It’s out with the old and in with the new this time of year, right? As we ring in the New Year, we celebrate our favorite winter kitchen ritual: clearing out and using up everything in the pantry and freezer. We’re actually pretty dedicated to this tradition, as we save both money and space by using up the food we’ve stockpiled. The same clearing principle goes toward all the gear in our kitchen cabinets: If we haven’t used it in the past year, it obviously isn’t essential for us and either gets packed away in the attic or donated.
This approach gives us some breathing space for the new kitchen gear we love to try out. Our kitchen discoveries from this past year proved themselves worthy of their dedicated storage space. That said, all of these items are actually quite small and compact, so that space and storage really aren’t even factors. What was your favorite new kitchen tool this past year?
1. Bowl Covers
We met Racheal McCormack of Oh Sew Green on a trip out West and were drawn to the cheery, colorful fabric she uses to sew up her reusable items, from sandwich bags to bowl covers. These items save green in two ways: no need to keep buying plastic bags, wrap or foil and nothing ends up in the landfill. We regularly use her bowl covers, which fit snuggly on an open bowl and have a food-grade plastic coating on the inside that is easy to wipe down or pop in the washing machine.
2. Quality Knife
This one is a bit embarrassing to admit, but for two people who spend a lot of time in the kitchen, our knife collection consisted of an odd mixture of hand-me downs and dull odds and ends. Operating under the “less is more” premise, we upgraded to one all-purpose, 6-inch chef’s knife from Victorinox, the folks who also make the classic Swiss Army knife. It’s a little shorter than the traditional 8-inch chef’s knife, so it’s nimble enough to easily slice and dice fruits and vegetables but with enough heft to cut through heavier items, like a pumpkin or meat. Our only problem now is we keep squabbling over who gets to use this knife when we’re both in the kitchen. Maybe a second one is calling our name in the New Year?
3. Digital Thermometer
Nerdy farmstead chefs unite! We’re amazed at how often we use our digital themometer, a Thermapen by Thermoworks. We first picked it up as a bread-baking tool so we could tell exactly when the inside of our loaves reached the perfect internal temperature of 190 degrees when baking in our outdoor wood oven. The bread would get nicely brown on the outside, but we found it might not be fully baked on the inside. What we didn’t realize is how we’d use this thermometer to check when water or any liquid came to a full boil. Turns out, there were lots of times we “thought” something was boiling and it wasn’t there yet. No more soupy puddings for us!
4. Anti-Fatigue Mat
This one took us by surprise, as we honestly didn’t believe a gel floor mat under out feet would make that much of a difference in how our legs felt, but now we’re converts. Standing on a hard floor, a wood floor in our case, for hours causes joints and legs to fatigue. These mats alleviate pressure on your heels, back and shoulders by providing support and cushion. You can even find mats with green technology: Imprint Comfort Mats are manufactured without the use of toxic, heavy metals.
We’re the type of people who would much rather invest in seed packets than the latest technology, but that said, cooking is much more fun when we have music or talk radio going. This year we got a small, portable speaker that runs on a rechargeable battery and runs on Bluetooth so it can pick up anything from our iPad. Our kitchen regularly turned into a dance floor. With anything from National Public Radio podcasts to Lisa’s lively Cuban Pandora station, kitchen prep time flies by.
For more of our favorite gear of 2014, check out this recap from the National Restaurant Show.