Holiday 2010 Gift Guide: My Top Ten Stocking Stuffers for the Kitchen

Being the planner and organizer that I am, I’m thinking about Christmas presents already! Most of my family lives either internationally or across Canada, and so I like to get their boxes out by early December. That way I know gifts will arrive on time, plus then I can focus on other important tasks – like baking gingerbread with the boys and getting my season’s greetings in the mail.

So, in the name of organization, I’m bringing you a holiday gift guide for the kitchen in three parts – big items, stocking stuffers and cookbooks – to help you can get some ideas and recommended resources for the cooks and bakers on your list (or your wish list).

Last Friday we looked at my Top Ten ‘Big Ticket’ Kitchen Items, now I want to give you the top ten smaller tools I reach for every day while cooking and baking. They are absolutely essential for all that I do in the kitchen and making the task of preparing three meals a day much simpler.

Top 10 Stocking Stuffers for the Kitchen

1. Tongs


Perhaps one of the most useful kitchen tools ever, I refer to my chef’s tongs as my third hand because I reach for them so often during the day. I use my tongs to loosen boiling spaghetti, toss a salad, turn cubes of browning stew meat or chicken, and do virtually anything that is too hot or icky to do with my bare hands.

This is the same pair I used back in my restaurant days when I worked the line. Best feature? The locking mechanism on the end keeps tongs closed when not in use.

Tip: Don’t leave the tongs in the kitchen once dinner is ready! Bring them to the table and use them to dish up your meal in an efficient and tidy way.

2. Large Silicone Spatula


I got hooked on these Heat-Resistant Spatula when working in professional kitchens, and now can’t function properly with most flimsy spatulas designed for the home cook. These light-weight, yet durable Rubbermaid scrapers are definitely designed for long-term use; they may cost a little more than average, but I know they’ll last a long, long time.

3. Whisk


OK, so I’ll admit I have a bit of a whisk obsession. Last time I checked I owned six or seven, but still want one in every color, size and shape! Practically speaking, this is what I get by with for everyday cooking:

I love my 12-inch French wire whisk for emulsifying sauces and such. A lightweight 7-inch whisk is always on hand for blending dry ingredients when baking, and a sturdy 14-inch frequently comes in handy for large batches of pancake batter and the like.

4. Microplane


I use my handy little Microplane grater for grating roots and bulbs like ginger, lemongrass and garlic. It’s essential for citrus zest and fresh spices such as whole nutmeg or cinnamon. This particular one is small to store and easy to clean. Love it!

5. Vegetable Peeler


As a longtime fan of the Y-shaped peeler and the control it offers, I’ve had my eye on this one from Oxo; my old peeler is badly in need of an upgrade. Of course if you like the swivel feature, this swivel peeler will get the job done – in a hurry, too.

6. Measuring Devices


Every kitchen needs tools for measuring, ideally for both wet and dry ingredients. I use both small and large Pyrex measuring cups for measuring liquids, plus melting butter or anything that requires using a microwave.

For dry ingredients I love stainless nesting measuring cups. They are sturdy, with handles that are just the right length, and should I absentmindedly set one down on a warm oven top, I don’t have to worry about it melting. Stainless measuring cups come in every price range; what matters most is that you love them.

7. Kitchen Digital Timer


Since I became a mom, a sleep-walking, easily distracted mom with a brain like a sieve, a kitchen timer is most essential.  For me it is easiest if it is magnetic, so it hangs out on the fridge, in plain sight.

This little device has saved many a dinner – and nearly every pan of toasting nuts. Like most digital gadgets, you get what you pay for. If you want a timer that is going to survive the occasional drop on the floor by your ‘helpful’ toddler, then you’re best off purchasing quality.

8. Sturdy Stir Spoon


You gotta have one! Every pot of chili and batch of Rice Krispie treats needs a sturdy spoon. It need not be fancy. Lately I’ve been loving my Joyce Chen Burnished Bamboo Wooden Spoons, as bamboo is a renewable resource. Totally Bamboo also makes a solid 16-inch spoon if your batches of chili are ultra large.

9. Silicone pastry brush


The silicone pasty brush has a lot going for it such as its ability to withstand high temperatures (ideal if you’re glazing a 400°F ham), but I think my favorite feature is its quick clean-up – just toss it in the dishwasher and voilà, instantly disinfected with no lingering smells or oils.

10. Slotted, Flexible Stainless Steel Spatula

This spatula is one of those tools that once you have one, you wonder how you ever survived without it. The slotted spatula allows excess liquid to dip off whatever you’re lifting and is extra thin for slipping under a delicate filet of fish or sunny-side-up egg.

It’s light-weight, flexible, and useful for so many kitchen uses. Be prepared to fall in love with this stainless spatula.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way for this post. Preferences stated are purely personal. And yes, you can support Simple Bites by purchasing suggested items through my affiliate links. Thank you!

What small tool or gadget to you reach for every day?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites.

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Comments

  1. I absolutely LOVE my microplane graters and use them everyday. I also use my Le Cruest Spatulas everyday and wonder how I ever survived in the kitchen without them!
    Sarah’s last post: November Already Goodness

  2. Love, love, love kitchen tool and gadgets (obviously). My favorite gift of all time was a box full of little gadgets when I was first married. I squealed like a little girl. Great list Aimee. Thanks for sharing.
    Kelly @ Mom’s Kitchen Gadgets’s last post: Cookin’ Up A Pretty Christmas Tree With Copper Ornaments

  3. Like you, I reach for my tongs and whisk almost daily. I’m also a big fan of wooden spoons, in various shapes and sizes, and I really like my small digital scale for baking.

  4. I love my set of graduated metal bowls. Use them EVERY day and for everything!
    Another one of my most used tools are my bamboo spoons – they don’t scratch my pots and pans and are really durable (esp the 1 which I use to mix my bread dough!).

  5. I am with you on the tongs with a locking mechanism; the lock is really essential. They are hands down my favorite tool that mom gave me when I was in college. I use them for everything you mentioned, plus handling raw meat (so I don’t have to touch it) and even serving spaghetti/linguine pasta. I <3 my tongs.

  6. I love and use all of those, but also use almost daily – a garlic press and cake tester.
    Pure Mothers’s last post: Earth Day Exploration

  7. Too bad I can’t show this to my fiancée for hints — I have everything already! Great comprehensive list, though. I use my tiny spatulas and skimmer/spider frequently. Very frequently. And I keep a long bamboo skewer in the drawer to use for leveling off flours.

    Cheers,

    *Heather*
    heather’s last post: wordless Wednesday early November

  8. Great list, Aimee! Phew, guess it is kind of that time to start thinking, isn’t it? Love that slotted spatula, and I don’t know what I’d do without my microplane or kitchen scale. Happy Friday.

  9. I wouldn’t say I use it everyday, but I certainly use it more than I expected when I got it. I’m talking about my kitchen scale. Just a basic one, but it works great when baking, with recipe development, and is really important when cooking gluten free.
    Cheryl Arkison’s last post: Hunting

  10. Can’t live without my microplane grater!!!
    Melissa’s last post: A Wednesday Tradition- Toasted Oatmeal with Sauteed Apples

  11. Surprisingly I actually have all of these! I’ve been slowly buying kitchen gadgets over the past couple years. Great round-up though! I agree with you on all of them :)
    megan @ whatmegansmaking’s last post: Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

  12. My tongs are indispensable! I think I need more than one, it seems like it’s always dirty. I’ll have to add that to my wish list, along with the microplane and the flexible stainless steel spatula!
    Jennifer’s last post: Baby Bok Choy with Bacon

  13. oooo- more to drool over! I used my tongs to plate up food for visitors last week- so much faster than using a spatula
    priest’s wife’s last post: The Perfect Catholic Mom

  14. I am just going to say one thing: tongs, tongs, tongs!!! I never thought I needed them and I am minimalist by nature… but when a friend bought my budding chef a pair for his birthday I claimed them and never looked back!!! We use them all the time for everything!!!
    se7en’s last post: Se7en’s November…

  15. On my list would be kitchen scales. Can’t live without them!
    Daisy’s last post: Eco Friendly Holiday Lights- Which Should You Buy And How Should You Use Them

  16. I love, love, love my tongs! I don’t know how everyone doesn’t own a pair. I actually gave one to a friend of mine for her birthday and even though she doesn’t cook, she’s now in love.

    But I think the thing you listed that I MUST HAVE is the silicone pastry brush. I have a plain old bristly one and there’s no way to get rid of those smells. Not to mention I seem to lose one or two bristles every time I use. Think it might be time to upgrade.

    Thanks for both these posts. They were great and really made me evaluate my kitchen tools.
    Jennifer’s last post: Jalapeno Garlic Salsa from The Depot

  17. The best small gadget in MY kitchen is the cell phone – with pizza delivery numbers on speed dial! Kinda kidding….I’m not a foodie, but I do know that the more I try to improve my cooking, the more gadgets I end up needing. And since we just threw away the pastry brush that looked more like a paint brush, I now know what kind to buy! Thanks.

  18. Great list, Aimee! I use my small brownie spatula all the time and I think a roll of parchment paper in the stocking would always be appreciated.

  19. Nisha @ Healthy Mom's Kitchen says:

    I kitchen tool I use most often is the Pampered Chef crinkle cutter (although I’m not sure what it’s really called). I cut fresh veggies often in my weight loss menu plans and this tool is comfortable and efficient, plus it adds some fun to our veggies :)
    Nisha @ Healthy Mom’s Kitchen’s last post: Banana Oat Bran Bread

  20. I’m not sure where I got it, but I like my wooden spoon to have an angled flat edge. If it’s just rounded at the top I feel like it doesn’t really STIR what I’m cooking– it’s too pointy.
    My favorite kitchen tool though are my cooking chopsticks. For flipping bacon, especially.
    And my pastry rolling pin.
    Oh, and I could go on and on and on.
    Mariko’s last post: Learning to Cook Again

  21. I also suffer from a serious whisk addiction! I love my red Wilton Cyclone whisk, it looks so awesome. I also have one of those balloon whisks with the little ball that rolls around; not sure what it’s for but it sure looks cool!

  22. I think I own every item on the list except for #10! And I don’t really call myself a cook, lol!
    Successful Woman’s Resource Center’s last post: How to do that thing you really want to do

  23. Ok, after you purchase all of these kitchen tools, because everyone should have them, please invest in a scale. They are available in all price levels. This signifcantly improved my baking skills. If you don’t believe it just weigh a cup of flour and see how much you can be off. Also if you hint enough it will make someone’s life easier to check you off the list. I received sheet pans and a Vic Firth rolling pin from a niece and nephew, and I never roll out cookies or pie crust that I don’t think of them. When they eat my cookies or pies they always want to know if I used their gifts. Very funny.

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