Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Cooks cherish their favorite kitchen tools, and here's why

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

From left: Heat--resistant spatula ($9); Kuhn-Rikon Palm Spring Whisk ($15.95); Better Brush set (three silicone brushes with different-length handles, $14.95); Cuisipro Accutec Shaver, ($16.50); hand-held ergonomically designed masher ($14).

Photos by Deborah Booker • The Honolulu Advertiser

Makin' a list of gifts for the cook in your life?

We asked chefs and home cooks to name the tool they most prized in their kitchens, and also checked out offerings at local kitchen stores. The suggestions roam the globe and have a wide price range.

Heat-resistant spatula from Rubbermaid; $9, Kilgo's or elsewhere. "(It's) the tool I'm most happy with and (it) saw heavy action when I was working the omelet station at the Mandarin. It's the secret to making a good omelet. You can use it to stir-fry the ingredients, whisk the eggs to create convection (which helps the omelet set faster, therefore not browning or drying it out) and because it's flexible you can work it around the sides and under the omelet to make sure it's ready to flip.

— Frank Gonzales, chef and director of noncredit courses for Kapi'iolani Community College culinary program

Thai-style green granite mortar and pestle; $20 in Chinatown. "Heavy as a piece of furniture but I cannot make curry pastes without it. Or pesto! This is the one Jamie Oliver uses."

— Tan Sam, Honolulu home cook, originally from Thailand

Great gift ideas for the gourmet

Ginger grater
Japanese-style porcelain ginger grater has sharp "teeth" and a rim to catch juice.

Salad Sac
The inexpensive Salad Sac keeps washed greens fresh longer in the fridge and prevents waste.

Mortar and pestle
Green granite Thai-style grinder is generously sized, durable.

Silicone ware
Silicone, which can handle temperatures up to 500 degrees, is fashionable for tools from oven mitts to spatulas and brushes.
Mexican-style citrus squeezer ("exprimidor de limones"), a slim, hand-held squeezer with a bowl into which the lemon or lime fits and handles with which to press out the juice; about $6.50, El Mercado de la Raza. "It's easy to store, easy to use and makes the best limeade and lemonade because the oils are squeezed out with the juice. We use it when we make lemon bars, 'ia ota (poisson cru), ponzu sauce, lemon miso dressing and cocktails!"

— Dick and Jan Mills, Kalihi Valley home cooks

Le Creuset cookware, cast iron with enamel finish; various prices up to the hundreds of dollars. "Very durable and will last a lifetime. Great to cook with as it has a very even cooking surface."

— Chef Antony Scholtmeyer, Ritz-Carlton Kapalua

Duncan's Kitchen Grips, high-tech heat-resistant kitchen mitts; $29.95, Executive Chef. "These things look like something a fireman would wear but they really work. I never get burned anymore and they go up my arm almost up to the elbow."

— Anna Ku'umaile, home cook, barbecue enthusiast

Food mill and tamis; food mill is a bowl containing a metal blade that turns with a handle and drives food through strainer ($20 to $80, depending on materials), tamis ("tammy") is a round, hand-held screen-mesh strainer (plastic set with various sizes of screens, $20); both available at kitchen supply shops or online. Used to make silky-textured vegetable purées. "If you don't have (a food mill), you can't make mashed potatoes."

— George Mavrothalassitis, chef-owner, Chef Mavro.

Whisks, various styles and sizes for various chores; from about $14 in cooking supply stores and online. New styles of whisks include the Kuhn Rikon Palm Spring Whisk ($15.95), with a top like a palm tree's frond, which whips and froths quickly and is especially good for hard-to-dissolve ingredients; and the Easy-Store Whisk from Kuhn Rikon is a collapsible general-purpose balloon whisk that stores flat ($14.95). Whisks are a standard in professional kitchens; check for comfortable size, weight, handle design. Tiny mini-whisks are great for small amounts of cornstarch slurry and such.

Ginger grater, white porcelain disc with sharp teeth, trough for juice; $5, Shirokiya, Daiei, Marukai. "My girlfriend taught me to use this grater, "shoga oroshi," which is amazingly sharp and handles the tough fibers of ginger well."

— Dana Silva, home cook, Waipahu

Screwpull wine opener, lever-action wine opener; about $50. "It's so easy to use I make every newcomer open the first bottle to just watch their face. Clamp it on, close it down, open it up — it even ejects the cork."

— Catherine Tarleton, home cook, Big Island

Dynamic burr mixer, stick mixer; French-made Dynamic brand about $300, home versions about $50. "This is an immersion-style hand blender that allows me to puree soups and sauces directly in the pot. Kitchen Aid makes a smaller version perfect for the home cook. Besides soups and sauces, you can make smoothies and shakes directly in the glass, whip eggs, even make homemade baby foods.

— Brian Noordman, executive sous chef, Pacific'O restaurant, Lahaina, Maui

Tongs, various sizes; from $7, kitchen supply stores or online. Chefs consider tongs an extension of their hands, using them for everything from turning or moving food to picking up items too hot to handle. Kuhn Rikon's Easy-Lock Tongs (about $18) are flat, wire tongs perfect for turning fried patties, delicate fish fillets and such without tearing them apart.

Cuisipro Accutec Shaver, ultra-sharp tool for creating thin shavings; $16.50, kitchen supply shops. Stainless steel shaver results in thin, wide shavings of hard cheese on salads or pasta, delicate chocolate curls for desserts, ribbons of vegetables. It's the latest in a line of hardy, rust-resistant hand-held graters from Cuisipro.

Turner Spatula, long-bladed, flexible metal spatula for turning fish; $62.50 online from www.knivesandtools.com. The one tool he carries with him as he moves between the restaurants he supervises.

— Miles Tokigawa, executive chef, Waikoloa Beach Marriott.

Salad Sac, cloth bag that preserves greens; about $10, mail-order or cooking supply shops. "Made of a special toweling-style cloth, these bags give you an extra couple of days of freshness from washed greens."

— Wanda Adams, Advertiser food editor.

Eurosealer, battery-operated bag sealer; $14.95, As Seen on TV Store Hawaii, Ward Warehouse. Small device uses mild heat to melt bag surfaces, causing them to adhere and seal. "I'm a sucker for these things you see on TV, but this is one that I've found really valuable. As a single person living in humid Kane'ohe, I threw away a lot of chips, crackers, cereal and things like that until I got the Eurosealer."

— Sandra Miller, home cook

Mama's rolling pin, long, handle-less, slightly curved French pastry roller; $7.50, Executive Chef. "Baking together was something (my mother and I) did on a regular basis and we used this rolling pin. It's very worn; it has lots of little knicks. I can sort of feel her hand when I use it. If I bake at anyone else's house, I always have to take it with me. It makes me feel warm."

— Bonnie Friedman, cookbook author, home cook, Kula, Maui