If you like to cook, chances are you’re always on the lookout for new tools and gadgets to make food prep and cooking just that much easier, and fun.
The Oldways team recently got to talking about the things that we’ve recently added to our cooking toolboxes – gadgets that have truly changed the way we cook. Some have been around for a while and some have just come out.
Here are ten things that represent our go-to favorites, with average prices.
We haven’t included details on the manufacturers, but trust that you can ﬁnd each of these items through a basic online search. Let us know if you need help ﬁnding something.
Do you have a favorite cooking gadget? Please tell us about it!
#1 — Yonana Maker
This machine creates healthy frozen desserts with the consistency of soft-service ice cream, with just a push of the plunger. It feels like magic and is very easy to use and clean. Simply freeze very ripe, peeled bananas for 24 hours, then combine them with other frozen fruit or your choice of nuts, chocolate, or other ingredients and watch them be transformed into a yummy dessert. Important tips: Plan ahead to freeze those bananas and leave the fruit out for a few minutes after you take it out of the freezer. Bananas provide the most reliable consistency but all kinds of frozen fruit will work. ($50)
#2 — Vacu Vin Wine Pump
The Vacu Vin wine pump, made in the Netherlands, may well become one of the most used gadgets in your kitchen. It comes in handy any time you want to enjoy a single glass of wine. After pouring a glass, grab the Vacu Vin and pump the extra air out of the bottle, leaving it tightly corked and fresh for the next glass. Unlike using a regular cork, the Vacu Vin removes all the air from the bottle, so the wine tastes fresh the next time around. This gadget also comes in handy when cooking with wine: Use a cup or two for your recipe, and then save the rest of the bottle. It comes with one stopper but it’s a good idea to order an extra because you may ﬁnd you frequently have two bottles “vacuumed.” ($10)
#3 — Microplane Grater
There’s nothing like a ﬁne mesh microplane for creating perfect citrus zest, grating ginger, horseradish, or hard cheese, or getting a whole nutmeg down to useable scrids. And the best trick of all: Instead of dicing and mincing whole garlic cloves, just rub the clove over the grater, add the resulting pulp to whatever you’re cooking and let it melt in. No more worries that someone ends up with a big chunk of garlic. Once you get used to this tool, we guarantee you will use it almost daily. Look for a model with an ergonomic handle, which makes it easy to hold. ($15)
#4 — V-etched Better Zester
We recently discovered the Better Zester from Edgeware and have to include it in this list. We have been longtime fans of the Microplane Grater (see #3), but it always raises the issue of how best to capture and measure whatever is being zested for recipes. We love that the Better Zester, with its 300 sharp but non-stick teeth and soft handle, has an attached storage container on the bottom that slides in and out, making it possible to zest an entire lemon or lime (or even two) and then measure out what you need. It is really one of those tools that will cause you to wonder how you ever made anything without it. ($15)
#5 — Mandolin Grater
The mandolin is our absolute favorite non-electric kitchen gadget. Get over your fear of slicing your ﬁngers and give it a try. It brings an instant WOW factor to any meal, creating consistent, perfectly round slices of all kinds of vegetables. You can ﬁnd mandolins made from plastic, wood, or stainless steel. For maximum use, buy a model that has several diﬀerent width settings for the blade, which will let you slice vegetables as thin as ⅓2 inch or as thick as ¼ inch. One of our favorite dishes to make with the mandolin is a simple salad of paper-thin cucumber and daikon radish slices, topped with fresh dill and lemon juice. Yum and wow! ($40 — $100)
#6 - Immersion Hand Blender
As anyone who has had an unfortunate experience with steaming hot soup and an overﬂowing blender or food processor (ouch!) knows, there is a better way to puree soups, as well as salad dressings, sauces, and smoothies. An immersion blender will change the way you cook, because it makes pureeing as easy as ﬂicking a switch and you can keep everything in the pot you cooked it in. Experiment with pot sizes and quantities to discover the thresholds above which the contents you’re blending will spray out of the pot. Premium models oﬀer a choice of speeds, an ergonomic grip, an 8-inch immersion depth (handy for getting to the bottom of things), and a long power cord. ($80)
#7 — Tortilla Warmer
There are lots of ways to heat up tortillas: Put them in a hot frying pan; put them in a hot oven; sprinkle with cheese and broil them; or slap them down on top of a hot toaster oven while you’re heating up the beans inside it. Here’s another: Use a 12-inch diameter washable fabric Tortilla Warmer that will keep up to 12 tortillas hot for 20 to 30 minutes. It looks like a big round oven mitt. Slip the tortillas in and microwave on high for about one minute. It really works, and is especially handy at a taco-building buﬀet for a gang of kids. ($12)
#8 — Stem Citrus Spritzer
At ﬁrst, this little innovation seemed like such a great idea. We couldn’t wait to give it a test drive. It’s a tiny spray nozzle attached to a cylinder with serrated teeth, designed to be easily inserted into lemons, limes, or other citrus so you can spray the juice, instantly, on your food. And it does the job very nicely, delivering a ﬁne mist with just one or two pushes. But once you deplete the juice where you inserted the sprayer, you need to take it out and reinsert it into another part of the fruit to produce more spray. The practicality of this breaks down pretty fast if you need more than one spray, since you end up with a fruit full of holes and juice dribbling out from all of them. ($5)
#9 — Lemon Reamer
Want to get serious about juicing citrus? Reach for this hand-held wooden, plastic, or metal swirly cone that you plunge nose-ﬁrst into a half lemon, lime, or orange and twist for the juice to come out. If you’re a lemon lover, you will use this all the time, to add lemon juice to iced teas, salad dressings, and whatever else you think would beneﬁt from a fresh lemon zing. It’s absolutely brilliant and truly gets every last drop of lemon juice out of hiding. The only tricky part is catching the seed fall-out, and we do wish the reamer had a built in seed catcher. For seed-free, stress-free juicing, buy a small, 3-inch diameter strainer that can rest on glass cup rims and catch the seeds. We don’t much like cleaning strainers, so that’s the only downside to this partnership. ($4 — $10)
#10 — Mini Spoonula
We all love to just say the word spoonula. We use them in our kitchens as well. This handy, spoon-shaped silicone spatula is the perfect tool for scraping every bit of batter from bowls. And we fell in love with the mini-size model, which can clean out jars of mustard and even the tiniest containers of honey or jam so you don’t waste even a tittle. One team member relies on her sized-down spoonula for coconut oil, which is prone to consistency changes; depending on the kitchen’s temperature it can either be solid or a liquid. The small spoonula works great as a measuring spoon when the oil is liquid (it holds about a ¼ teaspoon) and for getting at the edges when it’s solid. If you’re dexterous, you can lift olives from brine with this tool and not get too much liquid in the deal. And it’s also useful for cleaning the rim of a coﬀee grinder, along with a damp paper towel. ($10)