I love cooking. I really do. There’s a craftsmanship to cooking that I find extremely rewarding in and of itself, even aside from whatever meal I’ve produced.
This is true to the extent that I will occasionally make food and then not have any interest in eating it. This is much to my husband’s constant horror, as a person who loathes the idea of “wasting” anything. He doesn’t understand that it’s the act of production that I was craving, sometimes, and sometimes the resulting meal is little more than a post-cooking mess to be cleaned up. I know, I'm weird, I know.
Unsurprisingly, my love of cookery has inspired me to many a strange kitchen purchase, of gadgets large and small, multi-purpose and obscure. I have two Crock Pots in different sizes, a rice cooker, a breadmaker, an ice cream/sorbet maker, and an espresso machine taking up space on my kitchen counter, all of which I use. (Well, I haven’t used the breadmaker in awhile.) I also have a Russell Hobbs electric kettle that I bought when Service Merchandise went out of business and that I use literally six or seven times a day.
Hidden away, I have a popcorn popper, pressure cooker, panini press, deep fryer (really this belongs to my husband, as I am terrified of it, it being essentially a searing-hot metal bucket of BOILING OIL), food processor, and an expensive Braun juicer that I bought on ridiculous sale simply because I had a sudden desire to make my own carrot juice. All of these get used, too, although less frequently.
Though it would be easy for me to say I have an overabundance of kitchen contraptions -- and depending on your personal standards, I might -- I can’t say I find their presence in my life embarassing or even useless. They all serve a purpose.
(Well, except for the Braun juicer. Have you ever juiced things on a regular basis? It is super annoying. There’s not a lot of liquid in a carrot. Also the cleanup is disgusting. I’d rather just eat the carrot in its normal solid form.)
Being something of a self-appointed kitchen-crap expert, I thought I would share a few of my recent kitcheny obsessions with you. With pictures. Pictures that demonstrate why I should never be allowed to take my own product pictures.
The one I bought is by Kyocera, renowned makers of sharp things for cutting stuff, but you can probably find one of these in your local Asian market just as easily. The grater is a small ceramic dish with a raised platform in the center lined with bunches of super-sharp porcelain teeth.
If you’ve done much ginger-grating in your life, you know one of the annoying bits about the process is getting the delicious ginger flavor out of the gross stringy ginger fiber where it happily resides. This grater rends the two lovers in twain in a manner far more expeditious than my old plastic-framed non-ginger-specific grater, which is actually cracking in several places owing to the forcefulness of my grating activities.
Hey, I told you I mostly cook for stress relief.
As a bonus, you can also use a porcelain ginger grater to grate garlic. I can’t stand the old-fashioned garlic press, as it mostly just pulverizes the garlic rather can mincing it, plus it is a huge pain in the ass to properly clean. Screw you, garlic press! Although I probably won’t get rid of it because I have a block against getting rid of kitchen things. (That’s a whole other post.)
I know: “What’s with all the grating, Lesley?” For whatever reason I find myself grating things a lot. I am a huge fan of these Zyliss rotary graters for grating fresh cheese -- usually Parmigiano-Reggiano, although feel free to substitute your hard cheese of choice -- which can seriously make the most boring lazy throw-together slop into a wicked delicious meal. When I am low on grocery money, I will still buy fresh parmesan cheese, because even just grated over some cheap pasta with olive oil, it is delicious.
The version above is actually a replacement for our first grater, which my husband broke via his own emphatic grating style. We’re hard graters in this household, it seems. This particular model comes with two grating barrels, one for fine grating, which is what you’d use for a parmesan or other hard cheese, and one for coarse, which you’d use for cheddar or some other milder cheese. SO MUCH GRATING.
I’m a fan of loose teas, but not a fan of the typical “tea-ball” means of steeping them by the cup. They never seem to fully close, and they don’t leave room for the tea, or whatever I’m steeping, to float around all free and relaxed-like.
This little wonder is a super-fine mesh basket that fits in every teacup and coffeemug I own, and lets me brew up whatever I like with room to spare, and with no little bits of stuff left floating in the cup afterward. As obsessive as I am about tea, I am not a person who is really into tea gadgets in general, even though there are loads of them out there, most only marginally useful if at all.
I just want good tea. So I stick with this stainless basket and use it all day long, whether I’m steeping unbroken hibiscus flowers or rooibos or yerba mate or plain old organic assam. It does the job perfectly, and is the only thing I know that successfully steeps finer stuff like rooibos without filling the cup itself with debris.
Annnnnd we’re back to making things small again. This is another fine Kyocera product I came across whilst looking for a new peppermill. Brilliantly, this all-ceramic (and therefore rust-proof) grinder can grind your pepper if you like, but it can also satisfy all of your spice-grinding needs -- including but not limited to virtually any kind of seed, salt, or other tiny hard thing you want to destroy -- in one handy little product.
The grind is even adjustable, so you can pulverize things into tiny little flecks with PRECISION.
While I’m on about this mill, I’d also like to give a shoutout to Trader Joe’s smoked sea salt. Have you tried this stuff? It smells like a campfire and tastes amazing on plain popcorn.
Okay, so I may be a salt snob. I don’t even know if this is a thing that other people are, or if it’s something I made up in my head to validate my extreme pickyness with regard to how I sodium up my food. Table salt is simply too SALTY, which I realize is a ridiculous thing to observe about salt. I tend to use either sea salt or coarse kosher salt at home, because I find it more difficult to overuse. Also I think they taste different. I’m sure some scientist will read this and say “IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD, LESLEY. SALT IS SALT,” but table salt, kosher salt, and sea salt all taste different to me.
Anyway, I’ve traditionally kept my salt in a container called a salt pig; essentially it’s an egg-shaped ceramic dish with an opening in one side. (Interesting historical aside: In a pre-salt-shaker world, up to the 1940s, folks used salt cellars to season their food, which were small dishes designed to hold salt that would be doled out with a tiny spoon. Once anti-clumping agents were introduced into salt production, the use of more-hygenic shakers came into vogue, and the salt cellar/pig era ended.)
I like the tangibility of salt from a salt pig; I like being able to see exactly how much I am adding, rather than shaking an unknown volume into my food and hoping for the best. So when my old salt pig cracked, I looked for a replacement. Enter the futuristic-looking Prepsolutions salt spaceship above. It holds my salt, it has a cover that doubles as a pinch bowl, AND it has little shaker holes on the back, big enough for coarse salts, for the rare times when I just want to shake some salt on my food. PERFECTION.
So there you have it: the five kitchen things I’m currently all aflutter over. What’s your current favorite kitchen gadget? What gadgetry do you wish you had taking up precious kitchen-counter real estate right now? Bring it in the comments.