I opened this morning's OREGONIAN FoodDay page (http://www.oregonlive.com/foodday/index.ssf/2010/02/smart_stuff_for_your_kitchen.html), there on page one was a feature on Portland cook's favorite kitchen gadgets. Under "our tool tipsters" was yours truly with a plug for stovetopreadings.com. I thought there were a lot of thoughtful selections of kitchen gadgets that make our kitchen work easier. Add me to the group of people who have newly discovered the immersion blender. I've owned mine for at least six or seven years, but it was kept in a box in the back of my pantry. No more. I recently made a split pea soup and the immersion blender made quick work of turning it into a silky potage. It's nice to see vintage cast iron making a comeback in kitchens. I discovered my 12-inch cast iron skillet (made by Wagner Ware) in a friend's home. I took this pan which was covered with decades of grime and buildup, home and put it in my self-cleaning oven, which needed to be cleaned anyway. The next morning I pulled the skillet out of the oven and it was as clean as the day the previous owner bought it. The intense heat from the self-cleaning oven disintegrated the layers of grime, leaving a whisper of ash to wipe clean. The pan retained it's smooth patina and needed only a rubbing of vegetable oil (a small amount) to get it ready for cooking again. I now have about four pieces of Wagner Ware and the even more collectable Griswold cast iron. Vintage cast iron is still relatively cheap and you can find it not only on E-bay, but also at antique shops (where you will pay higher prices), resale outlets and junk stores. But the best bargain cast iron to be found is at garage sales. Nothing conducts heat better than cast iron. You can put sear a big juicy Porterhouse steak on both sides and then finish cooking it in the oven in a cast iron pan and the results will rival anything you can get in an expensive steakhouse. Its only limitation is that it will not produce a good sauce with anything acidic in it such as lemon juice or vinegar.
Other gadgets that caught my eye in the Oregonian included:
The Kuhn Rikon vegetable peeler, which has changed the way I peel vegetables. Now it's a breeze to peel apples and pears for pie, and it's strong enough to strip off the really tough skin of a butternut squash.
Some 35 years after it was first introduced, the food processor is now taken for granted in kitchens. But it started a revolution. For slicing vegetables and fruit, chopping onions, making making mayonnaise, salsas, pie and pizza dough, pureeing vegetables, and so many other chores, there is nothing quicker than the food processor. I just bought my second Cuisinart, which is the first major overhaul of the classic design in Cuisinart's history.
The article offers other great gadget advice, as well as those things we didn't like such as slow cookers, grill pans, pasta maker, turkey basters and gravy fat separators.
My choices in this article were tongs, which I couldn't cook without, and the pressure cooker. I've been a fan of since I first purchased a newly designed stainless steel model from T-Fal in 1982! My mother cooked with an old Presto aluminum pressure cooker in the 50s and 60s. We never had one of those explosions that most people remember. But even with the sleek new stainless steel models, which won't explode no matter how careless the cook is, people just can't seem to get their heads around them. They are a fabulous kitchen appliance, easy to use, and they produce a wide range of flavorful foods from soups and stews to bean and vegetables. I can make a fabulous risotto in six minutes that will totally blow away any version prepared in a slow cooker or microwave oven. It can be a seafood risotto or a classic Milanese, or any type of vegetable from asparagus or artichoke to Butternut Squash or Truffles with Parmesan. No less a food legend than Jacques Pepin has declared the pressure cooker as "an essential piece of equipment at my house," and included recipes for the pressure cooker in his last two cookbooks. Now there are electric pressure cookers which are just as safe and easier to use and have the advantage of timers which turn off when the recipe is finished!
Kitchen gadgets--we just couldn't live without them!