There’s a cartoon on our fridge that says something to the effect of
Peel apple with apple peeler: 5 seconds. Peel apple with knife: 1 minute. Find knife in drawer: 1 second. Find apple peeler in drawer: eternity.
Well, not so at our house: all ‘leventy-leven of our gadgets are carefully grouped by function and stashed in drawers designated by cute little numbered knobs (courtesy of Etsy). So if you want an apple peeler, it’s in drawer 5 along with the other fruit and vegetable gadgets (orange peeler, pineapple corer, strawberry huller…) The reason we have so many is that for more than three decades we’ve given each other gadgets at the holidays, the more mysterious the better. Yup – pretty close to a hundred of them, all told. Here’s a selection of ten we think you’ll like
Emsa Perfect Beaker
This cone-shaped measuring cup holds two cups of liquid. That’s not unusual – any good Pyrex® cup will do that. What’s really useful about it is that the cup is marked not just in cups and ounces, but in milliliters/cubic centimeters, teaspoons, tablespoons and pints as well. Since it’s cone-shaped, the measurement at the bottom are more accurate. In other words, a tablespoon (or 30 ml) fills it as full at the bottom as a quarter cup at the top. I like it that the cups scale reads in both quarters and thirds.
The beaker is hard plastic and dishwasher safe. Ours has lasted more than a decade and is still going strong. Versions with and without a lid are available.
It’s a trivet, a hot pad, a counter-protector, or a bit of wall art. The Le Creuset Cool Tool is made of the wonder-substance silicone, and therefore easily withstands temperatures up to 500° F (260° C) while remaining flexible. The Cool Tool is available in a variety of colors and sizes, from 4-12 inch diameters. We also have a square version.
Not only does the cool tool protect counters from hot pans, we also set it on our cooktop to shield curious fingers from hot burners as they cool. The pattern of concentric circles traps drips while allowing air circulation beneath hot pans to speed up cooling. It’s such a good insulator you can set a hot pan on a glass shelf in the refrigerator with this in between.
Lekue Frittata and Spanish Omelette Maker
You can make frittatas and Spanish omelets in your microwave in less than ten minutes with this handy pan, one more example of the wonders of silicone. According to Lekue, it’s also safe to use in a conventional oven. You simply pour the makings of your eggy breakfast dish into the pan, close it, and apply your version of heat. Halfway through, you flip the pan over and continue.
The pan is dishwasher-safe and can go from the freezer to the oven or microwave. It’s safe for use at temperatures up to 220° C or 430° F, and is non-stick. The package includes a multi-lingual (pictorial) recipe sheet. Like all silicone, it’s BPA-free.
Although a professional chef peels garlic by slapping the cloves with the flat of a knife blade, we mere mortals are more likely to use something less… sharp. That’s where the Zak E-Z-Rol Garlic Peeler comes into play.
It’s little more than a rubber tube: you tuck in a garlic clove or three (even elephant garlic), roll the tube on the counter with the heel of your hand, and upend the tube. The garlic and its skins come out separate, easy-peezy. You get no garlic on your pretty fingers, and the skins are easy to dispose of. The peeler is dishwasher-safe, too.
RSVP Onion Goggles
There’s no more weeping cooks at our house with these RSVP Onion Goggles. Though they look like something you might find on a racquetball court, they’re actually a kitchen tool. The goggles are clear polycarbonate in nylon frames, with a foam band around the inside to seal them against your eye sockets (orbits).
That seal keeps out the airborne enzyme released by cutting onions and other pungent members of the Lily family, the substance that irritates your eyes and makes you cry. These can be worn over contact lenses, but – unfortunately – there’s no version that fits over eyeglasses. They come in a wide variety of frame colors.
What’s the best part of a muffin? The top, of course. That’s why Chicago Metallic makes this cure little muffin-top pan. It holds the same amount of batter as a conventional six-hole muffin tin, but instead of a muffin 3” across and 3” deep. These are 4” across and 1” deep – and mostly “top.” That’s the chewy, crunchy part everyone loves.
You can also make some pretty nice hamburger buns in this nonstick all-metal pan. The buns are the same diameter as the ones most restaurants use for those 1/3- and 1/2-pound burgers (the ones that are about 900 calories each after you add in the bacon, cheese, sauce, mushrooms…). The packaging even includes a bun recipe.
Hutzler Onion Keeper
With a Hutzler Onion Saver, you can save those partial onions that before now have turned into mush in plastic bags at the bottom of the crisper drawer. Yuck. The onions keeper is shaped just like an onion, and is available in both yellow and red versions. It’s shaped so that the onions doesn’t sit flat on the bottom (to keep it from stewing in condensation), and closes tightly enough to seal in odors.
Hutzler also has garlic, pepper, lemon, lime and tomato keepers in their line of products; all in the “correct” colors and in the proper shape. They’re all dishwasher-safe and pretty enough to use as serving pieces.
Do paper recipes take up too much room on your counter while you’re cooking? The you need an Architec Recipe Rock. This handy little blob of plastic is shaped just right to prop a sheet of paper upright (at a small angle). A powerful magnet and ball-bearing keep from one to eight sheets of paper in place, and a slight curve keeps it stiff. The face is slightly angled to make reading easier. It also works for index-card type recipes.
When not in use, the Rock covers a space on your counter that’s about the size of a juice glass – and it’s weird-enough looking that visitor to your kitchen will be puzzled. When they see what it does, though, they’ll want one of their own!
Kuhn-Rikon Spill Stopper
I don’t know about you, but I hate, hate, hateit when a pot boils over and makes a mess on the stovetop. With the Kuhn-Rikon “Kochblume” Spill Stopper, you’re save from overflow. The silicone (of course!) flower rests atop of the pot like a lid, but when the contents boil over they come up through the “petals.” Once insulated from the rolling boil, the overflow quickly cools. Since we’ve had one, the only overflows we’ve had are on pots that are too big for our Spill Stopper.
That’s why we bought a larger one – they come in two sizes, 10 and 12-inch diameters. They’re made of (of course!) silicone, safe to 400 degrees and microwave- and dishwasher-safe. A handy side-effect of the silicone material is that even the toughest grunge just washes off.
Do you love ice cream sandwiches? We do! With the Cuisipro Mini Ice Cream Sandwich Maker, we can make our own versions from homemade (or store-bought) cookies and any flavor of ice cream we want. The sandwich maker (BPA-free plastic, of course) cuts little guys in the shapes of circles, stars or hearts. It only takes a moment to stack the ice cream and cookies and squash everything into a homemade ice cream sandwich.
The parts are all dishwasher safe (top shelf, of course) and making a sandwich is definitely easy enough for the kids to lend a hand. Best of all, you can customize to your heart’s content – and the sandwiches are smaller than the store-bought versions.
So there you have it: ten kitchen gadgets you didn’t know you needed (or wanted). Stay tuned: I have about sixty more!