Occasionally I want to write to you about an ingredient, a tool, or something else food and cooking related. These will be bonus posts and in addition to the cooking and recipe posts published on the weekends.
As the holiday season is in full swing, here’s a list of gift possibilities for the cooks and home chefs in your life. All of these items would make great gifts. Some are an investment, some are small and good for stocking-stuffers or what my mom used to call a”JB”, a just because gift. This list is a good one to keep handy for birthdays and other special occasions as well.
These are the tools that are in constant use in my kitchen, the tools I could not live without. I’ve included links so you can check everything out. Any questions, please use comments or email me.
Why I use Vitamix as my blender is simple: power, capacity and a shatterproof container. It will outperform and outlast any other blender and do more than a standard blender. Vitamix is the gold standard in blenders. I use it daily to make smoothies, soups, sauces, ice cream bases and for many other recipes. Here is the link to my full product review. The new model 5200 has nice upgrades like the ergonomic handle, lid flaps or “wings” and a BPA-free container. Order through this link and get free shipping.
Every cook needs a digital thermometer. Whether roasting chicken or baking Crème Brulee, it’s the best way to test the internal temperature of what you are cooking for degree of doneness and food safety. My choice is the Thermapen by Thermoworks. It’s fast, has a large numbers for easy reading and is splash proof. They come in lots of fun colors too. I have three of them!
Extra Big Timer
Thermoworks also makes a great big, waterproof timer. The numbers are easy to read (without reading glasses) and across the kitchen. It’s called the Extra Big & Loud Timer.
Good knives are an essential tool for every cook. Invest in good quality knives, take care of them (don’t put them in the dishwasher!), have them professionally sharpened a few times a year and they will last forever. Most of my knives are Wusthof. I like the Grand Prix II model because of the comfortable curved handle. They are forged from a single piece of specially tempered high-carbon stainless steel for superior strength. For storage, use a knife block, a wooden knife drawer insert or just get inexpensive blade covers to protect them (below).
The knives I use daily and consider the most important.
- Wusthof Grand Prix II 2 3/4″ Peeling Knife (Birds Beak) (Great for peeling onions, my favorite little knife)
- Wusthof Grand Prix II 3 1/2″ Paring Knife (A good general paring knife)
- Wusthof Grand Prix II Hollow-Edge 7″ Santoku (Great all around knife and most used)
- Wusthof Grand Prix II Hollow Ground 8″ Carving Knife (Nice but not mandatory. Good for slicing meat)
- Wusthof Grand Prix II 9″ Cook’s Knife (Chefs Knife) (A must have and great size. 8″ models are too small for me and the 10″ size, although I have them, are pretty big for most people. The 9″ is perfect)
Knife Edge Guards
If you store your knives loose in a kitchen drawer, these inexpensive blade or edge guards will save your knives. By protecting the sharp edges, the blades stay sharp. It’s also more safe. They come in different sizes to fit your knives. Although I store my knives in a drawer block, I have these for when I travel with my knives. They come in basic black and colors too.
Although I don’t use a food processor every day, I do use one a lot. The Breville Sous Chef is a terrific tool. It’s got a powerful 1200-watt motor that grates through a block of cheese in a flash, a large 16-cup capacity workbowl with measurements marked on the outside, an extra wide feed tube for handling large items like whole potatoes, and a timer that will count up or down. There is also a smaller inner 2 1/2 cup workbowl and a mini blade for smaller jobs, like chopping nuts and breadcrumbs. The design on the slicing blade is ingenious with 24 settings on a single disc. All this and more, plus it comes with a housing unit to organize all of the attachments. Here’s the link to Sur La Table, the only place you can buy one. My 20 year old Cuisinart is now stored away.
So many kitchen appliances on the market are gimmicks, used once or twice then shelved to collect dust. Not this one. I was given one as a gift and really love it. You can turn a plain sandwich into a terrific Italian panini in just a few minutes. I use mine many times a week, for lunch in particular. A panini, bowl of soup and a salad make for a great dinner too. This is an appliance worth the purchase and kitchen space. Clean up is a breeze, just wipe off with a damp sponge or paper towel as the surface is non-stick. Breville makes a Duo model and a Quattro for large families. Here is the link to the Duo model which will make two paninis at once.
Non-Stick Skillet (My Favorite Omelet Pan)
For omelets and cooking delicate dishes, I always pull out my Scanpan CTX Non-stick skillet. The 8″ size is perfect for an omelet for 1-2 people. Scanpan is the first producer of nonstick cookware certified PFOA free, so it’s safe for your family and the environment. Made in Denmark, it has a patented ceramic titanium nonstick cooking surface that is the best I’ve seen. It works better than a traditional non-stick pan. Scanpan has 5-layer clad-aluminum construction so it’s heavy and heats evenly for even cooking. Although they say it is dishwasher safe, I wash mine by hand and keep it in the nice storage bag that comes with it. Allow it to cool and rinse with a little soap and water and wipe dry. It cleans up instantly. My favorite non-stick pan and a fantastic performer. Scanpan comes in larger sizes too.
A digital scale is another must have for the serious cook. Weighing ingredients is more accurate and it’s perfect for portion control. This model weighs up to 11 pounds, has an easy to clean stainless steel platform and large digital numbers for easy reading. Its also has both American and metric capabilities plus a “tare” feature that allows you to weigh one ingredient, zero it out, and add your next ingredient. The slim design makes it easy to store. The Cafe Digital Scale, from Sur La Table.
Most prep work I accomplish with knives, but this little tool is one I use daily. Why use a garlic press versus chopping with a knife? Because the garlic comes out very fine and melts into whatever you are adding it to. I scrape the pressed garlic with the back of a paring knife. The OXO Good Grips model has a comfortable handle that does not require a lot of hand strength and a self cleaning side when you flip the handle around.
Another little handy tool I have several of is the Microplane Zester. It makes fine citrus zest, fine shreds of hard cheese, fine chocolate and nutmeg shavings. The handle is comfortable to hold and the surface has razor sharp little teeth. Comes in multiple colors.
This is not your mother’s pressure cooker. It won’t hiss, spit, jiggle, threaten to blow up or scare you to death. Modern pressure cookers are a great time saver in the kitchen. I make soups, stews, cheesecake, rice and quick broths in mine. And the larger size can do pressure canning. When you are not using them in pressure cooker mode, they are a solid standard stock pot. I have two of the Fagor models (8 and 10 quart). They’ve been great performers in my kitchen. They are well built with 18/10 stainless steel and a triple-valve system and lock. Fagor pressure cookers work on electric, gas and even induction cooktops. The Fagor 8 quart pressure cooker. If you only cook for two, the 6 quart is an option.
BPA-Free Storage Containers
This is a gift that is all about practical functionality. A few months ago I got tired of old containers that leaked and hassling to find lids that matched up with bases. I test drove a few of these new OXO Good Grips storage containers with the green lids, then threw out all of my old ones and bought a 20-piece set of these. The lids are air and water tight, they are BPA-free, crystal clear and dishwasher, microwave and freezer friendly. It’s so nice having new storage containers!
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