There are more people turning to home cooking as a way to save money and serve their family healthful meals. The benefits are many. In addition to the cost and calorie savings, the dinner table is a great place for families to catch up and reconnect at the end of a busy day.
To that end there are a few kitchen gadgets that will help the home cook prepare meals more easily and quickly, helping to provide that special touch without a lot of fuss.
A good quality rice cooker is an invaluable tool. They cook white rice, brown rice, couscous, quinoa and more as well as specialty recipes such as pilaf. The warming function keeps your rice table ready until you need it. Some cookers keep rice at the perfect temperature for hours. (This is not recommended for grains cooked with other ingredients because of the dangers of spoilage.) One of the best brands is Zojirushi offering a variety of styles and prices. A moderately priced model at around $80.00, (although it is found at higher prices), the Automatic Rice Cooker & Warmer, NS-RNC10/18A, is simple to use, easy to clean, not too large and makes wonderful rice every time.
A blender is almost a given in any kitchen today. It is used for blender drinks, of course, but can also blend crepe batter and blender pesto, chop ice and grate stale bread for homemade breadcrumbs, especially useful if you want to avoid the High Fructose Corn Syrup in commercial crumbs. A food processor attachment can be used to chop vegetables, nuts and even meats and cheeses providing convenience without the storage needs of a separate appliance. Several companies make these, Oster, Hamilton Beach and Cuisinart among them with prices starting at around $35.00.
Forget putting hot soup into the blender in small batches. Use an immersion or wand blender to do the job right in the original pot for smooth soups without the time and mess and burns. This method will also allow you to adjust seasoning for the whole recipe of soup at once. Wands are great for foolproof Hollandaise, mayonnaise or any other sauce that requires forming an emulsion. When you can come home from work and prepare Hollandaise for the dinner asparagus in two minutes you know this is a great kitchen tool.
Simple wands can cost as little as $15.00 from Hamilton Beach. Braun has a model for around $35.00 with an attachment for whipping cream and egg whites so you don’t have to haul out the big mixer.
A good timer with the capacity to time more than one dish is really necessary when cooking a full meal at top speed after work or a complicated menu for guests. Or maybe you just don’t want to be held captive in the kitchen. A timer lets you walk away and never forget to come back. Pyrex and CDN carry models that track four tasks for around $20.00.
Few gadgets save more time in the kitchen. Tearing up lettuce is too time consuming to end up with wet lettuce that can’t be dressed properly. At four and a half stars on Amazon, there is the Sunbeam Flow Thru Salad Spinner for $9.99, and the Oxo Good Grips for $28.00. Many models are around $30.00 and come in a variety of sizes.
Everyone usually has the knives they need in the kitchen for carving, slicing and paring but a lot of people overlook the convenience of kitchen shears. Snipping herbs, jointing a chicken and even cutting through bone are much easier with good shears. Make sure you get a pair with good construction so the handle doesn’t break with heavy usage.
Check out the reviews at http://reviews.cookingcache.com/kitchen-shears-review.html.
Can Opener (Manual)
There are a lot of can openers out there, some traditional, some promising a smooth edge that won’t cut, but in the end, what you need is a can opener that cuts the can open completely without fighting with it. Oxo, Hoffritz and WMF Profi, have solid models for around $20.00.
Among the other gadgets helpful to the home cook are simple items such as a stand-alone colander or whisks to aid in making smooth gravies, but others include-
Silicon spatulas and mats that are heat proof. The spatulas let you stir and scrape out pots completely without damage to the spatula or the pan. The mats provide a non-stick surface for cookies without greasing the pan or using parchment paper.
Adjustable rolling pins so you can roll out dough to a consistent thickness for even baking.
A microplane grater makes grating chocolate or nutmeg easy and can also be used for smaller amounts of hard cheese or zesting lemons and oranges. In this category, a mandoline is great for slicing thin slices of almost any vegetable for salads or cooking, as well as cheese.
Heat-proof silicon gloves let you lift a whole, hot turkey to the cutting board without mishap. Not as good as pot holders for a more delicate grip, they are still incredibly useful.
Finally, a stand mixer, for some the Holy Grail of kitchen gadgets, creams butter and sugar, mixes batters and kneads dough to perfection for those days when you just feel like whipping up something special from your kitchen but you don’t want to break a wrist doing it.
The most important thing to remember when buying gadgets for your kitchen is to make sure they are useful to you. Don’t fall for trendy items. Read reviews and compare prices to get the best items you can at the best price to enhance your time in the kitchen.