Sunday Food Thread: Kitchen Tools Edition

Hey there, Avocados. Let’s talk kitchen gadgets. While I don’t share Alton Brown’s total hatred for unitasking items (My espresso machine only makes espresso and I WILL CUT YOU if you try to take it away) but I do generally feel tools should do more than one thing. So… what are the tools that you can’t live without? What are the items used once and then shoved to the back of your cupboard? What have you never even taken out of the box? Tell us your Top 5 Best & Worst kitchen toolsMine are below.

The Best:
1. Cast iron skillet. This is a kitchen workhorse. Nothing holds and evenly distributes heat like cast iron. You can easily go from the stove top to the oven. It’s durable. Easy to clean. Naturally non-stick. Doubles as a weapon. I love my cast iron skillet so much that I still use it even though I have a glass stove top and am not supposed to.

2. Microplane/fine zester. I hate chopping garlic. The only thing I hate more than chopping garlic is trying to wash a garlic press. I also find that being able to grate something directly into a pot is more convenient than having to do separate food prep. My microplane does everything that a garlic press does while also grating cheese, grating nutmeg, zesting citrus, and being much easier to clean.

3. Chef’s knife. I have the same giant block of knives that everyone buys when they’re first starting out, but I really only use the chef’s knife. It does pretty much everything: butcher meat, chop vegetables, mince herbs.

4. Stand mixer. My cookies are boss, and one of my secrets to great texture is that I don’t faff around with softened butter. I cream together sugar with butter that is just short of being frozen. There’s no way I could do it by hand. Enter: my Kitchenaid stand mixer, which I love more than I love some of my relatives.

5. Instant read thermometer. I am a former chronic overcooker of chicken. This is how I stopped. It’s also handy for baking. No more subjective “is that springing back” tests on my pecan pies. They are done when the center reaches 200F. A good thermometer is also essential if you make candy.

Honorable mentions: knife sharpener, spring-loaded tongs

The Worst:

1. Mandoline. Maybe these are great and I just had an unfortunately shitty one, but this thing was more work than just slicing with a knife, didn’t produce the perfectly even cuts I was promised, and the whole experience felt like an amputation waiting to happen.

2. Quesadilla maker. This got some use when I was living a college dorm lifestyle in a studio apartment, but I have a real kitchen and a skillet and no reason to let this thing keep eating up storage space.

3. Manual citrus juicer. I honestly don’t see any difference between using this and just squeezing the fruit in my hand. Except that the latter I never forget to rinse and then spend the next day cursing my existence because dried-on pulp is surprisingly hard to scrub off.

4. The giant block-o-knives. Out of the twelve knives that came in my set, I use five: the chef’s knife and the four steak knives. The rest are just there to take up space.

5. Meat shredding claws. Unless you’re running a BBQ food truck and need to quickly shred meat for hundreds of people, this doesn’t do anything that can’t be done with a couple of forks. They’re probably more useful for self defense than for cooking.

Author’s note: I intentionally left off “as seen on TV” kitchen tools because many of them are really intended to be adaptive devices for people with disabilities. I’m glad someone figured out how to make these tools commercially viable. I just wish the ads weren’t so terrible.