What is your favorite cooking gadget?

For those of us who love to cook, the question is akin to asking a car lover, what is their favorite car? Perhaps the comparison is a bit exaggerated, but you get my drift.

Recently, I queried a group of my friends to see what their top kitchen tools were.   Indeed, there was one standout.  The best part was that it was my favorite too.  But, before discussing the #1 kitchen gadget, here is a sampling of other items my friends can’t live—or at least cook—without.

For Joe McAdams—my Irish, banker-type, cooking buddy—if he were marooned on a desert island, “one of the items to go in my backpack would be my small and very ratty cast iron pan. Picked up on E-Bay ten years ago for $5 (postage was $15!), it’s probably fifty years old.  For Cast-Iron-O’Philes out there, mine is a Griswold No 5, 9-inches across with two spouts. You can take it anywhere and cook just about anything on it: bread, steak, eggs, fish, even a tarte tatin!”  Look for Joe’s recipe for a roasted cauliflower made in his trusty cast iron pan in the blog’s “Dessert” Section. 

Blenders, in their various sizes, shapes and functions, came in #2 in popularity.  Kai Rosenthal introduced me to a Nutri Bullet which is an easy-to-use immersion blender which pulverizes fruits, vegetables, and superfoods into a delicious, smooth texture. She makes healthy drinks each morning using it throwing in spinach, apple, banana and water. Fifteen second later, her liquid breakfast is ready.

Alison Awerbuch, executive chef and co-owner of Abigail Kirsch Catering Relationships, swears by her Beurre stick wand blender. “It works for both small and large batches of anything you want to quickly make smooth and creamy.  And, you can put it right into the vessel or pot so you don’t have to dirty an additional item. Great for soups, emulsifying dressings and even to make the creamiest mac ‘n cheese sauce.”

Bass, the chef-owner of Pink Moose (a quirky café off East 57th Street at 1st Avenue) prefers a commercial Robot Coupe blender.  He claims that his restaurant’s restricted space requires that each piece of equipment be able to perform multiple functions. His Robot Coupe fits the bill.

In fact, last night at a dinner party the discussion of blender vs a food processor came up.  Hands down, the guests preferred the blender appliance.  Why?  Because, according to them the ration of the container size to the blades was better which produced better puréeing results. In fact, most of the credit for a superior performance should go to the blender’s stronger motor.

No surprise that the right knife was also a very popular kitchen utensil among my cooking pals.  Japanese chef’s knives, including Santoku and Global, were praised for their ability to stay super sharp. My Kyocera Advanced Ceramic knife purchased at a cooking school in Dijon remains my favorite knife. In fact, I even travel with it when heading to a destination with a kitchen. 

Three people raved about the OXO mandoline. According to Susan Westmoreland of Good House Keeping-fame, OXO has a new Japanese stainless-steel model which she recently tested. “I love salads with thinly sliced or julienned veggies and it does a beautiful job on fennel, watermelon, radishes and cabbage.  I find I’m happy using it because it is easy to clean.”  She also recommends using a cut-resistant safety glove when using a mandoline. (Both OXO and Microplane make them). According to Susan,   “They are less awkward to use than the food safety holder which comes with each brand of mandolines.”

There were some quirky gadgets too which people obsess about, such as an old-fashioned box grater. Wine writer and university dean Paul Lukacs uses his for making cucumber salad.  “The box grater is the only thing that works for Hungarian cucumber salad which I make constantly in the summer. “

Alison Awerbuch swears by her blow torch to get a quick gratinée on both savory and sweet dishes.  For my financial advisor, Jim Carle, it was his small, lime green spatula.  He offered, “I am a very organized person and I like things neat and tidy.  This means, I also want to clean out every last ounce of anything good left in a container or pot. My spatula’s bright color makes it easy to spot it in the drawer.”

For the wine experts among my bevy of friends, what is their cork screw of choice?  Paul Lukacs dotes on the Screwpull Lever line. He uses the big one “for opening lots of bottles and the smaller table-top one—is fantastic too.”  He claims that “even a chimpanzee (no, ape) can use it!” 

On the other hand, Dr. Michael Apstein, wine writer and gastroenterologist, prefers the wine waiter’s corkscrew.  He recommends either Murano or Pulltap’s double-hinged corkscrew as “their hinge mechanisms sit on the rim of the bottle, which makes the cork extraction a far easier process.”

 It is probably no surprise that the simple Microplane—the woodworking tool that went from the workshop to the kitchen worktop—was the most praised essential gadget.  From zesting citrus fruits, grating spices, and most important for me, making mounds of ethereally fluffy Parmesan cheese, we all lower our heads in culinary tool adoration. 

And, what is your favorite kitchen tool? Anything different from what you’ve just read?  Let us know!