My kitchen has always been relatively well equipped because I love cooking. But I don't have every kitchen gadget out there because some of them tend to be one-hit-wonders that take up space and don't do alot. My husband's beloved spaetzle maker comes to mind...but I'll stay quiet, he really loves making speatzle.
As far as the kitchen items I think are essential, I have some decent knives, several cutting boards for different jobs and a blender. But cooking more from scratch has highlighted my need for some additional equipment. In the past year I have added a few items that have made my life a whole lot easier. Surprisingly the ones that have made the biggest difference were inexpensive and rather small to store. And the added benefit, these 'B list' gadgets make perfect gifts because not everyone thinks to spend the money on them. They offer great function, but even a long time foodie might not have every single one.
1. Coffee Grinder
We received our coffee grinder several years ago from family as a Secret Santa present. Until then we had always purchased ground coffee, which doesn't taste quite as fresh. This inexpensive present was such a hit that my hubs swore never to buy ground coffee again. The best part? My kids sleep through the whirring sound when I get up before them in the morning.
Krupps 203 Electric Coffee Grinder at Amazon $19.55
2. Immersion Blender
I love the texture of creamy soups and apple butter. But how much do I hate handling ladlefuls of hot food into a standard blender? Yuk and Ouch. When I got my first immersion blender I was thrilled to do fewer dishes and puree things in the pot where I was cooking! That saved time and heavy hot weightlifting. I soon realized it was also super perfect for smoothies, emulsifying salad dressings, making vegetable purees and even pureeing eggs for amazing omelettes. I now consider this device a necessity.
Cuisinart CBS-77 Smart Stick at Amazon $49.95
3. 6-Inch Utility Knife
I have not added to my knife collection in a long time. I consider the essential knives to be a 9 or 10 inch chefs knife, a serrated knife and a 4 inch paring knife. But recently I purchased a 6-inch utility knife because I felt like I needed something in between my big guy and my paring knife. The utility knife is amazing for coring apples. It feels good in the hand when slicing greens off tough woody stems. Also I have found it easier to use than a chefs knife when slicing smaller things like cucumbers and even small potatoes and onions. Having this knife has filled a void in my kitchen for sure.
J. A. Henckels Classic 6-Inch Utility Knife $32.95
4. Knife Sharpener
I acquired this knife sharpener just this weekend and BOY has this changed my life. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not professionally sharpened my knives since I bought them almost 10 years ago. That is reprehensible. I knew I needed to do it, I just haven't gotten around to getting to the store that offers knife sharpening. Then think about it, it will be a few dollars for each knife and you will need to do it again in 6 months to a year! Chef's Choice makes several high quality knife sharpeners in the $100-$150 price range. But they also offer this mini for $39.95 (and it was actually even less at Zabar's in NYC). I have used it on all my knives and they are like new. This sharpener also works on serrated knives.
Chef's Choice Diamond Hone Hybrid Electric-Manual Knife Sharpener $39.95
5. Electric Beater
I used to consider an electric beater something that would take up space since I could easily stir or fold food together with a spoon. But then my mother in law bought one for me for a gift and I was hooked. I use the electric beater for cakes and muffins, an amazing cream cheese dip I make alot for parties and of course mashed potatoes. What sold me was not the EASE that the tool offered, but the superior result that I got. Mashed potatoes whipped with my electric beater are fluffier and less lumpy. An electric beater is also very economical and doesn't create alot of dishes the need to be cleaned!
Paier 5-Speed Electric Hand Mixer/ Beater (Includes Bread Kneeding Attachment) $23.19
Gift giving is one of the toughest things I do every year. I ALWAYS over think everything and I can rarely make a decision. And in trying to make every gift perfect I sometimes have some epic fails or fail to make a decision altogether. I hope that if you are the same as me, you can get some inspiration here!