Five Kitchen Gadgets I Almost Can’t Live Without

There’s no thing in this world that I can’t live without.  But as someone who loves to cook and usually doesn’t have a lot of time to do it, I do rely everyday on a handful of gadgets that take off my hands some of the more time-consuming chores cooking involves. So, just for fun, I thought I’d list them for you.

This list doesn’t include some of the most basic cooking appliances and tools that you simply wouldn’t be able to cook without, like ladles, stovetops and ovens. And I do share the brand names of some of the appliances I own, but please keep in mind that the companies are not paying me for this and this is by no means an advertisement or even an endorsement. I list the good and bad points of each. And the only reason they are named is because, by choice or accident, I ended up with them in my kitchen and I know enough about them to discuss them.

Here, then, are the five kitchen gadgets I almost can’t live without. They’re pretty basic, really.

1. Blender: This is the workhorse of my kitchen. I use it everyday to make smoothies, grind masalas for dinner, whip up dosa batter, and dry-grind everything from spice mixes to flax seeds. Because of all the use my blender gets, it has also always been the gadget that breaks down most often in my home. My first blender in the frugal days of studentship in the U.S. was a $15 Hamilton Beach. It put up a brave effort to handle my “not just smoothie” blending before sputtering out and dying in a year or two (yes, it did actually last that long). Next came a sturdy, more expensive Cuisinart and although it stuck with me for several years, it finally gave up and died (or maybe it was so fed-up, it just committed suicide). A couple of years back I paid a small fortune to buy a Vitamix from Costco. It came with a very tall jar perfect for smoothies, a regular sized one great for masalas, and a third jar fitted with a dry-grinding blade. I must say it’s lived up to expectations so far but with one rider: the dry-grinder doesn’t work as wonderfully as it claims to. I’ve never managed to get better than a coarse grind. For finer spice mixes, I still use my trusty coffee grinder.

2. Pressure Cooker: Every Indian kitchen has one and no kitchen should be without one. Pressure cooking has tremendous health benefits because it preserves the nutrients in food better than cooking in a pan over a stovetop would. And cherry on the icing, it cuts down cooking time to a fraction. I use my pressure cooker to cook beans, lentils, stocks, soups, stews…the list goes on. I had a pressure cooker from India which gave out within months, after which I bought a Fagor pressure cooker that was great and kept going for years. But I found it too much of a hassle to replace the gaskets which usually have to be ordered from the dealer and by the time you’re done paying shipping and handling you might as well have bought a new pressure cooker. Last year I bought a Fagor electric cooker that I absolutely love and use everyday, sometimes twice a day. It takes the guesswork out of pressure cooking, is silent unlike stovetop pressure cookers (a big bonus when you have a scaredy-cat dog in the house), and turns off on its own once the food is cooked.

3. Stand Mixer: A stand mixer might not seem an obvious “can’t-almost-live-without” kitchen gadget, but to someone who enjoys baking as much as I do, it is. My stand mixer, surprisingly, is not one of those great-looking KitchenAid ones or even a Cuisinart. It’s a plain old Hamilton Beach that I bought on sale at Target for about 70 bucks, more than a decade ago. It still works fine and although the bowl has a tendency to jump out of the base when I subject it to stiff, heavy bread doughs (what are your hands for?), it gets the job done most of the time. Bravo!

4. Knives: A good knife is really the only gadget a cook absolutely needs. Desi bought me a great set of Henckels’ knives for Christmas several years ago and I don’t know what I’d do if they weren’t around to chop, dice, julienne, and slice for me. Remember to always keep your knives sharpened so they can give you their best. When mine started to lose their edge, I picked up a Chef’s Choice knife sharpener (the manual kind) and it’s done a great job bringing them back to shape.

5. Cast-iron skillets and carbon steel wok: I’ve said this before: I don’t do nonstick because I don’t trust my food in surfaces made up of myriad chemicals. Most of my cooking happens in steel pots and pans but for the times I need something with a nonstick surface I turn to my cheap, hardy and well-seasoned cast-iron skillets and my carbon-steel wok. Cast-iron gives foods a great crust and it adds some iron into your food which is always great for a vegan (or non-vegan) tummy. It is also great for baking: I’ve made breads and cakes in mine.
A wok stir-fries anything at high temperatures without causing it to stick and burn and since I don’t have a kadhai (a smaller Indian wok), I use this instead for subzis I want to roast and not steam. Be sure to follow instructions on seasoning your cast-iron pans and wok before use. Also, when buying cast-iron cookware, it’s important to ensure that the entire pan, handle and body, are forged in a single cast. Apparently some brands don’t do that and imagine what would happen if your handle snapped as you picked up your hot cast-iron skillet.

So what’s the kitchen gadget you almost can’t live without?

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

28 thoughts on “Five Kitchen Gadgets I Almost Can’t Live Without

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Tibik

    January 11, 2012 at 4:52pm

    I would add my Toaster oven and food processor to the list.

  2. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Priya

    January 11, 2012 at 5:19pm

    I cant live without my pressure cooker and blender too..

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Happy Cook / Finla

    January 11, 2012 at 6:33pm

    I didn’t know aobut the info aobut cast iron pan in 2, i have one but i don’t know if it is from one piece or 2 how would you know that.

  4. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Vaishali

    January 11, 2012 at 7:29pm

    Tibik, My toaster oven gets quite a workout too, and although I used my food processor a lot in the past I don’t turn to it as much as I once did– don’t know why.

    Priya, they’re invaluable indeed.

    Happy Cook, you need to flip the pan over and see if you can see a clear joint, which tells you that the body and handle were forged separately and then attached. If your cast-iron skillet has a wooden handle, that’s also a likely sign that it was not forged in a single cast.

  5. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Nehal

    January 11, 2012 at 11:20pm

    I can’t live without my pressure cooker, my Indian mixer grinder, and my latest favorite, the food processor.

  6. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Daisy

    January 12, 2012 at 1:26pm

    I can’t live without my electric kettle, my (2-slice) toaster and (of course) the blender! :-)

  7. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    AMA's AnythingVegetarian

    January 12, 2012 at 4:51pm

    Absolutely.May I ask which brand for cast iron.Bought lodge pans,skillets few years back,but now I see a thin layer coming off and looks like its been coated but don’t remeber being mentioned in the package.Wouldn’t have bought it if its been coated since I was revamping my whole kitchen with cast iron for the non sticks.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali Honawar

      January 12, 2012 at 5:34pm

      Did you season the pans before use, or did the package say they were pre-seasoned? In either case, you probably just need to reseason them. I do that by scrubbing off any loose stuff, then putting on a thin layer of oil or vegetable shortening. Put the pans in a really hot oven for an hour or so. Good as new.

  8. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Cham

    January 12, 2012 at 9:23pm

    For me it is the indian mixer, gosh it is overused in my kitchen everyday and stays alive (touch wood) from almost 6 years….
    Probably the rice cooker -boom for everyday carb intake :)

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali Honawar

      January 13, 2012 at 4:52am

      I always wish I’d gotten one of those Sumeet mixers with the little steel jar. Those were really sturdy.

  9. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Manasi

    January 12, 2012 at 11:54pm

    i love my pressure cooker, hand blender, mixie and cast iron tawa and I must add, my rolling pin! It was my mom’s and I got it when i married – the used rolling pin, without which I would be lost!

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali Honawar

      January 13, 2012 at 4:54am

      That’s so lovely, Manasi. I wish I had a kitchen gadget passed down over the generations. No wonder it’s so special to you.

  10. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Gayatri

    January 13, 2012 at 1:15am

    I cannot live without my knives and pressure cooker. But my main kitchen ‘gadget’ is my husband. He’s my sous chef, chopper and cleaner! Makes cooking all the more enjoyable!

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali Honawar

      January 13, 2012 at 4:56am

      Lol. Your husband definitely sounds very handy. I should’ve listed Desi too who’s quite the kitchen helper. :)

  11. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Madhuram

    January 13, 2012 at 1:53am

    I too was going to do a similar post Vaishali. Great minds think alike?! Like Cham said the Indian mixie, before that I used the Magic Bullet and still have it after 3 years. The small jar is perfect for grinding masala/spices for a small family like us.

    But the one appliance I cannot absolutely live without is my kettle. I’m using it like 5-6 times a day, minimum. Cooking everything in hot water, like rice/dal etc, the cooking time is reduced by about 75% I would say, with my electric range. The first few years in the US with the electric range it felt that I was in the kitchen all day long, then I got used to the slow pace cooking. I came across this idea only a year and a half back and my goodness that was the best tip that I have ever got. Back in India my mom used to use hot water for cooking rice etc, but water boils so quickly in gas stove as against the electric ranges we have. So the electric tea kettle is a real time saver.

    Regarding the wok, do you have a gas range? I’m so tempted to buy a wok for stir frying but I don’t know how it will work on an electric range. So during my last two trips to India I have been getting flat bottom kadais in diffferent sizes.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali Honawar

      January 13, 2012 at 5:03am

      I wish I had done this as a meme– would’ve been a fun one. :) I have been hearing great things about the Magic Bullet from other Indian friends, and I have eyed it at Costco, although I guess I can’t justify buying one since I already have a great blender and a spice grinder. Boiling water before adding it to food is a great tip and one I’ll be using the next time I make rice.
      I do have a gas range, but maybe for an electric stove you could use a wok ring? I believe those work well with electric ranges.

  12. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Miri

    January 13, 2012 at 4:48am

    The electric pressure cooker has just entered the market here and Im wondering what it is exactly like? is it a crockpot? or like an electric rice cooker (which I have)? or is it just like the pressure cooker, only electric?

  13. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Vaishali Honawar

    January 13, 2012 at 5:07am

    It’s a pressure cooker, but you just plug it in. I can set mine to cook for a certain amount of time, after which it automatically switches off. I pressure-cook everything in it that I would in a stovetop cooker. It makes almost no sound and I don’t have to worry about blowing a hole through the roof. You could make rice in it, but it’s definitely more than a rice cooker.

  14. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    notyet100

    January 13, 2012 at 1:06pm

    For me it’s my wok,wooden spatula,knife,mixing bowl and whisk

  15. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Anonymous

    January 21, 2012 at 2:27pm

    Vaishali,

    Did you grind the Kolhapuri masala in your Vitamix or the coffee grinder? My coffee grinder works well for spice grinding, but it’s so small, I have to grind in many batches. That’s a real pain, and it makes me not want to make spice mixes, because it’s so tedious. If your coffee grinder is a larger size, please post the brand and model. If you used the Vitamix, did you use the regular sized jar or the third jar with the dry grinding blade?

  16. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Vaishali

    January 21, 2012 at 4:09pm

    When there is any ingredient in my recipe with the slightest moisture in it, I do not use my spice grinder. Since the Kolhapuri masala has onions and garlic, please use the Vitamix with dry blades, or you might even try the small Vitamix jar with the wet-grinding blades. You will have to be patient and stir a few times. You just need a coarse powder. For anyone who does not have a powerful blender, or if it is really difficult to powder, add some water and then store the remaining paste in the freezer in an air-tight jar. Thaw whenever you want to use.

  17. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Anonymous

    January 21, 2012 at 11:08pm

    I am curious to know why you prefer a blender over a food processor…

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali

      January 23, 2012 at 3:02pm

      Because food processor produces a very coarse grind — that doesn’t work for masalas, wet or dry, that go into curries. The only recipes I might grind in my food processor are pestos and salsas.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Anonymous

      January 24, 2012 at 11:50pm

      IC my experience with blenders have not included Vitamix. I just now checked them out online. Whatta cost! Whew…

Thank you for visiting Holy Cow! I love hearing from you, so take a moment to say hello or tell me what you thought of this post. Thank you!