Throughout the year, I like to try new or different kitchen gadgets. While some are great time savers, others are not worth buying. After years of testing, here are some of the tools that have become so helpful that I find I can’t live without them.
They are all small, and not only will they fit in a stocking, but they make great hostess gifts or inexpensive gifts for your favorite cook.
If I could only have one gadget, it would definitely be a digital meat thermometer. Its main purpose is for testing meat and chicken to make sure they’re properly cooked, but there are other uses for this handy tool.
You can use it to test the water temperature when blooming yeast, and it is great for testing the temperature of freshly baked bread to assure it is done.
Chocolate needs to stay within a certain temperature range when you melt it, and a thermometer is the tool I use to make sure I do not go outside of that range.
Look for instant-read thermometers. They take several seconds to give a temperature read out. They start at around $10 and go up to about $100.
Have you ever tried to put your measuring spoons into a spice jar and found they do not fit? Of course you have. To solve that problem, I like elongated measuring spoons. They fit right into my spice jars like round spoons can’t. Look for a set with 1/8 teaspoon on it. If you can find one that includes 1/2 tablespoon, that’s even better.
Microplane zesters are the perfect tool for grating and zesting. There are three basic types: citrus zester, cheese grater and ribbon grater.
I recently found additional versions of microplanes that are great for creating shards of cheese, just like they have in fancy restaurants.
If I could only have one, the citrus zester would be the one to buy, since it works for lots more than citrus. But they are small, inexpensive and don’t take up much room in your kitchen, so why not have all three! They are about $15 each.
Bench scrapers are generally associated with bakers since they’re just the thing for scraping dough off a work surface; however, they’re perfect for so many other things.
I use mine all the time for picking up diced onions — or other food I’ve sliced or chopped — and carrying them to the pan. They are also great for cutting brownies or lasagna.
Make sure to get one that has a ruler on it to help you cut more evenly. You will definitely get a lot of use out of a bench scraper, even if you’re not a baker. They are available for $8-$10.
Food cooks more evenly when it is uniform in size. I love to use mini scoops (also called dishers). I have these in various sizes. They are perfect for making meatballs, dropping cookies onto a baking sheet and scooping batter into muffin pans. You can get a basic scoop for around $10.
If you have arthritis or your hands are weak, I prefer Zeroll scoops. They cost around $20, but you can often find them online for less (I often go to amazon.com). They are well worth the extra money for the discomfort they save your hands.
Judy A. Toth is the owner of Simply Impressive Cooking School in Mesa. Her column appears the second Wednesday of the month. Reach her at (480) 654-1981 or www.SimplyImpressive.com