Cuisinart Egg Cooker

I can’t cook. I also can’t dunk in the NBA – different reasons, but both truths are immutable. I do, however, like to eat. Eggs are a particular favorite; unfortunately my culinary ineptitude makes me the proverbial guy who can’t boil an egg without screwing it up. Enter Cuisinart with this small egg-shaped appliance. I decide how many eggs I want and how I want them cooked. The chart tells me how much water to put in the bottom (with a neat measuring beaker to get it right – the beaker also has a pin to pierce each egg). Close the device, press the button, and perfect eggs are done in several minutes when the timer goes off. It’s a single use device that would drive Alton Brown nuts, but screw Alton – he can cook, I can’t. This egg cooker means I don’t have to eat out every morning.

-- Dave Eastman  

Cuisinart CEC-10 Egg Central Egg Cooker
$40

Available from Amazon



Zip Zester

This citrus zester tool has 4 different blades; two are included and the others are available separately (I have all 4).

I have virtually no rotator cuff in my right shoulder, which, along with severe arthritis, makes using a microplane for what I do almost impossible.

What I do is make my own liquor infusions using 190 proof alcohol. To make limoncello, for example, I need the zest and juice from a dozen lemons. That’s a lot of work even with a great tool like the Microplane zester. The Zip Zester makes this into a simple job (my 5-year-old granddaughter actually did this for me; she thought it was great fun. And, instead of small pieces as with the Microplane (which you can get from the Zip Zester if you wish), I get very thin strips that make for better extraction.

The tool works exactly as described, zesting with not even a trace of white pith, something that takes a little effort with the Microplane. At a list price of $100, it’s a lot pricier than the $15 Microplane. But, for me, the price was well worth it (and I got it at a 20% discount w/free shipping). Also, where it used to take me an hour or more to do a dozen lemons w/the Microplane, it was a matter of minutes with the Zip Zester.

It does seem like the predominant use for the tool is in commercial applications (restaurants, bars, catering etc.) where it has to pay off big time. But, I now find myself making at least twice the number of infusions I used to; everybody keeps coming back for more.

-- Kenneth Fink  

Zip Zester Ultimate Kitchen Zester and Cocktail Garnisher
$100

Available from Amazon



OXO Pepper Mill

This pepper mill is fantastic.

The good:

  • It is very fast. The crank arm means you can grind lots of pepper quickly. This is great if you have to cook a lot of food, but also great for people with reduced hand or arm strength.
  • It is easy to hold. The body looks a bit awkward but it fits in your hand easily. The crank knob isn’t huge, but it is also easy to grab.
  • It is also lightweight, and won’t crush a toe if you drop it, unlike those solid brass or stainless steel ones.
  • It is durable. I have used mine daily for something like nine years, with no wear at all. The grinding mechanism is ceramic and will not rust or wear out. The body is plastic, tough enough to survive any number of falls (though I haven’t tried it on a tile or stone floor.)
  • It is easy to refill. There is a clear plastic hopper door on the side that you just tilt out to pour in peppercorns. It is quite easy. No unscrewing of mechanisms or handles. A few reviews on Amazon complain that the door is too easy to open, but I haven’t had that problem.
  • It is stable sitting upright, so you can quickly set it down without it falling over. Tall, narrow grinders cannot be set down on their ends easily.
  • It comes with a snap-on lid that catches stray grounds. If reversed, it makes a handy base to set on your countertop.
  • The grind is easy to adjust. There is a large, clearly labeled wingnut on the bottom that you turn to adjust the grind. The coarseness range is also good, ranging from fine to medium-large, with big enough pieces that you can crack them between your teeth.
  • It costs TWELVE DOLLARS!

The bad

  • It is not extraordinarily beautiful, though It was recently revised to be a little more sleek. It looks simple and modern, and that’s about it. So it might not go with certain table settings (and some dinner guests might not be prepared for how much pepper it puts out.)
  • Being plastic, I suppose it is possible to break it or melt it in a fire. But nothing short of abuse would do that.

So. This grinder is amazing for people with weaker hands and wrists, and for people who need to produce lots of ground pepper quickly. It is terrific for everybody else unless you don’t like how it looks on your dinner table.

-- Karl Chwe  

OXO Good Grips Pepper Mill
$12

Available from Amazon



Recipe Rock

I’ve had this recipe holder almost 1 year now and I use it almost every day! Sure, it works great when creating culinary perfection, but I am also a quilter and I use it for following quilt pattern instructions. I actually purchased 2 of them so I don’t have to keep moving one from the kitchen to the sewing studio.

-- RM Breuer  

Architec Recipe Rock
$10

Available from Amazon



Porlex JP-30 Stainless Steel Hand Crank Coffee Grinder

I like the idea of grinding coffee by hand, but most of the hand crank grinders that I have tried have been hard to turn, hard to hold, inefficient in moving beans through (too wide and shallow for the unground bean bin), or otherwise awkward.

About a year ago I found this Japanese model that meets my concerns. It is a light, 11.2 oz., easy to turn conical burr coffee grinder. At about $45 it is not the cheapest but it is the easiest for me to use two or three times a day. It works so well for me that I bought a second one for grinding seeds (mostly fennel and flax, which I mix in with my morning oatmeal). This model is particularly useful for those with smaller hands (like me).

-- Lon Levy  

Porlex JP-30 Stainless Steel Coffee Grinder
$45

Available from Amazon



Stem Gem Strawberry Huller

It didn’t take me long to get the hang of the Stem Gem Strawberry Huller, and once I did, I was able remove the stem and core of strawberries much faster than I could with a knife.

To use it, you push the button on the back to extend the retractable Alien-esque jaws. The deeper you push the button, the more the jaws open. Then, plunge the jaws into the strawberry, twist, then pull. There you go, a cleanly cored berry. My kids fight over who gets to use it.

stem-gem

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

Chef’n Stem Gem Strawberry Huller
$8

Available from Amazon



Chemex 6-Cup Classic Series Glass Coffee Maker

I have been using this tool for about a year. In combination with a food scale, Chemex bleached filters, a Capresso hot water kettle, great coffee (like Ruta Maya Dark Roast), and of course clean filtered water, Chemex makes consistent coffee with no bitter after taste. I watched > 10 videos on You Tube, taking the best features of each to come up with my Chemex specification for great coffee (see below). The key is to use good measurement tools to maintain day-to-day consistency and to ensure you are brewing at the correct temperature to avoid extraction of the bitter components of the coffee beans.

Chemex is superior because glass is easy to clean and does not hold odors like plastic or even stainless steel. The price is very reasonable for a tool that can produce a full body, full flavor, no bitter after taste cup of coffee!

How to make Chemex Coffee

I Equipment
– A Chemex 6 Cup Coffee Maker
– B Chemex Bonded Filter Squares (Oxygen cleansed)
– C Hario V60 Drip Scale / Timer
– D Kitchen Aid Coffee Grinder
– E Capresso H2O Pro Water Kettle

II Ingredients
– A Purified Water 56 ounces
– B Whole Coffee Beans 45 to 55 grams

III Procedure (Makes 30 ounces or 1 1/3 cup of coffee)
– A Boil Approximately 56 ounces of water in Capresso Kettle (212
F).
– B Place Chemex Filter in Chemex Coffee Maker
– i Open filter so that three layers of paper are on one side and one layer of paper is on the other side.
– ii Orient the three layer side toward the spout of the Chemex Coffee Maker.
– C Unplug the Capresso Kettle when the water reaches 212F
– D Wait 30 seconds.
– i Critical for dropping water temperature to 200F.
– E Thoroughly wet the Chemex Filter with the hot water.
– i This also warms the vessel.
– F Pour out the hot water from the Chemex Coffee Maker.
– i Carefully hold the three layer side of the filter out of
the way.
– ii Reposition the wetted filter.
– G Turn on the Hario Scale.
– H Place the Chemex Coffee Maker on the Hario Scale.
– I Tare the Hario Scale.
– J Grind the whole bean coffee on a Medium Coarse setting.
– i 10 seconds in Kitchen Aid Grinder.
– K Pour 50 grams of Medium Coarse Coffee into the wetted Chemex
Filter.
– i Gently shake the Chemex Coffee Maker to even out the
Coffee Grounds.
– L Make a small intention in the center of the grounds.
– M Tare the Hario Scale.
– N Carefully pour approximately 100 grams of hot water to wet
the coffee grounds thoroughly.
– i Start in the center indention, moving outward until
grounds are completely wet.
– O Allow the Coffee Grounds to “bloom” for 45 seconds.
– i Critical time.
– P Tare the Hario Scale.
– Q Start the main pour.
– i The main pour will total 887 grams of hot water.
– ii Gently pour starting at the edge and move in a circular
motion around the perimeter of the Chemex opening.
– iii Pour until the water is about half an inch from the top.
– iv Allow it to filter topping off occasionally until you
reach 887 grams.
– v Try to avoid “floaters” by sinking them carefully with
the pour.
– R Allow the water to filter through until the last few drops.
– S Remove the filter and place in the compost.
– T Pour the coffee.
– U Enjoy !
– V Place the optional Chemex glass top on the coffee maker to
help maintain temperature.

IV Notes
– A This procedure makes about 30 ounces of Coffee.
– B Grams of coffee can be adjusted to taste. I recommend using
the range 45 to 55 grams.
– C If the water filters very very slowly, the Grind is too fine.
Adjust to a coarser grind.
– D Time is critical to maintain water temperature within the
optimal range. Have all supplies available. Work steadily
without rushing and you’ll have no problems.
– E The scale is critical for consistency. Once you create the
perfect cup of coffee, you have the recipe.
– F This procedure was developed after observing several Chemex
videos on YouTube, combined with my own experimentation.

V Coffee (in order of preference)
– A List is limited as coffees taste different using the Chemex
method compared to my old Automatic Drip Coffee Maker. My old
database of Coffee preferences is obsolete. The Chemex
difference is in the elimination of the bitter after taste.
– B Ruta Maya Shade Grown Dark Roast
– i #1 with a bullet! $14.99 for 2.2lbs at Costco, great value
– C Columbia Caldas (Starbucks Reserve)
– i Excellent, but expensive
– D Ethiopia Medium Roast (Starbucks)
– i Excellent based on initial tasting.
– E Jamaica Blue Mountain (Starbucks Reserve)
– i I remember this tasting better in Jamaica
– ii Good coffee, but poor value for the price

-- Joe McGowan  

[Peter Schlumbohm, creator of the Chemex coffee maker, was quite a character. A Time Magazine article from November 1946 quoted him as saying, “with the Chemex, even a moron can make good coffee.” – Mark Frauenfelder]

Chemex 6-Cup Classic Series Glass Coffee Maker
$47

Available from Amazon



OXO Angled Measuring Jigger

About a year ago I bought the OXO Angled Measuring Jigger to use for mixing up cocktails. The jigger is made of stainless steel, so it’s virtually indestructible and easy to clean. Inside it has an angled surface with all the measurements — in both tablespoons and ounces (and half ounces) — so it’s easy to get an accurate measurement. The spout also makes it easy to pour into you shaker or glass of choice. And I have to mention the best part — it’s around $7.

-- Julie Anderson  

OXO Steel Angled Measuring Jigger
$7

Available from Amazon



Skrapr Surface Scraper

I found this tool at the register of a local hardware store a few years ago. I clean the kitchen after my wife cooks and had never found a good tool to scrape food from the bottom of the pan without causing damage.

The Skrapr is made of a hard plastic resin with a sharp, durable edge. It is also great for removing debris from glass cooktops. Some of the Amazon reviews complain that it does not work well on cast iron. I can’t comment on that, but for aluminum and steel pots that do not have a non-stick coating, it works great.

-- Tom Karches  

Skrapr 2-piece surface scraper
$10

Available from Amazon



American Weigh Digital Scale

I needed a scale to weigh the powdered supplements I take (powders are cheaper than capsules). I bought the AWS 100g x 0.01g Digital Scale in January. It’s about the size of an iPhone and measures up to a limit of 100 grams in 0.01 gram increments.

I also bought a 100 gram weight ($7) to calibrate the scale.

The first thing I did was weigh some coins. A Nickel is supposed to have a mass of 5 grams (here’s a page that lists the mass of different coins). All the Nickels I weighed had slightly different masses. Same with Pennies and Half Dollars.

I also weighed Bicycle playing cards. Each card has a mass of about 1.75 grams. I weighed all 26 red cards: 45.51 grams. The black cards came in at 45.57 grams. The four Aces had a combined mass of 7 grams on the nose. Would the Tens weigh more, since they have more ink than the Aces? I measured them: 7.03 grams. I tried a different deck. Aces: 7.03 grams. Tens: 7.03 grams. (I’d love to weigh these cards on a 0.001 gram scale!)

scale2

scale1

scale4

scale3

scale5

-- Mark Frauenfelder  

American Weigh 100g x 0.01g Digital Scale
$10

Available from Amazon