Cheap Secret Weapons That Will Transform Dinner
These kitchen helpers, from an herb-infusing wand to just-add-juice marinades, all cost less than $15.
The No-Brainer Marinade
Fruit juice is an ideal ingredient for marinades, since its acidity tenderizes food. Weber's new Just Add Juice packets come in Original BBQ, Caribbean Jerk, Citrus Herb, Garlic & Herb, Lemon Pepper and Teriyaki flavors. All you do is mix the contents with half a cup of apple, lemon, lime, orange, pineapple or tomato juice; pour into a bag with chicken, fish, shellfish, pork, ribs or steak; refrigerate for anywhere from 30 minutes to 8 hours; and grill.
Just Add Juice, see WeberSeasonings.com for where to buy
Photo: Courtesy of Progressive
The Thought-of-Everything Colander
These baskets are the go-to tool for when you have to wash fruits and vegetables or drain pasta, grains or canned beans, but there are a ton of other uses for them, from storing fragile produce (berries, grapes, mushrooms) in the fridge to straining yogurt or soft cheese. This incredibly useful version collapses to almost half its length when not in use, has a separate section for seeds and stems, and features little feet and a handle that keep it off the bottom of the sink (a must for avoiding food's contact with the outrageously high number of bacteria hanging out there
Progressive Collapsible Prep Colander, $8
Photo: Courtesy of Crunchies
The Crouton Alternative
Freeze-dried vegetables sound like something astronauts would eat, but they're actually a delicious, crispy, good-for-you topping for salads. Instead of croutons or nuts, try sprinkling freeze-dried, salted edamame over your mixed greens; they're wheat-, gluten- and GMO-free and rich in fiber and nutrients. The company that makes them, Crunchies, also makes freeze-dried strawberries and raspberries, which add a little sweetness (they're great with bitter arugula). And in July, Crunchies will add the varieties Buttered Sweet Corn and Sugar Snap Peas to its line.
Crunchies Freeze-Dried Salted Edamame, $6.25 for a 2.25-ounce package
Photo: Courtesy of Williams-Sonoma
The One-Handed Herb Infuser
The basis of so much quick cooking is coating food—poultry, meat, fish, vegetables, bread—with olive oil and then grilling, roasting or sautéing it. And though we know we could chop up sage, rosemary, thyme or another herb and add it to the oil for extra flavor, it's easy to skip that step when we're in a hurry. This wand makes it simple: Insert a whole herb sprig into the long, thin tube and then use the bushy part that sticks out the end as a brush for the oil. The herb flavor will transfer to whatever you're cooking. It's also handy for adding a finishing glisten to homemade (or just reheated) pizza.
Chef'n Herb Wand, $15
Photo: Courtesy of Norpro
The Perfect Knife
Anyone who's ever struggled to remove gooey baked goods from her pans will appreciate this knife-spatula hybrid. It has a 10-inch blade with a beveled edge made from nylon (which means it won't scratch nonstick pans), and its slightly curved blade helps it wedge underneath sticky foods. While the most obvious uses are cinnamon buns, Rice Krispies Treats and deep-dish pizza, you'll probably find yourself reaching for it when cutting many other potentially tricky dishes, from lasagna to frittatas to brownies.
Norpro The Perfect Knife, $5
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