Top five must-have kitchen gadgets

A garlic press on top of a table with fifteen to twenty cloves of garlic behind it. Includes an orange I and Illinois Extension woodmark.
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Most self-proclaimed foodies, like myself, will collect all sorts of kitchen gadgets. Over the years, I’ve learned which kitchen tools are indispensable, and which kitchen tools sit in the drawer unused.

Here’s a list of my top five must-haves:

  1. Food thermometer- have you ever cut into a chicken breast only to find it’s still pink inside? A food thermometer takes out all the guess work of wondering if the food is cooked through. Foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs, must be cooked to a minimum internal temperature set by the USDA to destroy any potential microorganisms that may lead to foodborne illness. Choose from a digital thermometer (a bit more expensive) or a dial thermometer (needs to be calibrated).
  2. Garlic press- sure you could chop fresh garlic with a knife, but why bother when a handy tool does the job for you in just one squeeze? No more peeling the garlic, which is sure to leave a garlic smell on your fingers. A garlic press uniformly minces the garlic, giving your foods more garlic flavor. If you’re like me and you use a lot of garlic, a garlic press will come in handy!
  3. Salad spinner- bagged leafy greens flood the produce cases at grocery stores, but when purchasing bagged greens, you pay more for less. Sure, it’s convenient having precut lettuce, but tearing a whole head of romaine only takes a few minutes. A salad spinner will dry your washed greens, so they don’t become soggy, and conveniently store them in the refrigerator, extending their freshness.
  4. Rasp grater- it may sound frivolous, but a rasp grater is the key to imparting flavor into many dishes. It has thin, sharp edges, perfect for shaving citrus peels, ginger root, hard cheeses, chocolate, or cinnamon sticks. There just isn’t another tool that does this same job.
  5. Silicone baking mat- I didn’t know I needed this until it was gifted to me, and now I never want to bake without one. These mats take the place of parchment paper or greasing your pan. Foods won’t stick to them, they’re reusable, and they’re so easy to clean. If you use a silicone mat, your cookies will likely be the best you’ve ever made, and you’ll no longer be scrubbing the pan after you’ve baked a meatloaf.

These kitchen tools make my heart happy and my meals tasty. What are your kitchen tool must-haves?


PHOTO CREDIT: Photo by Jakub Sisulak on Unsplash

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond. 


This blog post originally appeared in the Pantagraph on January 19, 2022.