Northside SF
Tips, Tools & Toys
Three must-have tools for the home cook
Whether you have a home cook on your holiday gift list or you’re cooking for holiday guests, here are three must-have tools for every kitchen.

A friend recently told me that she’s afraid to use a really sharp knife for cooking, but it’s actually far more dangerous to use a dull knife. We tested a number of eight-inch chef’s knives ranging in price from $26 to $325. Our three favorites were the Global hollow ground ($120), the Shun Kaji Fusion ($325), and the Victorinox Fibrox ($26). All three knives performed beautifully, from mincing herbs to slicing vegetables to cutting meat. The bottom line: The Victorinox was just as sharp and well balanced in the hand as the two more expensive models. The only disadvantage we found was the blade is smooth so veggies tended to stick to it (whereas the Global has dimples and the Shun has a wave pattern to reduce sticking), but for $26, we can put up with wiping away a few sticky slices of zucchini.

After testing five- to six-quart models from $50 to $240, we came up with three clear winners. Like with the chef’s knives, the prestigious brands came with hefty price tags but performed exceptionally well – beautiful browning and braising, even cooking, and easy cleanup. But we also found a budget-friendly version that held its own. Our three favorites were Le Creuset ($240), Staub ($200) and Lodge ($50). While the enamel coating on the Lodge was a bit thinner than on the higher priced ovens, we found its performance just as impressive.

If you make a lot of puréed soups and sauces, you’ve likely experienced the hot mess of transferring the ingredients from the pot to the blender or food processor in batches (and you’ve probably been burned once or twice by the splatter). Immersion blenders, also known as stick blenders, allow you to purée right in the pot – no more batches, no more hot mess. We tried models ranging from $24 to $200. The lowest-priced model, the Kalorik MS 18676 L Sunny Morning Lime Stick Mixer ($26) includes a plastic blending container and was lightweight, powerful enough to create velvety soups, and easy to clean. We liked the mid-priced Cuisinart CSB-78 Smart Stick Plus ($73) because it was cordless with a rechargeable battery that plugs right into the wall. You get 20 minutes of powerful blending per charge, and it also comes with whisk and chopper attachments. Our third and priciest pick, the Bamix ($180), has a quiet but powerful two-speed motor and includes mincer, beater and whisk attachments and a 20-ounce beaker. If you’re going for a pro-chef quality blender, Bamix is the one. If you want to save $150 on a blender that gets the job done, you can’t beat the Kalorik.

March 2012
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