Cast iron frying pans are versatile, durable, and remarkably cheap. While pans that have passed down for generations might have a whole lot of sentimental value, you can buy a brand new cast iron frying pan without shelling out much cash. But do you think of using one when you're not frying up bacon?
Realistically, you can make ice pops in paper cups with wooden skewers for handles, but that's probably not as fun—or as trendy—as using a Zoku quick pop maker. Either way, it's certainly not nearly as fast.
The BNTO from Cuppow is very simple, but very effective. It's a dishwasher-safe plastic cup that nestles into a canning jar, allowing the jar lid to be screwed on to keep the cup and its contents safely separated from the rest of the jar.
Wooden spoons have been around... oh, since sticks were invented, probably. How many other kitchen tools do you use that have changed so little since your grandmother's time. But wooden spoons are useful for things other than stirring. Here are a few of my favorites.
Funnels are pretty basic items. I've got a few with openings of different sizes to fit narrow-necked bottles and to fit larger jars, but the new canning funnel from Progressive ($15) has a few—actually, make that five—unique features that make it worth the storage space it takes up in my kitchen.
I've owned at least five waffle makers, not counting this one, maybe more. Which is crazy, considering that I don't make a lot of waffles. But hey, when I want waffles, I want good waffles.
I'm not exactly sure what to call the Lekue Silicone Bread Maker ($35). I mean, they call it a bread maker, but it's really more of a bread pan that can be used as a bowl. That said, it does have some nice perks.
I love thinking outside the box—or bowl, or spoon, or whatever—when it comes to kitchen gadgets and tools. Many common gadgets have uses beyond what they're sold for, and it makes them so much more valuable than those one-trick gadgets that you seldom use. Silicone muffin cups are a prime example. Sure, we know they can be used for baking muffins and cupcakes. But what else could they be used for?
Have you ever run into a recipe that required you to roll dough to a specific thickness? Do you actually measure, or do you eyeball it and hope for the best? Sure, with a lot of practice, you can probably gauge a 1/4 inch thickness, or at least get pretty darn close. Or you can do the sensible thing and cheat; put training wheels on your rolling pin, if you will.
Is there any fruit or vegetable that doesn't have its own special tool? (In case you were wondering, that's a rhetorical question.) And peppers have the Progressive Pepper Corer Duo ($9.69), which is actually a set of two tools, paired to core and seed peppers of all shapes and sizes. The larger corer works on bell peppers and the like, while the smaller handles jalapeños, serranos, and other diminutive varieties.
Unless you're picnicking in your own back yard, once you arrive at your destination, what you have is all you've got. A little strategic planning and some key gadgets can minimize the annoyances and make the picnic seem effortless.
If you're itching to make fancy zucchini fettuccine, but you don't want to commit to a spiral slicing machine, the Mastrad Spiral Veggie Slicer ($14.99) may just be your new best friend. Yes, okay, I'm sure Chef Morimoto could carve zucchini into ribbons with a chef's knife, but normal mortals probably need some sort of a tool. The advantage of this one over a spiral-cutting machine is that it's small and simple, and the pieces nest together for more compact storage.
Making wavy cuts in vegetables isn't an essential task by any means, but with Kuhn Rikon's Krinkle Knife ($14) knife, it's no more difficult than making straight cuts. And it makes presentation more fun.
Is there anything worse than reaching for that frosty glass of lemonade on a warm day, only to find a recently-airborne critter doing the backstroke in your drink? Well, yeah, I can tell you what's worse. Taking a gulp, then realizing there was a swimmer in the pool. A sports bottle or an insulated travel mug with a lid solves the problem when it's just you in the back yard, but when you're hosting a barbecue, maybe you'd like something a little more festive for the mojitos and margaritas. Enter the Sip & Straw
Considering how many baking pans I own, paper bakeware was never really on my radar. But I thought it would be fun to test. Not only did they work like a charm, but they come in hard-to-find sizes and make for a bright and colorful way to package baked gifts.
If you've ever thought, "I really need a better place to put this spoon than in this hot pot," a utensil pot clip may be for you.
Egg Shapers are silicone molds designed for cooking eggs, with appropriately-placed round holes to corral the yolks. They're easy to use: just crack the eggs into the mold and cook the eggs as you'd usually cook your sunny-side or basted eggs.
The Kuhn Rikon Spill Stopper is a big concave silicone disk that's designed to stop spillovers. There's a removable piece in the center that acts as a vent and allows liquid to bubble up and collect in the "bowl" of the Spill Stopper rather than spilling over the sides of the pot.
The Philips AirFryer has a basket that food goes into, like a deep fryer, but that's where the similarities end. Rather than dunking the food into hot fat, you coat it with a little bit of oil (or not, depending on what you're cooking) and let the AirFryer blow hot air over it.
Food Huggers are designed to push onto the cut portion of a fruit or vegetable, keeping air out to keep the food fresh. They also work as covers for things that don't have their own lids, like glasses, open cans, or small serving bowls.
The minute cooker is simple. A somewhat square (wider at the corners, gently curved in the center), somewhat flat bowl nestles in a silicone base with a silicone lid. We gave it a run for its money to see if it would steam our food as efficiently as promised.
Although I have a Silpat, I never use it for bread. It's too slick and smooth and I don't get the crust I like. So when I found out that the Silpat folks had a mat made specifically for bread, I figured it was worth a try. The difference is that the Silpain is a fine mesh mat instead of an impermeable silicone mat, allowing air to circulate under the loaf.
The Wonderbag ($50) is a soft-sided insulated bag that turns almost any short-handled pot into a slow cooker.
The 9-inch square PushPan from Kuhn Rikon has a loose bottom, much like a tart pan, but the difference is that the removable bottom of the PushPan is rimmed with silicone, creating a gasket-like seal to keep the dessert in the pan and the water bath out.
The Zenker Layer Cake Slicing Kit ($58.50) has turned me into a cake slicing expert. Heck, it could turn my nine-year-old self into an expert. There's nothing to set up or adjust. Just slice between the guides, and you can slice a cake into multiple layers.
There are a lot of different rye flours available, including light rye, medium rye, and pumpernickel flour. However, my local grocery chains tend to have one brand and one type, and that's stone-ground rye. It's a coarser, grittier rye than most of the others that I buy online, but it still makes a nice bread. If your local markets have other varieties of rye flour, use what's available or what you like best.
In this bread, instant mashed potatoes create a softer, fluffier texture. I almost always use them in dinner rolls for that reason. The instant potatoes I buy are little more than dehydrated cooked potatoes, with no strange preservatives, chemicals, or flavors. The resulting bread is a very pale yellow, and very soft and fluffy with just a hint of flavor from the egg.
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