If you're like us, you have a few food-loving folks left on your shopping list for the holidays. You may be looking for something small or you may be looking for something that will last a lifetime. Either way Jack Bishop has you covered. Jack is Chief Creative Officer at America's Test Kitchen. Our Managing Producer Sally Swift put him on the spot for holiday gift ideas - from stocking stuffers to splurges. He gave her a list of five favorite kitchen tools for the home cook and a bit about why they'd make a wonderful present this holiday season.
Jack's Take: Sometimes it's the small changes in your kitchen that make a big impact. We recently tested fruit and vegetable peelers. I was convinced that I knew what was going to win and I was totally surprised. It's one of these Y-shaped peelers rather than ones where the blade is in the same alignment with the handle. It almost looks like a little harp. And it's from a company called Kuhn Rikon. Perhaps the best thing about this is it's $3.50 and it comes in an array of colors. You can pick up multiples of them, and it is so much more comfortable. I actually used it over the Thanksgiving holiday peeling 13 pounds of potatoes and 10 pounds of apples, which would normally result in a lot of hand pain. It's sharp and comfortable and it works like a dream.
Jack's Take: This slotted spatula will certainly fit into the stocking. It's labeled as a fish spatula, which seems to be underselling it. It's thin and metal and it's got slots for liquid or grease to drain out. It's great with delicate things like fish, but it does other delicate things like pancakes or cookies. It's even strong enough to support heavier items if you want to flip burgers or cutlets. We love it because it's so thin that it gets right underneath the food without nicking the food or tearing off the crust of a breaded chicken cutlet.
Jack's Take: I suggest that everyone invest in a reliable and sturdy digital thermometer. I don't understand how you're going to spend 50 or 75 dollars on a beef tenderloin, for instance, and you're just going to have to wing it on the temperature? Or you're going to try to cut into it with a fork or a knife to peek in? Use a digital instant read thermometer! You can use it for meats. We use it for sugar when making caramel. It's great for the temperature of water when you're making bread, and taking the temperature reading of custards. The Thermerworks Thermerpan Mk4 is super cool; it's kind of like the Rolls Royce of thermometers. It's what everybody at America's Test Kitchen is assigned when you get hired, and you guard it with your life because everybody loves these things. It's on a latch and when you swing out the probe suddenly the battery wakes and it's now reading. It has an automatic shutoff to preserve battery life. And it's got a nice thin probe that you can stick into all kinds of places to immediately get a reading. It gives you a reading in about two seconds, which is fast compared to some other thermometers.
Jack's Take: If you're baking, you definitely need a scale. It's so much more reliable to weigh your flour and sugar. And if you're following recipes you need to know do if you have two pounds of potatoes or three pounds of potatoes. The scale that we love is from OXO Good Grips; it's their 11-pound food scale. It has a pull-out reading so you can put a big bowl on the base, tare it, and fill it up. Even if the bowl is hanging over and you can't read the the digital numbers, you can just pull it out. It detaches from the base, so you can slide it to where you want it. Then you can actually see how many pounds of potatoes you have in your bowl.
Jack's Take: When people ask me what's the skillet or other piece of equipment that I love most, I say, "Do not ever take my Dutch oven away from me." I feel like it is the most versatile piece of cookware in my kitchen. For wintertime, it's all those stews and braises and soups. I cook pasta, deep-fry, and bake loaves of bread in it. This is a place where I want to get this workhorse to last a lifetime. The Le Creuset Dutch oven is our top-rated model. It is an expensive piece of cookware, but they are gorgeous. They come in all those different enameled colors. It's cast-iron, but it's got that enamel coating so that it's easy to clean up. And it's extremely durable. I'm fully expecting at some point, maybe 40 years from now, my two girls will be fighting over my Dutch oven.
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Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.
The Splendid Table frequently visits with the test cooks at America’s Test Kitchen to discuss a wide range of topics including recipes, ingredients, techniques and kitchen equipment.