Making meals is a little like making magic. You toss some ingredients together and voila ... they change into muffins or a mixed vegetable medley!
Some days you may wish your magic wand was speedier. That it didn't take quite so long to clean, peel, chop and mix fresh vegetables for a salad. Or measure, mix, beat, blend and cook a casserole.
In search of faster kitchen magic, several Internet discussion groups of dietitians, home economists, chefs and other food professionals were asked their favorite time-saving kitchen tools. The response was overwhelming! Here are 30+ tools to quicken your kitchen performance.
Tools of the Trade
Tool 1: Garlic Peeler
The type mentioned most frequently is a rubber tube you place the garlic in, roll it a couple of times and the skin comes off. An added benefit: No more garlic smell on your hands!
Tool 2: Anything Dishwasher Safe
Check for the magic time-saving words "dishwasher safe" before purchasing any item! Don't buy anything you have to wash by hand until you check to see if there's a comparable dishwasher-safe item from another company.
Using the dishwasher saves time and helps assure kitchen items are thoroughly and safely cleaned. Plus, sticking your utensils in the dishwasher gets them out of sight immediately!
Tool 3: Flexible Plastic Cutting Board
Flexible plastic cutting boards are favorites with several people. After cutting vegetables, fruits or herbs, you can lift them up and pour the contents into whatever bowl or pan you're using. They're also dishwasher safe!
Tool 4: Own More Than One Cutting Board
Avoid cross-contamination when cutting different types of foods for the same meal by owning several cutting boards. This is especially important if you're cutting raw meats, poultry or seafood and then need to cut ready-to-eat foods. With more than one cutting board you can avoid spending extra time washing your board before cutting the next item.
Plastic or other non-porous cutting boards are easier to safely clean as they can be run through the dishwasher.
Tool 5: Pump-Spray or Mist-Spray Bottle for Oil
Fill this nonaerosol sprayer with your favorite oil and use for flavoring vegetables, coating pans and grills or spraying directly on bread. NOTE: Buy a container specifically advertised for use with oil.
Tool 6: A Good Quality, Sharp Chef's Knife
This tool is a must in many cooks' kitchens. Use a chef's knife to quickly chop, cut, slice, dice and mince fresh produce. You can do some procedures faster with a chef's knife than with your food processor. It's important to keep your knife sharp. Check what type of sharpening procedure or device the manufacturer of your knives recommends.
Tool 7: Food Processor and Blender
A food processor can make quick work of slicing, dicing, shredding, grating and chopping -- especially for large quantities of food. For smaller quantities, hand-held kitchen tools such as a chef's knife or a grater sometimes are faster.
A blender makes quick work of pureeing ingredients, such as for soups, and is terrific for making smoothies! Buy a heavy-duty blender if you want to crush ice. Some people like an immersion blender for pureeing soups in the pot or frothing hot chocolate.
Tool 8: Lots of Colanders
If you tend to wash and/or drain a lot of foods for meals, an extra colander or two may save you time and help prevent cross-contamination.
Tool 9: Kitchen Shears
Sturdy, sharp kitchen shears can perform many tasks, from cutting herbs, bacon and pizza to trimming dough to deboning chicken and cutting poultry joints. Many are labeled dishwasher safe and will separate for more thorough cleaning. As with any sharp item, use caution. If you wash shears in your dishwasher, place them in a location where they won't bump against other items or cut someone on removal.
Tool 10: Apple Corer/Wedger
Use this tool to quickly core and separate apples and pears into wedges. You also can buy just an apple corer.
Tool 11: An Assortment of Whisks
A whisk can be your quick and clever companion in many food adventures. Match the size and shape of your whisk to the task. An article from "Bon Appetit's" Web site (www.epicurious.com) recommends a "big, rigid whisk" for foods in large pots; a "medium whisk for soups, sauces, creams and custards;" and a "small whisk" (about 10 inches long) for "salad dressings, sauces and folding flour into batter."
Some whisks are longer and narrower -- others are like big balloons. Use the "ballooningest" ones when you want to beat a lot of air into a mix, such as whipped cream or meringue. Choose whisks with thin and flexible wires for whipping air into batters, and thicker, more rigid wires for thicker mixtures such as brownies.
Choose whisks that have the area sealed where the wires go into the handle. This helps assure your whisk stays clean. These whisks may be more expensive, but will probably last longer and cost less over time. Look for "dishwasher safe" whisks to save time and to help assure your whisks are thoroughly and safely washed.
Tool 12: 1- and 2-Quart Microwave-Safe Glass Batter Bowls/Mixing Cups
Use these multi-talented tools to measure; mix (batters, sauces and toppings); cook foods in the microwave; and reheat foods you want to pour, such as soups. Many come with plastic covers so you can use them for storage, too!
Tool 13: A Good Quality Vegetable Peeler
Quickly and evenly remove the outer skin from fruits and vegetables with a sharp, durable vegetable peeler. Many have a sharp, rounded edge at the end to pop out the "eyes" of potatoes.
Tool 14: A Digital Timer
Help keep your kitchen tasks under control with this battery-operated device. Time the exact seconds, minutes or hours needed for a cooking process. Many come with a flip-out stand and a magnetic backing, so you always can keep them handy. Some can be clipped to your belt if you need to leave the kitchen. Others come with a string to hang around your neck.
Tool 15: Kitchen Tools With Erogonomic Rubber-Type Handles
Many cooks find these special-handled tools easier on their hands, particularly if they use a certain tool, such as a vegetable peeler, for extended periods.
One cook specifically mentioned a hinged, 2-piece grater that doesn't "get away." You can hook this grater over a bowl or plant it firmly on your counter.
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