Do you consider yourself a maven in the kitchen? Or are you just starting out on your journey to learn to cook? Either way, we’ve got the products you need. Today, a few of Birmingham’s best chefs share their favorite kitchen gadgets and tools under $20 — and where to score them at the best price. From coffee grinders used for spices and the ideal tools for getting the most juice out of your citrus to the peelers, rolling pins and spatulas, these clever tools will change the way you cook without changing your budget. Here are this month’s Cheap Thrills!
Local Chef’s Favorite Kitchen Tools Under $20
Black and Decker Juicer, $19.96
This mighty little tool makes juicing a breeze. Chef Tiffany Vickers Davis of Nourish Foods Co. tells us that she uses this juicer at home all the time. “I put just a touch of citrus in almost everything I cook, from basting a whole chicken with some lemon juice and butter to making lime water for myself.” This juicer is her top pick for everyday use due to the size, quality and useful storage carafe. “I like to avoid the seeds and get all the juice I can. Having the ability to capture the juice in a carafe makes storing it a nice option for the next use,” explains Tiffany.
Wooden spoon, $12
Chef Timothy Hontzas of beloved Birmingham meat-and-three Johnny’s Restaurant says his favorite kitchen tool under $20 is this wooden spoon. “Wooden spoons, preferably made of maple or oak, are perfect for pâte à choux’ and deglazing metal pans,” explains Chef Timothy, “After time, they form to your hand and become personable. They’re also non-reactive and more gentle on your food.” You can find this exact spoon for $12 at The Cook Store.
We’re describing this little tool as every chef’s secret weapon. Both Chef Joey Dickerson of Fancy’s on Fifth and MELT and Chef Mary Drennen of Nourish Foods Co. tell us that they can’t navigate a day in the kitchen without their Microplane. According to Mary, “It has so many uses — grating hard cheese for pasta dishes, zesting citrus or ginger for baked goods and cocktails, or garlic for vinaigrettes and sauces.”
Krups Coffee Grinder, $19.99
This little tool does much more than grind beans for that morning cup of joe. Chef Ben Vaughn of Root to Tail explains that this relatively inexpensive grinder is a great kitchen companion. “I like to use it for grinding an array of spices. Pulling out the essential oils in the spices is great for creating depth and a ton of deep flavors while cooking,” he says. “A little tip: Use only fresh, dried spices — it is a little-known fact that dried spices actually expire, making them difficult to season as they often won’t add the correct flavors.”
Citrus Reamer, $12
This tiny tool makes a huge impact in the kitchen. Ashley McMakin of Ashley Mac’s says, “This tiny thing gets quite the workout in my kitchen. I’ve been known to put lemon in just about everything, including vinaigrettes, desserts, sauces for fish and chicken and more. The reamer makes getting that delicious lemon (Meyer lemon when possible!) juice out in a cinch.”
Do you dread peeling veggies in the kitchen? This is the peeler you need! Chef Clifton Holt of Little Savannah swears by this Kuhn Rikon Swiss Peeler. “I use this peeler daily because it is easier to use than a traditional straight peeler and simpler to maintain,” he says. We’ll take any tool that makes preparing dinner easier!
This is not your average rolling pin! Chef Joshua Gentry of Little Donkey likens this pin to the versatile Swiss Army Knife. “In addition to serving as a rolling pin, I use this to crack nuts and crush and grind spices,” says Chef Gentry. “Since the end is tapered, I juice citrus and muddle cocktails with it.” He even uses it outside the kitchen. “My kids use it to pound beef for Milanesa, and it even gets knots out of my wife’s shoulder!” Find an easy Caipirinha recipe using the rolling pin below.
- ½ lime
- 2 oz Cachaça
- ½ oz simple syrup
- Place ½ lime in a rocks glass and muddle with the rolling pin.
- Add the Cachaça and simple syrup. Stir with a spoon, fill the glass with ice.
- Let the drink sit 1 minute, stir, and serve.
OXO Handheld Spiralizer, $14.99
Have you tried the trendiest way to eat healthy noodles or zoodles (zucchini noodles) yet? Chef Tiffany Vickers Davis of Nourish Foods Co. recommends this OXO Handheld Spiralizer for creating this yummy good-for-you dish. “I think the spiralizer is great for making alternative vegetable shapes for healthier meals,” explains Tiffany, “From zucchini to butternut squash, there are awesome opportunities to diversify a meal with such a little item. This handheld tool is inexpensive and easy to store.”
Sometimes the most important kitchen tools are also the ones we easily overlook. Zebbie Carney, Owner of Eugene’s Hot Chicken, recommends this Crestware 10-Inch High Heat Plastic Spatula. “I tell my employees that it’s their best friend in the kitchen,” he says. “Any time they prep any food, they have to scrape the pot with a plastic spatula. This one helps us save on waste.” Zebbie quotes William Lowndes, saying, “If you watch your pennies, your dollars will watch themselves.”
Zyliss Julienne Peeler, $8.99
This little tool makes julienning food as easy as possible. Chef Colby Conklin of EastWest says, “This item allows us to shred long carrot strings easily for most of our dishes.” This tool will save you so much time in the kitchen and will ensure you have consistent, well-cut veggies for any dish you’re putting together.
Now go make the daily grind a little easier with these Cheap Thrills!
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