Is that $70 onion-skin peeler really worth it? Would the amateur chef on your Christmas list love or hate (or even use) an avocado cuber? What about a pomegranate deseeder or a butter slicer? Vue spoke with a few of Edmonton’s foodies for the scoop on which kitchen gadgets make great gifts—and which ones don’t.
Nevin Fenske, Drift Food Truck (NF)
Kathryn Joel, Get Cooking Edmonton (KJ)
Barb Lockert, Barb’s Kitchen Centre (BL)
Patrick Saurette, The Marc (PS)
Everyone has to start somewhere. If you are buying for a new chef, or upgrading those Dollarama tools from college, the following are items no cook should be without.
You won’t get very far in the kitchen without a solid knife; this was the first item mentioned by every respondent.
“A well-made steel knife will, when cared for, last you a lifetime.”—PS
“The first thing I’d say is a good six-inch knife. I like to stick to the basics.”—NF
Food processor / blender
The ability to pulverize food should not be overlooked: many more recipes require a food processor than you might think. Even if it’s not mandatory, this piece of equipment sure make lots of dishes much easier to manage.
“I have a lot of clients who can’t do recipes specifically because they don’t have a blender or a food processor, one or the other.”—KJ
Flat-ended wooden spatula
Often the most essential items are the simplest. Anyone who’s ever spent way too long trying to scrape a pot using a blunt spoon knows the power of the spatula.
“It helps you with stirring and sticking and you can actually scrape the bottom of the pan.”—NF
There are many useful kitchen gadgets, and then there are some which are so incredibly specific they serve literally only one purpose. Still others seem totally unnecessary. To each their own, of course—but if you are shopping for cookware this Christmas, it might be wise to avoid the following.
A good knife is the essential kitchen tool. A knife that requires a power source is definitely not.
“I think they’re just silly. Why would you use a chainsaw on your food?”—PS
Few kitchen tools are as divisive as the humble garlic press, being both snubbed and adored in equal measure.
“I can’t live without my Epicurean garlic press; I put garlic in everything.”—BL
“Those are pretty ridiculous. A knife will work; you can smash garlic and chop it and you can even add a little salt and then if you push your blade down on the cutting board, you can get it to a nice paste as well—and that takes all of 10 seconds.”—NF
There really is a tool for everything—even for things that don’t need one. The egg separator, which isolates the yolk from the egg white, falls into this category.
“It’s one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen. My father gave it to me; I just don’t even need it—I can do that with my fingers.”—PS
If you’re shopping for an avid home chef or self-declared foodie, they probably have all the basic kitchen tools already (and likely a few gadgets, too). The following is a list of often overlooked but interesting and useful kitchen swag.
This conical ceramic dish hails from North Africa and is used to make that region’s signature cuisine, but it also works perfectly for many other one-pot dinners.
“You don’t have to be making a Moroccan dish; you can do chicken and rice. You can cook the whole thing on the stove or start it on the stove and then finish it in the oven.”—BL
“They do great oven-roasted chickens. I’ve bought them in the past as wedding gifts for people and they’ve come back to me and said, ‘You know what, I never thought I would use it, but it’s great.'”—PS
It might seem like a quaint relic of ’70s cookware, but the new generation of pressure cookers is much quieter and safer than their early counterparts. With the major savings they offer in both cooking time and energy consumption, they could easily become the newest retro kitchen trend.
“You can cook faster, better meals with more nutrition and more flavour. You can keep the smell in so you can make something smelly like a fish soup and not stink up the house. When you’re saving time you save energy, which you’re then saving money.”—BL
While not an essential gadget—a food processor serves most average home chefs—the Vitamix is one of the hot trends in cookware and several respondents mentioned how much they love it.
“It’s a blender on steroids, but it’s so versatile. I just think that the emulsions they do are really quite amazing.”—PS
“I have one and I love it; it’s very useful. You can grind things very finely; you can blend things that won’t blend in a normal blender.”—KJ
Never fret again about coercing your partner/roommate/house guest/UPS guy to hold open a bag while you stuff it with ground beef or messy beets: the baggy rack is the only spare hand you need.
“It’s just a handy helper—you don’t need a buddy to hang on to a Ziploc bag to fill it with stuff. You can also use it to dry bags.”—BL
Sometimes you’re buying for that person who’s got it all—or they’re just so picky you know nothing you choose will satisfy them. There is no shame in buying gift certificates. In fact, many people might even prefer it.
“I think for Christmas presents, experiences are better than things.”—KJ