Tag Archives: kitchen gear

Potato Masher Upgrade

I swear I’ll get back to deep and thoughtful posts soon. But something happened this week and I just couldn’t wait to tell everyone about it. It’s important.

I bought a new potato masher.

I already had a potato masher, but it had issues. I’m sure the skill of the operator has something to do with the end product, but the old black plastic masher never did an acceptable job at lump removal. Lumpy mashed potatoes are no fun unless you’re deliberately going for some rustic-looking recipe from a Food Network show where the cook says “y’all” and tells you to leave the skins on and dump in a stick or two of butter. My only reliable technique for obtaining smooth mashed potatoes was to use my hand mixer and whip them up, but that meant digging out the mixer and the beaters, moving to where there’s a free plug, and washing more dishes. Not to mention the racket.

Weeks ago, at Ikea, I cradled a potato ricer in my hands and asked my husband if we could keep it. As usual, he told me to go ahead and get it if I wanted it. I hesitated at such an impulsive purchase, and asked a friend we were shopping with about his experience with potato ricers. He told me he adheres to the Alton Brown philosophy of kitchen gadgets: Don’t buy gadgets that are only good for one thing.

Ikea’s IDEALISK

He was right, of course. Buying a bunch of specialized kitchen implements is really a waste of money and storage space. How often does the average person pit cherries or slice eggs? I’ve been trying to downsize my kitchen junk, and a ricer would take up space much more often than it would be useful. And it sure looks like a pain in the ass to clean.

So little IDEALISK went back into the bin and I moved on to the textiles section without looking back. But my unlumpy mashed potato needs remained unmet, and I was sad.

A week later, I completely caved and bought a new potato masher. Which, if you think about it, is as much a single-purpose item as a potato ricer, making me a liar. But since I already had a masher, I felt like this was somehow a less frivolous purchase. It was a replacement. An upgrade.

IMG_0702s

Left: old boring masher. Right: NEW AND SHINY!

I love that the handle is across the top, because you can get more muscle behind your mashing that way. It’s much easier to clean than my old masher, and the potatoes are a lot more smooth. Not perfect, but I guess nothing but a good whipping will ever get all the lumps out.

(Links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, and you can read more about them here. I only link to stuff I love and recommend.)

The 5 Kitchen Tools I Can’t Live Without

Some kitchen tools stay stuck in a drawer and only see the light of day twice a year, but others almost never get put away because they’re so necessary. There are 5 items in my kitchen that I don’t think I could do without: they’re necessary for my dinner prep almost every night and get put back into use the second I wash them.

Here’s my star kitchen team.

1. Digital meat thermometer

digital meat thermometerI don’t know how I ever cooked meat before a digital meat thermometer came into my life. I switch it on, pull off the cover, and stab it into my teriyaki pork loin to see if it’s done yet. My previous technique was to stab meat and see if anything pink came out, and then decide that either way, another few minutes would probably be smart. Let’s just say I cooked with a lot of gravy in the old days.

2. Oneida plastic cutting boards

oneida cutting boardsI use these cutting boards pretty much daily. They’re stained from years of use, but they’re sturdy and easy to sanitize. They’re grippy enough that they don’t slide around the counter, which is a big plus when you’re trying to chop onions on them with a huge sharp knife. Mom admired them when she came to visit, so she went home with a set of her own.

3. Pizza pan

IMG_0551sSometimes, I actually use this for pizza. Far more often, I use it for roasting veggies. A pizza pan is the perfect size to hold a couple of chopped potatoes and an onion that I’ve tossed in olive oil and spices, and the little edge keeps anything from rolling away. I also use it to bake frozen pierogies and to broil garlic bread. I use it as a drip catcher when I’m making pies or a baked pasta. It has looked like hell for a very long time, despite my attempts to make it shiny again, and I’m okay with that. It does its job well and never complains.

4. Meat tenderizer/smasher

meat tenderizer hammerThis hammer thing has two “tenderizer” sides I very rarely use, but the flat pounding side has been a miracle tool for me when it comes to cooking chicken breasts. If I flatten them so they’re uniform, I can cook them evenly and they don’t dry out! I can’t explain why it took me years to come to that revelation. These days, if I’m cooking chicken breasts or pork chops in the frying pan, I’m beating them to hell with this thing first. It’s so much fun to smash things.

5. 2-quart saucepan

IMG_0552sI picked this little KitchenAid saucepan up to replace a small saucepan that had sprung a leak at its handle. It’s a nice heavy weight without being burdensome, and the rubbery handle doesn’t get too hot to touch. I love this thing because it’s exactly the right size. I always make rice in it. I cook veggies in it. I empty a jar of marinara into it and then dump in frozen meatballs to simmer them in the sauce. On the days I’m lazy and resort to those salty, convenient “noodle sides” packages, this is exactly the right size for them.

Winners and Losers

Many months ago, I prodded my friend Tasha to tackle that question, so she told me all about which tools she uses all the time, and which gadgets she regrets ever taking home from the store.

What about you, readers? What’s in a regular enough rotation in your kitchen that you’d have to cancel dinner if it went missing?