Gadget Guide

What's that one gadget that you'd be lost without in your kitchen? You know what I'm talking about. Everyone has one. For some, it's the white board on the refrigerator. Others find themselves lost without some nifty cleaning helper. Whatever it is, it can sometimes make the difference between a perfect dinner on time and the rush to order pizza because you just can't make it without your gadgets!

This month, we're sharing some of our favorite kitchen gadgets with you. Now, these aren't really considered essentials -- like a good chef's knife or set of pans -- but they help us out by saving time and effort. If you had to peel forty cloves of garlic by hand, how often would you make a favorite chicken dish that calls for them? Baked apples can be a snap with an apple corer. The list goes on and on.

Some of these tools also help you out by looking out for your safety. A can opener that doesn't leave sharp edges makes cooking safer -- especially when you are cooking with little hands around! A potato peeler with a repositioned blade makes it harder to cut yourself and eases tension on your hands. I think you're getting the picture now. Whether they save time, make your kitchen safer, or help you make the most of your meals, these gadgets are great to have around!

Let's start out our guide with a can opener that's easy to use and eliminates lids with sharp edges from your kitchen. The one pictured is by Kuhn Rikon and works by cutting just below the lip of a can to allow you to lift the entire lid off of the can. A simple set of metal grips on the side of the opener allows you to easily separate the lid from the rest of the can. The cut is so clean that you can actually press the lid back onto the can for temporary storage! Best of all, a can opener like this one gives you piece of mind, especially when you have little ones around. Can openers such as the one offered by Kuhn Rikon can be found at fine department stores nationwide for less than $12. Sticking with the opening theme, our next helpful gadget is a jar opener. A friend of mine once said that that was what her husband was for, but when he was gone for a week on business, she was lost. I let her "borrow" one of my jar openers and I've never seen it since! This nifty square (or circle) of plastic helps grip the lids of even the most stubborn jars. One quick twist and your jar is open. Available at most department stores for less than $1 an opener or in the kitchen of a good friend who might be willing to let you "borrow" one! Cooks wanting a special touch in their kitchens will appreciate William Bounds' Millennium chef's mill. This spice and pepper mill is specifically designed for use in the kitchen -- rather than at the table. It allows a cook to set its ceramic grinding mechanism to five different settings. You can even use a special measuring catch to measure specific amounts called for in recipes. Its ceramic inner workings allow for use even directly over steaming pots without clogging or oxidizing. Mills specially designed for kitchen use are available nationally at fine department stores and gourmet specialty stores for about $50. Anyone who has ever had to peel a lot of potatoes in one sitting can tell you that your hands and fingers are aching by the time you're through. It's hard to imagine, but one small change to the traditional potato peeler design can dramatically reduce that pain. Tupperware -- among other manufacturers -- offers a Swiss design that reduces hand strain and helps avoid cutting fingers. The peeler -- as shown here -- rotates the cutting blade by ninety degrees and allows a cook to peel a potato by pulling the blade towards him/her while his/her other hand holds the potato on the other side. This process puts more distance between hands and cuts down on tension in the wrists. It's also a lot faster than traditional potato peelers! Available through Tupperware's catalogue and at many mid-range department stores nationwide for less than $5. And speaking of eternity, try peeling cloves of garlic by hand! That's a thing of the past with a nifty tool by Selandia. What looks like an inconspicuous roll of plastic can peel a clove of garlic in seconds and save your hands from retaining that garlic smell for weeks. You simply place the unpeeled clove inside the plastic tube and roll the tube briskly back and forth with downward pressure applied until a crinkle sound is heard. You then simply tip the tube and let the peeled clove of garlic slip out. A simple device that is a must-have in any garlic-lover's home. Available at many specialty food stores nationwide for less than $5. If you love baked apples, you'll definitely want to add an apple corer to your list of must-haves for the kitchen. The one pictured here -- by Giannini -- requires two things to work: an apple and a hard surface. You simply place the apple on a hard surface and firmly press the corer into the center of the apple. When you've reached the depth you desire -- you can partially core your apple for baked apples or remove the entire core to slice apple rings -- you gently tip the corer slightly and pull it back out of the apple. Ta-da! The core comes out with the corer. Simple and elegant is definitely the word for this gadget. It's available at department stores and specialty stores nationwide for less than $8.

Continuing our focus on apples, we come to our final gadget in this month's guide: the apple slicer by Oxo. This little gadget not only cores your apples, it also slices them into eight identical slices. It's perfect for preparing apples for pies, applesauce or snacking. The simple design allows a cook to set an apple on a hard surface and firmly press the slicer down on the apple. The result is an apple that's been cored and sliced in seconds! Now you can pop them in a bowl and munch happily away. What a quick and healthy way to snack. Apple slicers like the one offered by Oxo are widely available at department stores and specialty stores nationwide for less than $6.

Well, that's it for this month's gadget guide. Keep your eyes open for other guides in future issues of Seasoned Cooking and, as always, we encourage you to let us know about the gadgets that make your kitchen work! Who know? Maybe they'll be in our next guide.