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University of Nebraska–Lincoln

UNL Extension in Lancaster County

FOOD: Nutrition, Safety & Cooking

Cook It Quick

Helping you prepare healthy foods in a hurry!

letter t ime-Saving Kitchen Tools for Holiday Gifts

Alice Henneman, MS, RD, UNL Extension in Lancaster County

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Check here for ideas for holiday presents (large and small) for busy cooks and perhaps yourself! Consider bundling several smaller items together for one present.

Tool 1: Universal Lid:

universal lid

These lids typically have several rings of ridges that let the lid fit over different sizes of pans. Some brands may cover pans from about 8" to 12" in diameter (as measured across the top of the pan). Other brands may offer both a smaller and larger size of universal pan lid.

Perhaps you wish your current pans had see-through lids so you could monitor food preparation without lifting the lid and releasing the heat. Buy a universal lid with a see-through dome for when you want to watch what's cooking.

When comparing features of various universal pan lids, consider whether these factors are important to your intended uses:

  • Dishwasher safe?
  • Stay-cool knob?
  • Oven-safe? To what temperature?

colander

Tool 2: Colanders

If you tend to wash and/or drain a lot of foods for meals, an extra colander or two may save time and help prevent cross-contamination. You might buy them in a variety of sizes.

Tool 3: Cutting Boards

Avoid cross-contamination when cutting different types of foods for the same meal by owning several cutting boards. This is especially important if you're cutting raw meats, poultry or seafood and then need to cut ready-to-eat foods. With more than one cutting board, you can avoid spending extra time washing your board before cutting the next item.

Plastic or other non-porous cutting boards are easier to safely clean as they can be run through the dishwasher.

whisk

Tool 4: An Assortment of Whisks

Some whisks are longer and narrower -- others are like big balloons. Use the "ballooningest" ones when you want to beat a lot of air into a mix, such as whipped cream or meringue. Choose whisks with thin and flexible wires for whipping air into batters, and thicker, more rigid wires for thicker mixtures such as brownies.

Choose whisks that have the area sealed where the wires go into the handle. This helps assure your whisk stays clean. These whisks may be more expensive, but will probably last longer and cost less over time. Look for "dishwasher safe" whisks to save time and to help assure your whisks are thoroughly and safely washed.

Tool 5: A Kitchen Timer

Help keep your kitchen tasks under control with this battery-operated device. Time the seconds, minutes or hours needed for a cooking process. Many come with a flip-out stand and a magnetic backing, so you always can keep them handy. Some can be clipped to your belt if you need to leave the kitchen. Others come with a string to hang around your neck.

Tool 6: Measuring Cups

For items such as sugar, oatmeal, rice, etc., a measuring cup with a long handle lets you quickly scoop the amount you need. Regardless of your preferred type of measuring cup, you may wish to own at least two sets to save clean-up time between different uses.

spoonula

Tool 7: Heat Resistant Spoon-Shaped Spatulas

Mix, scrape and then, stir again at the stove with this one utensil. Once you try these, you may want them in several sizes.

Tool 8: Extra set (or two) of measuring spoons

While the chili flavor tasted great in the dip, it doesn't go as well in the sugar cookies. Rather than continually washing and rewashing that single set of measuring spoons, buy an extra set or two.

And while we're on the topic of measuring spoons, why wash several measuring spoons when you didn't use them all. Or hassle with holding on to the remaining spoons while you measure from just one? Consider taking your measuring spoons apart. This works best for sturdier measuring spoons with easy-to-read size markings. Designate a storage compartment just for the spoons in a drawer.

Salad spinner

Tool 9: Salad Spinner

If you're washing lettuce, fresh herbs, etc., this tool is a must. Simply toss in your washed greens and "spin" them dry. These products work in various ways. Some have knobs you turn. Others operate through a push-down mechanism. Check around to find one with the features you like.

Tool 10: Food Thermometers

Food thermometers help you save guessing time trying to decide when food is safely done! It is convenient to have both an "instant-read thermometer" that can be inserted at the end of cooking for foods like steaks and casseroles, plus an "ovenproof thermometer" that can be left in during cooking for foods like as roasts and turkeys.

Tool 11: Small, Narrow, Long-Handled Rubber Spatula

Use this kitchen utensil to scrape out the last bit of food from the nooks and crannies of jars.

pinch bowls

Tool 12: Pinch Bowls

Ever pour too much of an ingredient into a recipe OR forget if you've added it? Worse yet, maybe you've added most of the ingredients, only to discover you're out of an essential ingredient! Measuring those small but mighty ingredients into "pinch bowls" before you start mixing your recipe may save the day.

Usually sold in sets of four to six bowls, these bowls hold just a "pinch" of ingredients like herbs, spices, flavorings, eggs, etc. They generally range in size from one to four ounces.

Tool 13: Rice Cooker

If cooking rice seems like too much fuss and an uncertain outcome, consider trying a rice cooker. A rice cooker features a inner pan that rests above a heating element. Specific ratios of water and rice are added to the cooker. Rice cookers determine when the rice is done by sensing the temperature of the inner pan.

appliance thermometer

Tool 14: Appliance thermometers

Buy one for both the refrigerator and the freezer. Your freezer temperature should be at 0 degrees F or lower; 40 degrees F or lower is the recommended refrigerator temperature to slow bacterial growth and maintain quality. Freezing occurs at 32 F; adjust refrigerator temperature accordingly between 32 F and 40 F to prevent unwanted freezing, such as freezing milk.


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