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The 2017 Farmers Almanac
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5 Gadgets Every Kitchen Needs

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5 Gadgets Every Kitchen Needs

Consumers say they’re the best thing since sliced bread—and some can even be used to slice bread! In the modern world of kitchen gadgets, the sky’s the limit and efficiency rules when it comes to saving time and steps in getting delicious, healthy meals on the table. The following tools can make life easier, and should be in every kitchen. But first, a look back at some of ancestral kitchen apparatuses.

In Victorian times, a woman rarely strayed from the hearth, or if she did, she often had servants to keep the proverbial home fires burning. It could take all day using rudimentary tools to prepare food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with items that included toasting irons (somewhat unreliable precursors to the toaster), and a fruit and lard press—called a multitasker by culinary historians in that, with a little elbow grease, it not only extracted juice from fruit for preserves, but also oil from cracklings in rendered lard. Or how about spending an afternoon with a corrosive combination of bath brick and emery powder used to scrub crusty knives—light years before the advent of rubber gloves?

Today’s products are thankfully much improved, sleek, efficient, and reliable, turning history’s tortuous kitchen prep into a streamlined, even fun, process. And if something helps you to easily prepare more budget-friendly meals at home, it’s worth the minimal investment. So what are some of these modern marvels?

  1. Mandolin Slicer
    Coupe d'une courgette à la mandoline
    Martha Stewart swears by mandolins, and any home cook who gets her hands on one will find there’s nothing easier. Their sharp, fine cutting blades make the tasks of julienning carrots for salads or making paper-thin slices of onions a breeze, with tears a distant memory. It works as food slides along the two parallel working surfaces until it makes contact with an adjustable blade (be sure to always use the accompanying veggie holder/guide to avoid cutting fingers and knuckles). These precision slices are unattainable with a knife.  You can turn out stir-fries, toppings for tacos, and homemade potato chips in record time. Mandolins are easy to clean (just rinse) and priced anywhere from $10 to $100.
  2. Palm Peeler
    This curvilinear gadget slides onto the hand and finger like a ring, sitting securely in the palm. It peels by allowing the user to deftly slide it around an apple or potato, for example, almost like moving one hand around a softball while steadied by the other hand. Users say it is much easier to control than a standard vegetable peeler, which can slip. Takes up no space, cleans with a quick rinse, and cost is approximately $7.00.
  3. Immersion BlenderSmoothie and fresh fruits with blender
    A time and space-saving tool, and a favorite of chefs like Emeril Lagasse, the immersion blender makes whipping up soups, smoothies, and vegetable and fruit purees fast and fun. Just immerse in a pot of steamed vegetables with a little stock and cream, season to taste, and with a flick of a switch, you have a supreme gourmet soup in about 30 seconds. They are great for making meals for those who need their nutrition in liquid form without having to lug out a bulky blender — you can puree right in the same pot you cooked in. Clean-up is easy, and costs range from between $15 and $500.
  4. Food Processor
    A relative newcomer to the kitchen scene, the food processor made its debut in commercial kitchens in 1960, and then into most North American homes in 1973, thanks to a company named Cuisinart. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or just learning how to cook, a food processor is must-have, as they can tackle just about anything that no blender can (think smooth hummus). With interchangeable blades, they do super-efficient work without the necessity of added liquids (unlike blenders). They come in different capacities, from large (7-16 cups), to small (1 to 5 cups), and turn hours of cutting, chopping, grinding, and other tedious tasks into minute-long magic. Many can even tackle bread dough, but if counter space is an Food Processor on White backgroundissue, you might consider one with a smaller capacity that tucks neatly away. Homemade pestos, grated cheese, chopped garlic, nut butters — and hundreds of other heavenly concoctions — are just a few pulses away.  Look for one that’s sturdy, with a wide feed tube. Clean up is a little more challenging due to their many parts, but most all pieces are all dishwasher safe. Depending on size, prices range from $20 to $200.
  5. Uni-tool
    Great for the minimalist cook, this 5-in-1 kitchen utensil saves time and space (for all those clutterbugs out there!) by multitasking as a slotted spoon, solid spoon (turn it over and use the opposite end), cutting tool, spatula, and turning utensil.  Usually made from durable nylon, it’s dishwasher safe and tucks neatly in a drawer. No sharp edges and under $10.

It’s possible Ina Garten, the celebrated Barefoot Contessa of TV and cookbook fame, said it best, though: The most perfect kitchen tool is a pair of clean hands!

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21 comments

1 Susan Higgins { 01.17.17 at 12:52 pm }

Amy, that sounds great! Also good for shredding cabbage for cole slaw and the best, for me, is cutting onions. You can do it so fast, no time to cry!

2 Amy { 01.17.17 at 7:47 am }

I love my mandolin. I only use it when I need to cut things very thin, as I have trouble doing that with a knife. As long as you are careful with where your fingers are placed it is fine. I go quickly at first, then slow down as the vegetable gets smaller. Great for making potato and zucchini chips.

3 Ellen { 01.11.17 at 11:13 pm }

I use a mandolin from time to time. Serious business for sure. I have never walked away from it without a cut! Even taking the blade plates from the storage box is finger threatening. Still, it slices veggies to perfection and as thin as can be if that’s what your dish requires. Add one to your kitchen arsenal but use the guard!

4 john z { 01.11.17 at 12:37 pm }

The most used in my kitchen is the mandolin and speed peeler. And learned watching TV cooking programs like Alton Brown how to use these wonderful tools properly and for the past five years avoided the ” I don’t like it because stories “.

5 Susan Higgins { 01.11.17 at 9:00 am }

Lavender: great point! We’ll add that to the story.

6 Lavender { 01.11.17 at 8:25 am }

Yeah I don’t see any misuse of “their”/they’re” either. No 1, the mandolin slicer: they forgot to mention what every chef I watch on TV says: Do not use it without the “guide” or “veggie holder” as the blades are surgical steel sharp and you will not only slice the veggies, but your knuckles as well. But most good home cooks think “finger cutter” anyway. I wanted to get a mandolin, but thinking twice about it.

7 Kathy Burch { 01.11.17 at 7:42 am }

Here is the link I found for the Uni-tool. Enjoy!!
https://www.josephjoseph.com/en-us/uni-tool

8 Amy { 01.11.17 at 7:39 am }

Yeah, I don’t see any misuse of their. Lol. Great article btw.

9 Dolly Cordera { 01.11.17 at 5:47 am }

I bought my palm peeler at Wal-Mart and it’s the handiest little thing for peeling I’ve ever used. The name stamped on it is “Chef”n”.

10 Susan Higgins { 01.11.17 at 8:13 am }

bam, if you could locate where you think the error in “their” is, that would be helpful — we don’t see it (and spell check, incidentally, would not pick that up as it doesn’t flag usage). Additionally, we provided a range of prices on these gadgets, $200 being the high end.

11 bam { 01.11.17 at 5:00 am }

You misspelled the word THEIR – it should have been THEY ARE or THEY”RE
got spell check??
I also agree – show photos of these things and $200 is not the price of a GADGET – $200 is a really expensive appliance!

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16 diane { 01.30.15 at 7:51 am }

i had a palm peeler and it is awkward to use. reg. veggie peeler worked better for me. i will have to scout out the uni-tool. i love kitchen gadgets. i have the other 3.

17 Kristin { 01.29.15 at 7:17 pm }

Wish they had put pictures with each kitchen tool. Then at least we would know what the palm peeler & uni-tool look like. Could be using a fancy name for common every day articles for all I know!

18 Lynne Mann { 01.29.15 at 3:49 pm }

I have a uni tool — it is stainless steel but a wonderful tool — I have to find one for the non-stick wear !!! Never seen a palm peeler though.

19 Terria { 01.29.15 at 2:54 pm }

I am wondering that also. lol

20 Bobbi { 01.29.15 at 1:28 pm }

Yes, I’m curious too! Never heard of a palm peeler or a uni-tool.

21 Jilian { 01.29.15 at 1:22 pm }

Article has photos of the things most people know, but what does a palm peeler and uni-tool look like? Especially the palm peeler.

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