Gluten-free cooking is very different than regular cooking, therefore, it is important to know which gluten-free cooking utensils to use to make your work easier. Carol Fenster has listed a variety of cooking utensils below, in price ranges for a few dollars to a couple hundred, but concentrates on the lower-end. Whether you’ve been doing gluten-free cooking and baking for several years or are a newbie, you may find her tips may very useful. In addition, these make very good gluten-free gift ideas!
By Carol Fenster, author of 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes (Avery/Penguin Group, 2011)
I love to experiment with kitchen gadgets to see what they can do to make my gluten-free lifestyle––and yours––easier and perhaps more fun.
Some people periodically clean out their clothes closet, eliminating the clothes they never wear or that don’t fit anymore. I, on the other hand, periodically clean out my kitchen drawers and (sadly) part with old friends that have outlived their usefulness or never quite lived up to their potential. I’ve certainly bought my share of those that “over-promised” and “under-delivered.”
But, along the way I’ve accumulated some favorites that I can’t live without. With the holiday season here, many of these items would make perfect little gifts. Of course, you could always ask Santa to spring for a big-ticket item such as a heavy-duty stand mixer…or a Zojirushi bread machine…or a super-powerful food processor––––they’re all terrific time savers in the gluten-free kitchen.
But what I have in mind this holiday season are small kitchen items that make your job easier and actually produce a better dish (and fit nicely into a Christmas stocking!)
Ice Cream Scoop: Spring-action, metal ice cream scoops aren’t just for ice cream. They come in a multitude of sizes, so you may want to have several on hand ranging from 1 1/2 inches to 2 1/4 inches in diameter.
Use them to “scoop” uniform-shaped balls of cookie dough. Or, drop mounds of muffin batter into muffin tins. Or use ice cream scoops to make uniform-sized balls for cream puffs, or the cheese-tapioca bread called Pao Di Quiejo), or drop uniformly-sized biscuits and scones that bake at the same speed because they are the same size.
Ice cream scoops are particularly good for gluten-free dough, which tends to be sticky. Plus, your hands stay clean because they don’t have to touch the dough. Dip the scoop in hot water between “scoops” so the batter dislodges easily.
Parchment Paper: Once labeled an “unnecessary luxury” in my kitchen, I now think it is indispensable––especially in the gluten-free kitchen where baked goods have a tendency to stick. This silicone-lined paper prevents baked goods from sticking, thus eliminating the need to oil or grease the baking sheet––which means fewer calories. Each sheet can be used at least twice (once on each side) so it really isn’t that expensive.
Microplane: Luckily for us, this handy utensil found its way from the woodworker’s bench––where it’s known as a rasp––to the kitchen. It does a fantastic job of grating cheese or fresh ginger. But I especially like it for grating lemons or limes because it captures only the fragrant peel, leaving behind the white, bitter part of the skin.
Microplanes come in many different shapes, but I prefer the kind with a large, rounded handle so I can get a firm grasp. If it gets too clogged up just use an old toothbrush to dislodge the stubborn food before putting it in the dishwasher.
Measuring Cups and Spoons: It’s important to have a standardized set of measuring cups; one set for dry ingredients such as flour or sugar and another set for liquid ingredients such as milk or water. Choose yours from a reputable, well-known manufacturer.
How do you know the difference between liquid and dry measuring cups? Dry measuring cups usually have flat tops, no spouts, and nest together. Liquid measuring cups are usually see-through, have pouring spouts, and don’t nest together.
Now, I know that some of you use the two types of cups interchangeably (for example, using liquid measuring cups to measure flour). Experienced bakers know that you can get up to 20% more flour this way, which might not make a huge difference in some recipes, but can spell disaster in others.
Many of our gluten-free recipes call for amounts not included in the typical measuring cup set. So, look for those that measure 2 cups, 1 1/2 cups, 3/4 cup, and 2/3 cup. They’ll save you loads of time.
Plastic, Flexible Ruler: Use it to measure dimensions or height of dough (for example, when the recipe says to roll out pie dough to a 10-inch circle or cookie dough to a height of 1/4-inch).
The food that is likely to accumulate on it can easily be washed off with a damp cloth. Keep it in your kitchen utensil drawer (not an office drawer) where it’s stays clean and is readily available.
Spread the Cheer
All of these items can be found either at kitchen or gourmet stores or through the specialty catalogs. If you already have these items, then you know how handy they can be. Why not share these secrets with your gluten-free friends. Better yet, spread the holiday cheer by giving these gadgets as gifts.
To learn more about Carol Fenster, her recipes and multiple cookbooks visit her gluten-free blog at Carol Fenster Cooks.