I can’t believe I’ve never written a post about my favorite kitchen tools. You might think I have a kitchen jammed with tools, gadgets and assorted doo dads but my favorite kitchen tools are simple and get lots of use. I am not a fan of single purpose tools, so unless they are essential to something I want to do, I skip them. I have a big kitchen (especially by city standards) and my cabinets are filled to capacity as are my counters. Lining my counters are my most often used cookbooks, a tiny coffee maker (four cups) and coffee grinder, a printer (a too large one), a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, well used, and food processor (also used a lot) bottles of things I want to be able to grab, and a waffle iron.
Besides those oft used items, I have some tools that I can’t imaging getting along without for even a day:
- Silicone spatulas. I have six of these, and I wish I had more. I have a set of three I got at The Christmas Tree Shop a few years ago for something like $3.99, as well as some fancier ones, but I use them equally, and if you can find some inexpensive dishwasher-safe ones grab them. I can’t stand to leave even the tiniest bit of anything in a bowl, partly because I figure I measured those ingredients, so I need them all, and partly because this makes it easier to wash the bowls.
- Canning funnel. I do a limited amount of canning, but this funnel serves me well daily. I use it to get the coffee I grind into the jar where I keep it. (Sorry coffee purists, I grind enough beans to last me a few days). I can get hot soup into my thermos without spilling the way I do when I use a ladle, and its wide mouth lets all the stuff go through easily. It’s also good for getting things like chopped nuts or grated cheese into a resealable bag.
- Offset serrated knife. I got this about 75 years ago at Bridge Kitchenware in NYC. I use it as much or more than my chef’s knife, the one I got in culinary school (nothing fancy, though it could use a good professional sharpening).
- My antique (?) jar opener. I don’t know how old something has to be to be considered an antique, but this jar opener is older than I am, so I think it qualifies. I didn’t purchase it, it is a family heirloom. When I got my first apartment my mom gave it to me telling me she had my father to open jars, so she was willing to part with it. You can still get one from the Vermont Country Store.
- Half sheet trays. Mine are beat up and dull, and no longer perfectly flat due to my putting them in the oven once when I ran it through a cleaning cycle. They did get clean. I use them constantly, and generally cover them with foil, parchment or Silpats.
- Sizzle pans. You’ll find these in any restaurant, they’re used to finish things like steaks, under the salamander. I got mine from a friend in the restaurant supply business. They are perfect for heating small items and though I don’t have one, I think they would probably fit in a toaster oven. They are sturdy and thick and are perfect for the broiler.
- Digital food scale. When I bake I always opt to weigh my ingredients, and this scale goes from ounces to grams easily. It costs about $12.00 from Amazon.
- Oxo measuring cups. I’ve had a one quart pitcher for years, and when it started leaking I returned it to Oxo (they offer a lifetime warranty) and they replaced it. Last Summer on our Pennsylvania road trip I got a larger half-gallon one and I love having two.
- Foodservice plastic wrap. It takes up a lot of space, but it lasts almost forever. I am almost at the end of the (used) one I took from my mother’s house after she died in December 2011. It is much easier to use than those small boxes. I have a new box waiting for me in my storage area, and I’m never going back to the household wrap I don’t care what color it comes in. I got my new roll at Costco.
- Scotch-Brite counter cloths. This is the only brand I’ve found that has counter sponges thin enough for my purposes; I secure my cutting boards with them. No matter what type of cutting board you use, unless you put something under it to keep it secure it will slide around which is dangerous. You can buy something called a Board Buddy (a waste of money) or you could use damp paper towels, but I like these flat sponges, and I run them through the dishwasher to keep them clean and fresh.
- (Bonus) Wood chopsticks. I buy the cheap wood ones at a nearby Asian supermarket. They come in packs of twenty and I paid $.79 for mine. I use them to stir things, I use two together as a whisk, if you are pan or deep frying, put the end of the chopstick into the fat and if it bubbles around the wood the oil is hot enough to fry.