These culinary tools make cooking and cleanup a whole lot easier.
By Carol Brock
The use of tools was once thought to be a mark of human superiority—until scientists discovered that primates, birds and other creatures make and use tools just as effectively as people.
But when it comes to the kitchen, tools are a mark of culinary expertise. Cooking is a whole lot easier and more efficient with the proper tools at hand.
We polled Boulder County Home & Garden Magazine (H&G) staff to see which gadgets they can’t live without, and compiled a “kitchen must-haves” list. Hopefully, some of these will become your tools of choice, too. Although we listed websites for these items, most can be found at local stores.
“Our family loves fresh cherries and gobbles down pounds when they’re in season,” says H&G writer Mary Lynn Bruny. But without her cherry pitter, eating fresh cherries would be the pits. “I also like to garnish cheese platters with red and yellow pitted cherries. Guests are always pleasantly surprised when they don’t have to spit out messy pits while trying to have a conversation.” BTW, pitters work on olives, too! (Available at www.oxo.com)
Woody-stemmed herbs like rosemary, sage and thyme are tasty and delicious in all sorts of dishes, but they’re a time-consuming pain to prepare. But the Zipstrip herb stripper separates leaves from stems in, well, a zip. “This is a tool I constantly use,” says H&G advertising executive Linda Wigod. The stripper’s differently sized holes fit any woody-stemmed herb, and the leaves collect in the stripper’s handy attached measuring bowl. A convenient way to add zip to any meal! (Available at www.chefn.com)
I cook a lot, and parchment paper is my lifesaver. I line every single pan with parchment to cook anything from fish filets and corn bread to stuffed peppers and roasted veggies. Parchment saves me a ton of cleanup time, as all the oil and juices collect in the paper that you simply wad and toss after cooking (or, if it’s not waxed, compost). What could be easier? Pack everything in parchment and you’ll be pleased! (Available at most grocery stores and www.reynoldsconsumerproducts.com)
I love roasted garlic on bread or tossed into nearly any dish. But it’s a pain to wrap the bulb in foil with water and use the whole oven to roast one tiny bulb—plus, it often roasts inconsistently. The Cast-Iron Garlic Roaster turns out a perfectly roasted bulb every time. It works in the oven or on the grill, it’s easy to clean and it holds one large or two small bulbs. You still have to chop off the bulb top and spritz the roaster with cooking spray or oil, but the garlic turns out deliciously creamy every time. (Available at www.crateandbarrel.com)
“I never really thought about it,” reflects H&G advertising executive June Lantz, “but when I saw a cheese button at a friend’s house, I realized how many different fingers fondle the cheese if you don’t have a button!” The cheese button keeps hands on the button and off your cheese. An added benefit: no sticky fingers! (Available at www.swissmar.com)
Fresh lime and lemon juice ups the flavor in countless dishes and drinks. “I couldn’t live without a citrus press,” says H&G editorial art director Karen Sperry. “I cook with fresh lime juice all the time. And nothing beats a Margarita made with fresh lime juice instead of that sickeningly sweet corn-syrup mix.” ’Nuff said. (Karen found her favorite press at McGuck-in Hardware; it’s also at www.pamperedchef.com)
Serious cooks are serious about fresh herbs. From cilantro and parsley to sage and thyme, fresh herbs literally perk up any meal. Don’t like all that chopping, you say? Snip instead. “I use herb scissors for everything,” Linda Wigod says. Not only does it make quick work of herbs, the multi-bladed herb scissor also chops up softer vegetables like squash, mushrooms, lettuce, kale and more. (Available at www.surlatable.com)
“I used to use a rectangular, clasp-handled grate to cook fish, but the marinade would burn off and pieces of cooked fish would fall through,” says H&G publisher Tom Brock. After a visit to his sister’s home in Hawaii, Tom traded in his grate for a metal grilling bowl after using hers to grill fresh Maui ono. “The bowl is terrific because it cooks evenly, keeps sauces on the fish, and the small holes allow grilling flavors to permeate the fish, making it really tender and delicious!” (Tom found his bowl at McGuckin Hardware; it’s also at www.mrbarbq.com)
Like anyone trying to live the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), I was delighted when June Lantz turned me on to The Bag Tree. “For the conservationist!” she enthuses. This handy tool stores plastic storage bags of all sizes, water bottles, plastic containers and lids, Camel-Bak bladders, soft-sided lunch pails and even kitchen gloves while the items dry out. It actually looks like a tree, too, so it’s a handsome addition to a countertop. I used to wash plastic bags and place them on the windowsill, where they didn’t dry unless I propped them open so air could reach the inside. The Bag Tree props bags for you. The sustainable and green “tree” is made of roble wood, a Forest Stewardship Council–certified wood. (Available at www.thebagtree.net)
H&G publication art director Peggy Doyle usually eats salad every day. “My bottle of white wine in the fridge” is her favorite kitchen “tool,” she quips, adding, “but seriously, I love the Measure, Mix and Pour for making salad dressing.” The two-piece container has a whisk that blends up ingredients in a breeze, and recipes with measurements are printed right on the container so it’s a no-brainer to whip up healthy dressings in minutes. (Available at www.pamperedchef.com)
Do you use a lot of oil and vinegar? If so, you probably get annoyed when the liquid dribbles down the side of the bottle when you pour. Slippery bottles and oil rings on cabinets and counters are a thing of the past with the self-closing pour spout. “I put these spouts on all my oil and vinegar bottles,” reports Mary Lynn Bruny, “and no more dribbles.” (Available at www.oliverdeoil.com)