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Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017 12:01 am

Resolve to have fewer, better kitchen gadgets

Parchment paper


We know that eating fresh, simple, home-cooked food is one of the best ways to foster our health and overall well-being. Many of you, like me, will be entering the New Year with a renewed commitment to health and to improving order and efficiency in our lives and households. As you well know, it’s typically hard to find the time to plan meals in advance, or even to cook at home on the fly. When you manage to carve out that time, you don’t want to fool around. So this week I’m listing my favorite kitchen gadgets that I rely on to get the job done in the most efficient, wholesome and delicious way possible.

Parchment paper
Parchment paper is your best friend when making any roasted or baked item. Sold in rolls and sheets, it is similar to wax paper, but vastly more versatile. Unlike wax paper, it doesn’t melt when baking and, moreover, makes cleanup a snap when doing anything from baking cookies to roasting vegetables or meat. Parchment paper can even be used to create little delicious dinner parcels that are healthy, simple and create almost no mess. Known as cooking en papillote, bundles of vegetables, fish or chicken, along with herbs and wine, are folded up in a little package and baked, trapping the steam from the wine, and thus cooking the food while creating its own marvelous sauce.

Instant-read thermometer
I use an instant-read thermometer almost every time I cook meat or bake breads or pies. No matter how many roast chickens I make or pies I bake, I love the confidence that comes from knowing that the food was cooked properly. Cooking meat to the proper temperature is important for safety reasons as well as ensuring juicy taste and texture. This gadget is equally useful in baking. I use it to check water temperature when making bread and again when the loaf is finished baking. I know if the middle of the loaf hits 190-200 degrees F it is done. When baking deep fruit pies it is useful to check the middle of the pie with an instant read thermometer to make sure it has reached 175 degrees F. This will ensure any thickening agents, such as flour or cornstarch, will have their starchy texture cooked out and will allow the pie to properly set up.
An in-oven thermometer is incredibly useful if you are cooking a large roast or even a simple baked chicken. A large holiday roast can be quite an investment, and this gadget, which runs around $15, helps alleviate the stress of over- or under-cooking the centerpiece of a celebratory meal.

Kitchen shears
A strong pair of kitchen shears makes light work of many tasks in the kitchen. They are useful for both breaking down a raw chicken into parts or cutting up a whole roasted chicken out of the oven. And shears are hands down the best way to cut quesidillas or pizza. Have a jar with a stuck lid or a tough nut to crack? Kitchen shears to the rescue! I like the kind that separate into two pieces to allow for more thorough washing. Look for shears with stainless steel blades that extend all the way up into the handle.

Spring-loaded tongs
I’m not sure I could function without this simple gadget. On a restaurant line, standard issue spring-loaded tongs can often become like an extension of your body. Picking up hot foods off of a sauté pan, anything on the grill, tossing salad greens, mixing up roasted vegetables, they are used to handle practically everything. Look for the stainless steel non-locking variety. The locking function can be frustrating and can catch at a critical moment, like when you’re turning a coconut shrimp in hot oil.

Digital kitchen scale

Digital kitchen scale
Professional bakers almost always bake by weights rather than volume, because the results are so much more consistent. A cup of flour can have widely varying weights depending on how it was measured out. (Was it scooped out of the bag rather than spooned out?) Weighting out baking ingredients takes out the guesswork and helps ensure the success of the final product. It also helps reduce the number of measuring cups needed, as ingredients are spooned into the mixing bowl on the scale, and the scale can be reset after the addition of each ingredient. Scales are also helpful in portioning out large cuts of meat for the freezer or weighing out portions of pasta or rice.

Contact Ashley Meyer at ashleyglatz@gmail.com.

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