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Favorite Kitchen Tools and Gadgets

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Updated August 31, 2013

When people make a change to eat less processed food, often they find themselves in the kitchen more than they used to be. When that happens, attention naturally turns to figuring out what would make food prep easier and faster. Most of us have gadgets that sounded like a good idea, but we never use them. These are the ones I reach for again and again. In no particular order:

1. Silicone Baking Mat

silicone baking mat
Photo Courtesy of Pricegrabber
These things are amazing. They are mats made of silicone and fiberglass and they make any baking surface entirely nonstick. You can literally cook anything on them, and cleanup is reduced to almost nothing. I pour my flax meal foccacia bread batter on it, put it in the oven, and when I'm done there's nothing to clean up but a few crumbs. Biscuits, cookies, crackers, cheese crisps, meats - go wild! Clean with a damp cloth or warm soapy water, reuse 2000-3000 times.
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2. Microplane Rasp Type Grater/Zester

microplane grater
Photo © HHLtDave5 at Stockxpert.com
When I open up a top drawer, often I'm reaching for one of these. If you haven't tried them yet, you simply MUST. Not only do they take the tasty zest off citrus fruit, leaving the bitter pith behind, they are great for hard cheeses (they turn Parmesan to snow with a few strokes), ginger (ditto, especially when it's frozen), nutmeg, chocolate - anything that is hard. You have your choice between one with a handle (slightly trickier to get the last bits of grated food off the back) or not. I used to use it for garlic, but I was worried I'd end up with grated finger in the soup. The solution:
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3. Larger Microplane Grater with Slider Attachment

Pop the garlic into the hopper (does up to 8 cloves at once), and a few strokes later you've got garlic mush - much easier to clean than a garlic press, and can be used to grate lots of other things. There are two sizes - fine and coarse - the coarse one grates carrots, for example, and I use it for garlic, even though the fine one is recommended. It has somewhat larger holes than the rasp-type graters. It does leave slivers of garlic behind. Check Out:
Coarse Grater
Slider Attachment
All the Microplane Graters
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4. Silicone Spoonulas and Spatulas

A spoonula is a spatula with a curved symmetrical head, and I really like them as a combination spoon and scraper. The silicone makes them resistant to heat so you can use them on the stove. I like them so much, in fact, that my Quest for the Perfect Spoonula has become a family joke. My favorite at this point is by Silvermark (the least expensive one, if you click on the link), but I will gladly defect at a moment's notice.

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5. Oxo "Good Grips" Peeler

Still the best peeler after all these years - the tool that put Oxo on the map. If you don't have one, remedy the situation immediately. Word has it their Series I with replaceable blades is even better, but I'm sticking with Good Grips.
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6. Unicorn Pepper Mill

Yes, it's true, freshly-ground pepper really does make a difference. My favorite pepper mill for a long time was the reasonably-price Oxo "Grind It" pepper mill. But I went through two of them in as many years, and finally decided to splurge for the much-lauded Unicorn Pepper Mill - which we at our house call the "Darth Vader of Peppermills" (when you see it, you'll understand). It's super-easy to load and use, and works GREAT. But it's $44!! I hope it lasts a lifetime. (Now they make a smaller one, but it's still $30.00.)
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7. Silicon-Tipped Tongs

Silicone again! It's the new wonder-material in the kitchen! Tongs are great for moving meat or vegetables around the grill or skillet, but metal tongs scratch nonstick surfaces. I had an nylon-coated Oxo that I liked, but the nylon coating flaked off. Now I have a "Good Cook" one I got at the drugstore that works fine, and it has silicone tips instead of a coating. They probably aren't the Ultimate Tongs, but they do the job. Get ones that lock for easier storage.
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8. Probe Thermometer/Timer

Stick the probe in a hunk of meat, cheesecake, casserole, whatever. You close the wire in the oven door or grill lid, stick the digital readout on the outside, and set the temperature. It beeps when the food is the temperature you want, and there is a constant readout so you can see how it's coming along. I love it. They make remote ones now so you can babysit your roast from the backyard.
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