Fresh produce from your own garden has a way of inspiring cooking from scratch. I am the sort of cook that is inspired more by the outcome than the process, so good kitchen tools make a huge difference to me. I do not want to be a pioneer woman. Give me electricity and kitchen power tools!
I have compiled a list of my favorite kitchen tools, gadgets, and machines (not all electric) that make all my food preparation more effective. Some of them are for on-the-spot prep, some are for fix-me-later prep. I have ordered the list from approximate most expensive to least expensive. Unless otherwise noted, I have linked to the brand I have.
- Excalibur dehydrator. There are so many dehydrated ingredients that have become favorite, quick add-ins in cooking. Everything from dried tomatoes adding flavor and thickening up spaghetti to fruit leather for snacking. Don’t forget the mats for such liquids or very small pieces. I love my dehydrator.
2. Vacuum sealer. This is actually one of the machines that I like to use just for the experience. I am always looking for new things to vacuum seal! I have even done marshmallows for the fun of it. I prefer the jar lid attachment for pantry items and the bags for the freezer.
3. Immersion blender. Autumn harvest is also a time of soup making. I received an immersion blender for Christmas a few years ago and immediately wondered how I had ever lived without it. This year, I have already made pumpkin soup with it (blog pending) and it made it so easy. Everyone should definitely have an immersion blender.
4. Mandoline slicer. To be honest, I am a little afraid of the mandoline, but when you need to do a lot of slicing and/or uniform slicing, there is nothing like it. If you slice cucumbers for pickles or cabbage for slaw, a mandoline slicer will greatly reduce your cutting time.
5. Sauerkraut Crock. I got my first official crock last year. Previously I have used my ceramic crockpot insert. While sometimes such job specific kitchenware is unimpressive, this crock, with its heavy ceramic lid, has made making sauerkraut much more straight forward. It also means I am not always looking for that bowl or crockpot piece that is holding the sauerkraut for a few weeks. I purchased mine through a local True Value store, but it looks like the price on amazon has gone down.
6. Pampered Chef chopper. My mom gave me one of these years ago and it is going strong. I have not seen another chopper that looks as good. And it comes apart very nicely for cleaning. If you need to dice small to medium amounts of things, like onions, this is the tool I recommend.
7. Chop Wizard. When you are chopping larger amounts, this is a more effective way. It is a bit harder to clean than the PC chopper, but the pieces are more uniform and the chopping is done within seconds (after any necessary peeling and quartering).
8. Freezer containers. While I use my share of plastic yogurt containers to freeze things, there is nothing quite like a container with a secure lid that stacks well. It is also so nice to have a variety of sizes, making it easier to store in certain cooking volumes. Round containers seem to have the most secure lids, since they can screw, whereas square shaped containers are limited to snap on. This is the size I have had the longest. I have used it for freezer jams, leftover smoothie, and on and on.
8. A large cutting board. Or two. Cutting for food storage or for a good sized meal is frustrating on little cutting boards. I have one that is about 2 by 3 feet and it is used a lot. It was the pull out board leftover from a kitchen remodel. If I am reading the dimensions right, the one I linked to is about 2/3 the size of my largest.
9. Extra measuring cups and spoons. Besides the convenience of leaving measuring devices in specific containers of staple supplies, it is very nice to have clean options when in the middle of cooking or preserving. There are lots of creative cute sets that are relatively inexpensive gifts. I have never had too many sets of measuring cups or spoons. My latest addition to the bunch was these pretty ones:
10. A comfortable hand-held peeler. I have two that I like. One is the same basic design, but had a nice cushy grip. The other is one I got in Taiwan. It peels from a different angle, which can be useful for accommodating odd shaped produce, dealing with tired muscles, or just for variety. I linked to something representative of what I have.
11. Garlic plate. This is another item my mom bought me and it is the best way to mince garlic. The plate has little spikes that you rub the fresh garlic clove over until it is finely pulverized. It goes really fast. You do have to be somewhat careful of finger tips. Garlic minced this way mixes very nicely into dishes where you want it to completely blend.
12. White plastic lids for canning jars. These lids turn canning jars into extremely versatile containers. Not only can they be put on jars after removing the seal, which is much nicer, but they can be used on jars to store anything from M&Ms (no, I do not grow those in the garden) to baking soda.
Hopefully this list will help you shop for other gardener-cooks in your social sphere or help you make your own Christmas list.