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April 13, 2010

Top Ten most loved, least used kitchen tools

Pasta machine

I suspect every avid cook has a bunch of gadgets that are well loved but not well used.

There are lots of things in my kitchen that collect dust yet will never get the heave-ho.

Some aren't that useful but have sentimental value. Others come in very handy, but only every once in a long while.

In honor of them all, I present this week's Top Ten Tuesday list:

Top Ten most loved, least used kitchen tools

No. 1: Crank pasta maker

My simple Atlas pasta maker is forgotten for months on end. Then we rediscover it, make delicious fettuccine and wonder, "Why don't we use this more often?" The answer lies in the flour-y mess on the counters and floor. But every now and then, it's so worth it.

No. 2: Monroe "Is Your Car Safe?" coffee maker

My late great-Uncle Donald loved anything free or on sale, which accounts for why he painted his house a discounted shade of purple one time, an electric everything-must-go green another. He picked up a coffee maker -- who knows why or when -- that must have been made for a shock-absorber showroom. In blue and yellow, it reads, "Monroe -- Let us check your shock absorbers now!" If also inquires, creepily, "Is your car safe?" The thing still works. And though I rarely need its 30-cup capacity, I proudly display the coffee maker on my kitchen counter in tribute to one of my wackiest relatives. 

No. 3.: Grandma's ravioli cutters

The art of ravioli has eluded me. The last time I gave it a shot was five years ago, as an insanely ambitious Thanksgiving appetizer. (I'd moved into a new house less than a month earlier, was six months pregnant, had a not-quite 2-year-old and was hosting my first big family holiday. Pumpkin ravioli? No sweat!) Even if I never get the hang of filled pasta, I'll never part with those wood-handled cutters.

No. 4: Juicer

A yard-sale find, my juicer gets used about once a year, in winter, when clementines are on sale. The clean-up -- you need a toothbrush to scrub the pulp out of the machine -- is a pain. But I'll hang onto that machine for my annual clementine-carrot juice fix.

No. 5: Accusharp knife sharpener

It only comes out of the drawer when the knives get dull, and it sharpens almost too well, judging by all the steel shavings that result. Best part: it was under $10.

No. 6: Immersion blender

I only recently overcame my fear of this gadget. I'm just a little too easily distracted (read: flaky) and the blade is just a little to available for slicing off flesh. I used to summon my husband if I wanted a pot of soup pureed with it. Not very liberated of me, but what's more important to keep intact: feminist standards or fingertips? I started using it myself only a few months ago, when our regular blender died and math-hubby desired not to be brought in on my every fruit smoothie.

No. 7: Henckels meat cleaver

Another tool I fear. And for good reason. It's heavy enough to hack off a hand. I only use it when I make stock, which is often in winter, not so much the rest of the year.

No. 8: The family quote book

This spiral-bound notebook has nothing at all to do with the official business of preparing food and everything to do with recording what else goes on in the kitchen. Like the game of catch that prompted my daughter to exclaim, "Gravity is awesome!" The book can languish in the cabinet for weeks, but sooner or later a kid says something so funny("How fast does the current in a toilet go?")  or a grown-up says something so dorky ("Amending soil is my favorite part of gardening") that it must be recorded for posterity.

No. 9: Ice cream maker

With the weather warming, this gizmo is about to come out of hibernation. One of our favorite flavors: Honey Lavender-Ricotta. Yum!

No. 10: PIzzelle Maker 

At Easter, my husband's aunt gave me a beautiful antique pizzelle maker that goes directly on a stove-top flame. (She can't use it anymore because she just got a new stove with a glass top.) I can't imagine we'll give it a regular workout, but we're already wondering if we can use it to make ice cream cones.


Sun photo by Kim Hairston

Posted by Laura Vozzella at 5:26 AM | | Comments (26)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays


Most loved but least used based on its percentage of footprint in my 105 sq. ft. kitchen is my jet black 30 quart Hobart mixer. Nonetheless, it's the first tool I'd (recruit a few burly folks to) rescue if need be.

I love my Pizzelle Maker. It was my grandmothers, it is electric and old. I would like to update it.

And who can forget the immortal Tomato Musher and Turnip Twaddler?

LV, we're with you on the ice cream maker! We primarily use it for frozen yogurt, which is really really nice to have on a hot July Baltimore night. Now that we've got a kid, I think it's going to get a bit more use, too.

When I was in college, my mom bought me a rather large automatic pasta machine. I think I used it twice, never to great results.

The pie crust doodlebob.. I don't know the proper name.. four steel wires in an arch connected to a wooden handle. I also have a kitchen specific hack saw for large bone cutting.
Also, the industrial grade KitchAid mixer gets wiped of dust more then it gets to make food, poor thing.

invested last year in the cuisinart pasta attachment - and my hand crank pasta maker now sits permanently on the shelf - but making lots more pasta these days - so worth it

Ricer - when you need it - you need it

I'm addicted to my immersion blender. This has a lot to do with the fact that our upright blender weighs about 90lbs and lives in a cabinet high above the fridge. The food processor, however, is only good for shredding veggies since that's the only attachment it has left.

I love our immersion blender as well. Squash soups have never been easier.

Meekrat, the "pie crust doodlebob" is called a pastry blender.

I just got an immersion blender as a gift and am amazed at how awesome it is ... I'm going to make a lot more smoothies now that I don't have to wash out the glass jar.

From now on my pastry blender shall be known as the pie crust doodlebob, but I use mine a LOT, along with its companion, the scoon (which smooths the dough after adding the icy water). My Kitchen Aid stand mixer is also in fairly constant use, but not its companion pasta maker. I would nominate the meat grinder attachment which I use only a few times per year, but which is indispensible when I need it.

the thingamajiggi and the whatchamacalit.

I'd have to say My Husband.

I don't know what it is called, but I have this large box shape thing in my kitchen that heats up when turned on. Really don't know what it is supposed to be used for, I just store stuff in it.

Great list, LV. I shared the Fear of the Immersion Blender until this winter, when I made enough soup while snowed in to get over it.

NotableM, don't forget the dooflonjay.

Trixie, you keep your hope chest in the kitchen?

Meat thermometer. I forget it's there. When I remember it's there, I forget to use it.
Or ... maybe it's my memory I don't use so much.

jl, don't forget the use Gwyneth Paltrow made of the meat thermometer in "A Perfect Murder." I have several, and I use them all the time (just not that way ...)

My husband made fun of the pineapple corer I got in February saying when have you ever purchased a pineapple whole? I've never seen you eat pineapple at all!

It gets used at least every other week now if not weekly. I never bought pineapple before b/c I didn't know how to get it OUT of the skin and to buy the pre-cut is insanely expensive. Now it's as easy as coring an apple!

Holly, my husband has mastered cutting up ripe pineapple, so I don't have to. You don't even need a corer--just a knife and know-how.

I agree about the pineapple corer. I just followed the instructions on the label and it worked like a charm. No wasting of the pineapple either. I think most kitchen gadgets are a waste of money and space. Now a kitchen gadget I cannot be without is my OXO cheese slicer.

BaltBabs, what does the cheese slicer do that I can't do with a sharp knife?

I suppose anything is possible. Cheese slicers can slice cheese are various thicknesses with very little effort. Yes, a knife will work, but I don't think with the best results.

The off-campus house I lived in for a year in college had a shared cheese slicer. I probably used it every single day. I may have to get one, now that you've brought it up...

Dahlink, my cheese slicer isn't by Oxo, but I think it works the same way. It has a wire strip adjacent to a tube roller. With it, I can make fairly uniform slices of soft cheeses (such as a hunk of mozzarella). I'd never get the same results with a knife.

Maybe it's just me, but I think uniformity is over-rated! I seem to remember an early article by our own EL, years ago, about using a food processor. She said (if I am remembering correctly) that she preferred to hand cut her tomatoes so that they didn't look too perfect. I garden the same way, too--a cheerful hodge-podge, no boring rows.

Where is EL, anyway--she promised to post now and then, didn't she? (I'm in the phonebook, Lady E!)

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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