One of the many things I’ve done in life is work as a professional chef. At one point I was being trained by a tiny eastern Indian woman who exclaimed one day, “The best tools in the kitchen are a clean pair of hands!” While there was a lot of truth to that statement, I love tools, gadgets and accessories nearly as much as I love to cook. If you're looking for a gift for an enthusiastic cook, but one that won't add clutter to his or her kitchen, these are my go-to kitchen tools. A high-quality version of one of these will be welcome in any kitchen.
If you are making any type of desert involving apples, such as pie, an apple corer/slicer is great for reducing prep time and generating uniform slices. Having uniform slices helps your dessert cook more evenly (also if you are canning) and creates a more appealing presentation. Yes, you could use a knife, but this tool really cuts down preparation time.
There is nothing worse in the kitchen than a dull knife. A dull knife is the fastest way to multiple Band-Aids and stitches I know of. If you don’t have the skill to sharpen your knives with a whetstone, try a couple different types of commercial knife sharpeners. You should sharpen your knives frequently. Having a sharp knife allows for more precision (uniform pieces of fruits, veggies, or meats cook more evenly and look nicer).
The name pretty much says it all. A flavor injector is primarily used for meats. A bit like a syringe, you can inject any type of liquid such as broths (which you can flavor further with herbs and spices), orange juice (which has a tenderizing effect on meats) or melted butter. This is a really fun kitchen utensil that many cooks don't have.
Used primarily for fruits and vegetables, a mandoline slicer is an essential kitchen accessory. Keep in mind mandoline slicers are razor-sharp. Always use the produce holder while slicing. I too, have fallen prey to the idea that I’ll know when to stop and use the produce holder (which has sharp nails that allow you to stab the produce firmly while slicing). Mandolines come with a variety of thickness settings to make slicing veggies and fruits a speedy job.
Many of you have seen your mother use flour sifters. If you enjoy baking, sifting your flour into your baking recipes will help you create a finer product. Essentially, a four sifter helps you avoid lumping and allows for better mixing of ingredients. In a pinch, a flour sifter can double as a sieve for other foods.
A dough scraper can be used for a variety of kitchen tasks. A dough scraper is a simple hand-sized handle with a square, metal (not sharp) blade. Aside from being used to make clean cuts in bread dough when you are separating loaves to put in baking pans, a dough scraper is a fantastic clean-up tool. Flour and moisture make a very glue-like substance that can be difficult to clean from your cutting boards. Before trying to wash your cutting board with a sponge and water, scrape off as much of the sticky stuff as possible with a dough scraper.
Some zesters are better than others. Lemon or orange zest (the fine peelings from citrus fruits) can be used in desserts, drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) or toppings for vegetables. Make sure you wash your citrus well, as many growers apply pesticides and fungicides. It’s best to use organic citrus fruits for zest if you can. Zesters can double as Parmesan graters, or as graters for spices like nutmeg or cinnamon sticks.
The only unitasker on the list, I'm including it because of how much use mine gets. It saves you from tedious mincing and allows more flavorful oils to be released. You still have to peel the garlic clove, but then you simply place the clove inside the press, put the stopper in place, and squeeze. The garlic is smashed out of tiny little holes and you usually have to scrape off a portion of the garlic.