It’s that time, when we’re all searching for just the right thing to put under the tree, next to the menorah, at the Kwanzaa table, or whatever. If you have a foodie or two in your list, you’re in luck. There are a ton of gadgets and equipment for all budgets. Some must-haves I think belong in every kitchen include:
Sharp vegetable peeler
One the best pieces of equipment in my culinary school knife kit turned out to the Messermeister Serrated Swivel Peeler ($8). It’s light, nimble, and sharp. Even better, Sur la Table sells it in a selection of juicy colors.
I use my Taylor Commercial Instant-Read Digital Thermometer all the time. With a capacity up to 450 F, it’s versatile enough to test the doneness of meat or keep track of sugar as it cooks for candy.
I’m hopeless at eyeballing ingredients, so I use a digital kitchen scale for everything from weighing out pasta to scaling ingredients for baking. My favorite is the Oxo Good Grips Food Scale ($49.99), which has an 11-pound capacity, removable stainless-steel deck (makes it easy to clean), and a light-up digital display that pulls out (nice when you have a large bowl overhangs). Of course, it also has a taring function and the option for Imperial or metric weight.
A good knife is a cook’s best friend, and everyone has their favorite. Mine is the Japanese-made Mac knife, which is lightweight, well-balanced, thin, and maintains a sharp edge. Their knives are also well priced (starting as low as $25 for a paring knife). Shop around online to find the best deals.
If a quest to eat cheap and/or local fare means spending more time in the kitchen breaking down whole chickens or filleting fish, a good boning knife is a helpful tool. These knives boast thin, super-sharp, flexible, 5- or -6-inch blades that make it easy to separate meat from the bone or skin a fish. Again, check out what Mac has to offer.
A KitchenAid stand mixer is the workhorse of many professional and home kitchens. Why? It’s versatile. You can use it to mix a cake batter, knead bread dough, or whip up a meringue. Optional attachments extend its reach to include making ice cream, grinding meat, stuffing sausage, or rolling out pasta. (Hint: I’m asking for the pasta attachment this Christmas.) Mine mixer is from the tilt-head, 5-quart Artisan series ($299.99), and I confess I bought it because, well, it was apple green and went very nicely in a kitchen I had just remodeled. It still does a terrific job, but if I were buying a stand mixer know, I’d pay a bit more for the Professional 600 series ($399.99). It has a more powerful motor and 6-quart bowl for bigger jobs.
If someone already has a KitchenAid stand mixer, surprise them with a Beater Blade ($20), a paddle attachment with rubber bumpers so it scrapes the bowl while it mixes. KitchenAid, why didn’t you think of this?