This week’s list of favorite kitchen gadgets is courtesy of Nutrisystem staff dietitian Mandi Knowles. Not content to limit herself to five, Mandi gives us the lowdown on 10 of her favorite kitchen tools.
1. Good quality knives
Buy the best knives you can afford—there are great affordable options— because the investment will be worth the money for many years. My favorite go-to knife is the Santoku which is perfect for precision cutting—slicing, dicing, and mincing. The small, shallow depressions on the side keep food from sticking to the knife. Tip: Before you buy a knife, always hold it in your hand – it should feel natural.
2. At least 2 cutting boards
To prevent cross-contamination you should have one cutting board for raw protein and one for produce and cooked foods. I like to color code mine for easy distinction. Choose extremely affordable plastic cutting boards made of polyethylene plastic and make sure they are dishwasher safe. Polyethylene plastic is non-porous, meaning potential bacteria can’t penetrate the surface.
No Parmesan cheese in a can for me. I love my microplane for grating fresh Parmesan or Asiago cheese over pasta or vegetables straight from the cheese block. The microplane is also great for zesting citrus peels, garlic or ginger.
The colander is essential in my kitchen for washing all my fresh fruits and vegetables from the farmers market or grocery store prior to eating. It’s also great for draining pasta after cooking.
5. Nespresso milk frother
This one is a little upscale, but it would make a great gift idea from someone, or even to yourself. I love my milk frother for making homemade hot or iced lattes and cappuccinos. This one has an option to froth hot or cold—perfect for year round coffee fixes. And it’s not just for adults: I use this to froth milk for my kids for a different twist to a plain old glass of milk. If you buy lattes at the local coffee joint frequently, this one really does pay for itself.
6. Salad spinner
The salad spinner makes cleaning lettuce an easy, quick task. After washing lettuce from the garden, farmers market or grocery store you just place it in the salad spinner and quickly and efficiently dry the lettuce to serve up a fresh salad for lunch or dinner, without the wilt.
7. Pepper mill
There’s nothing like the taste of fresh cracked pepper over a salad or entrée to kick up the flavor of any dish.
8. Silicone utensils
They’re perfect for any job in the kitchen. Durable, heat resistant and non-stick, they make cooking and baking seamless, with easy clean up. Plus, they’re dishwasher safe.
9. Le Creuset Dutch oven
It took me a while to justify spending the money on a Le Creuset cast iron Dutch oven, but it’s been well worth the expense. I use it all the time to make roasts, stews, and soups. With its design, you’re guaranteed foods are cooked evenly, and with its heat resistance up to 500 degrees it makes for easy transfer from stove top to oven. Clean up couldn’t be easier with the nonstick interior. It’s dishwasher safe, too.
10. Food mill
This may not be a go-to tool every day or even every week, but I love my food mill and use it to make homemade applesauce and tomato sauce. There’s something about the taste and experience of churning just-picked apples and tomatoes into something my grandmother would have made, without all the sugar in commercial varieties. My kids really love turning the handle and getting involved in the experience.