I've been asking all my friends, family and cooking contacts about their favorite kitchen gadgets over the last week. I got some great answers and it really made me think: "What did Betty Crocker and Julia Child do without all these wonderful things?" So here's a list of 10 of the most popular kitchen gadgets that all my fellow foodies can't live without:
1) The Microwave
OK, so this is technically a kitchen appliance, but think about it. Do you still make popcorn on the stove? Do you melt all your butter in a saucepan? Leftovers? In the OVEN? Goodness! Those of us in our thirties and above remember the days when microwaves first came out: not standing too close for fear of radiation poisoning, watching hot dogs grow and explode, and yes, the sparks that aluminum foil made! This powerful and now necessary kitchen gadget is in almost every kitchen in America, and is a big part of our cooking culture.
2) The Trifle Dish
Who would have thought that an inexpensive ($15-$30), big, clear bowl could make any layered recipe look so beautiful? Don't you wish you'd invented it? Everyone has their own favorite 7-layer dip, salad and dessert recipe and putting it in a trifle dish takes it from casual to connoisseur in a heartbeat.
3) The Mango Slicer
This is one of my favorites. I cook with mangoes often and the hardest part is always getting the flesh away from the big seed in the middle. They cost about $10-$15 at any kitchen gadget store and they last forever. I can honestly say it cuts my mango prep time in half. If you love mangoes and don't have one of these, you're really missing out.
4) The Microplane
I always call this a zester, but it does SO much more. You can grate parmesan cheese, nutmeg, ginger, carrots, chocolate, etc. I love this product because when you zest with it, you ONLY get the zest. Somehow it manages not to cut too deep and include the bitter, white rind of the fruit. Again, an inexpensive ($15) and easy find (http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/), I don't know what I'd do without this one.
5) The Pampered Chef Ice Cream Dipper
Pampered Chef Ice Cream Dipper
There's nothing worse than craving your favorite ice cream, getting it out of the freezer and not being able to scoop it out because its too cold and frozen! This little tool is the answer to your prayers if this has ever happened to you. It contains a "non-toxic defrosting liquid" inside the scoop to heat and easily scoop hard ice-cream. Again, it's inexpensive ($15) and useful. In fact, researching this product for this article made me want to become a Pampered Chef sales rep.
6) The Kitchen Aid Mixer Alright, I don't own one of these, but you rarely see a cooking show or a "foodie" magazine photo that DOESN'T have one of these in the background somewhere. These are one of the more expensive kitchen gadgets, depending on how many of the accompanying attachments you get ($200-$300). But, everyone I've talked to that has one of these says that your baking goes way beyond good once you have it. I'm probably afraid to buy one, for fear of weighing 400 lbs. from all the baking I'd do with it!
7) The Hand Blender
There are several brands of these worth mentioning, including Black & Decker, Cuisinart and Braun. It's a mini immersion blender, food processor, mixer and whisker. It's a more affordable alternative to the Kitchen Aid for someone who doesn't do much baking or doesn't have a large family. I do own one of these and I use it all the time. They run about $50-$100 with all the attachments included. Again, if you don't own one of these, put it on your Christmas list. NOW.
Cuisinart Hand Mixer/Blender
8) The Global Chef's Knife
There's something very sophisticated about cutting and chopping with a really nice, sharp chef's knife. There's nothing worse than cutting and chopping with a cheap, dull kitchen knife. My fingertips (or lack thereof) can attest to a terrible life before taking pride in kitchen cutlery. These range on the higher side of price ($80-$100) but are well worth the investment, as they last forever and stay sharp for ages. Are you making that Christmas list yet?
9) The Pampered Chef Chopper
Another great product from the people at Pampered Chef, the press chopper can cut prep time in half again without fingertip cuts and knife sharpening. There are lot of other brands of this type product, but again, Pampered Chef products are always well made and affordable ($31).
10) The Gift Registry
What do you mean you don't have one? Go to http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/ right now and create one for yourself. Whenever you see something you want, ADD IT TO YOUR REGISTRY ! When Christmas comes, when your birthday arrives, if its your anniversary, or if someone just wants to say thanks, send them to your GIFT REGISTRY! I also use it before I go shopping there to remind myself what I need/want. Think of it as a virtual grocery list, except this is how you MAKE the groceries turn into MEALS !