As I continue on with my exploration of the culinary arts and finding my inner chef, I am thankful for all of the wonderful advancements in cooking technology. This is a quick list of my top 5 picks to help out in the kitchen.
You may find this one a little unusual, especially if you are not from a European area. But electric kettles can be a huge benefit, and if you ask me, should be standard in every household. When I spent some time in England several years ago, I was introduced to their splendor and was shocked that I had survived so long without one. In addition to making tea and filling hot water bottles, I use my electric kettle practically every time I need to boil water. Personally, I have a Melitta Express Kettle. It works very well, but unfortunately this particular type is no longer being manufactured. However, when just searching “electric kettle” in Amazon it produces over 1,300 results. There is a very active market providing options in various colors, styles, and price ranges. I would suggest purchasing one that sits on an independent base to heat. Mine came with a flat, circular, plastic disc with a small electric connector and cord that plugs into the wall. This allows the kettle to be completely cordless on its own. The kettle has a metal heating element in the bottom, but is entirely covered in heat-resistant plastic, ensuring you will not be burned by touching the outside of the kettle and it can be placed on any surface. To use it, one simply fills the kettle with water, places it on the base, flips a switch, and the kettle will heat the water to boiling, switching off automatically at that time. As with any extremely hot water, the only word of caution is to pour slowly to avoid splashing and steam burns. I am always amazed how quickly it works, and that is part of the reason I employ it so often. It is much faster than placing a pan full of water on the stove and waiting for it to boil. Also great for many quick packaged dishes we used to make in the microwave (oatmeal, noodles, hot beverages), our electric kettle has held up for several years now. Perfect for kids going to college, apartment living, or even at the office, you’ll be amazed how wonderful electric kettles can be.
We don’t have a ton of kitchen storage, so an item really has to prove its worth to take up any space in our cupboards. I never thought I needed a special appliance just for cooking rice, but we were blessed to receive an Aroma Rice Cooker as a wedding gift (which is a good thing since I probably would have never been able to talk myself into buying one on my own). It came from a family member who was living in Guam at the time, so having much more experience in eating rice in every way possible, she said this type was the best. Being from the Midwest, rice is good on occasion, but was never a staple item in our diets. My husband, however, often asks for chicken and rice for dinner. After using it one time I was hooked. It was fantastic! It is a very simple design, an electric base bowl that houses a removable, non-stick metal insert, a lid, plug, and one switch. Add the desired amount of rice, follow the chart for the appropriate amount of water, cover, and turn on. The cooker is designed to sense when all of the water is absorbed into the rice and at the proper time will automatically switch off and go to warming mode. You can leave the rice to warm for hours if you like, and every time it is tender, not sticky, fluffy, perfect. I also love that ours came with an added steaming basket. This can be added above the pot of rice while it is cooking or used just to steam on its own. The provided cookbook has great recipes, allowing you to make everything from steamed vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, omelets, soups and even cakes with the cooker. Easy to use, providing multiple functions you never thought a plain rice cooker could do, with quick preparation and clean up, this may be the addition you never knew your kitchen needed.
3. Pasta Pot
Between spaghetti and macaroni and cheese alone, we are probably cooking some form of pasta at least once a week. After a long day, it lends itself to an easy meal without a lot of fuss. At our house the pasta pot is a necessity. Eliminating the need for a strainer, or the awkward maneuver of trying to drain off the water while holding back the pasta with the lid, watching half of it pour down the drain and getting burned in the process, the pasta pot is a low-tech, yet genius, idea. There are several types available; we use a Bialetti (another lovely wedding gift). The pot could really be used to cook anything making it very versatile. Its shape is oblong, as opposed to perfectly circular, to better accommodate longer pastas such as lasagna and spaghetti without breaking. The lid, however, is what makes pasta pots stand out. When cooking is finished, the perforated lid locks into place allowing you to drain off any liquids leaving the noodles safely inside. They have been around for years now, and if you have been waiting to get one there is no time like the present; you won’t be disappointed.
As you get your kitchen stocked with all of the great tools, pans, dishes and appliances available, it’s time to start cooking. Flooded with culinary sites, the web is going to be one of your best resources. I have recently started following Chow.com. It is a site that uses about every type of media available to present new recipes, cooking methods, and discussions. I’m always appreciative of video tutorials; Chow has pages and pages of videos presentations by a wide demographic on every subject imaginable; from hot-wiring your slow cooker with a techie to making microwave brownies in a mug with a tattooed lady. Chow prides itself on being the location where true enthusiasts come to share information and exchange ideas. Not your run-of-the-mill site, if you are looking for inspiration, entertainment, and innovative concepts all related to food check out Chow.com today.
On the opposite end of the technology spectrum, the final item for my kitchen favorites is the old-school classic, crocheted/knitted pot scrubbers. They have advanced a little over the years, now you can buy (or make them yourself) using a nylon net material, much more effective than using the same yarn as you would for a cloth. Perfect for cleaning non-stick surfaces, they will not damage the finish. They are the best substitute for steel wool available. They are also fantastic for cleaning vegetables and even items around the house. When they get dirty you can wash them in the laundry or run them through the dishwasher. The good nylon scrubbers can be a little difficult to find, especially depending on your location. Scout out fairs and craft boutiques or go online. Fabulous sites such as Etsy.com are making handmade items much more accessible. Here are 2 that I have come across, both appear to be well made and you can even pick your own colors, JazzysCrochet and EarthToGert. The scrubbers will keep your pots and pans looking nice and in good shape, as well as save you money and help the environment since they can be reused and disinfected often.