Attempting a masterpiece in the kitchen is often much simpler and more accessible through the use of specialized tools and gadgets. Unfortunately, many tools accomplish a single task – usually very well – but regardless, a specific task (enter the mushroom brush, cherry pitter, strawberry and tomato hullers). A few tools are definitely worth their weight in truffles based on the frequency of use and task completed. Here are my top 5, most reliable, can’t-live-without kitchen tools and gadgets:
1. KitchenAid Stand Mixer
I suspect this kitchen workhorse is staple and commonplace in most Canadian kitchens. We all grew up with handheld egg-beater style mixers, but this stand alone marvel is my absolute favourite tool as it panders to my greatest fault – impatience. I can set it and forget it – mostly. After having made butter once instead of whipped cream, I know the KitchenAid is a huge helper in the kitchen but must still be supervised for perfection. The multitude of attachments and accessories helps maximize your investment by eliminating the need for a separate pasta roller or ice cream churner.
2. Stainless-steel Rasp
A gift from my father over a decade ago, I reach for this item more often than most. Whether I’m grating ginger, nutmeg, Parmigiano Reggiano, zesting citrus or reducing a clove of garlic to a pulpy mess, this inexpensive tool is quick on the draw and effective in adding a punch of flavour in shreds of the original ingredient.
3. Kuhn Rikon mandoline
Few tools perform as elegantly as the mandoline. This variation on a single blade renders solid ingredients to slices uniform in thickness. The slices can be very thin and produced very quickly in comparison to cutting with a knife. Paper-thin slices are ideal for presentation and transforming into dense vegetables into delicate versions of their former selves. See if you can spy the microplaned radishes in my MasterChef Canada audition plate: https://alaclaude.com/2014/07/02/masterchef-canada-audition/
4. Cutting boards
Few kitchen implements predate civilized man like the humble cutting board. Granted much has evolved from using a felled stump or a flat stone to the trendy bamboo or exotic hardwood varieties of today. I have three main cutting boards – a large end grain cutting board, which fills in for a rustic cheese board, a more manageable wooden board for day-to-day chopping and a thinner plastic cutting board reserved for raw meats. The latter gets thrown into the dishwasher for a good clean and sterilization while the wooden version get scrub downs in the sink with warm sudsy water and a scouring pad, if required. A polish with some orange oil will help maintain your wooden boards for years – and they’ll smell fantastic!
5. The Garlic Twist
There are few kitchen tasks as tedious and mundane as peeling and mincing garlic. Noting my previously mentioned impatience, I cannot recommend this great gadget enough as it quickly and adeptly turns several garlic cloves into a mushy mess in almost no time flat with little effort and very little clean up. A bit of practice and you can gather all the garlic bits in an open area for easy removal with a spoon. There are times when a finer garlic paste is required which call for the butcher block, a pinch of salt and a hint of patience. But for the everyday, run-of-the-mill cooking that needs a hit of garlic – the Garlic Twist is your best bud.
Do you have a favourite tool in your kitchen that you reach for most often? I’d be curious to learn what they are – please tell me about them in the comment space below.