Some kitchen tools are a total crock. One-use, overpriced appliances and absurdly specific “authentic” gadgets are not my cup of tea. If I’m going to shell out money and, more importantly, dedicate precious cabinet space to an item in my kitchen, it better be worth it. Over the years I’ve gone through more than my fair share of kitchen gadgets and a few have stood out from the pack. True workhorses, these items are, and they don’t get the respect they deserve in kitchens across America, although none of them are likely to surprise anyone. If I have to hear one more person extol the virtues of a mortar and pestle I might lose it.
8. Pastry Bags: And by “pastry bags” I mean the bootleg version in which you cut a hole in a gallon-sized Ziploc bag and insert a metal icing tip. Talk about multi-purpose! First of all, people are unreasonably impressed when you frost cupcakes with a decorative icing tip (and who doesn’t hate frosting cupcakes?) Pastry bags basically just control messy ingredients: ravioli filling, batter, sauce.
7. Cast Iron Skillet: Cast iron is enjoying a hipster renaissance but really, it’s the backbone of any respectable southern kitchen. Cast iron skillets give the perfect sear, they can go directly from stovetop to oven, and they’re even suitable for home frying, if you’re so inclined! They’re cheap, too, and useful if you ever need to cartoonishly knock out a burglar or something.
6. Pizza Cutter: You know the one thing pizza cutters are kind of terrible at? CUTTING PIZZA. But a big one is awesome for everything from slicing thin prosciutto to trimming up the edges of your homemade pasta. Even pie crust benefits from a little pizza cutter action.
5. Salad Spinner: If there’s one thing I abhor it’s wet lettuce. It’s gross! And dressing doesn’t stick to it! This is the only one-use item to make this list but it’s worth every inch of cabinet space it takes up.
4. Microplane: My microplane gets used at least three times a week. It’s one of those items I always have to fish out of the dishwasher and hand wash because I need it again before the load is full. For zesting citrus, grating ginger, and even mincing garlic so finely it won’t overpower, nothing beats my microplane.
3. Crock Pot: The good ol’ American crock pot. It seems these went out of fashion somewhere around 1980, but they’re just the greatest thing since sliced bread. Not only do they cook for you while you’re out of the house, they’re a money-saver, too, because a crock pot will soften any tough cut of meat in a matter of hours. You really can’t go wrong with a little liquid, some vegetables, and a protein in a crock pot. But they sure are a bi*** to clean.
2. Meat Thermometer: I’ve preached about the virtues of meat thermometers before. Somehow they feel like cheating? Like I should be able to tell when that pork is done by looking at it? I’m not a psychic. I’m not Alton Brown. I don’t know why I put so much pressure on myself for so long but a digital meat thermometer makes it simple to get it right Every Single Time.
1. Tongs: Tongs! Tongs tongs tongs. Why did it take me so long to start using tongs? Not only do they keep me from piercing my cooking meat with a fork, they allow for effortless turning of stubborn vegetables. Tongs mean no more bacon grease splatter burns! Tongs mean wrapping chicken in plastic wrap without getting nasty raw chicken juice on my hands! Tongs mean all 5′ 1″ of me can reach the cupcake liners I inexplicably store on the highest shelf of my kitchen!
What are your MVP kitchen gadgets?