Think about your kitchen for a second. What is the item there that you could not live (or cook, same thing) without? For me, this would be a very difficult choice. If we remove the standard equipment—the three knives, a chopping board, a kitchen scale, a frying pan, a small saucepan, and a large pot—I am still left to choose between my beloved mandolin, the KitchenAid, the stick mixer, three different gadgets for making coffee, numerous cooking utensils, and a whole slew of baking dishes. Add to that the cake decorating kits such as the piping bag, the rolling pin, the mixing bowls, and cookie sheets, and you can choose among more items I care to count.
Still, I will be the first one to admit that many of my purchases were impulse buys: I drew out my wallet because I was blinded by the possibility to perfectly do that one thing that the item was specialized for. Indeed, I left my Croatian kitchen drowning in various items that would not fit in my luggage. Luckily, my father shares my passion for kitchen gear, so I bet that the gadgets I left behind were used at least (or only?) once.
Accumulating useless stuff over the years taught me some tricks of the trade, so I am now much better at recognizing if the item I am so starry-eyed looking at has some potential or not. Consequently, a smaller proportion of my Swiss kitchen sits idle for long periods of time. But that soufflé pan is getting a bit dusty…
I am surely not among first ones to have a passion for cooking gear. Kitchens of the past have been filled with items that extended the chef’s hand and helped to make the resulting dishes easier to make, tastier, or at all possible.
Looking at the diversity of the available gear, what amazes me the most is how many of them can be replaced by a sharp knife. From the more sophisticated, such as the widest range of food processors, to the gadgets such as the mandolin or the vegetable peeler, to those specialised for one fruit or vegetable (corn kerneler, strawberry slicer, tomato slicer, avocado slicer, or apple slicer), to the exotic ones such as the rotary cheese grater or the vegetable spiral slicer. A couple of hours of practice with a chef’s knife can save you a serious amount of money.
Among the non-orthodox gadgets in the kitchen, one that I can really recommend is the slow cooker. The concept is contained in the name: the food is cooked for a long time (typically 8 hours) at a relatively low temperature (between 60 and 80 degrees Celsius, depending on the setting). Slow cookers are made to be self-standing, no stove necessary, and safe enough to be left without supervision. Consequently, with some preparation time in the morning, you can come back home in the evening to beautifully tender beef or a wonderfully flavourful curry. I have made many stews with great success, and with the winter in full swing, I am sure I will be making many more.
Coffee lovers are the perfect target for gadget makers. As far as I know, there is no machine that can reproduce an espresso such as the one you will get in a proper bar, from a proper barista, using the proper coffee, and produced with the proper espresso machine. And this is not for the lack of trying.
For making coffee at home, two things are important for me. First, I like to chose the beans I use for the coffee; second, I do not want to sacrifice too much of the valuable counter space or a coffee maker. Consequently, my collection of coffee making apparatuses consists of three items: the moka, the French press, and the AeroPress. Because I find that each one excels in its own use scenario, I use them interchangeably. For breakfast, I prefer a smooth and long coffee, so I turn to the French press. For the afternoon, I like a bit of a kick, so I use the 3-person moka; because I also have a 9-person moka (please do not judge!), it can accommodate if after dinner parties all my guests want a coffee.
AeroPress is my latest acquisition, and it really is the most promising. Of all the coffee makers I own, I think it is the cleverest and most versatile. True, the use requires a few failed attempts before you get the hang of it, but after that the resulting coffee is smooth, strong, and very flavourful.
If you are a foodie, I hope this article has not been too much of a torture; if you are not a foodie, perhaps I have inspired you a bit (at least to add a couple of things to your holiday gift list). Happy cooking!