Tea kettleThere is nothing on the following list of kitchen machines that is revolutionary. In fact, the principals behind the products featured here are ancient. The performance and ingenuity of these products, however, are what make them special. Brewing tea, sharpening knives and making the perfect espresso can be done for less money and fuss by those of us inclined to old school tools such as loose tea steeping baskets and sharpening steels. For those that like efficient gadgets, these products are for you.
Personal Tea Kettle
I gave up coffee about six months ago. I’d been a 3-cup-a-day man for decades. When I switched to herbal tea I found that the one thing I missed – aside from the flavor and caffeine of coffee – was the ritual. You can make coffee with a variety of tools – French press, a percolator, drip machine – that all have a satisfying ritual in the build up to your beverage. For me, boiling water and pouring it into a mug with a tea bag in it wasn’t nearly as satisfying.
That changed when I got the Krups 2013 Personal Teak Kettle. It has the elegant yet utilitarian styling you’d expect from a Krups product, but it also has a little bit of wonder to it – which I discovered the first time I fired it up. I loaded the mesh brew basket with loose tealeaves and fastened it into the glass kettle. The internal circulation system quickly turns the clear water into tea – much to the amazement of my kids (3 and 5) In minutes I had an excellent cup of tea and all the satisfying ritual that I missed from my coffee days.
At $49.99, that’s not a bad deal.
espressoEspresso and more
While I’m on the topic of things I chose to deprive myself of, I might as well mention my former passion for espresso. I was a fan of the Bialetti Moka Express aluminum stovetop espresso makers with the picture of the cartoon mustache dude on the side, but there is always a more high tech way to do these things – not to mention frothing the milk. Enter the Solo Team Espresso Machine. For $72 this little wonder is stupid easy to operate and has a 16-oz glass carafe for making espresso for a dinner party or lattes for two. It has a fixed steam nozzle that quickly froths milk, removable drip tray for easy cleaning, and a metal removable filter.
Electric Knife Sharpener
I learned a lot about cooking from my father, a great maker of soups and sauces. I also spent a lot of time watching him get frustrated with a series of alleged knife sharpeners that ruined knives and wound up buried in the backs of junk drawers all over the house. The art of sharpening a quality knife is just that, and not everyone can do it. The $5 gadgets my Old Man fussed with didn’t help.
If you know the frustration of which I speak, the Chef’s Choice Model 130 Professional Sharpening Station is your answer. It earned “The Best” rating in the 2013 electric sharpener category from the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute “because it produced the sharpest, most resilient edges.”
The Hammacher Schlemmer Institute analysts ran knives across a cement block 100 times and then sharpened them with each sharpening model tested. Analysts said this model “ground edges that chopped spaghetti squash with little effort and sliced smoothly through sheets of paper, unlike lesser sharpeners that created edges that required great force to penetrate squash and cut paper into ragged slices.”
I didn’t take mine outside and beat it up on cement blocks, but I agree with the experts: This thing works. It will sharpen, steel or strop all brands and types of knives, including straight edge or serrated, kitchen, sports and pocketknives. The ghosts in the machine are the three separate, highly specialized stages. The first stage uses 100 percent diamond abrasives to sharpen the edge. In the second stage a super-hardened miniature steel develops a shaving sharp edge with ultra-sharp microscopic serrations that provide a “bite” superior to the professional steeled edge. Stage 3 is used for sharpening serrated knives. And it’s made in the USA. My Old Man would like that.