My Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

In my tiny kitchen, every item must earn its keep. I do own some gadgets that I use infrequently—such as my food mill and cherry pitter—but sure am happy to have them when I need them. This list includes items I find indispensable and use at least every week and often every day.

1. Jars, jars and more jars

I can never have too many jars. Some women covet shoes. I covet Le Parfait jars. I use my jars for:

  • Shopping
  • Storage
  • Packing lunches
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Fermenting
A collection of jars for fermenting, storing, freezing…glass jars have so many uses!
A small sampling of my jars

2. Wide-mouth funnel

If you share my jar addiction, you’ll find a wide-mouth funnel useful for filling your jars without slopping food all over the place. I’ve had my stainless steel wide-mouth funnel for at least 15 years, probably 20.

3. Homemade produce and bulk bags

I sew very basic produce bags. (Read more here and here.) I cut out a rectangle of fabric, serge the top edge to finish it, fold the fabric in half and serge the side and bottom. I have been making these since 2011 and have yet to wear one out. I’ve used new fabric with pretty patterns on it, old sheets, pillow cases and plain new muslin for these. I’m currently working with someone to help her reduce the waste in her commercial kitchen and I told her to start by using these bags. She offered to trade me meals for bags. (I love to barter. One day I’ll write a post about zero money…)

These bags, like jars, serve several purposes:

  • Shopping (produce and bulk)
  • Storing food
  • Freezing baked goods
  • Spinning salad greens

bulk grains and legumes

salad spinner
Spinning salad greens
prepped kale
Spun greens ready for storage (or eating)

4. Thin linens

I use these for proofing bread and for straining scrap vinegar, broths, beet kvass, yogurt and so on. I also cover my large jars of kombucha with very thin cloths. The thinner the better. Cheesecloth doesn’t work for me. I find it difficult to handle and the weave too loose. 

Another bonus of thin linens—they require less space in the washing machine and consume less water to wash. (For the bathroom, I go for small, thin towels also. Certain people I live with dislike my penchant for efficient drying off, but we don’t really need body-size towels so thick I can fit only two in a load of laundry.)

squeeze
Straining scrap vinegar

5. Homemade lame

I have written about my homemade lame many times on my blog. It changed my life! With it, I can score my sourdough bread well, giving the loaves more room to expand when they rise. This little gadget—a wooden stir stick with a razor blade attached to the end—took my sourdough bread to the next level. My sharp knife simply did not work as well. And the lames I have seen online and in stores have plastic handles with fixed blades you can’t replace—you chuck the whole thing when the blade loses its edge. Even if you can sharpen the blade somehow, I don’t like the plastic handle.

diy gadgets
Homemade tools: cherry pitter (left) and lame (right)

6. One good knife

I actually have more than one good knife (I received a set for Christmas one year) but I use my 9-inch chef’s knife constantly while the others (except my bread knife) just sit in the knife block. If you bake bread, you’ll likely want a good bread knife. I don’t want to mangle my homemade sourdough bread.

7. Dutch oven

When I first started using my Dutch oven, I loved it so much, I told my coworkers I wanted to be buried in a Le Creuset coffin. They pointed out no one would be able to lift it… I use my Dutch oven constantly—for baking bread, making soup, dal, baked beans, channa masala, chili…all sorts of stuff.

8. Vegetable scrubber

I use a natural bristle scrubber with a wooden handle to scrub root vegetables like carrots and potatoes. Ideally, I do this at the beginning of the week when I bring home my haul from the farmer’s market.

scrubber
Vegetable scrubber on the sink (sorry it’s a little blurry…)

9. Kitchen scale

As you read through this list, you may notice a low-tech theme to these. Only the scale requires power (a battery) and if I had my life to live over again, I would get a mechanical spring scale (and a PhD). Not that I dislike my digital scale—I use it constantly. If you do any serious baking, measuring ingredients with a scale will give you more consistent results. Flour measured by weight doles out the same amount each time. If you measure by volume, the amount of flour will always vary. Also, you can measure faster with a scale. I just dump flour into a bowl on the scale in a few seconds, rather than having to measure it out cup by cup by cup.

bread

24 Comment

  1. If I had to narrow down my knife set to what I truly couldn’t live without, it would be my chef’s knife, my bread knife and a small, serrated knife that has since been discontinued but is similar to what is sold as a ‘sandwich’ knife. It’s perfect for slicing tomatoes.

    1. If my chef’s knife is really sharp, I can slice tomatoes. But I don’t sharpen it often enough :/

  2. Shop with jars? You take them to the store? How does that work?

    1. Yes I take them to the store. Sometimes I take quite a few and they hear me coming :p So, depending on the store, you take the jars to customer service and they tare them for you. That way, when the cashier rings up your groceries, you pay only for the weight of the food in the jars and not the weight of the jar. This is very important when you buy bulk tea for $37 a pound! I do this at a few stores around me. Some stores are better than others. Tonight someone in LA told me her Whole Foods tells her she can’t take her own containers. Mine lets me. Sometimes, the rules vary depending on who is working :/ After you’ve tried a few stores, you figure out where to go and you get the routine down.

    2. Cory, my store lets you weigh your own empty container and write the weight on the label. In addition to reducing packaging waste, the reused containers are just better storage than the type of package that many foods would come in. This post has a lot of detail about how reusing containers works in my store.

      Anne Marie, I would love to have you (as well as any of your readers!) participate in my food-waste prevention challenge! Both posts about it have been read a lot and “liked”, but nobody is sharing their experiences–we need someone to break the ice. 🙂

  3. Great ideas! My wife urged me to check out this particular post since she found them fascinating (and maybe after i saw her spinning something in the garden). I would also like to congratulate you on the reusability of the tools you’re using! Being a waste company manager I’m always glad to see people doing their part in preserving our nature!
    Cheers!

    1. Hi Sean. You must have wondered what was going on out in your garden! Thanks for checking out the post and for working as a waste company manager! That important work must be very eye-opening.

  4. Great ideas there Chef!

  5. Hi, ZWC! My boyfriend and I watched Cooked and he is determined to become a baker of bread! Is there a particular kitchen scale or dutch oven that you recommend?

    1. Hi Emily. I love my Le Creuset Dutch oven but I bought my daughter a Cuisinart Dutch oven that cost MUST less. It works really well too. My scale is a Salter digital scale and it works well. In my dreams, I would have a vintage mechanical scale.

  6. This is one of my favorite posts! Do you mind if I include it in our Earth Day Roundup Post?
    On a separate note, I love my Le Creuset…we live 5 minutes from one of their outlets and I got a super deal on an outgoing color. I make just about everything in it and it never gets put away!

    1. Oh I’m sorry I didn’t respond until now. I just saw this. Yes, please include it if there is still time. Happy earth day!

    2. I would love to go to a Le Creuset outlet. Nice score! Mine stays out all the time too. Love it.

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  8. wow! happy to have found you. i’m a bit of a jar freak myself. and i also use a razor for my sourdough loaves. but the simplicity of your tool makes me blush. really..
    i have a little site: http:/chefsdreams.com
    i noticed that jhilmilsjourney indicated that she would reblog? me to, if that’s okay. we mostly do reviews of kitchen cutlery. but you have some wonderful stuff here that my audience would find fascinating. i’ll be back!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Sure, reblog away! The razor blade changed my life! It really improved my loaves. I noticed all your recent Shun knife posts when I visited your page. I have a set of those (they were a gift). They’re fantastic. Thanks so much 🙂

  9. Love it! Reverse the bent prongs on the fork and you have a chocolate tempering and dipping tool. I love my produce bags and standard Chrissy presents are now home made passata, home made pasta, home grown garlic and some home grown herbs bundled into a home made produce bag as the wrapper and tied with a cotton tie. I would like that as a gift! Sadly our small town store won’t refill so I keep a list and do a big ‘fill up’ when I go to larger cities.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thanks for the idea 🙂 I would love to get any of those for a present! Your recipients are very lucky!

  10. Thank you so much. You have made me even more away.

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