Medium 9781449309046

Cool Tools in the Kitchen

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Cool tools really work. A cool tool can be any tried-and-true book, gadget, software, video, map, hardware, material, or website. The reviews in this book were written by those of us who have actually used the tool and others like it. We only review things--old or new--that we like and ignore the rest.

This is a curated collection of the best cool tools for the Kitchen. It is not intended as a shopping list or checklist. Consider this a jumping-off point for thinking and re-thinking about what’s possible in your kitchen. Some kitchens can certainly operate with fewer and/or different tools; some might require more. But everything we’ve included here is well worth knowing about.

List price: $2.99

 

8 Slices

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1. Hot Stuff

ePub

So youve decided to make pizza at home. But you quickly discover theres no substitute for a crust baked on brick or stone. No problem: You get a pizza stone! But then you find out that sliding a 12 pizza from a peel onto a 14 stone or wooden board is possible, but just not so easy. After multiple messes, overshoots and fold-overs, you retire the stone. :(

Now, suppose you had a peel with a built-in conveyor belt? The Super Peel is, as difficult as it is to picture, exactly that: A baking peel with a conveyor belt that lifts the delicate, sticky dough from a surface and transfers it onto a board for easy transport. This tool definitely prevents needless baking and pizza disasters.

Place the corner of the pizza onto the peel. Then, slowly retract the peel while pushing the board forward andvoil!the sticky dough simply slides on. To put it back on any surface or stone, simply lower the board until it touches and reverse the process.

 

2. Cutting

ePub

My wifes grandmother seems to effortlessly make dozens of wonderful apple pies. And yet, she has poor hand strength due to advanced rheumatoid arthritis. Finally, we convinced her to pass along the secret behind her pie-making success: She uses one machine to peel/slice/core her apples.

Simply poke the three prongs into the base of an apple and turn the crank. Before you know it, a lovely spiral of apple skin will unfurl before you, leaving a perfectly cored and peeled apple that can be quickly cut into quarters and thrown into a pie.

As soon as you see the device in action, its obvious just how elegant the mechanism is. Its safe for children to use, once the apple is situated on the prongs. Best of all, it makes prepping apples so simple youll wish you had one years ago. Theres a version that clamps to a kitchen bench, but I find the models with a vacuum base are the same price and are far easier to set up and use.

 

3. Liquids

ePub

Considering the implications of carrying around a machete and the likelihood of hacking off a finger, a CocoTap is an invaluable tool for accessing a coconut. A solid 316 stainless tube crafted with a pointed end and a fold-out T-style handle, the device will easily pierce everything from a green coconut and jelly nut to a mature drinking coconut.

I picked up my Barman model at a market in Cairns, Australia. At the time, I was actually after a machete, which Id used while living in Ecuador for many years. When the guy at the market showed me the CocoTap, I was skeptical. But after more than a year of use, Im now on my second trip to the tropics with it. It folds up conveniently and is a hell of a lot easier to pack than a machete. I also use it for all kinds of small jobs requiring something strong, sharp, and pointy. As the website says, its like an extra finger.

 

4. Utensils

ePub

I always used a spoon, until I was given one of these lid poppers. I was skeptical, but I now find myself reaching for it without even thinking. An 8.5 5-cm piece of metal, its bent in the middle and curved at each end to accommodate just about any size jar lid.

Its very simple and straightforward: Simply place it on the jar top with either of the rolled sides caught under the lids lip (which side of the opener depends on the lid size); Then, hold the opener in place and use it as a lever. The bend in the metal serves as the fulcrum. The downward pressure of your hand provides enough force to release the vacuum seal without distorting the lid. I can happily report no more bent spoon handles, no more splatters, and no more spills. Just a nice pop when the vacuum breaks, and Im home free.

I have not tried the previously-reviewed plastic JarPop, but Ive had this steel one for at least 3 years. It has never bent, nor has it rusted.

 

5. Storage and Space

ePub

My kitchen is on the small side, which means every inch of space must be efficient and tidy. While most funnels are bulky and take up valuable room, this one is compact enough to fit in a studio-size kitchen or be a welcomed addition to any camping pack.

The accordion-style pleats not only allow you to collapse the silicone funnel so it fits neatly even in a shallow drawer. The pleats also allow you to adjust the height and width of the funnel for pouring into various-sized containers.

Since the funnel is made of high-quality silicone, it is dishwasher safe and heat and cold resistant, making it more durable and longer-lasting than plastic funnels. Other potential uses: changing your cars oil or adding washer fluid. If you plan to use it in the garage, of course, Id recommend getting a second one.

 

6. Books

ePub

This is the smartest book in my kitchen. Its where I go whenever I have a question about what I am eating, or the science behind its preparation. Simply the best source for understanding food and how it works. Now in its updated second edition. Covers ingredients from all over the world and time. Awesome, encyclopedic.

Both drying and cooking break some of the pigment molecules in carotenoid-rich fruits and vegetables into small, volatile fragments that contribute to their characteristic aromas. These fragments provide notes reminiscent of black tea, hay, honey, and violets.

One change in the color of green vegetables as they are cooked has nothing to do with the pigment itself. That wonderfully intense, bright green that develops within a few seconds of throwing vegetables into boiling water is a result of the sudden expansion and escape of gases trapped in the spaces between cells. Ordinarily, these microscopic air pockets cloud the color of the chloroplasts. When they collapse, we can see the pigments much more directly.

 

7. Services

ePub

As much as I like cooking from any of the several cookbooks in my library, I often look for new recipes online. Its not an easy task. Im amazed at the number of ad-riddled pages I find by Googling the name of a dish. I do have an online subscription to Cooks Illustrated (previously reviewed), and there are a handful of other individual free sites I turn to for recipes and technique info. However, as a research librarian, Im always keen to execute a search in a manner that maximizes the number of relevant results by querying a specific set of targeted resources. For scientific queries, I use freely accessible databases such as Public Library of Science PubMed, or I use one of my library accounts to access subscription-based databases such as Wiley InterScience or Elseviers Science Direct. When I put my home-cook hat on, I approach recipe-finding with a similar set of expectations. Though theres no shortage of recipe information online, theres not really an equivalent set of databases for cookery. Heres a round-up of the best recipe aggregation resources Ive found.

 

8. Quick Tips

ePub

Everyone knows the worst part about baking bread: Having to clean up the sticky, floury mess from counter tops, bowls, and utensils. The gluey mass refuses to come out of sponges, and gums up anything it touches.

I recently discovered a solution: The netting that onions and other vegetables come packaged in. By cutting up the stiff netting into about 6-inch squares you can make reusable super scrubbing tools. A few bags will produce more than youll need. When youre finished scrubbing, just rinse off the gunk, recycle the netting, and marvel at your flour- and cheese-free sponges.

I cook a lot and like to use garlic. One downside of properly cleaning and chopping and slicing garlic is the smell permeates your skin. Years ago, I heard on NPR that if you rubbed your hands under cold water with something made of stainless steel, the smell would be eliminated. I didnt believe it, but it works. You can buy fancy soap-shaped or garlic-shaped stainless steel objects to do this with, but no need. Go into your drawer and get out a butter knife or spoon instead. This really works!

 

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