Kitchen gadgets can be gimmicks that catch your fancy but you never use, or they can be indispensable time savers. Here are my favorites in the second category, in rough order of how often I use them.
1. 7-inch chef’s knife. Santoku knives are handsome and trendy, but you can’t rock them as you chop like you can a regular chef’s knife.
2. Thin-tined salad fork. For beating eggs or mixing wet ingredients, give me a fork over a wire whisk. I do use a tiny wire whisk for mixing salad dressings in a small prep bowl.
3. Citrus juicer. Years ago I mail-ordered a set of yellow plastic citrus tools (juicer, peeler, and little spout to screw into a lemon, since abandoned) advertised by the Lemon Council, or some such organization. The juicer, see above, is flat-bottomed so it’s stable, and it folds up to fit in my utensil drawer, so it’s close at hand. I tried squeezing lemons by hand like Rachael Ray does, but I couldn’t get much juice out, and I couldn’t keep the seeds from falling into the food.
4. Microplane-type zester and fine grater. One concept I did adopt from Rachael Ray is the super-sharp stainless steel Microplane. The long, narrow zester is good for, of course, zesting citrus, and a wider grater works well for whole nutmeg and hard cheeses.
5. Garlic press. I’ve heard chefs pooh-pooh garlic presses, but honestly, sometimes I just want to get on with it and not mess with mincing by knife.
6. Pampered Chef food chopper. We snack on nuts at our house, so I keep whole ones on hand. If a recipe calls for chopped nuts and I’m in a hurry, this gadget, although it chops annoyingly unevenly, is still a time saver.
7. Egg slicer.This slicer also works on olives or strawberries. When my Pampered Chef slicer broke after a few years I tried a fancy expensive one, which broke on first use. My most recent one is a no-name for $3.99 from Bed Bath and Beyond. It seems to be better made than more expensive models.
8. Paddle-type hand grater. It’s flat so it’s easy to keep close at hand. I use it for soft cheeses and carrots.
9. Citrus press. If I have a lot of citrus to juice (as for Key Lime Pie or fresh lemonade or orange juice), this is a wonderful little machine. It’s fairly small, sturdy, and tough.
10. Progressive brand cherry pitter. This gadget makes me really happy. I love it again every year when cherries are in season. To use the pitter you put cherries in the four wells, press the top, and voila. If you’ve ever endured the tedium of pitting cherries by hand, you’ll know why this gadget is so great.