By Kathryn Weber
Getting a meal on the table can be a challenge, but having some tools that make it easier is a real plus. While there are plenty of flashy new kitchen gadgets on the market, many of the standbys are also worth a second look. Every cook should consider the following:
1. Immersion blender. Vegetable based soups, like cream of spinach, come together in a snap with an immersion blender. This handheld blender goes right into the pot and with a push of a button, creates a smooth, creamy soup. At around $25, it’s an inexpensive yet indispensable tool.
2. Cast iron crockpot. The cast iron lined deluxe crockpot by All-Clad runs around $250, but it makes crock pot cooking faster because browning can be done in the liner on top of the stove and transferred to the crockpot, saving time and cleanup.
3. Appetizer plates. These dainty dishes can do double duty for hors d’oeuvres, small dishes and sauces.
4. Long-handled spoons. While they may have the charm and feel of a school cafeteria, these spoons are so useful and practical that you’ll wonder how you lived without them. Buy a long-style serving spoon, sometimes called a basting spoon (webrestaurantstore.com), to stir tall pots, baste roasts and turkeys, and keep you at a safe distance from hot sugar when you’re cooking candy.
5. Cast iron skillets. Grandma knew that for fried foods and baked items, a cast iron skillet could do it all. Cast iron’s thickness means it doesn’t heat too quickly and burn food, yet maintains its temperature, which is so important for frying. These skillets give you perfectly browned food and can’t be beat for biscuits, corn bread, and perfectly glazed pineapple upside down cake.
6. Stemless wine glasses. More than a drinking fad, stemless wine glasses are enjoyable to use and easy to clean because they fit in the dishwasher. The only problem is, guests can mix up glasses. Mikasa’s “Cheers” line of stemless wineglasses come with unique designs that solve this problem (Mikasa.com).
7. Wine vacuum. This simple, inexpensive tool lets you serve leftover red wine with the same freshness as when you first opened the bottle. Simply put in the vacuum stopper and pump the air out of the bottle.
8. Microfiber drying mats. Running out of space on the counter for handwashing dishes and pans? Whip out these handy mats when you need more drying space. They can be tossed in the washer, too, for quick cleaning.
9. Personal blenders. Small personal blenders that come with serving cups make fast work of blended shakes and smoothies. They’re also ideal for whipping up fresh salad dressings and sauces.
10. Cheap tongs. They may not be pretty, but inexpensive tongs are workhorses in the kitchen. Light and easy to use, every kitchen should have three or four sets. Tongs are ideal for picking up salad, turning bacon, lifting hot items and serving. Get a long pair or two for grilling.
© Kathryn Weber, all rights reserved