laughter!!

70: Silicone lemon squeezer. I've never seen one like this - looks really useful. Can you tell me where you got it? I have a reamer, but really you need two or three sizes to get all the juice out. And you get the pips.

72justjim
Jun 3, 2010, 9:33am

Not 100% sure, but I think I picked it up at Matchbox in the Spencer Street DFO.

None of which will probably be applicable to you. If I see another one I could grab it and send it to you if you like. Probably best if you keep your eyes open around Norwich first though.

73sarahemmm
Jun 3, 2010, 10:16am

I doubt I will find one locally, since I have never seen such a thing before. But now I know of it, I will search the interwebbies... isn't it nice to have a good reason for poking around!

74BONS
Jun 3, 2010, 12:14pm

# 70 & 71 Silicone lemon squeezer

I am all about that one as well. Looking for one.

75dajashby
Jun 4, 2010, 2:10am

Lemon Squeezers

There are a few gizmos around, but unless it's just a little squirt I'm happy with my Alessi stainless steel squeezer. It's in two pieces, a traditionally shaped top with little holes in it that sits over a dish with a pouring lip - two actually, one on each side.

We do all know that it's worth zapping the lemon for a few seconds in the microwave to maximize the juice?

This thread is fun!

76SqueakyChu
Edited: Jun 9, 2010, 8:20am

> 55

I'll be glad to sing the praises of pressed coffee. I love using my Bodum french press (and am drinking its coffee, even as we speak).

It gets better because I have a local coffee roaster*, Mayorga, within a couple miles from where I live. I buy whole freshly-roasted coffee beans. I like medium or medium-dark roast. I try beans from different countries. Now I'm drinking Indian Monsooned Malabar coffee (medium roast).

I just put my beans in a small Krups coffee grinder (another favored kitchen gadget), grind them until they look fine enough (a minute or two). Then I put two level tablespoons of my freshly ground coffee into my Bodum, add boiling water, stir, cover it, and let it sit for two or three minutes to brew. Next, I pour my delicious coffee into a waiting cup. I like to add sweetener and some half-and-half. Yum!!

*By the way, good quality coffee is well worth any small increase in price you might pay for it. I've gotten to the point (spoiled, you might say), that I can no longer drink the generic coffee made in my office that sits on the burner for hours. Blech!!

77jillianmarie
Jun 9, 2010, 11:59am

Just had to look up what my favorite kitchen gadget is actually called as we've been calling it the jjjchhhuuuzzzggghhher ever since I got it bakc in Uni (so about 10 years ago now) my jjjchhhzzzuuuughhher or hand blender has though sadly died after I tried to mix egg whites with it for a very long time when attempting a souffle (it took me 4 hours and a trip to Sainsburys to get a hand mixer which isn't the same).

My jjjjjchhhuuuzzzzggghhhher gave my drunken flatmates hours of fun one evening when they attemped to jjjjccchhhhzzzuuuggghhh everything they could get their hands on in the kitchen... the wall was never the same colour again and we lost most of our deposit.

78sarahemmm
Jun 10, 2010, 12:55pm

Squeaky - I was told that you should let the water go just off the boil before pouring onto the coffee, so as to not get a bitter flavour. (Of course, opinion may have changed nowadays - I even found a site advocating making coffee with cold water!)

79SqueakyChu
Jun 20, 2010, 4:52pm

> 78

By the time the water gets into the Bodum cup, you stir it around with a long handle (I use the plastic handle of a large plastic spoon), and you cover it, that water is no longer boiling. Trust me! :)

BTW, if anyone is unsure of whether or not to get an ice cream maker, listen to this. In under half an hour (except for chilling the batter), I was able to create an ice cream that was peanut butter flavor and contained small pieces of chocolate peanut butter chips (Trader Joe brand). It is sooooooooo yummy!

80StunnedTuna
Jun 20, 2010, 5:54pm

We live in the NW, and fully embrace the coffee culture. As a result, I never thought of the bodum as a 'gadget'. Our double walled beauty might be a little over the top, but come on, it's disrespectful to let the coffee go cold.

81Booksloth
Jun 20, 2010, 9:14pm

Oh dear - I've been disrespectful to so many things but didn't think I'd managed to do it to coffee yet:-( Re letting it go cold, in this weather I always make twice as much as I need then refrigerate the rest for iced coffees (frappes). Maybe that's not quite the same as 'letting it go cold'?

BTW - StunnedTuna, I love your name (very appropriate for a cooking thread and even more so when I first read it and thought it said 'StuffedTuna').

82StunnedTuna
Jun 21, 2010, 11:08pm

I cannot comprehend "twice as much coffee as I need". Glibness aside, coffee made in a french press does hold up well. Hmm, nice try touchstones.
I love the idea of a stuffed tuna. Either roasted over a fire or in an umu. I wonder if there is such a dish. Probably a remote island somewhere does it up like a roast piggy.

83DaynaRT
Jun 22, 2010, 9:28am

My favorite and most-loved kitchen gizmo is a 1937 Zeroll ice cream scoop. Nothing else does the job quite as well.

84Thrin
Edited: Sep 6, 2010, 5:25am

I've just ordered a Kitchen-Aid mixer... been putting it off for years.
The funny thing is I've also just purchased a 'baking' cook-book to complement the Kitchen-Aid, only to find that most of the recipes therein make use of either a balloon whisk or a food-processor.... (I have the food-processor and a small whisk) although there are some recipes that require an electric mixer. It's a beautiful book though and I know I'll use some of its recipes.

The book is Mix and Bake by Belinda Jeffery incidentally.

Edited to add: What are the main uses to which you other lucky owners of a Kitchen-Aid put your mixer? Hints and suggestions would be appreciated.

85Booksloth
Sep 6, 2010, 6:01am

Thanks again to everyone who has contributed to this thread. Just by way of an update, I now have units on order, a utility room full of wall tiles and my builder booked in to get started in about a month from now. I'm pretty much settled on the bread-maker but I'm still open to any other suggestions anyone has. So many of the ideas posted so far have influenced the design of the new kitchen I may have to put up a plaque of some sort by way of acknowledgement!

86justjim
Sep 6, 2010, 6:18am

Don't be silly, a plaque is not required. Just let us know when it is finished and post a few photos.

Then we'll all drop in for dinner!

87Thrin
Edited: Sep 6, 2010, 7:10am

#85 Booksloth.... Hope all goes smoothly with the new kitchen. Looking forward to dinner.

By the way, re my post 84, I hadn't re-read this thread before posting and didn't realise that it was yours. Hope you don't mind my inadvertent hijacking.

Thrin

Edited to add that I would correct the poor grammar in the last sentence above but it might provide a little amusement left as is.
Enjoy.

88Booksloth
Sep 6, 2010, 8:14am

#87 You didn't hijack, of course - the thread's for anyone who wants to comment - thanks for joining in.

#86 etc - I have started taking 'before' photos and will continue as the work goes on. It looks a lot like the aftermath of an earthquake right now so, love or hate the final effect, the difference should be dramatic!

89Mr.Durick
Edited: Sep 6, 2010, 1:42pm

Thrin, the Kitchen-Aid mixer has a whisk. I think it was Jacques Pepin who said that you should finish with a manual whisk to incorporate more air, but mine always worked for me for soufflés and such.

Robert

90Thrin
Sep 6, 2010, 6:09pm

Thanks Robert,

As soon as I'd ordered and paid for the Kitchen-Aid I began to wonder if I'd done the right thing (all that dosh!), but knowledge of the whisk has palliated my unease to some extent.

Thrin

91sarahemmm
Sep 10, 2010, 7:00am

Sloth - can't wait to see pics of your kitchen so I can try to work out what changed after this thread ;)

Good luck! It will take longer and cost more, but when you look back it will be so well worth it.

92Booksloth
Oct 4, 2010, 10:38am

Work on the kitchen starts tomorrow and should take 4-5 weeks as there is some major structural stuff going on too. My new Panasonic breadmaker is winging its way to me 'as we speak' and - although I've vowed not to use it until the room is finished (ha!) - I suspect I may be able to report back on my first batch of cinnamon bread in the next few days.

Many thanks for everyone's wonderful suggestions - photos will be posted.

93sarahemmm
Oct 5, 2010, 6:22am

Good luck! Having been there (twice! what was I thinking of the second time round?), I know you will need some before its all finished.

And have fun with the breadmaker... must fire mine up again.

94soniaandree
Oct 5, 2010, 6:55am

So far, along the years, I have cumulated essential tools that I use on a day-to-day basis, since I try to cook/make my own supplies of food:
- Breadmaker - does bread and jam/fruit compotes.
- A steamer - perfect for rice, vegetables and fish filets.
- A hand blender - for soups, vegetable purée and stiff egg whites.
- My old 1960s K*nwood chef - I found it cheap in a charity shop in Sheffield, and I bought the secondhand spares over the internet the following years - I make my own pasta, sausages, grated vegetables, potato mash, shortcrust pastry, cake mixes, soups + smoothies (with the blender bit) and fruit juices.
- A microwave - perfect for defrosting cooked meals in no time, especially when you have lots of guests and you need vegetable portions, or quick meals for two. And if you have babies/young children, this will be THE tool for meals (my mother was a childminder).
- a yogurt maker - great stuff, you can make yogurt with layers of jam, or use yogurt for indian curry dishes/low fat dips.
- a low/no fat fryer Act*fry oven (for 3% fat chips, no fat cooking for meat/poultry, sautéed veggies, etc.)
- a sandwich/waffle maker, for those evenings when you do not want to cook at all.
- and a whole set of Le Cre*set cast iron set, for slow cooking, saucepans and gridpans, cooking the French way! ;-)

You can tell we love food at home! ;-)

95readwritethink2
Jul 8, 2011, 3:15pm

It probably isn't a gizmo but the smartest thing I did when replacing my oven was getting one with a warming drawer. What a difference on holidays! No more worrying how to keep everything warm so it can be served together.

96soniaandree
Jul 24, 2011, 11:36am

The 'warming drawer' was something I discovered when I used an Aga for cooking (as an au-pair girl in Wales) and it does really make a difference! But it also means that the plates used are thick enough to bear with the heat (no porcelain or fine bone china).

97readwritethink2
Jul 24, 2011, 3:04pm

Good point! I also recently bought a blender. I had one when first a homeowner but at some point decided I could do without. Now the one I have is easy to clean, not too big, does everything from chop to liquify for about $30. It's an Oster and I am please with it. Here in the northeast with a week of 100 degree weather the cantalope/peach soup chillded was delicious!!

98soniaandree
Jul 24, 2011, 3:18pm

Whatever works! A few years ago, I had been given a secondhand steamer, but I found that it wouldn't cook the rice properly, so I changed it to the same one I used in the UK, but the French model (because of the plug). I have been able to do my favourite Japanese rice with it.

99Cariola
Jan 22, 2012, 1:32pm

9> I just gave away my breadmaker as I got really irritated that I could never get the bread out without a hassle, and the darn paddle always got embedded in the last inch of a loaf, even if sprayed with nonstick coating. What kind do you have? Is it one that bakes the bread horizontally instead of vertically? Or do you just use the machine for making and rising dough and put it in a regular pan for the final rising and baking?

100Booksloth
Jan 23, 2012, 4:09am

I finally got mine (Panasonic SD-257) about 18 months ago and I use it constantly. I so wish you'd asked the question before you gave yours away because the problem is possibly down to the recipe you're using. Although mine still very occasionally emerges with the paddle still in, those times are few and far between ever since I stopped using butter in the mix. I now use about a dessert spoon of vegetable oil instead and it has pretty much solved the problem.

BTW, so many thanks to everyone who came up with suggestions for this thread! The new kitchen went in in the autumn of 2010 and I am thrilled with the result and spend many happy hours out there now (I used to avoid the place as much as possible because it was so depressing). I treated myself to both the bread maker and the ice-cream maker and now would hate to be without either. Sorry the photos never materialised but it's an odd shape and very difficult to get pictures that show more than about a third of each wall at the same time so in the end I gave up on that idea but because you're all readers I know you have wonderful imaginations(!) so will be able to picture it perfectly.

101justjim
Edited: Jan 23, 2012, 5:58am

Glad to hear that it turned out well. Happy and safe cooking to you.

102Cariola
Jan 23, 2012, 8:29am

Hmm, mostly I was using bread machine mixes, which didn't require any butter at all. Oh, well.

103Booksloth
Jan 24, 2012, 6:48am

#101 Thanks Jim!

#102 I'm quite glad to hear that - it would have been too bad to have come up with a solution just as you no longer have yours, Cariola.

104Sophie236
Edited: Feb 13, 2012, 12:35pm

Not sure whether it counts as a gizmo, but a while back I got a big, heavy, marble rolling-pin - and what a difference from my old wooden one! Pastry just never sticks to it, and because it's so weighty it takes the work out of rolling! Not cheap, I don't think (it was a present), but worth whatever they charge ...

105varielle
Feb 13, 2012, 12:44pm

I have a glass rolling pin I inherited from my mother. It was originally a bottle containing vinegar with the top and bottom narrowed to use as hand holds. The idea was once the vinegar was gone you could put ice water in it to chill it down to use for pastry. It was probably from the 1930s or 40s. The glass is thick. I've never seen another one like it. It doesn't get used though. It resides in the wine rack where it gets lots of comment.

106soniaandree
Feb 14, 2012, 6:37am

I have an Ilsa churros-making hand press and I just love to make them with it! A lot of people buy cheap, plastic ones but they complain afterwards that these break easily - the pastry is very thick and the press should be made of metal to bear with the pressure.

107justjim
Feb 14, 2012, 7:23am

Sonia, you are definitely on my "must visit" list when I come into my inheritance and embark on my world tour!

108soniaandree
Feb 14, 2012, 5:20pm

Am I? Thank you! :-)

109pinkozcat
Jun 18, 2012, 4:55am

My electric coffee grinder is my most used kitchen appliance. It grinds slowly so as not to heat the beans and although I noticed a slight taste difference when I first abandoned my hand grinder for the electric one I wouldn't be without it.

110soniaandree
Jun 27, 2012, 11:13am

It is true that taste can change depending on the grind! I have always used my mum's Moulinex one from the 1960s - it makes an awful racket but it worls great. Otherwise, I have an old Peugeot ceramic mill/coffee grinder, and you can just mill it as you want, going twice for fine grinding, once for coarse.