Kitchen Multi-taskers: Cook More, Buy Less

by Gina Blitstein · 2 comments

Of all the jobs we do around the house, cooking is probably the one for which we have the most tools. Every kitchen is filled with its share of implements to help a cook perform every function necessary.

Any well-equipped kitchen has a large supply of tools, machines and utensils to perform the basic functions – and even some advanced ones. Although there are a plethora of specific-use kitchen gadgets on the market, a lot of them are unnecessary. Why spend money on a new one-use kitchen tool (uni-tasker) when you probably already have what you need to perform whatever it does?

Some people are gadget-lovers. When they see a specialized tool for a job, they embrace its novelty and must have it. We don’t all have the ability, however, to purchase every new thing-a-ma-gig sold in kitchen shops or on infomercials that promises to make our kitchen experience easier and more pleasant. We can, of course, buy them on credit, but that’s exactly how we let debt hold us back.

Unless you’re going to use a gadget often or need a very specific functionality, it’s usually not worth purchasing a uni-tasker.

Here are some examples of common gadgets you can probably do without by using kitchen equipment you already have:

  • Panini press – This applies pressure to a sandwich as it cooks, pressing the ingredients together. Anything heavy and flat-bottomed (like a cast iron skillet) placed on top of the sandwich while it cooks will do the trick.
  • Garlic press – A meat mallet will work very well for smashing garlic wrapped in wax paper, as will that cast iron skillet. As far as chopping/mincing garlic, nothing works better than a Chef’s knife or cleaver.
  • Egg, fruit or vegetable slicer – Knives work more than effectively for slicing anything – that’s what they’re made for. Most slicers hold the item so it remains stable while it’s being cut. When using a knife, make certain your first slice creates a flat surface so the item is stable on your cutting board.
  • Potato ricer – This presses food (like cooked potatoes) through small holes. A colander or strainer can easily be substituted. Simply place the food to be extruded in the strainer and press it through with a spatula or wide spoon.
  • Lemon zester – The purpose of this implement is to remove the zest (yellow portion) of a lemon’s peel. That function can easily be performed with a microplane, a tiny grater that can be used for any number of small grating jobs.
  • Rice cooker – Rice can easily be cooked in a saucepan on your stovetop.
  • Steamer – Make your own steamer: Place a colander or strainer which is large enough to fit inside a pan without touching the bottom. Add a small amount of water to the pan and bring it to a boil. Place in the food to be steamed in the colander, making sure the water isn’t touching the food and cover. Voila!

Additionally, gadgets with modular parts that use a common power source are considerably more space-saving and cost- efficient. Two examples are:

  1. A griddle with a separate waffle iron and grill attachment. It’s like having all three appliances but paying for (and storing) only one.
  2. A blender that has a food processor and a mixer attachment, all powered by the same motor.

You can do a lot in your kitchen with just the basics – you don’t need every gadget that comes down the pike. As you can see, you can easily replicate many of their functions with implements you already have – without incurring additional expense. You’ll save money and space in your kitchen and accomplish more in that busy room.

What multi-taskers do you use in your kitchen?

You may also want to check out: Learning How to Cook Without Spending a Fortune.

Bonus Tip:

Another way to save on your monthly Internet and TV costs is to find a current ATT U-Verse coupon code or at least a promotion to knock down your home service bill.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan February 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I agree that it’s good to have multi-taskers instead of uni-taskers in the kitchen, but I disagree with getting rid of quite a few of the items on this list.

Garlic press — I use my garlic press almost every time a recipe calls for garlic. Smashed garlic doesn’t spread out in the dish as well as extruded garlic, and I find mincing garlic to be completely unreliable. I’ve had the same garlic press for almost 10 years, and it takes up less room than my can opener. I’ll keep it.

Egg slicer — We love egg salad sandwiches, and when you make a lot of egg salad, not having to slice each egg with a knife is a huge time-saver. (If you do not slice eggs with the frequency we do, I can see not having an egg slicer).

Rice cooker — If you like Japanese-style sticky rice with your Asian stir fry, or if you make sushi at home, a Japanese-style rice cooker is not strictly necessary, but it does make the job incredibly easy, and frees you up to prepare the rest of the meal without having to constantly watch the rice. I do cook brown and wild rice on the stove, however.

Steamer — A steamer basket (the flower-shaped thing with the feet) costs very little ($3-4) and rest happily inside my smallest pan, taking up almost no space at all. It’s not a kitchen must-have, but if it makes your life easier, you can store it wihtout too much trouble. I use our steamer basket almost daily, often for meals where I’m also used our collander to strain things.

A blender/food processor combination may seem like a great idea, but everyone I know who’s ever had one (even from companies like Quissinart) say they’re not worth your money. The blender motor isn’t strong enough to power the food processor for anything chunkier or heavier than soup.

Glenda April 30, 2014 at 2:08 pm

The egg slicer also slices button mushrooms quickly and easily…

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