Add these (affordable) tools to your cookware collection to easily make your meals more flavorful and nutritious.
There’s an old saying that goes, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” When it comes to your kitchen, these words of wisdom are best not taken too literally. After all, did you really need that fondue set? And seriously, when was the last time you cranked out anything from the pasta maker you scored for half off on Black Friday? Sure, the “Top Chef” kitchen is decked out with all the latest food gadgets. But instead of spending the big bucks on clunky gear with limited uses, outfit your kitchen with these inexpensive (nothing more than $40), multipurpose items that you truly need to be a better cook and turn out flavorful, nutritious food.
Featuring a razor-sharp angled blade, a mandoline can help you effortlessly slice, shred and julienne vegetables like carrots and beets to include in your salads, soups, pasta dishes and cooked grains. And faster, precise slicing means you’re more likely to bulk up your recipes with additional nutrient-rich veggies.
Get it: Mastard V-blade mandoline ($40, Mastrad.us)
In a world of space-hogging kitchen gizmos, the diminutive Microplane zester/grater proves that great things can come in small packages. Hold the plastic handle and use the tiny blades to go to town on citrus zest, which will instantly brighten up the flavor of everything from pancakes and post-workout smoothies to yogurt. Also use it for grating Parmesan cheese, dark chocolate, whole nutmeg or even garlic and ginger.
Get it: Microplane Grater-Zester ($16, Crateandbarrel.com)
Unlike boiling, which can leach nutrients from foods, steaming helps preserve them—along with the food’s bright flavors and textures. Also, steamed lean meats such as chicken breast and fish retain moisture since they’re not exposed to direct dry heat. Without the need for cooking oils, steaming can shave off calories from your meals. Inexpensive and durable, an old-school bamboo steamer is still the way to go as the stackable trays allow for multiple parts of a meal to steam at the same time, streamlining meal prep and clean-up.
Get it: Joyce Chen 10-inch bamboo steamer set ($25, Amazon.com)
Cast iron skillet
Durable and more versatile than a Swiss Army knife, a trusty cast iron skillet is a kitchen workhorse. For searing, browning, sautéing, baking and roasting, it’s hard to beat this back-in-vogue cookware. The high, straight sides are ideal for frittatas, pizza and other one-dish meals. Cast iron is virtually nonstick, and lacks sketchy chemicals or a hefty price tag. Plus, it’s a way to add an extra dose of energy-boosting iron to your diet.
Get it: Lodge 12-inch cast iron skillet ($37, Lodgemfg.com)
Mortar and pestle
The grinding, crushing and mashing action of this Stone Age food processor bursts cell walls of herbs and whole spices, releasing huge amounts of fragrant flavor and disease-thwarting antioxidants. Also use it to pound garlic cloves, nuts, tea leaves and coffee beans when making items like pesto, guacamole, salsa, rubs, pastes and marinades. Best of all, a mortar (the bowl) and pestle (the stubby baton) is easier to clean than a coffee or spice grinder. (Plus, it looks cool on your kitchen counter). To use, place foods in the mortar and push down with the pestle using a twisting downward motion. With hard items like peppercorns and coffee beans, lightly pound first to form cracks in their armor.
Get it: Mastrad stainless steel mortar and pestle ($30, Mastrad.us)
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