A Potpourri of Gadget Gifts for the Kitchen

MixerWant to be sure the gift you give will really be used? Then consider giving kitchen gadgets that make food preparation, serving, or storage safer, easier, and/or tastier. To help you find such items, we asked the scientists on our site’s Advisory Board to tell us what their favorite kitchen tools are, and we got some great ideas from them. We found a few more appealing items in newspaper and magazine articles. Finally, your Shelf Life Advice guru, married to the world’s greatest gadget collector, added a few used often in her own kitchen. You may like these gadgets so much that you buy some as gifts and some for yourself.


Food scientist Dr. Catherine Cutter’s recommendations are all about food safety—1) keeping cold foods cold and 2) avoiding cross-contamination (from one food to another):


Chillzanne® Rectangle Server: A freezable, reversible tray that can keep veggies and dip on the buffet cold for hours.


Chillzanne® Sectional Server: It has removable gel-filled inserts. Freeze them, insert, and this server will  also keep food cold for hours.


Chillzanne® Bowl:  It also uses gel inserts that you freeze beforehand to keep a salad or whatever cold.


To avoid cross-contamination, Dr. Cutter recommends these  color-coded products:


Food Safety Paring Knives: It’s a set of four—red for meat, blue for seafood, orange for poultry and green for vegetables.   



Color-Coded Cutting Boards:  Cross-contamination is a common cause of food-borne illness. It often results when microorganisms are transferred from one food to another on a cutting board. Particularly dangerous is the transfer of  bacteria from raw meat or fish onto foods that are not going to be cooked after cutting. For safety’s sake, it’s a good idea to use different boards for produce, raw poultry, dairy products (such as cheese), fish and seafood, and raw meat. Hence, this set includes 5 color-coded cutting boards.



Food process engineer Dr. Tim Bowser provided us with recommendations for preserving an open bottle of wine or champagne. 


Epivac Stoppers:  The Epivac wine stopper pumps air out of a wine bottle, acting like a bicycle pump in reverse. The removal of air helps to preserve the wine from oxidation. There’s also an Epivac stopper for champagne. It forces air into the bottle and prevents bubbles from escaping. 



Food scientist Dr. Karin Allen is thinking about cookies this time of year. When she bakes them, she uses portion (or cookie) scoops and parchment paper.


Portion Scoops:  These scoops (shaped like ice cream scoops) come in different sizes (Dr. Allen recommends sizes 40 – 70), which can be used for making a variety of foods—meatballs, fruit balls, mashed potatoes, biscuits, and so on—in short, any item you want to come out a consistent size. Another advantage: the food doesn’t stick to these scoops. Commercially, they’re also used for portion control. Scoops can be purchased in kitchen shops, restaurant supply stores, and online. 



Parchment Paper:  Not much of a gift by itself, but, along with cookie scoops, it’s an excellent item to introduce to a friend who’s starting to  bake. It’s useful when baking bread, cakes, or cookies. A pan lined with parchment paper doesn’t need to be washed after use! Furthermore, foods cooked on parchment paper don’t stick to the surface. Therefore, the bakery chef doesn’t have to spray the pan with nonstick spray or apply oil, both of  which shorten the life of a pan. Also, oil on the pan may make cookies spread out more than desirable. Parchment paper can be purchased in rolls in many supermarkets and in restaurant supply stores (where it’s sold in big, flat sheets in boxes of 500 or 1,000. The 12” X 16” size is good for cookie sheets. 


Here’s an inexpensive gift item that almost everyone can use to smash some comfort food  for holiday meals and/or when those holiday bills come pouring in:


Potato Mashers: These days, some potato mashers look like abstract sculpture. The Chicago Tribune ran an article about six of these products: Potato Ricer (target.com), Bethany Heavy Duty Potato Ricer (amazon.com), Zyliss Potato Masher, Chef’s Planet Simply Mash Potato Masher, Oxo Good Grips Smooth Potato Masher (bedbathbeyond.com) and RSSVP International SPUD Endurance Potato Ricer (cooking.com). The price range for these items is $10 - $17. To reach the photos and author’s comments on each product in the Orlando Sentinel reprint of this article, go to the link below and click on “photo gallery.” http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/food/sc-food-1112-testings-mashers-20101116,0,2808867.story


Private Juice Bar: Does it work any better than a dumpy-looking old-fashioned juicer? We don’t know, but it will look nifty in the kitchen. It’s the Bodum “Bistro” citrus juicer. As Health magazine says, “Pop the fruit on the top, and it extracts the juice in seconds.” If you can’t find that one in the stores, check out the link below for a huge range of other juicers.



Recommended by Shelf Life Advice visitor Joan Friedman:


Mini-Cuisinart Processor:  It’s much less expensive, takes up much less space, and is easier to clean than the big version.  And its blades are strong enough to meet your chopping and grinding needs.


To conclude, here are two gadget favorites from the household of your Shelf Life Advice guru:


Bodum French Presses:  For a good cup of coffee (or two or more), many folk we know love this gadget. A few times a day, my husband uses the size that makes about 1 cup of coffee, for coffee and for tea (made from tea leaves). He uses the quart size for company. Bodum also has a 16-oz. mug/press combo called the “travel press coffeemaker.” It’s dishwasher safe, BPA-free, and available online only. Note: our experience with the glass models has been that the glass is quite thin and fragile, so we recommend the plastic models. There’s also the Electric French Press-Plus for making piping hot coffee without having to pour in hot water. Contact EdgeCraft at (800) 342-3255.


Food Saver®: This item isn’t cheap, but sometimes, honestly, you have to spend money to save money. The Food Saver lets you make a second meal out of leftovers and a good one at that. Its vacuum packaging seals food in an airtight bag so that the quality will hold up better in the fridge or the freezer. Vacuum packaging not only reduces oxidation (which affects taste and nutritional value), but it can also inhibit the growth of microorganisms such as mold and bacteria. The Food Saver system includes bags, canisters, jar sealers, and bottle stoppers (for wine, non-carbonated liquids, and oils). http://www.foodsaver.com/index.aspx?



Karin E. Allen, Ph.D., Utah State University, Dept. of Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences


Catherine N. Cutter, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University, Dept. of Food Science


Timothy J. Bowser, Ph.D.  Oklahoma State University, Dept. of Biosystems and Agricultural  Engineering










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