Let me share some of my favorite kitchen products with you!
Note: this post may contain affiliate links to products I use and/or would recommend. This post is not sponsored, nor have I received any other form of compensation from these companies. All opinions are my own. I have included links so that you can easily find the products I am referring to, and, if you decide to purchase something through one of these links, I receive a small compensation for sending you to them, but it does not cost you a penny more. I use these meager earnings to help support my blog. You can read my full disclosure here.
I try to cook for my family as often as I can. It’s cheaper and healthier than eating out. But I don’t have a lot of storage space or counter space. So space-saving items are high on my list, as are time savers (especially cleanup time). And some of these products are just downright awesome and I wonder how I ever lived without them. And I want to share these with you!
Just so you know, I’m not getting paid or in any way being compensated by the manufacturers of these products to say great things (although I’m certainly open to getting paid or some free samples… 🙂 ). But I just love them so much, I have to share.
1. Pot Strainers
Do you like colanders? I don’t. They take up so much storage space and they are a pain to clean. And I hate dirtying so many big pots and utensils that pile up in the sink and are a pain to hand wash or take up too much space in the dishwasher. I actually have two solutions here for you. The first one is this strainer with a long handle. You just hold this against the edge of the pot and pour out the water. I love this because I can just store it in my utensil drawer. The best part of this particular product is that it works for lefties too! I’m left-handed and I’ve had other strainers like this that are designed for righties. This one is designed with a lip on both sides so it can be used in either hand. Brilliant!
My other pick here is this double-handled strainer. The one above works best when you have a smaller pot, when maybe boiling potatoes or vegetables. It’s a bit harder to manage with a larger pot of pasta. It’s a coordination and arm strength thing. This double-handled strainer let’s you get a good grip on the pasta pot and the strainer. Awesome! Both of these are stainless steel and will last longer than you. But, being metal, they can get hot, or if you are like me, you might tip the pot the wrong way and pour boiling water on your hands, so wear mitts or use a pot holder or towel to protect your hands when using.
Both are easy to clean, dishwasher safe, and easy to store in a drawer!
2. Collapsible Colander
While I’m on the subject of strainers… there are times when a bowl-style colander is handy, like when washing fruits and veggies. But, again, they take up so much space! The solution is a collapsible colander! This set comes in two sizes, so if you just have a handful of berries, the small one is perfect, and the large one is big enough for a pot of pasta (if you really don’t like my solution above). Being made of silicone, they are heat resistant to like 600°F, so you can even put it in the pot when boiling the pasta or veggies and just lift it out after! I do this when blanching my garden beans before freezing since I have to do it in batches, so I don’t want to pour out the water each time, and it is a real pain trying to fish the beans out with a spoon or tongs. Also, being silicone, the heat doesn’t transfer to the handles! These fold compactly, so they could be stored in a drawer, you could stand them up vertically in the cabinet next to your pots, or even hang from a hook by the open handles. The only drawbacks to these colanders is that they don’t have holes on the sides, just the bottom, so they don’t drain as fast or as well as a traditional colander. And there is just a small lip at the bottom (no feet) so it isn’t raised above the surface you set it on very much. But to me, the pros definitely outweigh the cons!
3. Salt & Pepper Shakers/Grinder
Huh? You’ve seen one salt shaker you’ve seen them all? How can a product like this be innovative? Let me tell you! My mother has this set from Oxo and when I saw them I just had to get a set for myself. How many times are you cooking and need a teaspoon of salt, so you either just keep shaking or shaking and not really measuring, or you unscrew the cap and spill salt everywhere, or you go digging for that cardboard cylinder with the pour spout in the back of your cabinet? This set has a little spout you can open to pour when you need more, or shake when you want less. I LOVE THESE!
Now, if you are a bit more of a gourmet and like to have freshly ground pepper, here‘s a cool product. An electric pepper mill. Not only is it battery operated (good if you have trouble with your hands like arthritis), but it’s a one-handed operation: just pick up, tip, and it starts grinding. This one even has a built-in LED light so you can see how much you are adding. There is one for salt too. I’ll admit, I haven’t bought this for myself yet, but my mother has it and loves it. The other thing I like about it is that it is stored upright. Most grinders are stored with the grinder on the bottom and leave a mess. No mess with this one!
4. Microwave Covers
No, not a cozy for your microwave. I mean to cover your plate or bowl when cooking to help keep your microwave from looking like a crime scene when you heat your pasta sauce. (I think you all can get a mental image of that from experience.) I hate using plastic wrap because it always seems to melt or rip on me, it’s wasteful, and I just can’t get the hang of getting a piece of it without a big production. And using a paper towel or wax paper is wasteful too. So anything that is reusable and easy is great for me! I actually have 3 different products to talk about here.
This first one is the most compact. This comes in a set of 4 (3 different sizes). I’ve had these for many years, but I only have the medium and large size. They are great when heating a bowl of soup, cup of coffee (yuck, I know), bowl of pasta sauce, or even cooking veggies in a bowl. Cleaning is a breeze, and they are so thin they take up NO space at all in the drawer.
But what if you have a plate of food? You can use the covers mentioned above, but the covers will touch the food, and if you have cheese on that plate, the cheese will end up on the cover. So a dome-style cover is better for a plate of food. I have two different ones, including one from Corning that was made to perfectly fit their traditional Corelle dinner plates, but I don’t think they make it anymore. My other one is made to just fit any standard dinner plate. I like this model, because it isn’t vented as many others are. It has a nice handle on top to grip it. It also works great to keep a plate of food warm, like when you get a phone call from your sister just as you sit down to eat. The biggest drawback is that it takes up space! My microwave is on a shelf above my counter (it’s more like a cubby), and there is space on either side, so I just store this vertically on one side of the microwave.
My last item in this category is super cool! These silicone lids are great! You can use them to cover a bowl in the microwave, cover a pan on the stove (heat resistant to 450°F) and even store food in the refrigerator. I don’t know how it does it, but it forms a tight seal to keep food fresh. And they come in several cool colors (not just purple). They are easy to clean, and they are nice and compact too. So if you are missing lids to some pots or bowls or need something for a microwave cover, these lids fit the bill perfectly!
5. Wine Stoppers
As I get older, I just can’t drink as much alcohol as I did in my younger days. Storing left over wine was never a problem, because, well, there never was left over wine! But now, we don’t finish the bottle. Have you ever tried getting that cork back in the bottle? Especially these new synthetic corks. Fagetaboutit. Yes, you can get fancy bottle stoppers with crystal tops and all, but I’m all for cheap and practical. And I don’t have a wine fridge, so I need something pretty low profile to fit between the milk and OJ on the shelf. These silicone wine stoppers are perfect. They even form a tight enough seal on most bottles to be able to lay the bottle on its side in the fridge! I can just throw them in my utensil draw and not worry about them breaking (or them breaking something else). And these wine stoppers are ease to clean (unlike the tapered cork style ones). They have labels for different styles of wine (which reminds me, they also have a set for white wines too), but I don’t bother matching it up. The labels might be useful for a party, though, especially if you have the wines upright in a cooler on the floor (okay, not a fancy party).
6. Awesome Utensils
We all have a drawer or two (or more?) of gadgets and utensils. Most take up space and don’t get used much. We have our few favorites we use most often and usually ignore the rest. Well, here are some of my go-to utensils that you may not have seen.
If you live in New Orleans, you know all recipes start out with a roux. Do you use a whisk to make your roux, scramble your eggs, or stir your pudding or gravy? Those balloon-style whisks are great to use, but not to store. They take up a ton of space in a drawer, and if you try to store it in a utensil container on the counter, the handles of all the other utensils seem to get tangled up in those things. The solution? A flat whisk. I love using this stainless steel flat whisk. Not just because of the storage convenience, but you can actually get into the corners of a straight-sided pot with it! Also, it works much better than a balloon style on thicker mixtures without gunking up (okay, spell checker says gunking isn’t a word, but it ‘s wrong, right?). Cleaning the flat whisk is a LOT easier too. I have a small and a large one. You can also get a silicone-coated flat whisk to use on your non-stick pans to protect the surface.
Another often under-used item in the kitchen are the kitchen shears/scissors. Do you just use them to open packages? They can do so much more! I have these kitchen shears and I use them for disassembling a raw or cooked chicken (even through bone), harvesting and mincing fresh herbs, cutting parchment paper, and even cutting bacon. The best part is that these scissors come apart easily for cleaning, which is important (no screw required). I have 3 pairs because 2 always seem to be in the dishwasher, they get so much use!
Tweezers? In the kitchen? Yes! Everyone has the normal tongs. Regular tongs are great for picking up sausage or a steak, but lousy for almost everything else you want to pick up. These long (12″) tweezers act like long fingers. You can use them to pick up a tortilla, turn your shrimp or bacon in the pan, grab an olive out of a jar, or even eat sushi! These tweezers are also useful for an assortment of other tasks, like grabbing things that fall into the garbage disposal, moving a treasure chest in your fish tank, or grabbing something stuck between the boards on your deck. I might get a second one to keep with my tools.
7. Steam Bags
I love these Ziploc Zip ‘n Steam bags. I use these ALL the time. They used to make them in medium and large sizes but discontinued the large, which I can’t understand why. I even wrote to them asking them about it. Oh well. Anyway, if you’ve ever bought frozen veggies that you cook right in the bag, this is the same idea. You just add your veggies and a little water, zip it, throw it in the microwave and cook according to the chart on the bag. Things cook faster because it’s like a little pressure cooker. I love them for cooking potatoes because they don’t get all soggy and water-logged, and they cook fast. And it saves on clean up too! I know I usually preach reuse and all, and sometimes I’ll reuse these multiple times for a single meal (like for the potatoes then the carrots), but they are considered a one-use item. For the right product, I make an exception to my rules!
8. Non-stick liners
I actually have 3 different products here that all do the same thing — keep things from sticking. The first product I’ll mention is parchment paper. Not the kind you write on, but in a roll designed for baking. Most people probably think this is mainly used for making those little pouches of veggies and fish you wrap up and bake. But did you know about parchment paper‘s non-stick qualities? Once I discovered it about a year ago, I’ve started using it to line cookie sheets when baking cookies, and I love that when one batch comes out of the oven I can lift the paper off right away and set it on a cooling rack and have another piece ready to put on and get the next batch in the oven quicker. It also works great for rolling out pie crusts (better than plastic wrap or wax paper). I also use it to line the pan when baking brownies and quick breads like banana bread. It’s so nice when you can just lift a batch of brownies right out of the pan. Mmmmmm. Brownies…
If you are using a standard size (half sheet) cookie sheet, you can use a silicone mat. These work great, make cleanup a breeze, and are reusable. I love using my silicone mat when making peanut brittle or chocolate bark. I’ve also used it when making sorbet, where you spread the mixture onto a pan and freeze it until slushy, stir, and refreeze, and stir, etc. Sometimes you end up with a metallic taste when a spoon or fork scrapes against the pan, so this prevents that. Of course, these can also be used in the oven for cookies, oven fried chicken, or tater tots!
I love being able to reuse the silicone mat, but sometimes you want fast cleanup, especially if you are making something really greasy or crumby. This is when you usually get out the aluminum foil, but then you accidentally rip it when trying to remove the food that got stuck and you end up dirtying the pan anyway. Reynolds Non-Stick foil is the solution. This stuff is slippery! I mean, seriously, you have to watch that the food doesn’t slip off the pan! I tend to use this for things like bacon-wrapped scallops or jalapeno poppers, fish sticks and home fries, or reheating fried chicken. And when you are done, just roll up the mess and throw it away.
I could probably have just one of these non-stick products and be fine, but for some reason I use all three for different things. Not really sure if it’s because one works better for one job than the other or if it’s just habit. I’d love to hear your opinion!
9. Countertop Compost Bin
I have a garden (well, actually 3) and I’m always looking for ways to improve the soil, so I try to compost. “Compost bin” is probably the wrong name for this product because you aren’t actually composting in it, but just storing your food scraps in it until you can bring it out to the actual compost bin or area outside. This food scraps container (that’s a better name) is perfect. It is compact (but still holds 12 cups), easy to clean, and doesn’t have vent holes like a lot of them do. I’d rather seal in the smell. It doesn’t need to be lined, but I sometimes line it with a produce bag from the grocery store. I can put a few scraps in, twist the bag and shut the lid. Next time, I add more, twist the bag, etc. Kind of the same principle as a Diaper Genie! Most other compost containers are either stainless (and pricey) or a ceramic crock, which I’m sure I would break when washing it.
10. Compact Blender
I’m not one for falling for those As Seen on TV ads — usually. But the NutriBullet caught my eye. Not because it claimed to extract all those nutrients at the “cellular level” (if you really believe that stuff), but because of its compact, single-serving size. It really is perfect for smoothies or frappes or frozen cocktails, or even making baby food. You can drink right out of the mixing container so you aren’t dirtying another cup. And if you rinse the blades right away, cleanup is easy. I’ve managed to come up with some pretty strange concoctions in it. Most have even been drinkable…
And related to that last item… I have actually used this to blend up food scraps to speed up the composting process. I threw in the apple peels and cores, banana peels, watermelon rind, veggie scraps and whatever else was collecting in the compost container and just added some water. The resulting compost soup was pretty disgusting, but I was able to dig a small hole right in the garden, pour it in, cover it up with more soil, and within a week or so, there was no smell or anything but just enriched soil!
So, there you have it! My top products I can’t believe I used to live without! Do you have a favorite product you don’t see here? Leave a comment and let me know!