With the holidays approaching, here are our top ten favorite kitchen tools under $10. Buy for yourself or for that special cook in your life. All of these items can be found online or in any kitchen store.
1. Magnetic measuring spoons What differentiates these measuring spoons is that they are magnetic, so they are easier to keep together and not lose. The second thing is that each spoon has two measuring ends (a round and an oval); if you cook a lot you will appreciate this. For example, if you had just measured 1 teaspoon of fresh garlic on one end, you could still measure 1 teaspoon of dried green herbs on the other end without having to wash it in between. I love this!
2. Lemon squeezer A lemon squeezer is a dream to work with, easily eliminating seeds and pulp from your juice. Just remember to place the cut citrus with the flat/cut side down so the juice comes out the bottom where the holes are (not the other way around, which seems more logical). They also make these citrus squeezers in green for limes, and larger ones in orange for oranges. However, if you just have the lemon squeezer, you can get away with using it for limes and oranges too (if citrus is too big, just quarter it).
3. Scraper A very thin scraper, often called a “bench” or “pastry” scraper, makes for easy clean-up on your cutting board, whether you are picking up chopped onions to throw into soup, or scraping debris off into the sink or trash can. Some people find that using the side of their chef’s knife works fine for this type of thing, but the larger, even surface of this scraper, plus it’s a safer way to pick up chopped or minced food. Some are made of hard plastic while others are metal.
4. Garlic peeler This unpretentious little gizmo is pure magic. You simply place a clove or two of garlic (that still has that annoying papery skin on it) inside the plastic sleeve of the garlic peeler, and give it a good roll or two with the palm of your hand. This slight rolling pressure releases the papery skin from the garlic, and when you shake it out, the two will have been separated. (If it doesn’t separate on the first try, just give it another roll.)
5. Garlic press Add the peeled garlic cloves to the chamber and press! Garlic presses are easy to use and easy to clean - what's not to like? You might find some garlic peelers are sold in a set with a garlic press. Bonus!
6. Rice Spatulas Rice spatulas usually come with rice cookers. I love them! They are flat and wide with great handles. I not only use these with long grain white rice and other cooked rices, but also when I’m mixing big salads (like potato or veggie-grain salads), or folding together ingredients for baked goods.
7. “Y” peeler I love my “Y” peeler! I love the feel of the Y peelers. I find that the design also makes it very easy to peel thick-skinned foods. Having a good peeler is right up there with having a can opener that is a breeze to use; these kitchen items may seem fairly standard but there is quite a difference in quality. Don’t settle for dull, old or clunky, even for your simple items.
8. Large silicone spatula If you make veggie, turkey or salmon burgers on occasion using a non-stick skillet, a silicone spatula is just the ticket! It will not melt on the hot pan surface (like regular plastic can). This spatula in particular also has a wide head that is tapered at the end, making it easier to get under cooking pancakes without squishing them.
9. Silicone baking mat Silicone mats are great for four reasons. They can withstand the high heat of the oven (won’t melt); nothing sticks to them (say if you are roasting vegetables); after baking, you can simply lift them out of the baking dish or off the cookie sheet and slide the food off; and last, they make for easy clean-up of pans. Culinary silicone is a food-grade, so is safe to use in the kitchen. They come in many sizes. Similarly, you can also use parchment paper, a silicone coated baking paper found near the aluminum foil in grocery stores.
10. Basket strainer Tired of using a slotted spoon? You can use it to quickly lift veggies out of hot water when blanching. The bamboo handle is firmly attached to the basket and long enough so it's safe to use with hot liquids. The wire basket has larger openings for easy draining.
Do you appreciate simple, inexpensive kitchen tools that make your life easier?