In our (thus far) two-part series, Essential Kitchen Gear, we’ve covered a variety of implements and appliances that are useful in just about any kitchen. Why not have a little fun this time around and gather up some awesomely nonessential gear?
Each of the items below fills a very specific niche. Chances are, most of them won’t fit your needs at all, but who knows — maybe you’ll see that one thing you’ve been missing.
Zojirushi offers a variety of water boilers that do one thing well: keep hot water available at the touch of a button. If you make a lot of tea, hot cocoa, coffee, instant oatmeal, that sort of thing, you’ll appreciate always having hot water on tap.
I’m not actually sure why Zojirushi bothers selling so many different water boilers, and honestly they seem largely the same to me, barring differences in color and a minor feature here and there (with the exception of one of them having vacuum insulation). In any case, I do know that this 4-liter Micom model is a great place to start.
It has four “keep warm” temperature presets: 208°F, 195°F, 175°F, and 160°F. Once the water’s been heated to one of those, it holds it at that temp until the unit is unplugged or the boiler is emptied (the latter of which activates the auto shut-off safety feature). It doesn’t heat all too quickly if we’re being honest, but that’s not really the point of the thing. If that’s a concern for you, there’s a 6–10 hour timer function that can be set at night so you’ll have hot water by the time you get up in the morning.
One cool thing about this boiler is that it won’t dispense water until you press the Unlock button — which can be toggled between regular and “slow flow” modes — so a kid can’t just wander over and spew hot water all over themselves.
This guy did a nice video overview of the boiler, including the swivel base and magnetic power cord features:
Everyone knows there’s nothing wrong per se about using a typical salt shaker while cooking — or even a cool set of salt and pepper shakers — but there’s nothing quite like the control you get from grabbing exactly the right amount of salt (or other seasoning) with your fingers and sprinkling it quickly and evenly.
The Dash of Bleu Salt Box is an elegant ceramic salt cellar with bamboo lid that keeps your favorite seasoning or spice close by for easy access while adding a touch of class to your cooking space. Unlike containers made entirely from wood or bamboo, the ceramic of this salt cellar won’t give off weird smells or leach unwanted flavors into your salt. It’s also super easy to clean.
This set of six nesting bowls by the Museum of Modern Art is crafted in Tunisia using sustainably harvested olive wood, which has become a prominent export of the Tunisian city, Sfax. The family-owned company General Olive Wood explains why this is (with some editing for clarity on my part):
Due to its rich color and appearance, olive wood is a particularly sought-after material for use in decorative items and kitchen utensils. The wood contains brown streaks that contrast attractively with the lighter yellow streaks of the sapwood. A distinct but not unpleasant odor adds to the overall character of olive wood. The wood’s slightly sweet smell is particularly noticeable when freshly cut or when worked with tools. Items made from olive wood will generally retain this faint aroma for many years.
Look at the gorgeous wood grain patterns of MoMA’s olive wood bowls, and you’ll definitely see the appeal. Keep in mind that these are hand-wash only.
Suppose you come from a cereal-loving family with varying tastes and rates of speed when it comes to finishing a given box. Or, maybe you live a weird gypsy life that has you bouncing from campground to campground with the chance of being struck by an ant invasion at any one of them. (Not that I, uh, have any experience with that or anything…)
Whatever the case, how do you make sure your favorite quick breakfast food and/or late-night snack stays fresh? You’d be well served by picking up this 3-piece set of cereal dispensing containers by OXO Good Grips. Each one has two silicone seals that close airtight with a single press to keep cereal fresher, longer. They also work well for granola, rice, flour, pet food, and more.
(Yes, this is technically more of an outdoor product than a true piece of kitchen gear, but it’s so in the pocket of “awesomely inessential for most cooks” that I couldn’t resist including it. —Ed.)
If you’ve ever tried to make a legit restaurant-style crispy-crust-with-a-stretchy-interior pizza in your home oven and found that it just can’t get hot enough to get the job done, you’ll love the Roccbox.
This outdoor pizza oven uses your choice of wood, charcoal, or gas — via one of two interchangeable burner attachments — to reach temperatures in excess of 900°F in just 15 minutes, and from there it can crank out a fully cooked and delicious pizza in 75–90 seconds, with only a few minutes’ recovery time between pies if you’re making multiple. Despite getting that hot, the exterior won’t burn you if you accidentally brush against it, thanks to the insulated silicone safety jacket (which comes in green or grey) that encases the top and sides.
Here’s a video showing how to start the wood burner attachment:
J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats found the Roccbox to be the best backyard pizza oven around:
This is an incredible little oven with simple, reliable operation, whether you’re using gas, wood, or charcoal to fire it. It consistently hits wood-fired-oven temperatures and maintains them for as long as you are cooking, with no fussing or babysitting, which means you can spend more time enjoying pizza with your friends and family and less time coddling a temperamental flame. It’s attractive, solidly built, weatherproof, and portable.
As Kenji mentions though, the Roccbox is not a cheap pizza oven, clocking in at $599 + $49 shipping. But if you want the ability to cook the highest-quality homemade pizza anytime, anywhere, it’s an investment worth making.
The Kwik Sip is an easy-to-install extension that lets you use almost any standard-sized faucet as a water fountain with the push of a button. Just unscrew the filter/aerator off your faucet, twist this extension on, and you’re done.
And why would anyone want such a thing, you ask? I can think of a few reasons:
- If you’re the type to use disposable cups to rinse after brushing or when taking pills, now you can stop that.
- If you ever need to fill containers or flower pots that are too tall to fit under the faucet, this thing lets you bypass the issue entirely.
- If you have a health condition (such as Parkinson’s or arthritis) that makes it difficult to handle a water glass, having a faucet makes things easier.
- Small children have an easier time rinsing with a fountain than by cupping their hands in the water.
If you want to see what Kwik Sip is like in action, watch their hilariously bad TV spot:
Despite that commercial, Kwik Sip is still a pretty nifty item.