Considering Convenience:
My Favorite Kitchen Tools

Last night I had supper atop a glade in the middle of the Missouri Ozarks. The October evening was unseasonably warm, the sun hanging low above the surrounding oaks and cedars, the dog splashing in the creek at the bottom of the hollow. (That’d be the ‘holler’ if I lived in Mizz-ur-ra, not Mizz-ur-ee.)

LadyDog surveying the glade

Over a small Indian fire, we cooked buffalo steaks, toasted whole-grain rolls, and roasted apples, all speared onto V-necked dogwood shoots and balanced over the embers by a heat-reflecting stone. Twas some feast.

Twas some feast, yes, but one of considerable incongruity too, given that the buffalo and the rolls came from Whole Foods – but then were cooked entirely without benefit of modern convenience save a sharp knife and stick matches.

It just goes to show, technology isn’t a necessity, it’s a convenience – which isn’t to say that we all don’t rely on these conveniences, that they don’t make our lives easier, even better.

Here are ten conveniences that make my life in the kitchen better, easier, kitchen technology that makes me happy to live in the modern world – so long as every once in awhile, “supper is served” in the woods.

Slow Cooker – I recently invested in a programmable slow cooker with 'high' and 'low' and 'keep warm' features – for the first time, I understand why home cooks love their slow cookers. Watch for slow-cooker adaptations of many Kitchen Parade recipes in the next year.

Kitchen Scale – Time and again, I pull out my kitchen scale to measure ingredients, especially for ones such as cheese and nuts and vegetables that measured by either weight and volume. The kitchen scale helps me use ‘just enough’ – not too much, not too little.

Nutrition Analysis Software – Software helps answer ‘what if’ questions related to ingredients and portion size. ‘What if’ I used 1 tablespoon olive oil versus the 4 tablespoons specified? What if this apple pie were cut into 10 slim slices versus 8 generous pieces? For my Windows laptop, I relied on AccuChef. Now that I use a Mac, I use Mac Gourmet and its nutrition analysis plug-in.

FoodSaver – Since paying close attention to cooking on a budget, I’ve started buying meat once a month, then stocking the freezer. The first month, I used the butcher’s packaging, what a mistake. Now I repack the meat into meal-sized portions and also, say, separately package the backs and wings of chickens for making chicken stock, and later then, freeze already-cooked meat for another meal. The FoodSaver vacuum seals the air out of the packaging, so the meat doesn’t get freezer burned and doesn’t leak into the fridge while defrosting. Many thanks to Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen for encouraging this purchase!

Immersion Blender – I do love my Cuisinart food processor but it’s the immersion blender I turn to more often, both the blender itself and the mini food processor attachment. They’re small, handy and easily fit into the dishwasher.



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Electric tea kettle – Do we really need an appliance that boils water? Well, yes, at least I do. Faster than the stove or the microwave, an electric tea kettle heats the water for a fast soup or fast plate of pasta. My small electric kettle from Presto boils water to the perfect temperature for tea, too!

Ice Cream Maker – This molasses ice cream reminded me how fun it is to create unusual ice cream flavors, with cream and eggs and sugar, no stabilizers, no chemicals. An ice cream maker makes it oh-so-convenient.

Food Blog Search – If you love the creativity and common sense recipes of food bloggers, be sure to bookmark the food blog search engine designed by food bloggers Elise, Kalyn and me that includes (so far!) 2600 top food blogs from across the world.

Delicious – Once you find an enticing recipe on Food Blog Search, save it for later using Delicious. Tag the recipes with your own terms, whatever will make it easy to find them later. I use terms like ‘zucchini’, ‘brown rice’, even qualities like ‘easy’ and cooking occasions like my ‘book club’. It's also easy to share your collection with friends and family, just send them the link to your very own page on Delicious. For A Veggie Venture, I use Delicious to collect delicious-looking vegetable recipes from other food blogs, called VegetableSpotting.

Printer – Okay so perhaps I’m a kitchen luddite because I don’t carry my laptop into the kitchen to cook from. Me, I want to print the recipe so I can make notes about my own ideas and adaptations, so a printer is essential.


And you? So. That’s my Top Ten list of favorite kitchen tools. What wouldn’t be on your list? What IS on your own list? Drop a quick e-mail, leave a comment. I’d love to know!


Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences.

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I think "real" cooks turn up their noses at a garlic press, but I won't cook without one! (Who needs all that chopping?!) If my house was destroyed (knock wood) a garlic press is the first kitchen item I'd re-buy.
 
I don't have very many kitchen gadgets since I just moved from living with roommates to on my own last year so I stocked up on basics. I just bought an immersion blender and I already love it!
 
Erika ~ Ha, well then that means I'm not a 'real' cook either. I even go a step further: for everyday, I mostly use garlic from a jar. It IS (I tell myself) good garlic, it comes from India or somewhere and it actually does seem more garlicky than the much more expensive jars in the produce department in the typical grocery.

Maris ~ I held off an immersion blender for the longest time, now it's not only one that I use myself but one I give for gifts too!
 
I agree with many of your choices - my immersion blender, along with the attachments, is used all the time. I also like my slow cooker, although I will be curious to watch your blog for recipes that have unique taste (I tend to think a lot of my slow cooker stuff tastes the same, all like beef pot roast).

I am on the fence about a Food Saver, although I have heard Kayln wax poetic about it. My husband is not that into the taste of frozen meat, but he might need to get over that.

Personally, I love my slicer thingy from Germany, my microplaner, my knives, my coffee maker and my Salter scale.
 
I use my garlic press daily, my cast iron tortilla skillet (for eggs, quesadillas, meat, toasting nuts,) it's home is on the stove top because it's so small. I love my salter scale, use it almost daily; my knives (cutco brand). I inherited a lemon juicer that is the size of a fist--it's bottom compartment collects the juice. I use it daily to make my fresh lemon juice/olive oil, garlic dressings.
 
Alannah, many of your tools are at my fingertips as well. Although I recently gave my slow cooker to my daughter...and I definitely hate being without my garlic press or my immersion blender...so fast and easy to use AND to clean.

Great post and I would have loved to have been at your cookout. It sounds fantastic.
 
Gudrun ~ re the slow cooker, ah, that's most interesting, something to watch out for. I think many of my main dish recipes will convert pretty easily, I seem to be a fan of "stews"!

re the frozen meat, it is cooked meat he doesn't like refrozen? It does change the consistency. I've also learned to only get enough meat for a couple of weeks. My old habit was to fill the freezer and then get to the meat months and months later -- although wait, I think that the FoodSaver will at least be some better if that's the process.

Your slicer thingy is a mandoline, yes? It's a good addition to the list! Nice to see another scale lover!

Julie ~ A cast iron skillet is a great addition, yes, I use mine almost every day too. The juicer sounds great, mine is big and clunky.

Ruth ~ Thanks!
 
Salad spinner. Finally gave in and bought one after turning my nose up at the cost for ages. Now...love it and feel like and idiot for waiting so long.

My other must have? A rice cooker. Best thing I ever bought. I used it almost every day.
 
Sally ~ Oh my, how did I forget the salad spinner?! I use it every day!
 
Great post! I really want one of those programmable slow cookers now, since I'm thinking it solves the problem of recipes that are done in 8 hours but you're gone for 11 hours. Christmas gift to myself I'm thinking! So happy to hear you are enjoying the food saver. Be sure to try it for cheese. I swear you can keep it in the fridge for a year and it won't get the least bit moldy.
 
Thanks for the tip on the MacGourmet! I need something to reorganize as I replace all the recipes lost with my computer last year. Oh...and I have everything else on your list (insert sheepish grin). I would only add my Vita-Mix to your list.
 
After thirty-something years of being the chief cook, my favorite tool is a cheap pair of stainless steel scissors. They open packages; they're long enough to reach into the skillet and snip that Italian sausage into smaller pieces while it's browning; they're perfect for chopping fresh herbs or slicing slithery thawed chicken tenders.
 
Hi Alanna - what a useful post! I don't consider my kitchen scale a convenience, it's a necessity. I think life might be unbearable, however, without my trusty KitchenAid.
 
Mine is: tongs, the kind with the latch to keep them together in the drawer.

Runner up: a wide-mouth funnel I bought in a jelly-making kit from Ball a while ago, it's great for pouring all kinds of things, cold, dry whatever!
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna