Last year, I debuted my first annual Essential Cooking Gadgets list for the vegan kitchen, inspired by my friend Jan’s wisdom that the right kitchen tools make all the difference. After trying her velvety New York-style cheesecake (made with her KitchenAid Mixmaster), I was sold. Although I’ve not eaten cheesecake in some time, I have held on to Jan’s advice, and assembled a group of reliable gadgets and appliances that make cooking easier and more fun.
The original list included 7 items, ranging from prep bowls to a tofu press. Each remains essential to Living My Best Life as a plant-based cook, though this year, one will be booted off Good News Veg Island: The 11-inch Scan Pan. Though the pan is made by an environmentally responsible company with an excellent reputation, there’s new evidence suggesting it uses a “forever chemical” in the manufacturing process. I will continue using my pan, but can no longer recommend that anyone buy a new one.
The 2023 list includes 4 additional gadgets, thanks to tips from Good News Veg readers. Plus, I spent most of last year on a road trip from Boston to California, which involved staying in way too many Airbnb’s – some with kitchens equipped with lovely gadget surprises.
The best news? Each of this year’s additions is under $25. So buy one for yourself and as a gift for that special cook in your life. Enjoy!
Note: I have no monetary relationship with any manufacturer, retailer, or (God forbid) Amazon. I provide links because they typically include excellent photos, and to make it easy if you decide to buy.
6 Essential Cooking Gadgets
- Food Scale: How many carrots are in a cup? It depends on how you cut them. Invest $16 in a kitchen scale, and eliminate the guesswork. Your recipes will turn out better. I promise.
- Immersion Blender: Liquify soups and sauces in the pot you cook them in. No more cleaning up spilled soup that (inevitably) leaks out of the food processor or digging gunky vegetables out of the bottom of a blender. (If you’re unfamiliar with this appliance, check out the short video below. Unfortunately, I don’t think the guy is included).
- Tofu Press: The secret to making tofu people want to eat is to eliminate the water. Anyone who’s tried to do this without a press — stacking heavy coffee table books and/or cast iron pans on top of it — knows the story does not have a happy ending. At some point, the coffee-table-book-cast-iron-pan weight becomes unstable, and crashes. Do yourself a favor and spring for this gadget. It will change your relationship to tofu.
- Toaster Oven/Air Fryer: When I replaced my 25+ year old toaster oven last year, I scoured Consumer Reports for ratings. Who knew? Toaster ovens aren’t just for leftovers anymore. They crisp, they fry, they bake, they do the dishes and bear your children (just checking to see if you’re awake). After using my new toaster oven/air fryer for a week, I proclaimed to my friend Marjorie, “I’m ashamed to admit how much this appliance has improved the quality of my life.”
- Meal Prep Bowls: Julia Child gave this advice to novice home cooks: “Read the recipe all the way through before you begin.” My addendum: … and then, measure out every ingredient, and put it in a bowl next to the stove, so it’s ready when you need it. The French have a term for this: Mise en place. Consider it your new French friend.
- 14-cup Cuisinart food processor: I use this for everything — even things I’m not supposed to use it for, like chopping onions and tomatoes (only when I’m in a hurry). In the summer, it becomes a full-time pesto-making machine.
4 NEW Essential Kitchen Tools (Under $25)
- Mircroplane: Before I bought a microplane I cheated. (Young people call this a “hack”). When a salad dressing called for the zest of a lemon or lime, I skipped the step completely, thinking, there’s enough lemon juice in there already, it won’t make a difference. (It does). When a dressing called for “very finely minced” garlic, I got lazy, and used garlic powder instead. (Big mistake). When my favorite decadent veggie mole sauce called for shards of dark chocolate, I melted a chocolate bar in the microwave, then poured it in. Using a microplane to grate your lemons, limes, garlic, and chocolate, will make your recipes sing like a choir doing a beautiful four-part harmony.
- Citrus Juicer with Measuring Cup: Discovering this life-changing gadget in an Airbnb was one of the highlights of my road trip – right up there with hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains and driving the coast of Big Sur. In addition to saving that annoying step of having to measure a tablespoon or two of squeezed juice, this ingenious invention also extracts more juice, and is easier on the fingers (for those of us who are getting, ahem, older), than my old squeezer.
- Double-sided measuring spoons: Don’t you hate it when a recipe requires you to measure a tablespoon of a wet ingredient, followed by a tablespoon of something dry? I don’t know why I find wiping out a tablespoon to be so annoying, but I bet some of you do, too. With so many little annoyances in life, it feels good to be able to eliminate one of them.
- Self-pulling Corkscrew: My husband’s hobby is California Cabernet. We buys a lot of it (mostly from Gerry, at Beaver Brook Bottles), and we drink it almost every night. We’ve been through a lot of corkscrews, cheap and expensive. It wasn’t until we stayed at an Airbnb in New Mexico that we found true Corkscrew Love: The Ikea 365+ Vardefull. We bought two (in case we lost one). Shockingly, it’s been discontinued. I ordered this one, based on the same idea. It’s just as good.