Top Five Kitchen Tools

Reader Contribution by Carole Coates
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I like having a minimalist kitchen for its clean look and the ease of cleaning. It makes food preparation so much simpler when I’m not competing with inanimate objects for counter space, so no toaster, coffee maker, or can opener clutters my counter top. Instead, I have only what I can easily store in drawers and cabinets. Since I don’t have much of either, I make it a point to keep small kitchen appliances and gadgets to a minimum. It all adds up to a happier, more care-free me.

Although I generally prefer all purpose devices to single-use, specialized ones, in recent years, I’ve collected a few new-to-me kitchen tools I never want to be without again. Here are my top five.

Immersion Blender

I was late to this party. Even when I finally heard of this device, I couldn’t figure out what the heck it was. Then I heard a friend say she wouldn’t be without hers, so I looked into it. And I agree. This thing’s incredible. Not only can it easily be tucked into kitchen drawer, not only is it affordable, but it’s a real workhorse. Since I got my immersion blender, I’ve never once pulled out my stand blender. Never! This does the job so much better, so much quicker, so much more neatly, with only one part to clean. Just be sure to unplug it first or you may slice a finger if you accidentally press the power button at the same time. That blade is sharp!  (Ask me how I know)  

I use my handy, inexpensive immersion blender for gravies, sauces, cream soups, pureeing veggies, making smoothies, and so much more. It’s a breeze. Speedy, thorough, easy to clean and store. Photo by Carole Coates.

Vacuum Sealer

My dear sister-in-law convinced me to get one of these and I’ve never looked back. My husband and I try to preserve enough food from our large garden to get through to the next garden season, so a whole lot of freezing goes on around here. But we don’t have a whole lot of freezer space, so the vacuum sealer comes in really handy to make the most of our limited space. Even if space weren’t an issue, I want to be sure my frozen food is the highest quality. Oxygen is the enemy of fresh when it comes to freezing; sucking it all out is a real plus.

When I prep veggies for freezing, I first drain the blanched and cooled food, spread it on a clean dishtowel, wrap, and gently press to remove as much moisture (the other enemy of frozen food) as possible. Then I fill the special freezer bags made for this appliance, lay them flat on the counter and gently press food into the corners, forcing out as much air out as possible. I fold the top of each bag over a couple of times and clip with two or three binder clips. Then I lay the bags flat the freezer until solidly frozen, which usually takes about 24 hours if I’m freezing several batches. At that point, I remove the bags from the freezer, unclip, wipe the sealing area with a clean cloth to remove any moisture, and seal. In theory, it’s not necessary to pre-freeze anything except liquids, but I find it makes the sealing process more reliable. Yes, there are a few steps, but it’s still easy.

What a space saver for a modern homesteader’s freezer! Photo by Carole Coates

Food Processor

I love the food processor for large quantities, especially when it comes to shredding those zukes that hid under their broad leaves until they became the size of baseball bats. They can always be used for zucchini bread or added to quiche or vegetable casseroles. It’s also a superb tool for chopping, slicing, making dough, and grating hard cheeses or challenging vegetables such as beets.

Steam Canner

This is another gizmo I only learned about recently, and how I wish I’d been in the loop sooner. Use it only to can what you’d use a water bath canner for: high acid foods. It uses a mere two and a half quarts of water; a traditional canner needs eight. That means that in addition to saving water, you also cut energy costs by cutting time may by as much as half. And, of course, that saves the busy food preservationist time as well. The much lighter weight makes this canner significantly easier to manage, too. You can learn more about using a steam canner here.

Food Dehydrator

I’ve had a deyhdrator for years, but was never satisfied with it. It’s one of those round affairs, which alone limits what and how you can dehydrate. Besides, it was a hand-me-down with only one temperature. Food never got dry enough, or it stuck to the plastic trays so badly it wasn’t usable. Cleaning the trays was a real bear. Needless to say, I rarely used it.

But this year we started growing mushrooms; we needed to be able to dry them reliably. I finally took the plunge and brought a shiny new dehydrator. This one heats evenly, has multiple temperature settings, and features square trays with 100% usable space. Dried food comes right off the silicone sheets, and they’re super easy to clean. I’m sold.

There are other foods I want to preserve this way, too. Dehydrating is probably the easiest, least time-consuming way to preserve foods, and the finished product takes up less space than other methods. I can hardly wait to try it with grated potatoes for hashbrowns, fruit leathers, apples for winter pies, and so much more.

My bottom line? If a tool’s benefits truly make life easier for the user and you have space and funds to make it viable, go for it. Do you have a favorite kitchen tool?

Carole Coatesis a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here.

You can also find Carole atLiving On the Diagonalwhere she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

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