Although my kitchen drawers overflow with gadgets, I'm always looking for the next one—the perfect one—that will change my life—or at least my cooking skills. With so many kitchen aids on the market and since I’m running out of drawer space, I decided to ask local cooking enthusiasts and chefs about what gadgets they love and why.
"My favorite kitchen gadgets are a Robot Coupe and a Kitchen Aid Mixer,” says Chef Adam Brown of True BBQ in Munster. “With these tools you can do anything."
Chris Bardol, owner/chef at Stop 50 Wood Fired Pizzeria in Michiana Shores says he’s not a huge gadget person.
“But my go-to would be my immersion blender,” he says. “Works great for soup, sauces, Gelato bases and other things without infusing too much air.”
Because dull knives are one of the number one cause of kitchen accidents, Nicole Rucker says her list of must-have kitchen gadgets includes knife sharpeners.
“Whether it be the traditional ones or the new aged automatic ones,” she says. “A good cutting board all of your own (no sharing here) is also a definite must.”
Magisso makes cutting cake like, well, a piece of cake with their cake server. Just press and then gently squeeze and lift, setting it upright on to a plate.
“The Charles Viancin silicon lids are selling like crazy,” says Renee Blosky, owner of Lifestyles in Valparaiso.
Charles Viancin, a French company, makes Lillypad silicon lids which fit different sized containers and come in a range of colors and designs.
“There are seasonal ones like poppies for springtime and at Christmas time there were holiday themed lids,” says Blosky, “they’re pretty and very practical.”
The company also makes Grape Pour and Stopper, a decorative and easy way to keep wine, olive oil or any other bottled liquid from spilling. After the bottle is opened, insert the pour over the outside of the bottle (“it keeps it from spilling when you’re pouring,” she says). Then, if the bottle still contains wine, pop in the decorative reusable cork which creates an airtight seal to keep the wine from turning bad.
Speaking of wine, Chris Marolf, who with his wife Megan owns Old World Market in Valparaiso, suggests two of his favorites for both aerating wine and preserving an already open bottle so it doesn’t turn to vinegar.
“Private Preserve Preservation System uses argon to remove oxygen from an open bottle,” he says noting that just a couple of spritzes of the non-toxic, 100% inert gas creates a pillow cap to protect the wine. “It’s very nice for fine wines. We just used it on some reds and they’ve stayed remarkable fresh.”
Old World Market also sells AeraWine Infusion Spirit and Wine Aerator designed to immediate enhance the taste and smoothness by infusing air into the wine as it's poured from the bottle.
Indispensable tools in the kitchen for Nick Rajski, chef at Blue Chip Casino, Hotel Spa in Michigan City, include chopsticks—because they have multiple uses—as well as his knives and his immersion/stick blender.
“I consider myself a puree master,” Rajski says.
Joey Trama, a Certified Executive Chef (CEC) accredited through the American Culinary Federation, a culinary instructor at Ivy Tech and owner of Trama Catering in Munster, likes to use blenders such as Vitamix or Ninja.
“Normal blenders only have blades on the bottom,” he says. “Blenders like the Ninja have them in the middle.”
Also on the list of his favorite gadgets—grill pans for searing steaks and tuna at 500°F and a sous-vide, a method of cooking foods in sealed in airtight plastic bags in a water bath or in a temperature-controlled steam environment for long periods of time.
“They now are making sous-vide cookers for home use,” he says.
Making low carb noodles from tubular shaped vegetables such as zucchini or squash or juliennes of carrots and cucumbers is as easy as twisting your wrist says Sheila Banasik, who with her mother Vickie and sister Linda, own Perennial Accents in downtown St. Joseph as she pops a zucchini into a Gefu Spirelli Spiral Slice tube, attaches the top and begins twisting. The gadget’s Japanese steel makes the blades extra sharp and capable of producing two thickness of pasta like zucchini.
“Low carb noodles are the big thing now,” she says. “And this is perfect for making them.”
"The most useful kitchen tool to me is a knife,” says Jose Vasquez, executive chef at Gino's Steakhouse. “There are countless uses for it.”
Cheryl Dornberg, owner of Mrs. Dornberg’s Culinary Experience in Munster, teaches a basic class in using knives in the kitchen.
“The cornerstone of any great cook is the ability to properly use a chef’s knife,” she says noting that a good sharp knife is the most basic and important kitchen tool there is. “Knives aren’t sexy which is why there aren’t a lot of classes about them. It’s also amazing how many people are afraid of knives.”
In her class, Dornberg focuses on using an 8-inch chef knife and also will sharpen two knives for attendees for free with additional knife sharpening at $3 each.
“Sharpening is for professionals,” she says. “Honing is what you do at home.”
In her classroom, Dornberg uses knives made by such companies as Henckles, Mercer and Wüsthof.
“They’re very desirable and very good,” she says.
For herself she uses Chroma which are made by Porsche.
“All people need are a paring knife, chef's knife and bread knife,” she says. “Once you learn how to use a knife, it makes all those kitchen prep chores go fast.”
Joey Trama has all sorts of knives and his advice about how much to spend on a knife is based upon how long you’ll use it.
“If you work out the price, if you pay $170—which seems high—but you use the knife for the next 30 years, then it’s not so expensive,” he says.
David Blum, who with his wife Rosemarie, own Avanzata and Cutting Edge Sharpening located at Union Pier Ateliers on Red Arrow Highway which also houses Custom Imports, says that for his of view the best knife brands for general all-around use knives are Wüsthof and Victorinox.
“These brands: are made of high quality steel; are well balanced; score very high in tests conducted by America’s Test Kitchen and Cooks Illustrated magazine,” he says. “They take and maintain a sharp edge and are easily available in retail and online outlets. In a recent poll of sharpeners, Wüsthof scored the highest in the brand to recommend to their customers.”
Blum also advices purchasing a stainless steel knife.
“Modern stainless steel blades sharpen easily, maintain their edge and don’t rust or discolor," he says. “Many cookbook writers and cooking experts in the 1950’s and 1960s recommended high carbon steel— non-stainless—knives. This is before stainless technology improved and now are virtually as good as the old fashioned knives that Julia Child and others recommended.”
For those who are willing to spend more, Blum says Kai/Shun and Chroma are very good options for people who want a true Japanese knife and are willing spend $150-$300 for a chef’s knife. They also must be willing to use and care for it properly as the knives have very hard brittle edges that are designed for slicing and will chip when used to chop vegetables, cut thru chicken bones, etc.
Blum says that from his perspective and according to many authorities the most versatile knife in the kitchen is either the 8-inch chef’s knife or the 8-inch Santoku knife.
“These knives are excellent for both slicing tasks such as meat, poultry, fish and bread and for chopping vegetables, and fruits,” he says. “Selecting a chef's vs Santoku knife is a matter of personal preference depending on weight, balance and feel in the hand. Both will do a fine job.”