Kitchen gadgets are like toys for grown-ups: Finding the right one can turn rushed, in-a-rut dinner prep into a healthy adventure. Once you see how a cleverly designed grater or nonstick pan can transform your usual meal into a nutrient-rich sensation, you'll be inspired to play and make your own delicious creations.
To help you find your next five-star buy, we turned to those who know nutritionists, cooking instructors, food writers, and even celebrity chefs. Here, their picks for the essential kitchen toys to make cooking easier, tastier, healthier, and of course more fun.1. Bake BetterRegency Non-Stick Parchment Paper ($3.50; LaPrima Shops)
"I bake fish in parchment paper. As it cooks in its own steam, the flavors meld and deepen so there's hardly any need to add oil or butter. Just wrap ingredients tightly in the center and tuck the sides underneath to form a pouch." Clotilde Dusoulier, creator of www.chocolateandzucchini.com2. Calculate Calories InstantlySalter Nutri-Weight Dietary Scale ($100; Chef's Resource)
"Not only does this scale weigh food, it analyzes its nutritional content by portion size so you can see the calories, protein, carbs, sugar, fat, sodium, and more." Thomas Griffiths, certified master chef and professor at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY3. Sneak In More VeggiesAluminum Grater ($15; Korin)
"I use an oroshigane, a Japanese-style grater, on all sorts of ingredients, especially radishes, ginger, carrots, Japanese yams, and daikon. It shreds much more finely and smoothly than a standard grater. I can use the thin slices in sauces and in meat and fish dishes." Masaharu Morimoto, Iron Chef on Food Network's Iron Chef America4. Inspire CreativityKitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer ($300; attachments, $65 to $100; Shop KitchenAid)
"I love this mixer! I make my own whole wheat spaghetti with the pasta maker add-on. I create low-sugar fruit sorbets thanks to the ice cream maker attachment. The food grinder addition is fantastic for making healthy grass-fed beef burgers. And, of course, it's great for making doughs and batters quickly." Scott Uehlein, corporate chef for Canyon Ranch resorts, SpaClubs, and living communities5. Find In-Season EatsCulinary Artistry ($20; Amazon.com)
"This is the best reference book I've used. It has an extensive chart that shows exactly when fruits, vegetables, and meats are at their peak. Sticking to the seasons ensures that food is at its best flavor, price, and, most important, nutritional value." Scott Giambastiani, executive chef at Café 7 and Café Moma, serving organic meals to thousands of employees at Google in Mountain View, CA