Thursday, April 2, 2009

Kitchen Gadgets I Can't Live Without

In general, I am not a kitchen gadget kinda girl. I subscribe to Alton Brown's school of logic on this and feel that too much stuff in a kitchen only hinders, not helps, one's abilities to cook. In fact I built my wedding registry around his suggestions in this book . I absolutely love his shows on the Food Network too, but that's off the subject. As far as kitchen gadgets go, I am a simpleton really - give me a really sharp knife and I'm good to go. But, while babysitting my cousins last week, and working in a different kitchen, I really missed 2 things from my kitchen: my digital probe thermometer and my Silpat baking sheet.

If you don't have a digital thermometer in you kitchen - you need to get one - once you have, you will wonder how you ever lived without it. They don't need to be expensive - I got mine at Walmart for $10 - they don't have the same one, but this one looks like it would work great. You stick the probe into the thickest part of your meat, stick the digital display on the stove, set the alarm for the temperature that you want and just let your meat cook. The alarm will go off once the meat has reached the temperature and you can pull it out of the oven and know it's done - no cutting into it to check and letting all those juices run out. And you won't ever have overcooked, rubbery meat. I love that I can just forget about the meat in the oven and focus on the rest of the meal. I even use it to check meat that I'm cooking on the stove top - I just stick the prob in once I've flipped it over to the 2nd side and then remove it from the heat once the alarm sounds. A couple of tips for using it: 1) Set the alarm for a few degrees shy of your target temperature. The meat will continue to carry over cook after it is out of the oven and this way it won't get over cooked. If you don't know what internal temperature of the meat needs to be cooked to, go here to find out. 2) Don't remove the probe from the meat until after it has rested. Meat needs to rest for 5-10 minutes after it is removed from the heat before being cut into so that the juices don't run out and you end up with dry meat. If you pull the probe out right away, you'll get a little geyser of juice running out of your meat and it will dry out - which completely defeats the use of the thermometer.

Silpat. Ahhhhhh, how I love thee. Nothing sticks to it! I got mine from my mother who never used it?! I gave her a hard time about it every time I visited, and she figured the only way to shut me up was just to give it to me :) Thanks mom, I love it! I keep my Silpat right on my baking sheet so that's it's where I need it, when I need it. I cook almost everything on it. Unless, I'm broiling - that's a little too hot for the silicone, or when I'm cooking something that I want to be crispy on both sides, then I cook on a wire cooling rack. But, it is wonderful because nothing sticks to it and it is so easy to clean. We don't have a dishwasher and so this little baby has saved me from a lot of scrubbing. Even if you do have a dishwasher, you probably don't put your sheet pans in it and would benefit from using it too. You can get them almost anywhere that sells kitchen stuff. It is a little pricey (~$25) but I promise it is worth it. Your sheet pans will thank you too - they won't get gunky build up on them from non-stick spray and food residue.

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