Mother’s Day is coming up and that always makes me think of what the perfect gift might be. My first Mother’s Day, my husband got me a rolling grocery cart thing. It was lovely. Modern black fabric with a great capacity.
It made perfect sense, but I was devastated and cried Earth shattering, body rocking tears.
Nowadays I would be thrilled with something utilitarian and functional. Especially some fancy kitchen gadget that would up my game. A knife I could use every day while thinking of my family (in a good, non stabby way)? Awesome.
Below we have a selection of 11 useful kitchen gadgets that truly run the gamut, picked by some of the best chefs in the country. Enjoy their awesome gift ideas, and feel free to co-opt them for a functional gift (or just get them for yourself):
Kitchen Gadget: Combi Oven — around $12,000 (are you insane?!?)
Chef David Werly, Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas: “My favorite kitchen gadget is the Combi oven because it allows meats to stay juicy, intense in color and maintain an appetizing flavor.”
Michelle’s Take: Yeah, if you’re a world class chef working at one of the finest restaurants in the world, I suppose you can drop $12,000. This oven gives you hands down, the best cooking performance possible. It steams, it’s convection, you can smoke things in it, it’s crazy precise, THE HANDLE LIGHTS UP! Faster, better food. I want one NOW, but I bet the instruction manual would make me cry. I don’t think this qualifies as a gadget at all. Still, gimme.
Kitchen Gadget: Food Processor — $149.98 at Amazon.com
Chef Dalton Wilson, DW Bistro: “I have many favorite kitchen gadgets, but my favorite is my food processor. I use it for so many things including soups, sauces, baking, mixing and chopping vegetables.”
Michelle’s Take: You know, I use one at work quite often, but I get lazy about lugging it out of the cabinet when I’m cooking at home. He’s right, though, it’s great for so many things. I also demonstrate using it to make pizza dough in 30 seconds and then I go home and take five minutes to make it by hand. What the heck is wrong with me? What am I doing with my life?
Kitchen Gadget: Robot Coupe — $919 at webstaurantstore.com
Chef Aaron Neeley, Siegel’s 1941: “My go to gadget would by my Robot Coupe because it is versatile and has a variety of uses such as blending salad dressings and sauces, pureeing and mincing items like garlic, roasted peppers and onions, and grating a variety of cheeses. All of these applications make it a must have machine for me in the kitchen.”
Michelle’s Take: Yeeeeah, it’s another food processor, but you know one horse power versus the 600 watts of a normal food processor. A horse’s power is the power to make nut butters much faster than watts.
Kitchen Gadget: Rice Cooker — $57 at Sur la Table
Chef Alex Resnick, Picnic LA: “For me, I can’t live without item is a good rice cooker. They are too versatile to not have. They aren’t just for cooking rice. You can cook a multitude of different beans, grains, and pulses. They can be used to steam, slow cook, and even make polenta. They save a ton of time, and make arduous tasks convenient and stress free. Busy home cooks can even make an entire one-step meal in them.”
Michelle’s Take: ABSOLUTELY! I love this machine. This little six cup guy is perfect for a family. True story: I’m terrible at making rice. It’s the easiest thing in the world for me to screw up. This baby works great and is only $57 from Sur la Table. A lot of models make crazy sing songy blips and bloops when it’s done, they are amazing.
Kitchen Gadget: Vita Prep Blender — $478.96 at Sur la Table
Chef Bryan Forgione, Buddy V’s Las Vegas: “There isn’t a day that goes by in our kitchen that we do not use this. We use it for pureed sauces, vinaigrettes, infused oils, soups and even grinding peppercorns. It saves on labor and allows us to be more efficient. I could live without it, but life is so much better with it!”
Michelle’s Take: These babies are the best. They have two horse power and man do they go. The home version (shown here) is shorter, so it fits under cabinets and it sounds a little less like a harrier jet than the first versions did. It’s not cheap at all, but you can do more than make nut butters. It’s so fast that you can put soup ingredients in and it will go so fast that the ingredients will actually get hot. Soup from a blender. I want one. Despite the popularity of pressed juice, you get a lot more nutrients just throwing whole fruits and veggies in here and letting them go until they’re smooth. ALSO: They have the best/easiest return policy ever.
Kitchen Gadget: Microplane — $14.95 for the one with the nicer handle.
Chef Jason Wishengrad, The Stand: “Anyone who loves cooking should own a microplane. They are not just for zesting lemons. You can use them on so many different ingredients. Garlic, Spices, Cheeses, Root Vegetables, Sweets, etc. They really can take flavor from good to over-the-top. They’re cheap, and a tool I can’t live without.”
Michelle’s Take: Yasssss, I love the microplane. It’s absolutely necessary. I think I own three. Cool tip, if you flip over the cover so the convex side goes on the back, you can grate and your gratings will be collected there.
Kitchen Gadget: Immersion Blender — This Breville version is $96
Michelle’s Take: I love the immersion blender, too, and in a tiny NYC kitchen like mine, there’s just not room for a vitamix — unless you give me one, then I’ll make room. These guys are great. The Breville version is a bit pricey, but it comes with some fun attachments and it’s ridiculously easy to use.
Kitchen Gadget: Pampered Chef Food Chopper
Chef Rick Moonen, rm seafood, Rx Boiler Room: “One of my favorite kitchen gadgets is the slap chop type device for chopping garlic in particular. The best quality one, which is NOT called the slap chop, is made by the Pampered Chef. Get one now! You just load the garlic cloves into the tube and start whacking the heck out of the handle…it is therapeutic as well as efficient. The added advantage is that you don’t have to chase the garlic cloves all over the cutting board and you don’t have to scrub the board down with soap and bleach in order to get the strong perfume of garlic that is embedded into the board.”
Michelle’s Take: Ummm, I don’t know. I guess if you need to chop like, A LOT of garlic, I can see getting this tool. For me, I prefer to just use a knife. I get it, though. While you’re making dinner is a good time to get out any aggressions.
Kitchen Gadget: Japanese Knives
Chef Hiroko Nakamura, Shiba Ramen: “By maintaining well and sharpening regularly, a Japanese knife can last a very long time. Slicing soft green onions with a Japanese knife is a totally different experience from using other knives. I didn’t realize that Japanese knives are so popular among cooks in this country until I came here, but it makes sense that Japan’s long history of Katana crafting technology creates the best blade. It performs exceptionally well and it’s actually fun to cut with a good knife!”
Michelle’s Take: I have both Japanese and German steel and love them both. And, that might be the most macho thing I’ve ever said. Actually wait, I told someone today that I shoot intuitive recurve and that sounded pretty boss even if all they were asking me was where the Mondrian Hotel was… anyhoo, the Japanese blades are definitely sharper, but that means that you have to hone or sharpen them more often. A sacrifice I’m definitely willing to make, but then again, I like to stand in the kitchen and make that knife honing noise you make with the steel (long pokey thing in your knife block) and look menacing at any waiting dinner guests.
Kitchen Gadget: Molcajete
Chef James Sanchez, Freebirds: “The molcajete, also known as a mortar and pestle, is the traditional game changer in the kitchen because you can use it to grind whole dried chilies and spices fresh all while cooking. You can also grind fresh roasted tomatillos, jalapeños for a delicious home-made salsa. More than anything, my molcajete is a reminder that brings back warm childhood memories, and makes my cooking regime unique. I’ve always looked up to my grandmother’s passion for cooking as she hosted family and friends serving us delicious food.”
Michelle’s Take: I don’t have a molcajete, but I would like one. I do have a small mortar and pestle that comes in surprisingly handy more often than I thought it would. If you have the room, I’d say go for it. It’s also a pretty place to store your fresh fruit.
Kitchen Gadget: Cast iron skillet
Chef Adam Steudle, Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen: “I wish I could say that my favorite kitchen gadget was something super cool like a thermocirculator or something really cutting edge like liquid nitrogen, which I use at Jasper’s to chill caramel corn down to subzero temperatures to create a more buttery and smooth popcorn. But the more I thought about it, the most essential thing for an at-home cook has to be a cast iron skillet. Essential to meats and perfect for one pan dinners, they sear steaks like a dream and make ridiculously crispy skin chicken. A cast iron skillet that is treated properly (scrub with oil and kosher salt to clean) can be handed down from generations – only getting better with age. They may not have sleek modern appeal but there is still something rugged about them and honestly, there aren’t many things that are built to last longer than us anymore.”
Michelle’s Take: YES YES, A THOUSAND TIMES YES!!! Everyone should own one of these. They are freaking heavy, so I leave it on my stove top which also means I use it more often. It’s like nature’s non-stick pan. Your food will actually absorb some of the iron, too, which is good for your diet. I reach for my cast iron skillet more than any other pan.