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Staff Picks - Our Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

By Anthony Todd in Food on Dec 7, 2011 4:20PM

2011_12_7StaffPicks.jpg So, Christmas is coming. We know, we know, you don't need a reminder. If you need shopping ideas, keep your eyes open for our annual Chicagoist Gift Guide. But, to help tide you over until then - and to help take care of the foodies on your list - here are our favorite kitchen gadgets. This isn't meant to be a systematic list, and if you only bought these things you'd have a pretty strange kitchen. But the Chicagoist food staff is full of prolific cooks, mixers and diners, and we have a pretty good idea of the gear you need to keep your kitchen stocked.

Amy Cavanaugh: My most versatile kitchen tool is probably my panini press, which I use for sandwich making and indoor grilling during the winter. I have a Cuisinart, which heats up quickly and is a snap to clean.

Molly Durham: My garlic press. I couldn't live without this, mostly because I tend to double the garlic in every recipe I make. It gushes all the juice out of it too, which helps with the flavor. It'll come in handy when I tackle the 44 garlic clove soup I've been meaning to make.

Anthony Todd: A great salad spinner. I like the model by OXO, which I have used almost every day for ten years. Don't worry about brand; as long as you get one without a pull-cord, you'll be all set. If you want to make a perfect salad, it's imperative that you wash the leaves and then dry them - and if you don't want to spend two hours drying leaves with paper towels, get yourself a spinner.

Caitlin Klein: This is not quite a gadget, but the real workhorse of my kitchen is the Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart dutch oven. The range of use for this piece is huge; from every day dinners to fancypants dinner parties, this dutch oven does everything. The Le Creuset dutch ovens have about a million upsides, and only one downside: they're really heavy. Cooking with them is an excellent arm workout. That's why I have such exquisite guns.

Roger Kamholz: I find myself needing boiling water a lot - for cooking pasta and grains, for making simple syrup for cocktails, and coffee in my French press. Waiting for water to boil on the stovetop is foolishness. I'm all about my Bodum Electric Water Kettle, which can heat a pasta pot-full of water in a fraction of the time it would take on a conventional gas stove. It automatically shuts off once the water inside has reached a boil. And, it comes in a range of fun colors. All around win.

Minna An: This is going to sound so cliché, but I love my little pink rice cooker. I use it to make not only rice, but stews and porridges and am tempted to even attempt a lighter slow-cooker recipe in it, just pick a setting and walk away. Not to mention, its sassy settings keep my diets in check—to cook white rice it forces you to select the “gluttonous” setting. Ouch.

Anthony Todd: If you're a cocktail lover and you don't have a Boston Shaker, go buy one right now. We love the good old-fashioned martini shaker, but there's a reason most hard-core mixers use a boston shaker - it's so much easier. Plenty of room to mix ingredients and ice, and the increased volume makes shaking much more effective (and satisfying).

Caitlin Klein: Another item that I use all the time is my Tupperware Quick Shake container - it helps mix salad dressing, it has a pour spot, and it's dishwasher safe. I never buy premade dressing because making my own is easier, cheaper, and tastes better.

Last, but not least: If you're in the market for kitchen goods but don't have the dough to head to Williams-Sonoma, consider going to a restaurant supply store. You can get huge stockpots, cocktail supplies, dishes, glasses, and a lot more - and it'll cost you a fraction of the designer prices. The stores may be a little scary, but you can handle it.