Archive for the 'Kitchen Gear Reviews' Category

OXO Smooth Edge Can Opener

I know what you’re thinking: a $25 can opener? Cheap food comes in cans, why would I need an expensive gadget to take the lid off? Well, my friend, one turn of OXO’s smooth edge can opener and you will be a believer. Designed in accordance to OXO’s standard black, grippy style, this little baby opens from the side, eliminating sharp edges on both can and lid, because really, no one likes severing a finger when trying to get into the black beans. Its side grip makes it incredibly easy to turn, and the best part is that the sharp wheel never touches the food, so no more tuna slime or tomato juice gumming up the works. Hallelujah and amen.

Vacuvin Pineapple Slicer

Generally speaking, I’m not a supporter of single-task tools (except when absolutely necessary, like corkscrews). Why clog up the gadget drawer with a tool that can only do one thing, when you can just use a knife? Then I met my new friend, Vacuvin’s pineapple slicer, and now I hope we’re together forever. It’s not that butchering a pineapple the old fashioned way is particularly difficult, but this thing rocked my socks off the very first time I used it. The only knife work required is the removal of the pineapple top, then your new gadget will do the rest of the work. You just screw the thing down into the fruit, pull, and TADA! you’re left with a perfect sliced spiral of juicy goodness. And, if you’re feeling a little tropical, you can use the flawless cup-shaped pineaple shell as a vessel for your favorite boozy fruit drink. What’s better than that?

Oh Global Santoku, you international seductress…

I’d like to introduce you to my new love, the Global Santoku. I’d been courting this knife for some time, admiring it through batting eyelashes, stealing secret glances when my Wüsthofs weren’t looking, shamelessly coveting it. And now it’s mine, and cutting will never be the same again.

Loosely translated as “three uses” for it’s ability to slice, mince and dice, the Santoku is the Japanese chef’s knife most commonly identified by its sheep’s foot shape and the indentations along its hollow-ground 7 1/4″ blade. For those of us without a master’s in knifeology, it’s the knife that Rachael Ray uses. But while Ray Ray’s clunky merchandised version has a plastic handle and feels like it’s made from the steel of salvaged hubcaps, the Global is a sleek, all-metal design, light as a feather, and perfectly balanced.

But it’s not all show for my new lovah. This thing can really perform. My first cut was the simple halving of a lemon. I hardly applied pressure; the barely-there weight of the blade was enough to slice though the fruit in an admirably surgical manner. This thing really is razor-sharp. I know, I know, all new knives are sharp, but not like this. Since the lemon, I’ve chopped countless vegetables, fileted some chicken breast, cut a watermelon and admired this sexy silverado on a daily basis.

I know what you’re thinking: how much? Global’s Santoku will cost you about $95, but every devoted cook will tell you that great knives are worth the investment. Just be prepared for the others in your collection to get jealous.

Mario Batali 6-qt Dutch Oven

Last year, in addition to a solid five pounds of cookie weight, Christmas brought me another wonderful gift: An enameled cast iron Mario Batali Dutch oven. As orange and rotund as Batali himself, this 6-quart pot has already proven itself a dream come true for making perfect soups and stews. An elementary measure that I employ when assessing the quality of a new piece of cookware is the old onion test, and because this thing has some serious weight, onions sauté to perfection (though in about twice the time as the Cusinart stainless steel pot that I have recently forsaken in its favor). It’s all about heat distribution. Porcelain-coated cast iron may take longer to heat up, but it succeeds in retaining heat, and therefore cooks things evenly. (A sign of a lesser pan is often the speed in which it gets hot. Test this theory by witnessing the 1.5 seconds it takes for an aluminum pan to become a branding iron.) Yes, speed often equals convenience, but we’re making homemade soup here, a labor of love. What’s the hurry? The enameled interior of the Batali Dutch oven isn’t what I’d describe as “non-stick,” but clean-up is incredibly easy thanks to its dreamy, smooth surface. At less than half the price of a Le Creuset dutch oven, it’s an excellent bargain to boot. And if it’s good enough for Mario, it’s good enough for me.
Retails for about $100.

Mario Batali Silicone Spoonula

Mario Batali Silicone SpoonulaUsually I would hate this item based solely on the word, “spoonula,” not actually a word, but just a grammatical annoyance like “spork,” “guesstimate,” or “funexpected.” But I love it! I love it for its heat-resistant silicone, oval-shaped head, as bright orange as the neon Crocs that Batali boldly sports. I love its burly, wooden handle. I love its not-quite-a-spatula, not-quite-a-spoon identity crisis characterized by its slight curves. It’s incredibly heat resistant, perfect for pushing around scrambled eggs or caramelizing onions, safe for all of your non-stick pans, and there’s just something cheerful about its sunny presence in your utensil crock. It cost me about $7, but it was money well-spent, because every time I use it, it just feels like it was meant for my hand. Spoontacular.

All-Clad Double Burner Griddle

All-Clad Double Burner GriddleOde to All-Clad, the cookware that I long for yet I can’t afford. I have satisfied this craving for $150 sauce pots with a line of Cusinart stainless pans, an elegant knockoff, right down to the style of the riveted handles — the poor-man’s All-Clad. The Cuisinart has been good to me over the years, and continues to exhibit a solid construction and absolute reliability. But All-Clad, the supermodel of pans still calls my name. So recently, like a drug dealer offering me “just a little taste” before I become a strung-out junkie, All-Clad sealed the deal with the LTD Nonstick Grande Griddle. The griddle has been my doorway into the world of All-Clad, and seriously, I want to go to bed with this thing at night. It’s a double burner affair, so it performs really well on a gas stove, since heat control is a no-brainer. It’s passed the pancake test with flying colors several times over, with the flapjacks that are positioned on the surface between burners cooking evenly. Fried eggs can be flipped with ease on the nonstick surface, and sautéing large quantities of peppers and onions will make you feel like you’re working the flat-top at your favorite diner. It’s enough to make you want to shout, “Order up!” when the French toast is done. Clean-up is painless, though I wouldn’t suggest putting it in the dishwasher or using any kind of abrasive sponge/brush on it. I mean, this is All-Clad for Pete’s sake. Have some respect.

Retails for about $170 at some stores, though it can sometimes be found on Amazon for $99.

9” Scanpan Ceramic Titanium Skillet

I think I’ve found the perfect omelet pan and I am ready to shout from the rooftops that Danish company Scanpan’s 9” skillet is my new best friend. The ideal size for a three-egg omelet (I am ridiculously hungry in the morning), the pan continues to dazzle me with its magical non-stick powers, and manages to do so with zero Teflon in sight. Not a coating or some kind of low-rent factory spray, the Scanpan is made of ceramic titanium, which, when treated with care, can be indestructible — this is space shuttle stuff. The company even claims that it’s safe to use with metal utensils, and backs up that saucy declaration by guaranteeing it for life. I have never had to use any kind of scouring pad or brush during clean up, even after scrambled eggs, and omelets actually slide right out of the pan with grace, thanks to its shallow, gently sloped edges. It takes a while to heat up, thanks to the heavy aluminum bottom, but that will only serve you well, if, like me, you detest brown, overcooked eggs. The pan retails for around $50 and is absolutely worth the investment.

Zyliss Garlic Press

It’s easy to go through a garlic press a year, because most of them just aren’t built to last. They’re designed with weak hinges, chipable chrome and little cleaning tools that never really get into those tiny holes, leaving you with post-dishwasher garlic stucco in your press. Now I know, it could be argued that any self-respecting cook should avoid garlic presses like Bisquick, that the only way to show garlic the love it deserves is to chop it by hand. Maybe it’s just me and my freakishly porous skin, but this method leaves my fingers smelling like salami for days. So critics be damned, I found a wonderful garlic press, the Susi by the Swiss company Zyliss. Compact and sleek, lacking the bulky design of so many of its peers, the aluminum press had me at hello when I realized how perfectly it can be operated with one hand. It retails at around $15 and has the capacity to fit a couple of cloves at once. It’s not going to last you a lifetime (few presses will), but it’s been a good friend of mine for about five years until its finish recently wore away and it began to turn my garlic black with aluminum smudges. But truly, this isn’t a deal-breaker. I’m going to buy myself an identical replacement, because I’ve crunched the numbers, and since this thing has been so useful for half a decade, I’ve had perfectly pressed garlic and salami-free hands for about three dollars a year. Not too shabby.