Even top chefs can’t live without their favorite gadgets

There are a heck of a lot of kitchen gadgets on the market, ready to fill needs chefs and home cooks didn’t even know existed. You can prepare hard-cooked eggs in very un-egglike shapes, microwave bacon to form bowls, cook hamburgers that are shaped like hot dogs or use a special gadget to slice your bananas, just in case a plain ol’ table knife doesn’t do it for you.

But some gadgets actually are quite useful. In the Review-Journal test kitchen we like terra cotta brown-sugar savers; you just soak them and put them in your container of brown sugar and they’ll keep it soft, even in this desert. They can be used over and over, and while some people advocate using a slice of apple instead, we prefer the terra cotta because it can’t rot like a piece of apple.

We also like to use a honey dispenser, which eliminates the sticky strings that result from trying to spoon honey out of a jar, and the big silicone pot covers that keep water from boiling over. And who among us doesn’t appreciate those plastic chip clips? Even if we don’t usually keep chips in the house, they’re pretty handy for closing up bags of nuts, produce or baking supplies.

We also asked a few local chefs which tools they wouldn’t want to be without when they’re cooking at home. For Saul Ortiz, executive chef at Tacos &Tequila at Luxor, it’s a Spoodle, which he described as a cross between a ladle and a spoon.

“It has the measurement of a ladle, the handle of the spoon,” he said of the tool, which he also uses in the restaurant kitchen.

“I have little ones,” Ortiz said. “They can use the Spoodle and 80 percent of the time I don’t have a mess on the stove. I find the Spoodle to be as essential as a knife.”

Michael Vignola, corporate executive chef of Strip House, which has a restaurant at Planet Hollywood, mentioned several tools, among them an old-fashioned cake tester.

“This little needle works wonders and is an indispensable tool when testing the doneness of a piece of salmon or seeing if my wife’s molten chocolate cupcakes are just right,” Vignola said.

Mariena Mercer, chef mixologist at The Cosmopolitan, said she favors a Kitchen Aid blender with various attachments, which she uses to make ice cream with liquid nitrogen.

Two chefs are partial to a particularly well-engineered item.

“My favorite gadget is a Microplane zester,” said Megan Romano, chef/owner of Chocolate &Spice. “I love adding citrus to heighten flavor and add a bit of freshness to a recipe,” such as chicken Milanese with marinated tomatoes and arugula with Meyer lemon zest, or Meyer lemon Parmesan shortbread cookies.

“I love a Microplane; I can’t live without it,” said Rick Moonen, executive chef of Rx Boiler Room and RM Seafood, both at Mandalay Bay. “Whenever I travel, I always have a Microplane. It’s the one that just takes off the outer part of any citrus. That’s where all the oils are hidden, and it’s such a boost to anything. There’s no better way get a clean citrus flavor than a Microplane.”

And Moonen said he has another favorite, which can be seen on TV; that might explain the chef’s slightly sheepish tone.

“I like the Slap Chop, too; I’m not going to lie,” he said. “It’s quick. When you’re chopping garlic fine, it gets all over your cutting board and leaves the garlic flavor there.” The Slap Chop, he said, is “clean and fast and keeps the garlic flavor out of unwanted areas.”

We also asked local representatives of two major kitchen-equipment companies, Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma, for their customers’ favorite gadgets. The results are pictured.

Contact reporter Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474.

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