This boat-shaped Ahoi Citrus Juicer from Koziol is pretty cool. It comes in four different transparent colors, and I think it would be perfect for kids. The boat’s hold captures all the juice, and the pointed bow and stern act as a spout to easily pour juice without a mess.
I already have a very good citrus juicer that I like, but I think this one would be more fun for the kids. The handled squeezers can require a bit of coordination and strength to extract the juice.
From Normann Copenhagen comes this round chop knife by Italian designers Paolo Lucidi and Luca Pevere. The chopper is similar in concept to a mezzaluna and would be good at chopping herbs, veggies, chocolate, cheese, and maybe even pizza. Mezzaluna-like knives can be safer to start kids on, and this round chopper has the added benefit that it can be used with only one hand. There is also a rubber cover for the blade that matches the handle, so when it isn’t in use, it has a nice clean look and is easy to store.
All in all, I think the colors, styling and rocking function would appeal to most kids. The Italian designers believe that products should create “joy and surprise” for their users, and I think this round kitchen tool will probably accomplish that for both adults and kids. If you want to start your child out on a round chopper, you can buy it for $48 at A+R. It comes in four colors: light blue, pink, grey, and black.
Garlic can be somewhat difficult for kids to manage. The thin skin can be hard to get off, cutting with a knife isn’t so wise, and even garlic presses can require a lot of force to squeeze. And this is only if they can handle the smell. A lot of adults don’t care for garlic smell on their hands, so I would imagine kids might be the same.
With that said, I think two products would be great for kids helping out with garlic duties in the kitchen. The first job is to peel the garlic and those rubber cannelloni-shaped garlic peelers made by Zak Designs work really well. The E-Z-Rol Garlic Peeler is perfect for kids and can be fun too. You just insert a garlic clove, roll it around a bit on the counter, and out pops a nice, clean clove. The Zak Garlic Peeler gets good reviews and costs $8 at Amazon.
The next step of making minced garlic is a bit trickier. At first I tried out the Chef’n Garlic Zoom, but I decided against it. Essentially, you insert the garlic and zoom it around like a toy car, which turns the tiny blades inside and chops the garlic. I do think a kid would like to zoom it around; however, extracting the garlic was not child friendly. The Chef’n Zoom actually wastes quite a bit of garlic, and there is the constant temptation to use your finger to sweep out garlic chunks stuck to the inside and on the blades. The last thing you need is a kid poking sharp blades. Admittedly, Chef’n did not design this product for kids, but it looked fun enough to give a try. I guess you could always let your child zoom it around and you do all of the loading and emptying of garlic.
The gadget that I think works better is the Garlic Twist by Nextrend. There are no sharp blades and it is simple to use. You just insert the garlic and twist the two chopping discs. Reviews on Amazon mention that the first couple twists can be difficult to start, so you may have to get it going for your child, but after that you can rely upon child-powered twisting to help out with garlic duty. You can purchase the Garlic Twist at Amazon for $17 and it comes in clear, green, and the purple color shown above.
The garlic twist is in its 3rd generation, and the picture above is the newest version. The original did not have grooves along the edge, but they have since added notches for better gripping. Some reviewers said that the non-grooved Garlic Twist was difficult to use with wet hands because of slipping. The third generation adds even more pronounced grooves, so I imagine it is even easier to use. I would definitely go for the the third generation garlic twist.
So if you want to put your kid on garlic duty, I think the garlic peeler by Zak and the Garlic Twist would be a great combination. Keep it fun and safe with these two gadgets.
I have been on the lookout for kids cooking equipment, and I have found several good options for whisks out there. At first I tried out some inexpensive RSVP Mini-Whisks (2 for $5), but while they were definitely child-sized, they seemed smaller than they needed to be. Small isn’t bad, but a common 8 or 9-inch whisk is actually a good size for most kids. So far my favorite has been the Oxo Good Grips 9-Inch Whisk — and my daughter really likes it too. The handle has a great feel, and it works well with her little hands.
Another good (but more expensive) option is the Kuhn Rikon 8-inch Silicone Rainbow Whisk (above) for around $13. I like the look, and it can also be used on non-stick surfaces. This and the OXO whisk would be a nice combo, and since they are regular cooking utensils, your kids won’t outgrow the style.
If you want something specifically for kids, you can choose the Head Chefs Whisk which has a silicone handle shaped like a person. The whisks come in both wire and silicone versions, and they are 9 inches long. They look cool, but I’m not completely sold on the handle shape yet. It might be fun, but I still prefer something that can transition better into adult cooking. With that said, the price is right at $9 and a kid would probably pick this one up first. Also, Curious Chef has a whisk made for kids that sells for $6. It is more like a regular whisk but comes in an easy-to-grip, green-and-white handle. I like the Curious Chef brand, but I think there are actually better whisks out there. Another manufacturer that produces whimsical utensils for kids is MSC International. I have seen their egg whisk in stores before, but I like the pink pig version best.
One of the best buys, however, is probably the WMF Profi Plus 8-Inch Whisk for $7. That’s a very good price and WMF is a solid brand. This whisk also comes in an 8-inch silicone version for non-stick pans for around $15. And lastly, Mastrad out of France (Orka in the US) has a silicone mini-whisk for kids. Unfortunately, I can’t find this product for sale in the US, but hopefully it will make its way here in the coming months. The Mastrad whisks come in a variety of colors and also have a clip so that the whisk can be attached to the bowl edge to prevent it from sliding into the mixture — a nice feature.
I recently picked up at Williams-Sonoma the Chef’n Stemgem Strawberry Huller, and I must say that it works pretty well. I am not a gadget person at all, so I was rather surprised at how easily it worked. You simply push the green button to extend the prongs, insert it into the strawberry, and then twist and pull to remove the hull. Here is a video from Chef’n on how to use it.
The one I bought didn’t come with instructions, but it only took about six strawberries to figure out. At first I was just inserting the prongs, letting them close (as much as possible) and pulling, and that didn’t work so well, but a small twist and pull made the stems come out nice and neat.
Of course, if you are handy with a paring knife, it will take about the same amount of time, but for kids this is perfect. The only thing I would add is that it does take some coordination to use for younger kids. They will have to push on the button at the same time as inserting it into the strawberry. That isn’t so hard, but if the prongs are too wide for a small berry, then it might remove half of the berry mass. Also, if the prongs aren’t opened enough or the berry is a bit riper, then the berry can easily be squished if too much pressure is applied.
You can get the Chef’n StemGem Strawberry Huller at Amazon for $9 (with free shipping) or you can buy it for $8 at Williams-Sonoma if you have a store nearby.
Lastly, if you don’t want to spend money on a gadget, you can also use a thicker drinking straw. You just push the straw through the bottom tip of the strawberry towards the hull and push it out. Here is a YouTube video on how to do it. Kids may actually find this technique just as fun, and it can also be used when you are on-the-go and don’t have the special huller or knife handy. Otherwise, for the adults out there, I prefer this method from Chowhound when using a paring knife.
Another stop I made yesterday was at Crate&Barrel, and they had some neat cookware for kids. With that said, it was more expensive than IKEA, but that is to be expected I guess.
The first item was this set of mini cupcake spatulas. You can find similar items from Le Creuset and Williams-Sonoma, but they are more expensive. I paid $9.95 for the two (a bit spendy), but even at Amazon the cheapest set will cost you around $9 once shipping is factored in. I wouldn’t use these for heavy duty, but they would be perfect for little hands and small jobs.
Another handy gadget I picked up was the Oxo Mini Angled Measuring Cup for $3.95. It’s useful because it allows for kids to measure tablespoons without the mess of a spoon measure. Just pour the liquid in with the cup on the counter. This item is also available from Amazon for $4 with free shipping.
As I have a kids-sized knife coming in from Korin, I also picked up a small, non-slip cutting board for $7.95. It is 7×10 inches, which is a nice size for kids, and it is also reversible. The end rubber grips are also very sticky to prevent sliding. I looked at specially made kids cutting boards too, but I didn’t like the cutesy shapes. They seem less functional and have a lot of wasted board space. This board, however, can be used long after your kid grows up.
The last couple of items I purchased were a mini silicone cookie spatula for $7.95 and some non-slip mini prep bowls for $2.95 a piece. Those last items were probably not necessary, but they were rather neat looking and matched my larger mixing bowls.
The picture above is of all the equipment from Crate&Barrel. I think if I were going to narrow my purchases down, I would go for the cutting board, Oxo measuring cup, and possibly the strawberry huller. Total cost would be $20.
These matryoshka nesting dolls from the whimsical company, Fred, also serve as handy measuring cups and would be a fun set for kids to use. My daughter received a real set of matryoshka dolls when she was younger, and she was fascinated by them for years. The M Cups — as they are called — are made out of durable white plastic, and even though they aren’t as colorful as the real hand-painted nesting dolls, I am sure they will still capture your kid’s attention.
There are six different dry measuring sizes: 1/4 , 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 3/4 and 1 full cup. A lot of measuring cup sets don’t come with the 2/3 or 3/4 cup sizes, so on top of being fun, they are also quite functional. Just be aware that the measure markings are noted inside the cup, so look at the size before filling. Another nice feature is that they save space because they are both stackable and nesting, thus reducing clutter in your kitchen drawers.
The cups were featured last year in Real Simple magazine, and they quickly flew off the shelves — so get them while they last. The cost for the Fred M Cups is around $10 from Amazon, which is actually quite reasonable. I am definitely adding this item to my daughter’s cooking gear.
Note: The photo above is from Real Simple magazine and taken by James Wojcik. He has some rather fascinating food photography on his site, and it is well worth checking out.
For years I have used regular wooden spoons while cooking and never though much about them. I usually purchased them at Target or some similar store, but I also didn’t feel they were great quality. Six months ago, however, my cooking spoons improved greatly when I purchased a Berard olivewood spoon from Sur La Table.
I never thought there could be such a difference with wooden cooking utensils, but there is. Berard is a French company that has been making quality wooden cooking utensils since 1892. Their spoon is crafted from a single piece of olivewood and is oil varnished to make it durable and heat resistant.
Not only does this spoon feel good in the hand, but it actually does resist heat a lot better than other wooden spoons I’ve used. Now when I cook, I usually search specifically for my Berard spoon and it gets used much more than other stirring utensils.
You can purchase Barard spoons at Sur La Table or at Amazon.com. They come in 10-inch, 12-inch, and 14-inch sizes and cost between $13-17.
Every now and then I try gadgets even though I pretty much know that I will not like the product or use it. Usually, I have heard good reports on it, the Amazon ratings are high, and the product is relatively cheap. Essentially, I get to satisfy my curiosity and there is no regret if it turns out to be useless.
So I finally gave in and bought one of those cannelloni-shaped garlic peelers by Zak for around $9. I must admit that I didn’t have high hopes for this gadget. Once you know that you can just tap the flat side of a chef’s knife on a garlic clove and the skin will easily come off, a garlic peeler seems redundant. Just search YouTube and you will find many videos showing how to remove garlic skin with a knife or other flat object.
But maybe I am too quick to judge. The Amazon ratings are really high for this simple and cheap gadget, and there are some logical reasons someone would use it. The main arguments for it include:
* It is quick and easy.
* You touch the garlic less, so you hands don’t smell as much.
* It preserves the shape of the clove as it doesn’t crush the clove as the knife method does.
So how did it perform?
Well, first of all it does work. It quickly took away the skin and left a clean clove of garlic on my counter. I must say I was quite impressed. Though that is basically what a gadget does: it wows you with its magic and then you actually start cooking with it and begin to see the real benefits and drawbacks.
Was it faster than doing the knife trick?
That is tough to say.
If you are just skinning one or two cloves and have a chef’s knife handy, then you would likely be done removing the skin with a knife before you could retrieve the garlic peeler from your gadget drawer. So for a small number of cloves, it is probably still best to use a knife if you have one handy. If you don’t, go for the peeler gadget. You’ll just have to wash another kitchen item later on.
For larger amounts of garlic, the peeler makes more sense as it may save you time overall. But that isn’t always true. I tried out 20 cloves and after about 8 of them, garlic skins were stuck to the inside of the cylinder and it took longer to peel each clove. Productivity declines with use. You could wash out the cylinder, but that also takes time and when it becomes wet it also works less effectively, so you need to dry the inside thoroughly.
Essentially, in terms of speed, if you know how to remove garlic skin with a knife, the peeler won’t really save that much time — if any. If you aren’t comfortable with knives and are only doing a moderate amount of cloves, then the peeler could marginally save time.
The most compelling reason to use the peeler is when you want to retain the garlic clove shape without smashing it. The knife or other flat surface, depending upon how much pressure you use, will crush the garlic to some extent. So if you are using whole cloves for pickling or want neatly sliced garlic to put into the slits of a tenderloin, then the peeler will do a good for such purposes.
Another reason for using the peeler would be to reduce the smell that handling garlic imparts to your hands. When you crush garlic, you start to release its oil and that is what makes your hands smell. But I do find this argument less than persuasive. If you neatly peel the garlic with the gadget and then use your hands to chop or slice the garlic, you still end up handling it — albeit less. Even if you use a garlic press, you still often end up employing your fingers to dig out the pulp remains. Basically, unless you are using only full cloves, you will still end up handling the garlic and have some garlic smell on your hands.
Lastly, I think the peeler is also good if you have children or less-than-foodie relatives or friends helping in the kitchen. It is easy to use, can be fun for children, and the helpers don’t have to worry about hands smelling like garlic. You will be the one chopping and preparing the food.
If you are comfortable with a knife and are already using one to remove garlic skins, this peeler gadget will probably not get used that much. I wouldn’t buy it.
In terms of speed, the peeler can be superior but it depends upon how much garlic you are peeling. If you are doing 4-6 cloves, the peeler may be quicker but after that, the peeler can lose efficiency and become slower. I wouldn’t buy this gadget for the speed.
If you want to reduce garlic contact with your hands; you like to cook a lot with whole cloves; or you want to involve kids in cooking, then this gadget is a small price to pay for those advantages. It does work well; it just depends upon how you cook.
The USDA has longadvocated cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, which cooks the meat to medium doneness, but now many chefs are cooking it only to 140-145 degrees, which is medium-rare. The concern for a long time has come from a parasitic disease called trichinosis that is caused when trichinae (a type of roundworm) infect the intestines.
Technically, this parasite is killed off at 137 degrees, so the lower temperature of 140 isn’t going to make you sick, but food safety concerns continue to linger.
Trichinosis, however, is not the problem it once was in the US. There are less than 50 cases per year nowadays, and many of those don’t come from pigs but other forms of game meat. Essentially, modern pork is a lot safer and less contaminated than it once was.
But you can even cook pork at lower temperature and still kill the parasite if you can ensure an even distribution of heat throughout the meat and maintain it for a longer period of time, but I wouldn’t recommend this for most home cooks. For instance, if you cook meat to 132 degrees and maintain it for 15 minutes, the trichinae worms will also be killed. Sous-vide cooking in a water bath achieves this type of heat distribution and control, but that cooking technique is not often in the repertoire of the the average home cook.
The reason for the higher recommended temperatures by the USDA and CDC (which recommends an even higher 170 degrees) is because most cooks can’t ensure an even distribution of heat and maintain it for a long enough period of time when cooking meat. Depending upon the cut of meat and cooking method, internal temps will vary, so a safer higher temp is recommended to ensure all parasites are killed. So in other words, the recommended cooking temperatures reflect our inability to cook and compensate for our ‘errors’. It is not, however, what is best for the taste of your food. At 170 degrees, you can kill everything off in a very short period of time, but there is also very little moisture left in the meat.
The main issue with foodies when cooking pork medium-rare versus medium, is about texture and moisture. Some cooks find medium-rare meat too chewy, but others find it juicer and more flavorful. The higher the temperature, the more the meat proteins shrink and expel moisture, so at lower temps moisture is preserved better.
But then again, not all cuts of meat are equal. Fattier cuts also preserve moisture and are more forgiving than lean cuts of meat when cooking. Heritage pork meat, for instance, is darker and fattier, so it is harder to overcook than exceptionally lean supermarket pork.
And then you can always artificially enhance moistness by brining your pork. Essentially you marinate the meat in a water, salt and sugar mixture to enhance both tenderness and moisture content. Cook’s Illustrated gives a couple recommendations for brining pork.
- For 4 bone-in chops (1 1/2 inches thick), combine 1 1/2 quart water, 3 tbs salt, 3 tbs sugar and let the chops soak for 1 hour.
- For a pork roast (3-6 pounds), use 2 quarts water, 1/4 cup salt, 1/4 cup sugar, and let the meat soak for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
What brining meat does is change the structure of the proteins. The ions from the salt force the meat proteins to adjust and they become more tender in the process, and the salty water is also absorbed into the meat through osmosis. Salty water evaporates less than regular water so the meat retains more moisture during the cooking process, and the end result is added moisture and more tender meat.
Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that the internal temperature of meat will rise as you let it rest after cooking. This happens because the exterior of the meat is hotter than the center, and that residual heat will have a ‘carry-over’ cooking effect even though it isn’t directly being cooked.
For instance, pork tenderloin recipes usually suggest letting the meat rest for 10 minutes after cooking, so you should actually take the meat off the heat before the internal temperature reaches your desired doneness. This allows some room for the carry-over cooking effect to finish your meat without over cooking it.
I personally take my pork tenderloin off at 135-140 degrees, which allows a rise of 5 degrees to 145. I like mine more medium rare as the tenderloin is very lean and will quickly dry out if cooked too much. At that temp, the loin ends are more towards medium and the center more medium rare.