In our cookbook we often mention certain pieces of kitchen equipment or gadgets that we use. We admit we are both gadget-aholics. To us, gadgets are a big part of what makes cooking fun, easy, and interesting. So we decided to show you pictures and descriptions of all our favorite kitchen stuff. Please don’t think you have to have any of these things to make our recipes--well, there are a couple things in this list that are very helpful--but maybe our list will entice you to start or add to your own gadget collection to ramp up your cooking enjoyment. (And what great gift ideas to put on your wish list!) These are not professional pictures of perfect pieces…all are a little scratched up, some may still be dusty from flour, and most look well used for sure. We will be adding new pieces from time to time, so check back to this tab and scroll to the bottom now and then to see what's new!
Kitchen Aid Mixer
This is a foundational piece of equipment and the most expensive for sure. Mine (Janice) is 30 years old at least…I saved up babysitting money to buy this back when my kids were little! It is a quality mixer that will last a lifetime and worth all the effort it takes to save the money to buy one. Notice the hook attachment? That is the dough hook for kneading bread dough. You will love it. This mixer will opened up a whole new world to us!
9-cup Kitchen Aid Food Processor
The size is important here. You must have at least a 9-cup to be big enough to really be helpful and powerful enough. This makes so many things in the kitchen fast and easy and fun to do. Grate cheese in a flash, blend cream cheese straight from the fridge in seconds, chop fresh cranberries for muffins, make your own pesto, slice potatoes ultra thin…the list just goes on and on. You will wonder how you ever lived without this wonderful machine.
Half Sheet Pan, 13 X 9 X 1
This baking pan is designed for commercial use. Carissa started buying these when she had her “Carissa’s Cookies” business, because the durable, aluminum construction bakes evenly and browns uniformly, while the light color prevents over-browning, which is very important in cookies. And now we both have several of these—and we got rid of all other baking pans. We bought ours at a restaurant supply store (a wonderful place to visit!) but I have recently seen them at Wal-Mart.
This is the companion to your half sheet pan. It is perfect for non-stick baking and cooking and ensures easy cleanup. You can buy this in perfect sized sheets, or by the roll. You can use this paper in the oven up to 450 degrees. This is another item you will wonder how you ever lived without!
Cuisinart 600-Watt Blender
The main thing to remember when buying a blender is to make sure it is powerful, otherwise its use is more limited. We love this heavy-duty one; it can puree a hot soup, or crush ice for a smoothie. Blenders usually handle liquid ingredients a little better than the food processor.
You just can’t beat a good knife. If you have nothing else in your kitchen you splurge on, this is the one item to buy the best of; and knives are where you get what you pay for most of the time. Nothing makes cooking more of a chore than poor quality, dull knives. Here are my (Janice) 3 most used ones of my knife collection. Notice they are not from a matching set! The middle one, a 6-inch cook’s knife, is my most used knife, and if I had no other one, I could make do with this one. It is also my most expensive knife (a Christmas present from hubby, at my request!). One other important thing about knives is that they are only as good as how sharp you keep them. Hubby handles that part for me, fortunately.
Silicone Heat Proof Spatulas
I used to grab a wooden spoon for everything till I discovered these various spatulas that will withstand up to 450 degree temperatures. These stir better, scrape better, and some even have a bit of a “spoon” on them to dish up food easily. I still use some wooden spoons, but probably one of these heat proof spatulas are used more often now days, because they are simply more efficient. I actually have about 3 times as many as you see pictured!
Cutting Boards—go for a variety
This is another item we each have a plethora of. I didn’t even include quite all of them in this picture either! We much prefer wood boards to plastic, as they don’t dull your knife, and wood is just pretty to work with! I do like the big plastic one for cutting up a roast or lots of tomatoes, as the juice can flow into the little ridge on the outer edge, rather than onto your floor. The smallest of my boards is just right for cutting a lemon, apple, or jalapeño on. Then there is one that fits a loaf of homemade bread, and can sit right on the table to cut slices as you need them. My favorite of my boards though, is one made of bamboo. It is a pretty wood, but also very lightweight, which is an important feature to old people!
I have several metal tongs, but find there are times simple plastic ones are better, such as turning something in a Teflon coated pan. These little black ones I use the most of all. They make handy little serving tongs for dishing up salad, grated cheese, or for picking up small foods you don’t want to use your hands on. These are inexpensive but very useful.
Shortening Measuring Cup
This is such a handy measuring device for shortening, peanut butter, thick honey, or molasses. You don’t have to dig the ingredients out of a cup after measuring, but rather push the bottom cup up to push out the ingredients. This little white one is very old—not sure you can find that kind anymore, but the yellow push up cup is easily available now days.
Puts your nuts in the top of this gadget, turn the handle, and you have instant chopped nuts. Very handy.
Measuring Cups…and more measuring cups
As you can see, we like measuring cups. This is my (Janice) collection, but I know Carissa has just as many herself! Now, when unloading the dishwasher after a morning of my baking, my husband never fails to mumble, “Why does anybody need this many measuring cups!” I really do, at times, have most of them dirty. Part of the reason is I actually use them for little mixing bowls. If I need ¼ cup melted butter that is going to be whisked with an egg, for example, I will melt my butter in a 1 cup (glass only) measuring cup in the microwave, then add my egg and whisk in—then pour it into a larger measuring cup, possibly with the dry ingredients whisked together in it. Measuring cups make nice “bowls” because of their handle, plus they can measure before they mix! Some of my collection I have had for 37 years or so, as you can see by the faded writing on them.
Angled Measuring Cup
I have to point out the helpful advantages of this particular measuring cup. The markings are on the inside, so you can look down into the cup to measure accurately, rather than having to bend down to look at a side measurement. This eliminates the need to fill, check, and adjust while measuring.
Muffin Tins—Try Different Sizes
This wacky looking tool is not essential, but it is very handy for stirring stiff yeast dough batter or a delicate muffin batter you don’t want to over mix. Since most yeast dough is made in my Kitchen Aid mixer, I mainly use this tool for mixing muffins.
When I made gravy or pudding, this is the tool I reach for. Something about the shape is just perfect for eliminating lumps.
Mini Serving Spatula
Perfect for serving small squares of brownies or any square out of a pan. The Teflon coated one works well on Teflon or delicate pans. Very handy to have.
Immersion Hand Blender
We got into making creamed soups a few years ago, and found the immersion hand blender made that task so much easier and safer than transferring a hot soup mixture to the blender. We went many years without one of these…but it sure if fun to see how fast it makes any soup into a smooth and creamy mixture! This is a very fun gadget.
Stainless Steel Cookie Scoops
This is like a small old fashioned ice cream scoop. We have the 1 tablespoon and 3 tablespoon sizes. They work not only cookies, but also muffins, and we like them for making uniform meatballs. This is one of our favorite gadgets.
Now this pan is amazing. It perfectly drains the fat off a meatloaf so the meatloaf does not sit in and simmer in the fat drippings. I really like this pan set up! It is a clever invention. You might have to do some research to find one of these—I ordered mine through a catalog years ago. I don’t think I have ever seen one in a store, but they are readily available on line.
We have a lot of these…this is just a sampling. When we cook a recipe, we measure out each spice or small ingredient amount into separate condiment bowls, then when we know all is measured, we dump each in at the specified time. This can sure save you grief if you get a phone call in the middle of a recipe, and you don’t remember if you added the salt or not…
I have a 4-cup and a 1 cup size of this handy gadget. You won’t find anything that separates grease from broth faster and easier. Pour your broth into the separator cup and watch the fat rise to the top while the broth settles to the bottom. The spout will pour from the bottom of the cup and leave the grease behind. It’s a great way to cut the fat. Another big time favorite of ours!
Bench Scraper ~ also called Dough Scraper
This stainless steel scraper has many uses. The edge is sharp to cut through dough to divide it; it can be used to cut biscuit squares, or maybe pastry into strips. It is also good for gathering up chopped nuts or onions to take them to a pan or bowl.
I used a lemon reamer for years, till I got one of these. This is so much faster and easier to get the juice from a cut lemon.
Garlic releases its flavor best when it is smashed into very small pieces. A garlic press does this easier and better than a knife can. My simple garlic press gets lots of use.
This handy gadget with razor sharp edges will take just the top layer of peel off a lemon or orange to make delightful zest for you recipes. It is also good for grating fresh ginger.
This is the progression of my (Janice) kitchen thermometers over the years. The one on the right stays in meat or poultry the whole cooking time. The middle one is an instant read you stick in and check the temperature. The red one on the left is my newest (and most expensive). It is called a Thermopen , and is the kind used in restaurants. I like to use this to test a loaf of bread to see if it is done—much better than tapping and guessing! This is kind of my new “toy.” I got this for Christmas last year, and so far I really love it!
Biscuit Cutter Set
It is nice to have these 3 sizes to choose from for biscuits. These cutters have sharp edges that go quickly through biscuit dough without compressing the dough, which impairs the rise of the biscuit.
Pastry Cloth and Rolling Pin Cover
A pastry cloth keeps dough from sticking as you roll it out, and keeps you from getting too much flour in your pastry, as the flour goes into the cloth and not into the dough. The stocking like cover on the rolling pin keeps dough from sticking to the rolling pin. I use these for biscuits and for pie crusts.
I never saw the need of a rice cooker till I was given one several years ago. Now I consider it a necessity! The nicest thing about it is that you don‘t have to time your rice at all. Just put in the proper amount of rice and water and start it. It turns off on its own when the rice is done, and it will sit and stay warm for a good 30 minutes or more till you are ready to serve it.
I use this appliance several times a week—sometimes every day! It is so easy to use, and such a healthy way to cook vegetables. I even steam potatoes for mashed potatoes. I pretty much steam anything that can be steamed!
Balloon Whisk ~ large and small
I think whisks are fun to use. They make you feel like you are really getting things done! A whisk is ideal for beating, whippng, and for mixing eggs, sauces, and more. I like to blend dry ingredients together with a whisk. I use a small whisk for vinegarettes and frothing hot chocolate.
This is an old fashioned batter bowl I got at an antique place. It is just right for mixing and pouring. I also have a simple plastic one. This is the perfect pancake mixing/pouring bowl.
My first food scale was the top one. It works well for larger things. Carissa has used a digital scale for cookie making for years--it keeps cookies consistent from batch to batch to weigh the flour rather than measuring flour in a measuring cup. I recently was given this slim black digital scale for a gift, and I am finding all sorts of handy uses for it.
Small Loaf Pans
A small loaf pan is half the size of a regular loaf pan. So the batter from one loaf of bread can be divided between 2 small pans to make smaller loaves. This is very handy for small "gift" loaves. Also, a big advantage of a smaller loaf pan is that your bread cooks faster--and in the case of tea breads--you don't have to worry so much about the center being undercooked. The picture on the right shows the comparison of sizes.
Ok, I admit this gadget is a little over the top. You may not have even heard of this before, and it is not really a necessity...but it sure is fun and makes the fluffiest mashed potatoes. Simply place soft food in the bowl of the ricer, then place this ricer over any bowl or pot, squeeze the gadget's handles, and mashed fruits and vegetables, especially potatoes, ooze right through. For mashed potatoes, you just add your warm milk and butter and stir--and you have soft, fluffy potatoes.