10 Kitchen Gadgets You Probably Don’t Need
Kitchen specialty stores and gourmet kitchen websites are full of kitchen gadgets. Some of these gadgets can be very useful, while others may be unnecessary when you consider how many tools in your kitchen can perform the same job. Collecting kitchen gadgets can become a costly hobby. Instead of shelling out money each year for a special griddle to make sandwiches or a miniature blender to make smoothies, look in your kitchen cupboards and drawers. You may be surprised to find the best new kitchen gadgets are the ones you already own.
Smoothies are a popular breakfast drink and on-the-go meal. There are gadgets that claim to blend the perfect smoothie. But, these blenders have a limited use and many are difficult to clean. Instead of buying a special machine to make smoothies, use a standard blender. If you want to make personal-sized smoothies, mix the ingredients in a pint size mason jar. Glass mason jars with a regular mouth lid are the same size as the blender base, and can sometimes actually be used in place of the blender’s pitcher. Some brands of blenders offer smaller blender jars that come with a lid.
A panini press is one of those gadgets that has a single use – making pressed sandwiches. If you have a sauté pan, a fry pan or a cast iron skillet, you can make panini sandwiches without the fancy press. To make panini sandwiches without a panini press, put the sandwich in the pan and place a heavy skillet or foil-wrapped brick on top of the sandwich. The sandwich may not come out with grill lines, but you will have a warm and toasty sandwich without the added expense.
Electric steamers are designed to steam vegetables but these gadgets can also be used to re-heat leftovers. These devices consist of a large base that heats water and circulates the steam through clear plastic food containers. Electric steamers require a large space for cooking and storage.
An alternative to steaming vegetables in an electric steamer is to place a wire mesh strainer or colander inside a saucepan. There are also specially made vegetable steaming trays that can be found for less than $10. Another alternative to the electric steamer is to purchase a combination rice cooker and vegetable steamer. These combination steamers can make rice, vegetables and even soup.
Pastry bags are an indispensable tool when there is a cake or cupcakes to frost. Unfortunately, pastry bags are hard to clean and too expensive to throw away in the garbage. An inexpensive replacement is to use a gallon size, heavy duty freezer bag. A freezer bag will work the same as a pastry bag. Fill the bag with frosting and push the frosting into one corner. Twist the top of the bag, cut off the corner and start frosting the cake.
A wok is another kitchen gadget that can easily be replaced with a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Cast iron skillets retain heat well and can attain a high heat at a lower stove temperature than other types of fry pans. Also, a wok takes up quite a bit of cupboard space for something that may only be used on an occasional basis.
An essential kitchen gadget for the home gardener is a compost pail. While there are kitchen compost pails that look attractive sitting on a kitchen counter and have a charcoal filter to prevent odors from escaping from the compost pail, you can skip spending $20 or $30 dollars on and use a plastic food grade container. Just take the kitchen scraps out to the compost pile or worm bin every evening. Garbage and kitchen scraps that are allowed to accumulate in the kitchen cause odors and attract pests. Consider making your own small metal compost tin out of an empty coffee can.
Electric Grills and Griddles
Electric grills make it convenient to grill meats, vegetables and fruits. Electric griddles make easy work of frying eggs, bacon and pancakes. Electric grills and griddles are handy when you have a large family to feed or if they are used on a regular basis. They are also large, require a significant amount of counter space to cook on and may be difficult to store. Cast iron skillets, grill pans and round griddles are the perfect substitute for an electric grill or a griddle. When properly seasoned, cast iron is non-stick and easy to maintain. Cast iron will not warp, cannot be scratched by metal utensils and can truly last a lifetime.
Coffee grinders come in a variety of sizes and can be electric or hand operated. No matter which type you choose, most are designed for one purpose. Instead of grinding coffee beans in a specially designed gadget, use a blender. To make cleanup easier, use a small mason jar or blender jar. The ground coffee can also be stored in this smaller jar.
Culinary torches may seem like a necessity when you want to caramelize a sugary dessert topping. Many culinary torches are expensive and require butane refills. An oven broiler will turn a sugary topping into a bubbly brown crust in just a few minutes.
When a recipe calls for sifted flour, forget the gadgets and get out a wire mesh strainer. Flour sifters have a crank that makes sifting the flour faster. When using a wire mesh strainer, just shake the strainer back and forth over the bowl and the flour will sift just as quickly.
There are many kitchen gadgets out there that claim to make your life simpler. Before making a kitchen purchase, ask yourself if you really need the gadget and if it is worth spending the money. There might already be something in your kitchen that can do the same job.