I know. I've said it before, but it's still true. The right tool for the right job makes things easier. It's as important in house repair as it is in the kitchen. Using the wrong tools is just a frustrating waste of time and effort. Using the right tools means wasting less time, effort, and less of the food you buy. Here are some basic processing tools that every home cook should have.
Box grater's are so much better than those large flat hand graters. You know the ones I mean. They've got two different sized grates separated by a whole that's desperate to pass itself off as a slicing tool. For one thing, box grater's stand up on their own. That means less wear and tear on the hands trying to hold that flat thing I was talking about. Just pull the grater off the food every so often so the food doesn't get too compressed.
It takes effort to make the perfect mashed potatoes, but why kill your hands and wrists mashing them? Choose one with a comfortable handle. I prefer the round flat ones over the bent wire ones, but they can both be useful. They're not just for potatoes, though. They're the perfect tool when mashing avocados for guacamole.
Mortar and Pestle
I have to admit, I avoided buying one of these for a long time. I bought an electric spice grinder, instead. Still, there are some things that a mortar and pestle are great for (including making a oleo, a mixture of crushed garlic and olive oil). Buy the biggest one you can afford. You want them to be heavy, and marble is a good choice. Porcelain works great, too. It has the weight of marble but isn't quite so expensive.
Salt & Pepper Mills
Fresh ground pepper has much better aroma and flavor than the pre-ground stuff, so a pepper mill is a must have item. You want a mill with a comfortable grip that puts out a decent volume of pepper with each turn. A salt mill makes up the pair, crushing crystals of sea salt.
Just like peppercorns, nutmeg loses aroma and flavor pretty quickly. Instead of buying a dedicated nutmeg grater, though, buy a microplane. They come in varying cuts and sizes and make short work of nutmeg, hard cheeses and other foods for quick grating jobs that just don't a large box grater.
Fresh lemon juice is so much brighter in flavor than it's bottled counterpart, it's hard to imagine they came from the same fruit. The same holds true with lime juice. Don't get me wrong. I still buy bottled lemon and lime juice. They're more economical. But whenever I can, I hold out for the fresh stuff. Some of the best new ones come out of Mexico. They look like over-sized garlic presses. They're a little counter intuitive, though. You want to put in a half of lemon or lime backwards, or what seems backwards. The big inverted press should press down on the round skin side, inverting the fruit as you squeeze.
A garlic press can make short work of a garlic clove, releasing the maximum flavor. Research has also shown that mincing garlic through a press, instead of just with a knife, retains more of the vital nutrients that make garlic so good for you. Yeah. I was surprised, too. The problem with cheaper presses is they're hard to clean. Buy a sturdy garlic press with a detachable grill to make the work, and the cleaning, a lot easier.
Do know of any other hand processing tools that you consider important, or uses for these I haven't mentioned? Feel free to share your kitchen wisdom by leaving a comment.