I love to cook, and since I’m often rushing home from work to feed the family I gravitate toward tools that make prep and cleanup simple and quick. I’m a bit of an addict in this area, so naturally the kitchen tool showrooms always top my list when shopping the homewares markets. You wouldn’t believe the variety of gizmos and gadgets I find! It seems the wheel is constantly reinvented in new-and-improved spatulas, cutting boards, choppers — oh, the list goes on and on.
As a buyer, distilling the great (and the best-sellers) from the rest is a daunting task and really depends on personal choice. Many times my best buddy and buying partner, Suzi (chef and restaurateur), and I clash over what’s “great.” I’m more of a fancy multibladed slicer gal and Suzi prefers one knife for pretty much everything. If you saw the fabulous movie “Julie & Julia,” do you recall the scene where Julia Child (Meryl Streep) is furiously chopping about 50 pounds of onions through tears? That’s Suzi.
But that’s the beauty of kitchen tools — there is, without doubt, something for everyone. For over a decade and a half we stocked some excellent tools from great brands, large and small. Most of these lines are now sold direct from the manufacturer on Amazon and other big websites, so we no longer carry them. But several Top Faves earned a permanent place in my kitchen drawers and cabinets over the years.
In truth, I’ve rarely used a “bad” cutting board, but some are just better than others for size, weight, style, and ease of cleaning. Here are my faves collected over the years. You’ll notice heavy wooden butcher block-style boards did not make the list. Seriously, who has the time to disinfect them, not to mention the upper body strength to lug one about? Ditto bamboo boards, they need hand-washing and oiling, too. Go with the fabulous commercial-grade (and dishwasher-safe) Epicurean boards if you prefer wood over plastic, you’ll never miss your butcher block! Personally, I use the Preserve recycled plastic boards or Progressive cutting mats nearly every time I cook — light and easy!
Slicers, Graters and Cutters
Not everyone can julienne cut with a knife (sorry Suzi!), and sometimes uniform cuts are what’s needed — that’s where these tools come in handy. These are all by Progressive, a line we carried for over a decade, and they make great kitchen tools at terrific prices. After extensive use of everything listed below, I think Progressive products do the job as well or better than more expensive brands. Put that savings toward steak!
Storage is a primary concern for me, mainly because I have far more kitchen tools than I actually need. If you haven’t figured that out yet, just thought I’d say it aloud. So clunky measuring cups scattered in a drawer are a no-no. Here are my measuring faves — the Progressive Collapsible Cups and Magnetic Measuring Spoons, and the OXO Cups and Sticky Stuff Plunger Cup (LOVE) — plus some that I passed on, but only because I didn’t need more. See? There’s hope for me!
Towels & Sink Accessories
It seems that kitchen towels outnumber just about everything else at the homewares markets, two-to-one. So I think it’s almost comical that the first brand we carried — NOW Designs — remains the only one I’ve used for over 10 years. I suppose that’s because they’re simply the best all-purpose towels I’ve ever used, plus they come in great colors and designs at a great price. Beyond the all-important kitchen towel, a few notable sink accessories have passed through our warehouse to find a permanent home in my kitchen.
This & That
I can’t share my go-to kitchen tools without mentioning a few that we never carried, but that I rely on to feed my household. We never stocked cookware or kitchen appliances, but that doesn’t stop me from drooling over them at the markets — and discovering fabulous new products! Here are my Top Faves in this department which have withstood the test of time and hard use. The Rachael Ray ovenware line is my most recent addition, I’ve only had it for a year or two, but I’m really pleased with it and have added more pieces to my Christmas wish list this year! The variety of colors and shapes is just tremendous, and I love that most pieces have handles of some sort.