x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The best and the worst kitchen gadgets

Every cook has, at some point, excitedly bought an 'indispensable' kitchen gadget that soon becomes superfluous clutter. Click here for a photo guide of what to buy for your perfect kitchen.

The microplane grater is perfect for zesting lemons and grating Parmesan.
The microplane grater is perfect for zesting lemons and grating Parmesan.

Let's face it; every keen cook has done it. Has, with a rush of excitement, clicked a button on a website or handed over hard cash for a supposedly indispensable gadget, despite knowing that really they're just buying another item of superfluous kitchen clutter. Strawberry hullers, electric salt and pepper mills, pizza scissors, plastic avocado slicers and onion goggles - they are all on the market, so someone must be buying them.

In any kitchen, the basics are the most important. So don't even think about purchasing any form of culinary gadgetry until you are well equipped with: a decent-sized chopping board (wooden or plastic, definitely not glass), sharp knives (the most essential being a large vegetable knife and a smaller paring knife), a set of saucepans (variety of sizes) and a non-stick frying pan.

After that, it gets more complicated. The possibilities are endless, and with so much kitchen equipment available, it can be difficult to know which products will save you time, money and give great results and which will end up labelled a waste of space and consigned to the furtherest corner of a cupboard to gather dust.

Working in a professional kitchen gave me exposure to all manner of different kitchen appliances, from the traditional to the rather more obscure (dehydrator, blast freezer and Thermomix). Some of these have little relevance to the home cook or are simply too expensive, but others come in very handy.

Microplane grater

The microplane regularly tops the list of best kitchen gadgets and for good reason. This is quite simply a brilliant piece of kit; use it to quickly and easily zest lemons, mince garlic and ginger and finely grate Parmesan, chocolate and nutmeg. Buy one and I guarantee that you will use it regularly and feel ever so slightly lost without it.

Available from Tavola, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai. Prices start at Dh85.

Speed peeler

As its name suggests, a speed peeler will save you time and effort. Few things are more irritating in the kitchen than setting about a pile of potatoes with a dud peeler after all. Purists might prefer to do the job with a sharp knife, but speed peelers have a sharp, loose blade, so they follow the contours of the fruit or vegetable and only remove a thin layer, thus minimising waste. They can also be used to create Parmesan or chocolate shavings. All in all, a small, inexpensive and highly efficient utensil.

Available at various kitchen shops across the UAE.

Potato ricer

For anyone that strives to reproduce smooth, silken restaurant-style mash at home, the potato ricer is the answer. This product resembles a giant garlic press and for perfect mash all you need to do is squeeze still warm boiled potatoes through its tiny (rice sized) holes. Add a splash of warm milk and a dollop of butter to the pan et voilà, mash so lump-free that a chef might even deign to call it pomme purée.

Available from Tavola, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Dh125.

Magimix Food Processor 3200

A food processor is a good addition to any kitchen and this Magimix version has long been a favourite. It is sturdy, reliable and easy to use, as well as being very versatile. Keep it out on a work surface and make soups, purées and smoothies, grate, slice and chop fruit and vegetables and whip up eggs and cream. A worthy investment.

The Magimix Food Processor 4200 is available to buy at Tavola, Mall of the Emirates, Dh1,990. Or Magimix Food Processor 3200 is available to order from Amazon, approximately £209.00 (Dh1,227)

Digital kitchen scales

Particularly for the keen baker or dessert enthusiast, an accurate set of scales is invaluable. Look for digital scales that are lightweight, easy to store, measure in metric, imperial and millilitres and allow you to easily switch between the three. An add and weigh feature is also very useful; this allows you to place an empty bowl on the scales, hit the zero button, then add (for example) 300g flour to the bowl, touch the zero button again to reset and then add the next ingredient.

Various brands available at kitchen shops across the UAE.

Japanese mandolin

It might look slightly scary, with its razor-sharp edge, but provided you use it carefully, a mandolin is brilliant for slicing fruit and vegetables into thinner, more uniform pieces than you could ever hope to achieve with a knife. Use it once, to slice potatoes for dauphinoise, and thanks to the time saved and improved end result, you should be converted. Just always, always use the guard provided.

Available to order from Amazon, approximately £29 (Dh170)

Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer

Kitchen Aid launched its first domestic stand mixer in 1937 and the popularity of these products endures today. The Artisan Stand Mixer is robust and durable, easy to use and clean and has a classic, retro style. It is also far more than just a mixer; the whisk whips up fluffy eggy whites and cream in seconds, the hook attachment produces smooth dough that requires minimal kneading and the beater creams together butter and sugar for cakes at speed. It might look like a piece of equipment best suited to a 1950s housewife but don't be deceived, you're likely to find one whirring away in all the best restaurant kitchens. Pricey at Dh1890, but worth it.

Distributed in the UAE by Al Ghandi Electronics, for information see www.alghandielectronics.com

Plexiglass cookbook holder

Cookbooks are expensive. They are also often filled with beautiful photographs, so it makes sense to want to keep them in tip-top condition. Even if you think that a dusting of flour or smear of butter adds character to your book, many haven't been designed with practicality in mind. No matter how hard you press down on them, they simply won't sit open on a work surface. So you end up struggling to prop them open, read measurements and weigh ingredients out, all at the same time. This cookbook holder eliminates such problems, protects your books and is easy to clean and store.

To order, visit www.handpickedcollection.com/glass-cookbook-holder. £22.95 (Dh135)

Silpat mat

Loved by chefs, Silpat mats are also very valuable to the home cook. These silicone baking mats can be used to turn any pan or baking tray into a non-stick surface, without the need for extra greasing. Use when cooking anything from cakes, biscuits and meringues to pizza or roasted vegetables - the ingredients simply don't stick. They are also great for lining a work surface and minimising mess when kneading dough or rolling out pastry. Silpat mats are reusable and easy to wipe clean, making them a sound alternative to parchment paper.

DeMarle Silpat mats available to order on Amazon, prices approximately £12.50 (Dh74)

Oven thermometer

Ovens are temperamental; no two are the same and the time it will take to produce a perfectly roasted chicken will vary from one to the next. If your cakes aren't rising or everything seems to come out slightly more scorched than you'd like, then the temperature of your oven could well be at fault. For increased accuracy and to hopefully put an end to such problems, invest in a decent oven thermometer (one that you put in the oven when you turn it on to preheat).

Various brands available at kitchen shops across the UAE.

-Gadgetry gone mad

Phillippe Starck Juicy Salif

Phillippe Starck's post-modern Juicy Salif lemon squeezer is, without a doubt, the most famous of its kind. The tripod design earned a place in the hall of fame at Moma (Museum of Modern Art) in New York and Starck himself said that it was not intended to squeeze lemons but to "start conversations". It certainly looks stylish, but at £45 (Dh264), its functionality has been called into question.

One-Click Butter Cutter

The one-click butter cutter claims to be a butter dish and slicer in one; load a stick of butter into the device, suspend above a slice of toast and squeeze to release a single slither.

Handy for anyone who has ever struggled slicing butter, perhaps not so valuable to the rest of us.

Bagel Slicer

Lakeland is famed for supplying all manner of kitchen products, some more successful than others. Their bagel slicer was one that failed to make an impression; it seemed that people didn't particularly care if their bagel wasn't sliced absolutely evenly. Funny that.

Slap Chop

The name says it all, really; it just sounds a bit wrong. This gadget claims to make your life easier by dicing, chopping and mincing ingredients in seconds. Add vegetables to the main body of this device and then press down on the plunger part - the more you slap, the finer the food becomes. You could, of course, just use a knife.

Microwavable S'Mores Maker

Something tells me that this contraption - a device that allows you to microwave marshmallows and chocolate in between Graham crackers - isn't going to be a life-changing one. A classic example of a once-used, soon-forgotten faddy kitchen gadget.