A new "must have" kitchen gadget seems to emerge each week, especially on TV infomercials. Consumer Reports asked its Facebook fans what basic gadgets they actually use, then tested several variations — some 40 products in all. Our testers spent weeks peeling potatoes, opening cans, mincing garlic, grating cheese, and zesting lemons to help you find the best gadgets — and the ones you should leave on store shelves. Personal considerations such as hand size and cooking habits cooking habits were important, and more often than not, old reliable designs pleased most of our testers. We did, however, discover some clever twists on the tried-and-true, as well as a few brave new variations that could warrant a spot in your kitchen drawer.
Features that count. Large garlic chamber, ergonomic grip, built-in rubber cleaner.
Bottom line. Lever-style garlic presses let you mince cloves with minimal pressure. We also tested a one-piece garlic rocker that eliminates moving parts but can trap garlic in its mincing holes as you rock it over the cloves.
Oxo Good Grips Box Grater, $18
Features that count. Multiple grating surfaces, soft grip, nonslip base, and optional storage container with measurement markings.
Bottom line. Box graters offer the best combination of stability and grating options but are bulky. Consider adding a smaller, handheld rotary grater for tableside grating of hard cheese. Versions with a sealed cap let you store cheese inside.
Oxo Magnetic Locking Can Opener, $20
Features that count. Cushioned handle locks shut to hold can secure as you turn knob; magnetic arm keeps lid from falling into can.
Bottom line. Traditional manual openers like this one required little effort. They left sharp edges, however, which is why we also liked manual openers that cut cleanly along the side of the can, though you can’t then use the lid to squeeze liquid from, say, a can of tuna.
Better Blade ZestNest, $15
Features that count. Sharp blade and easy-grip case that holds one-third cup zest.
Bottom line. Conventional zesters, with a handle and curved metal end, are easy to use; a grater-style zester can work fast. ZestNest combines both virtues and stores extra zest. The downside: You can’t see how much you’ve zested.
The Joseph 3-in-1 Design Rotary Peeler, $12
This peeler offers a choice of straight, serrated, or julienne blade with a twist of the dial. Unfortunately, holding the 2½-inch diameter tool was awkward for larger handed testers, and peels collected in the blades.
The Chef’n GarlicZoom XL, $15
Its spinning blades mince cloves with a few easy rolls. But testers had trouble removing all the garlic from the chopping chamber and had to avoid pointy blades. And its toylike appearance might make it appealing to little hands if left out on a counter.
KitchenAid’s Cup Grater, $15
Its compact design is appealing, but the removable grating blades don’t lock onto the base, so you have to hold both parts with one hand or they can separate.
Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.