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Prep

These are the tools that are your workhorses, and the ones that most take the place of a sous-chef. These Cool Tools help you prepare your ingredients to be cooked. In finding Cool Tools for food prep, functionality, time saving and ease of use are the most important things we look for. Each and every one of these does its job particularly well and takes your food prep from drudgery to fun (well, almost!) When we finally carry knives, they will fit in this section.

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  1. Zeal Calla Lily Flat-edge Silicone Scraper Spoon

    Zeal Calla Lily Flat-edge Silicone Scraper Spoon

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    $12.99

    Why It's Cool: Sturdy silicone flat-edged spoon that is comfortable to hold and beautiful to look at!

    A cooking spoon is an extension of your hand: it allows you to stir in ingredients, to keep the contents of a pot from burning, and to help turn a group of individual components into a unified and delicious whole. As a matter of fact, a cooking spoon is such a fundamental tool for cooking, that we named our corporation for the German (or Yiddish) word for cooking spoon: Kochloeffel!

    There are a number of recipes, our recipes for gougères and melted tomato sauce among them, that ask you to stir pretty continuously so the ingredients don’t stick to the bottom of the pan or risk burning.  If what you’re stirring is thick, then you need something more sturdy than a spatula. But most spoons have a rounded point and just aren’t that effective to scrape the bottom and corners of your pan. That’s why a flat-edged spoon is one of our favorite Cool Tools! And our other spoon issue is that if your spoon has too narrow a handle, your hand just plain gets tired when it's stirring. So one of our key tests is whether the handle is thick enough to make wielding the spoon a comfortable experience.

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  2. William Bounds Pro View American Black Walnut Salt Mill

    William Bounds Pro View American Black Walnut Salt Mill

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    $49.94

    Why It's Cool: Classic design in beautiful wood with great throughput and even grinding.

    I’ve always been a fan of manual pepper and salt mills, probably stemming from being impressed at an early age when the waiter asked if I would like freshly ground pepper on my dish, how he artfully dusted my plate, and the sound of grinding next to my ear … and it made my dish beautiful and delicious! I guess I was an impressionable child, and that’s one impression I’ve never lost.

    We have tested and identified several electric salt and pepper mills but, until now, have devoted little attention to manual mills … in the interim we have tested quite a number of manual mills and developed some interesting testing and analysis criteria.

    There are several functional features to consider. First, of course, all mills grind salt or pepper, and some can do both. But salt mills have the additional issue of possible corrosion, especially when you use Sea Salt like we do. Most mills are adjustable, but the methods and degrees of adjustment vary. And the major issue for any mill is throughput: does it do a good job of grinding salt or pepper evenly and efficiently, in a reasonable quantity?

    And then there are the design issues: in addition to the “how does it work?” questions, there is the basic “what does it look like?” question. Classic? or Modern? Are the adjustment controls clearly visible and easy to use? Can you see how much salt or pepper remains in the mill, so you won’t run out in the middle of cooking or eating? So much, and more, to consider, for such essential tools!

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  3. Trudeau Strawberry Huller

    Trudeau Strawberry Huller

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    $8.99

    Why It's Cool: Most fun you can have preparing strawberries--and it removes the entire bitter core!

    Remember when you were a kid? Remember pop guns? That was one of my favorite toys: you pulled back on the handle to lodge the cork in the barrel, and then pushed the handle forward to make the cork (on a string so it didn’t go anywhere) pop out of the barrel with a very satisfying “pop” sound.

    Sorry for the digression, but this Strawberry Huller makes me nostalgic for my old pop gun. You put the tube of the huller through the back end of the strawberry and push it through to the stem (this way it takes out the entire bitter core). Then you squeeze the bulb to eject the core, and it sounds just like that old pop gun!

    So let’s start with the fact that you do want to hull your strawberries. The center core tastes unpleasant and, unless you’re eating the very fancy long-stemmed strawberries (usually while sipping champagne), you really don’t want the stem hanging around either. So once you’ve made that decision, it’s just a matter of deciding how to do it. Even my just-use-a-knife loving husband realizes that using a knife to hull strawberries is an injury waiting to happen, and you certainly wouldn’t want to hand a knife to your young child to help prepare dinner.

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  4. Tips included with Bag

    Trudeau Silicone Piping Bag And QUICK System Tips

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    Why It's Cool: Piping Bag made easy, clean and convenient

    If you thought a piping bag was just something that high end chefs and bakers use on precious food and fancy cakes, it’s time to think again. A piping bag is a very handy (and, in this case, easy) way to deliver a smooth ...something (filling, dip, potatoes, gougères batter, macaron batter, garnish, etc.) to a place (vegetable, hard cooked egg white, surface of a soup, baking sheet, plate) in an efficient and/or decorative manner. With a piping bag and the right tip, you can create all sorts of lovely effects that look like you spent hours ...when, in fact, you didn’t (our favorite kind of deception :-))

    Using a Piping Bag can present 3 major challenges: how to fill it, how to change tips mid-stream, and how to clean it. We have a Cool Tip on filling a piping bag that makes it much easier. But the folks at Trudeau have designed a solution that addresses all of these issues, so that you can make regular use of a piping bag in your culinary adventures: from filling cream puffs or deviled eggs, to artful presentation. They created a highly functional set that will add personal style and beauty to your food! Definitely a Cool Tool!

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  5. Trudeau Professional Salt and Pepper Mills 6

    Trudeau Professional Stainless Steel Salt and Pepper Mills

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    $39.99

    Why It's Cool: Beautiful classic design in brushed stainless steel, with all the necessary functionality using modern materials

    I’ve always been a fan of manual pepper and salt mills, probably stemming from being impressed at an early age when the waiter asked if I would like freshly ground pepper on my dish, how he artfully dusted my plate, and the sound of grinding next to my ear … and it made my dish beautiful and delicious! I guess I was an impressionable child, and that’s one impression I’ve never lost.

    We have tested and identified several electric salt and pepper mills but, until now, have devoted little attention to manual mills … in the interim we have tested quite a number of manual mills and developed some interesting testing and analysis criteria.

    There are several functional features to consider. First, of course, all mills grind salt or pepper, and some can do both. But salt mills have the additional issue of possible corrosion, especially when you use Sea Salt like we do. Most mills are adjustable, but the methods and degrees of adjustment vary. And the major issue for any mill is throughput: does it do a good job of grinding salt or pepper evenly and efficiently, in a reasonable quantity?

    And then there are the design issues: in addition to the “how does it work?” questions, there is the basic “what does it look like?” question. Classic? or Modern? Are the adjustment controls clearly visible and easy to use? Can you see how much salt or pepper remains in the mill, so you won’t run out in the middle of cooking or eating? So much, and more, to consider, for such essential tools!

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  6. Trudeau Mixing Bowls

    Trudeau Mixing Bowls

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    $29.99

    Why It's Cool: Microwave safe, dripless pour spouts, slick interior for easy emptying

    How could a set of mixing bowls be a Cool Tool? We all use mixing bowls … of various shapes and sizes and materials … and sometimes we even have more than one set, to cover the range of features that we want for various purposes at different times. But rarely do you find all those features - and more - in one set of bowls … until now!

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  7. Trudeau Herb Mincer/Moulin aux Fines Herbes

    Trudeau Herb Mincer/Moulin aux Fines Herbes

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    $17.99

    Why It's Cool: Quick and easy mincing of fresh herbs, and chilies directly onto your dish

    Cutting fresh or dried herbs or chilis can present a range of problems: you can’t cut them small enough, or the dried pieces crumble irregularly and shoot in all directions except the one you wanted, or those really hot little chilis leave their oils on your fingers and you inevitably rub your eyes and scream! Right?

    Well, no longer! The Herb Mincer is an essential tool for any cook that enjoys the flavors of herbs and chilis in their food … and who doesn’t?

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  8. Trudeau Graviti +Plus Salt or Pepper Mill

    Trudeau Graviti +Plus Salt or Pepper Mill

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    Regular Price: $49.99

    Special Price: $39.99

    Why It's Cool: Easy to use with great throughput

    If you’re a fan of this site, you know that I love anything that makes cooking easier and better. And when it comes to salt and pepper mills, I look for a few things. First, is the grinder ceramic, so that it can grind salt or pepper without corroding? Second, does it have great throughput (in other words, does it grind a lot at one time)? Third, is the grind even and adjustable? And fourth, is it easy to use? Additional pluses for me are: a light to see how much I’m grinding, a large capacity hopper so that I don’t have to keep refilling it, and a nice look on the table. And, of course, my preference is electric, because when it comes to grinding salt and pepper, I’m a little lazy… not so lazy that I won’t grind it fresh, but lazy enough that I’d rather not take a lot of effort to do it.

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  9. Trudeau Dripless Spout

    Trudeau Dripless Oil Spout

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    $11.99

    Why It's Cool: Truly dripless pouring from any bottle.

    We all buy - or receive - bottles of olive oil or vinegar that we store for another day … they come either corked or with a screwtop that has to be removed and/or replaced every time we use it …. But when we want to use it immediately - without having to unscrew the top or re-pull the cork in the midst of executing a recipe - we need a pour spout, in order to avoid using the “thumb on the bottle” drizzle technique ….

    But most pour spouts are dreadful refugees from cheap cocktail bars: they don’t seal well enough to maintain freshness and don’t keep out the tiny insects inevitably attracted to your delicious oil or vinegar. And, when in use, they don’t control the flow and then inevitably drip, creating a mess on your countertop or the side of the bottle, and in your cabinet … yuck! Right?

    No longer!

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  10. Trudeau Dripless Oil & Vinegar Bottles

    Trudeau Dripless Oil & Vinegar Bottles

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    $19.99

    Why It's Cool: Truly dripless pouring, with oil and vinegar-specifc spouts

    How many times have you poured oil from a bottle, only to have that bottle drip some of the oil when you put it back on your shelf? What a mess!

    And most of the time when we pour oil, it’s easy enough to just eyeball the quantity as we pour into a saute pan. Same goes with vinegar when it’s the primary component in a dressing …. But that sort of free-wheeling doesn’t work so well when you want to control your quantity: when you’re using any infused oil and want to avoid overpowering the dish, or using high quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil to make a vinaigrette or to finish a dish of fresh tomatoes and burrata, … or anything else where a degree of control is required. And since you can’t put the excess back in the bottle, you may end up making more of the mixture than you need and that’s wasteful.
      
    Yes of course you can use those pour-spout inserts that bartenders use, or you can put your thumb over the open top of your oil or vinegar bottle and drizzle it out in irregular spurts … but those techniques aren’t much more precise than just pouring slowly … right? And the bottles always seem to drip a little when you put them back on the shelf, so you have that mess to clean up.

    Well no more … we have a pair of Cool Tools that can make your pouring activities controlled, clean and drip-free, … help you avoid waste, ... and enable a great vinaigrette every time.

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  11. Tovolo Silicone Spatula

    Tovolo Silicone Spatula

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    $7.00

    Why It's Cool: Heat resistant, sturdy, but flexible, great shape, comfortable to use--it has it all!

    Every spatula has two parts: a business end (the head) and a gripping end (the handle); both are important in choosing a spatula.

    But first let’s start with why you need a spatula (just in case there was any doubt). A spatula, by design, is the best tool for folding, stirring, and scraping everything from egg whites to cookie dough to sauteed meats and vegetables. So to be good, a spatula has to be versatile: wide and sharp enough to cut through egg whites to fold them without deflating, sturdy enough to stir even the stiffest cookie dough, and heat resistant enough to stir fry and saute your favorite meats and vegetables. And all the while being comfortable to hold, because with the ability to do all these tasks, you’ll be holding it a lot! The one we love is also the one that Cooks Illustrated chose as one of it’s 2 top picks and a “Best Buy”.

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  12. Precision Cutting Mat

    Tovolo Precision Cutting Guide Mats

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    Why It's Cool: Mats provide more than a cutting surface, they're a mini cooking lesson.

    Has this ever happened to you: you’re chopping away, prepping for dinner, and you wonder, “Are we there yet?” Have you chopped enough of the ingredient so that you can stop and move on to the next one? Of course you can stop, put all your chopped ingredient into a measuring cup, and then add or subtract as necessary. But wouldn’t it be nice to have guidance right where you’re chopping?

    And what about when you want to get your “Top Chef” on, but are uncertain about the difference between a batonnet and a brunoise, or unclear about the angle of a cut. Or how about figuring ou equivalents on the fly (how many cups in a quart?)

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  13. Tovolo Pancake Pen

    Tovolo Pancake Pen

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    $9.99

    Why It's Cool: Delivers batter exactly where you want it--whether in a mold or on your griddle.

    When I first read about the Pancake Pen in Cooks Illustrated, I thought...really? We don’t have kids and so we don’t spend much time making pancake shapes. But Cooks Illustrated gave it high praise:

    Recommended - Winner

    Tovolo Pancake Pen

    Comments: The heat-proof silicone nozzle on this soft plastic model turned pancake-making into an art project, allowing us to draw letters and shapes as well as create perfectly round pancakes.

    so we thought we‘d give it a try.

    If you want to draw shapes with your pancakes this does a great job, but what we found was that it also does a great job for just plan old round pancakes, for making blinis to serve with caviar, for making Gluten-free Brazilian Cheese Balls, in fact for anything where you want to deliver a batter to a specific place with a minimum of dripping and slopping around. And the tall thin shape means that this takes up very little room in the refrigerator. We now keep this in the refrigerator filled with our Brazilian Cheese Ball batter so that, at a moments notice, we can make a few by just squeezing a portion into the indentations in a tartlet pan. What I thought was a silly idea turned out to be a very handy Cool Tool!

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  14. Tovolo Kiwi Tool

    Tovolo Kiwi Tool

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    $5.99

    Why It's Cool: Makes it easy to enjoy kiwifruit, with all their great flavor and health benefits

    I’ve loved kiwifruit ever since it was introduced in the US in the early sixties. It was originally called Chinese Gooseberries, but apparently the importers didn’t think that name would sell. Anyway, with its gorgeous green colored flesh with tiny black seeds, it’s one of the prettiest additions to any fruit salad, and its creamy texture and sweet but tangy flavor make it a great addition from a taste perspective as well. Not only that, but The World’s Healthiest Foods site says:  “Kiwifruit is an excellent source of vitamin C and vitamin K as well as a very good source of copper and dietary fiber. It is also a good source of vitamin E, potassium, folate, and manganese.” So it’s healthy, too.

    But somewhere along the way, I just stopped eating them. Why, you may ask. The answer is that they were just too difficult to deal with. The thin skin doesn’t peel off easily, and if you do get it off, the flesh is slippery and ends up on the floor more times that I’d like to recount. Now maybe I’m just a kitchen klutz, but my guess is that many others have had similar experiences. That’s why I was so excited when one of our favorite vendors came out with a Kiwi Tool that completely simplifies the job of releasing the flesh from the skin!

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  15. Tovolo Flexible Cutting Mats

    Tovolo Flexible Cutting Mats (Set of 4)

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    $9.99

    Why It's Cool: Sturdy enough to stand up to a dishwasher without curling, yet flexible enough to deliver your chopped food to a bowl or pan

    We all have cutting boards of various sizes and materials … and sometimes we have and stick with one favorite … that large professional wood board is a favorite: looks like a mini-butcher’s block and weighs a ton! - as is that white polypropylene model that taught us that cutting boards could go into the dishwasher. But a few years ago, we started becoming accustomed to the convenience of those 4-color sets of cutting “mats” … they combined light weight, space-saving and easy cleanup, and those colors were supposed to remind you to use one color for one food group and another for another, to avoid cross-contamination ...and we found ourselves using them all the time: just grab one, use it, funnel the chopped ingredients into your bowl or pan, and throw it into the sink or dishwasher.

    But the problem has been that, after a relatively short while when we’ve ignored the manufacturers’ “handwash only” admonition and put them in the dishwasher (after all, isn’t that the point of having “plastic” mats, so that you can sanitize them in the dishwasher?), they curled up and didn’t store flat anymore, and you couldn’t keep them flat on the countertop to do the chopping and slicing for which they were intended. So you tossed out that set (or some of it) and got another … and then it happened again, and again. OK, they’re cheap and replaceable and … but it’s still aggravating. Well, no longer! As confirmed fans of flexible cutting mats, we were always looking for a better example … and we’ve found it!

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  16. Tovolo Flex-Core Spatulas

    Tovolo Flex-Core Spatulas

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    $12.99

    Why It's Cool: Flexible, yet strong, mixing and scraping ability with a comfortable stainless steel handle for easy clean-up

    Every kitchen needs multiple spatulas … it’s an unavoidable fact of cooking! Wherever anything is, you need a spatula - of one size or another - to scrape or fold one ingredient out of one place into another. This becomes especially important when you have multiple ingredients prepared in advance - your mise-en-place - or folding egg whites, or if you’ve simply measured out one ingredient to go into a larger dish, like a marinade. You’re always going to need multiple spatulas, in various sizes.

    There are numerous problems with traditional spatulas: the blades are too soft and flexible for many ingredients, you cannot get a firm grip on the handles, they’re either too big or too small for the task at hand, they don’t clean-up well, and some wooden handles deteriorate with repeated washings, especially in the dishwasher. We’ve discovered a solution to each of these issues … the Flex-Core spatulas with stainless steel handles, from Tovolo.

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  17. Tovolo Collapsible Microwave Cover

    Tovolo Collapsible Microwave Cover

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    $7.99

    Why It's Cool: Height and perforations to release steam and prevent splatters, collapses for easy storage

    OK, let’s start with the assumption that every once in a while you may want to reheat a plate of food: whether it’s leftovers on the second day, or a late night at work and a beautiful meal has gotten cold. Whatever the cause, you want to reheat the food in the quickest, most efficient way possible, with the least loss of flavor and quality. Probably the best and easiest way to do this is in the microwave.

    But there are a few things that can happen inside your microwave: the food can splatter and make your microwave a mess, and your food can dry out or get too soggy. That’s why a microwave cover is a good idea; it protects both your food and your microwave. And if you want to melt butter (one of my personal favorite uses of the microwave)...splatters happen. But again, a good microwave food cover prevents that from being a problem.

    But most microwave food covers, to be effective, are about 3 inches or more tall...and where do you store something like that? Well, the clever folks at Tovolo have a solution…

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  18. Tovolo Citrus Reamer

    Tovolo Citrus Reamer

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    $9.99

    Why It's Cool: Reams every last drop out of your citrus and measures it for your recipes

    A little fresh citrus juice adds a brightness to almost any dish. And there are times when you need a specific quantity of citrus juice for a recipe, so finding an easy efficient way to to both extract it and measure it becomes important. The Citrus Reamer from Tovolo is one of our favorite tools to accomplish this.

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  19. Tovolo Blender Scraper

    Tovolo Blender Scraper

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    $8.99

    Why It's Cool: Reaches places no spatula has gone before

    There are certain kitchen clean-up jobs that just seem harder than others. One of those is scraping all of the contents out of any jar, bottle, blender, or other container, in fact, that is long and narrow: an ordinary spatula just doesn’t do the job because it is straight and not designed to extract all the contents. What you need is something with an angled head and a flexible tip that can reach down into the container and scrape along all sides, bringing all the deliciousness up with it. If it can also scrape from the side, like a traditional spatula, then that’s a bonus. And we finally found one that does it all…

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  20. Sirius Chef Muffin Splitter

    Sirius Chef Muffin Splitter

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    $16.98

    Why It's Cool: Maintains all the wonderful nooks and crannies in your English muffins, biscuits and scones

    Everybody loves English Muffins (OK: if you don’t, then skip to the next article!). But like Escargots, English Muffins are wonderfully delicious vehicles to enjoy lots of butter  ...yes, another guilty pleasure! And it’s always a wonderful way to start your morning by letting your butter melt into all those “nooks & crannies”, or adding marmalade, preserves, and nut butters, (or some combination) and much more (our personal favorite is an English muffin sandwich with marmalade and a few slices of crisp bacon!)

    But the real test is ...how can you evenly split your fresh English Muffins (or biscuits, scones, or similar thick breakfast breads): to create, open, and preserve those “nooks & crannies” … in order to enjoy all the deliciousness that is exposed after they’re crisp and toasted and ready to enjoy…?

    As much as I love Knives, and I do try to adhere to my basic principle that “a knife can perform a majority of kitchen tasks” ...well, I must acknowledge that that principle does not apply to English Muffins: attempts to slice evenly inevitably fail, or produce mixed - and unsatisfactory - results  … so you need a purpose-built “Splitter” to achieve an even, consistent result.

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