So, you've decided you want to get into cooking — but where do you start? What do you need in your kitchen? Sure, you've got pots and pans and chopping blocks and whatnot, but what about cool stuff? Toys, gadgets, things that go beep? These 16 items are gadgets that ever guy should have in their kitchen — and I'm defining a gadget as something that has moving parts.
16. Chef’s Knife and a Paring Knife
The very first thing I’m going to do on this list is break my own rules about what constitutes a gadget — but you know what? Fuck it. You need these. There are only two knives you need for 90% of cooking: a chef’s knife and a paring knife. Anything else is details. If you want good and cheap, get Victorinox Fibrox — that’s right, the same motherfuckers behind Swiss Army Knives make cooking knives. They’re incredibly good quality, low cost, and if you can looks past the funky handles, offer unparalleled bang for your buck.
15. Kitchen Shears
Chopping herbs, slicing bacon, dividing chicken, divying up dough, hacking off pieces of butcher’s twine. A decent set of shears are just useful. Sure, you can probably get away with using a knife for most of these, but there are times when a set of scissors is just infinitely more convenient. Also, they come in crazy handy when wrapping presents, because the normal ones always go missing. Have a pair floating around the kitchen, and you’ll be surprised by how often you reach for them.
Seeing as you’re all getting into cooking and shit, you need to start watching your waistline! Seriously though, being able to accurately measure just how much of anything is going into your meals is invaluable for any number of situation. Sure, keeping to a diet is one, but if you’re getting into baking in any meaningful way, using grams to measure out your flour is far more accurate than using cups, due to the way powdered ingredients compress and easily overflow. If you want to kick things up a notch and get your food more precise, a scale’s the way to go.
Meet the Kyocera adjustable mandoline slicer. It goes for around $20, and since it has a ceramic blade, it’ll never need sharpening. Ever. Well, not in the lifetime of the plastic. With four adjustable cutting thicknesses, if you have to chop lots of fruit or vegetables for cooking, it’s blisteringly fast. You can hack through a carrot in all of 30 seconds with this bad boy, and each and every piece will be exactly the same thickness. Just be careful, it will take the tips off your fingers if you don’t watch out — they even sell special chain mail gloves for the especially careless.
Bitches love tea. Do you need another reason? And anyone who thinks tea isn’t manly has never had Lapsong Souchong, which is to tea what Laphroaig is to most other whiskys. It tastes like smoke, death and leather in a cup of boiling water. It makes coffee look like a pussy drink. It’s fucking amazing. Beyond even the whole tea thing, kettles are a quick and easy way to boil small amounts of water, which you’d be surprised how often you need. Pretty much any time you want to dissolve a powdered ingredient — icing sugar, stock cubes, anything at all, you’ll want to do it with boiling water.
11. Knife Sharpener
There are two ways to go with knife sharpening/honing — hard-ass motherfucker way that requires you to know how to use a whetstone, or the easy way. My ass is lazier than a sloth on a weed binge, so I go with the latter. This is the AccuSharp Knife Sharpener, which will set you back less than $10. The vast VAST majority of none-whetstone sharpeners are 15 flavors of shit and will only destroy your precious tools. This thing, on the other hand, is really good. You know how I know? Cook’s Illustrated recommends it, and those bastards don’t fuck around. And never, ever use an electric one. You might as well just throw your knives into the dishwasher with a bucket of sand and broken glass. And remember to hone your knives before each use with a steel.
10. Electric Beater
Unless you want to have forearms like Popeye on a masturbation binge, electric beaters are a good thing. Whipping cream, beating egg, creaming butter, any of a number of everyday activities that would take a dog’s age when done by hand are done at super-speed with one. It’s a cooking power tool, very good for getting through tedious work on the quick, but not always perfect. There is something to be said for busting out the wooden spoon and doing it old school, but most of the time it’s quicker and easier just to use the electric version.
9. Pizzazz Pizza Oven
I tend to follow Alton Brown’s view on unitaskers: they’re the devil’s tools. Everything in your kitchen should be able to do multiple things. Except, there’s something bizarrely badass about the Pizzazz. I was turned on to it because it’s one of the highest rated things for sale in all of Amazon, and everyone fucking loves it. It’s a miniature oven for pizza. That’s it. Frozen, fresh, whatever. You throw them on that little plate, and they cook as good as they would using an pizza stone. How fucking crazy is that? There are few things more delicious in life than home made pizza, and this makes the baking a breeze, without requiring the oven going at 500°.
8. George Foreman Grill
Some people will say that a panini press is more useful than a George Foreman, and I say they’re punkass bitches. The George Foreman is the badass version of the panini press, with its tilted angles and whatnot. It’s the saviour of dorm life, instant meal maker, and usable for cooking any meat under the sun. If you’re stuck in an apartment, it’s also the closest you’ll get to resembling a real grill. Perfect for slapping together some sausages, chicken or fish, it’s incredibly multipurpose. It doesn’t matter how rancid of a shitehole you live in, you can find a Foreman to fit.
7. Coffee Grinder
Apart from supplying us with the black death nectar that is coffee, a coffee grinder functions the super useful task of miniature spice grinder and odds-and-ends chopper. Anything you want hacked up super fine it’s perfect for (just wipe out the coffee bits first). Chop your ass up a few cloves of garlic with it, or mince up some basil leaves. You know how to toast spices? Get some whole delicious seeds — I recommend coriander, that shit is fly — and throw it in a pan on the stove, and toast it till it smells amazing and you get some sexy browning on. Then, throw that stuff in the grinder, pulverize the crap out of it, and throw it in your food. Shit is delicious.
6. A Good Can Opener
This one may seem obvious, but if you’ve ever bought a new can opener after using a crappy old one for years, you know how amazing a sharp one feels. One that can cut through an entire can without derailing, which doesn’t send cans flying when you try to lock it in place. Personally, I think the Oxo ones are pretty good, but it doesn’t matter. Get the sharpest can opener you can find, and replace it if it gives you shit. The amount of frustration packed into a shitty can opener is far more than it should be, so just chuck out the crappy ones and go good.
Probe, meat, or instant read. Get as many as you can afford. They take up almost no space, and are all extremely useful. Wait, scratch that, if you have the other two, you don’t need a meat thermometer. Use your probe thermometer to instantly tell as soon as your meat has reached that perfect medium rare temperature, when the fish will be at its flaky best, or when the chicken won’t give you salmonella anymore. Use it to beep when your custard has set, or the internal temperature on anything reaches a set point. The instant read is perfect for when you don’t care about hitting a specific temperature, but want to keep your eye on what’s going on inside your food. If you’re doing a pot roast, for instance, the internal temperature is important to know how the connective tissue will break down, and you can just jab it with a thermometer every now and then to check.
4. Rice Cooker
Rice cookers are miraculously multi-purpose, despite their monotasking title. Of course, they’re amazing for rice, and make life much easier to have around — especially if you get one of those cunning new fuzzy-logic ones that can handle different rice types, but even if you don’t care about rice they’re fantastic. Anything you can do in a slow cooker/crock pot you can do in a rice cooker, too. You can make porridge in them, even setting it up the night before with a timer. I usually end up using mine as a steamer, making a huge basket of fresh vegetables and chinese dumplings, because those things are fucking delicious when steamed through. You’d be surprised at just how many things you can use it for.
3. Toaster Oven
Another great multipurpose tool, but as far as I know, no-one actually makes toast in these things. Isn’t that why they have toaster? But they’re useful for a surprising number of dishes, especially when you don’t want to bother heating up the entire oven. With the ubiquitous cheese toastie, you can really crank it up a notch. Baguettes with turkey, peach, and molten brie, grilled to perfection? Oh, yeah! They’re also absolutely perfect for cooking small amounts of fish, take up very little space, and are the savior of many a bachelor’s pad.
2. Hand Blender
Another incredibly useful tool, it’s like the power drill of cooking — even if you don’t know you need it, you need it. For soups, sauces, smoothies, hell anything vaguely liquid that you want moreso, it’s invaluable. This thing gets busted out every other day in my kitchen. The newer ones you can use like a mini-food processor with special attachments, and chop up fruit and veges with the super fast blades. If you want to get your soup nice and smooth, there’s not a better tool in the kitchen, and you can just hurl the dirty part in the dishwasher when you’re done.
You really need to ask why this is the best gadget in your kitchen? Wine is crucial to all cooking environments, both for the food and the chef. There’s never an evening where you shouldn’t consider busting out a bottle of wine, and you’ll need a corkscrew on hand. Here’s a hint, though: don’t get one of those stupid-ass rabbit corkscrews, they’re overly complicated, and just make life difficult. Get a basic corkscrew, waiter’s friend, or winged version. They’re straightforward, easy to use, and badass. There’s something so uniquely satisfying about opening a bottle of wine. This thing should be at your side at all times. The waiter’s friend is especially useful, with its little blade and bottle openers built in, too.