by Chris Cowland –
Food, especially a shared meal, can be one of the greatest sources of human enjoyment. I try to make every meal a memorable occasion, even though some of the memories include the triggering of a smoke alarm … .
I love gadgets of all types, but my favourite ones by far are kitchen gadgets. Here are a few from my collection.
A meat thermometer. Why is it that a friend’s recipe which calls for roasting a three-pound chicken for 90 minutes at 350°F ends up as a dry, chalky brick when I cook it at home? Because no two ovens are the same. It is the temperature of the meat that counts, not the temperature of the oven. I use an electronic version called a ThermoPro. It comes with a remote, so I can monitor the temperature of a roast on my barbecue while I am cooking vegetables inside the kitchen, and it beeps when the desired temperature is achieved. Remember that the internal temperature will continue to rise another five or 10 degrees even after taking the meat from the oven, so set your beeper accordingly. The difference between rare, medium rare, medium and chalky brick is only a few degrees, so this is a tool that you really must have.
A heavy cast iron frying pan. Not exactly a gadget, more a necessity, but unfortunately you need a natural gas stove as they will scratch the top of an electric stove. The high heat retained within the pan will crisp the outside of the meat or vegetables, the famous “maillard reaction” – the sizzle on your steak! You can get a similar result by direct barbecuing on a grill, but you lose the tasty bits that you scrape up from the bottom of the pan (the fond), and the resulting delicious gravy.
A spiralizer. Mine is a Paderno, with attachments that provide a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from the long ribbons that fool your grandchildren into eating raw carrots and zucchini to pasta-shaped noodles that allow you to substitute rutabaga for spaghetti. This gadget adds a huge wow factor to the most basic of salads, and is a great way to substitute vegetables for gluten products.
A mandoline slicer. I use a Zyliss. It can be adjusted from wafer thin to thick and chunky, so you can experiment with a variety of fruit and vegetable textures. Great for quickly slicing au gratin potatoes, but always use the guard if you value your fingertips. I can personally vouch for that safety tip … .
A jaccard. 45 tiny blades slice through tougher cuts of meat, making them instantly tenderized, and as a bonus those tiny cuts allow your marinade to suffuse throughout the meat. Chicken thighs and flank steak are perfect candidates for this gadget.
A sous vide cooker. Anova has just released a compact version of their long-established product, and it is smaller but just as powerful. By cooking fish and meat inside a plastic bag in a water bath, you can ensure that it ends up at exactly the temperature you desire for the finished product. Cook a tough steak to a perfect medium rare for six hours, and it will taste like filet mignon at a quarter of the price. If you are not familiar with this method, just Google the Anova Culinary web site.
All this is making me hungry! I should probably mention that I have no connection with any of these manufacturers, so please do your own research to ensure your needs and budget are met.