You have better things to worry about during the holiday season than how your kitchen tools will perform when you’re whipping up a celebratory meal. You have time now before the big feast, so do yourself a favor and check out what you have on hand. If your cooking toolbox could use some sprucing up, take a look at these great gadgets. And some of them make great gift ideas, too.
Matters to Us
1. Ginsu Chikara knives
Good knives are one of the most important kitchen tools—and they don’t have to cost a fortune. At about $75, this 8-piece set is a great value and a Consumer Reports Best Buy. The cutting performance and comfort level are at the same level as sets costing three to four times as much. While the set doesn’t have a slicer (carving knife), it does have a santoku, a cross between a chef’s knife and a cleaver, that will give you a perfect carved turkey or roast.
2. Calphalon Simply Nonstick 10-inch pan
Has the nonstick pan in your cabinet become “sticky?” If so, pick up this inexpensive but high-performing pan. A Consumer Reports Best Buy (about $40), it scored Excellent for even cooking and food release and Very Good for ease of cleaning.
3. Cutting board
Inspect the boards you have, and get rid of any with deep scratches where bacteria can hide. You need at least three boards: one that’s dedicated to raw meat, one to chop vegetables, and one for cooked meat. Consumer Reports’ food safety experts recommend you choose one made out of polypropylene or another dishwasher-safe material for raw meat, but for produce and cooked meat, it’s your choice.
If you use a wooden board, wash it by hand in hot soapy water after you use it. To remove odors, rub the board with half a lemon and coarse salt. Rinse and then give your wood board a little conditioning by rubbing the lemon rind over the board.
4. Meat thermometer
Consumer Reports’ tests show that digital thermometers are the most accurate. With an instant-read model, all you have to do is turn it on and stick it in the meat near the end of the estimated cooking time. If you don’t want to keep opening the oven door to check the temp, opt for a leave-in model. It stays in the meat recording temps via a long cord and sending them to a countertop base unit. The CDN Proaccurate TCT572 was the best of the instant-read models we tested. The downside is its price (ranges from $70 to $130). Another smart pick at $18 is the Polder Stable Read THM-379. For leave-ins, we like the $40 Oregon Scientific Wireless BBQ/Oven AW131.
Possibly one of the handiest kitchen tools around, tongs can be used to flip meat or vegetables, serve salads, sauté foods, juice citrus, plate pasta, reach to grab something in the back of the oven, and so much more. Silicone tipped tongs can be used with nonstick pans. A pair that locks in the closed position makes for easier storage.
7. Kitchen twine
Trussing your turkey or tying up your roast is all about presentation—key if you want your guests to ooh and aah when you present the main course. Poultry wings and legs stay close to the body and roasts hold their shape during cooking. Be sure to use only twine specifically sold for use with food, made out of cotton or linen. Synthetic materials can melt into your food.