The Foods staff spends a lot of time in the kitchen, both personally and professionally, so good tools are high on our must-have lists. Well-designed ones save time or at least simplify meal preparation. So when several Test Kitchens Professionals and Foods Editors sing the praises of a particular gadget, we all take notice. Here are a few that most of us have in our collections, along with some suggested uses.
We can't say this often enough: Among our favorite time-savers to come along in recent years are Microplane graters. Modeled on a woodworker's plane, these handy utensils shred everything from chocolate to soft cheese with ease. Before buying, consider what you'll be grating most. The version with the smallest cutting holes makes short work of tedious kitchen tasks, such as grating citrus peel, garlic, and ginger. Most importantly, when you gently pull the grating edge across an orange, lemon, or lime, it scrapes off only the oil-rich rind without getting the bitter pith. Use the larger Microplane tools to grate chocolate for dusting desserts or pasteurized processed cheese for that veggie-plate standard, macaroni and cheese.
For added convenience, hold the Microplane grater over a flexible cutting board. These are downright cheap--you can buy them
at a dollar store--and very versatile. Because they fold, you can easily shake the grated or chopped ingredient into a mixing
bowl or pot. Place one over your regular cutting board for slicing meat; then put it in the dishwasher when you're done. That
way, you can cut vegetables and raw meat for the same meal without fear of cross contamination.
Small Is Beautiful
Tiny measuring cups portion out from a Tbsp. to 1/4 cup of liquid with ease. No more adding a Tbsp. of water at a time to a recipe, counting how many you've added while trying not to spill. One version even has a 1 1/2-Tbsp. mark.
The cups also are easy to grip, perfect for children. The dainty size of these tools makes them fun to use. They'll take you back to the days when the Easy-Bake Oven was your primary kitchen appliance.
Mini-whisks are equally engaging and useful. They're perfect for whipping up one scrambled egg or a small amount of salad dressing or for frothing milk for an occasional latte. They fit nicely in an utensil drawer and in the dishwasher.
A silicone basting and pastry brush has two advantages: It cleans up beautifully in the dishwasher, and it won't shed bristles into the food as traditional basting brushes are prone to do.