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Wilburn: Last-minute gifts for cooks
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Looking for a last-minute gift for the cook in your life? Here are a few ideas for great gadgets every well-stocked kitchen should have.

Universal Lid

These lids typically have several rings of ridges that let the lid fit over different sizes of pans. Some brands may cover pans from about 8 inches to 12 inches in diameter (as measured across the top of the pan). Other brands may offer both a smaller and larger size of universal pan lid.

Perhaps you wish your current pans had see-through lids so you could monitor food preparation without lifting the lid and releasing the heat. Buy a universal lid with a see-through dome for when you want to watch what's cooking.

When comparing features of various universal pan lids, consider whether these factors are important to your intended uses:

  • Are they dishwasher safe?
  • Do they have a stay-cool knob?
  • Are they oven-safe? To what temperature?

Colanders

If you tend to wash and/or drain a lot of foods for meals, an extra colander or two may save time and help prevent cross-contamination. You can buy them in a variety of sizes.

Cutting boards

Avoid cross-contamination when cutting different types of foods for the same meal by owning several cutting boards. This is especially important if you're cutting raw meats, poultry or seafood and then need to cut ready-to-eat foods. With more than one cutting board, you can avoid spending extra time washing your board before cutting the next item. Plastic or other nonporous cutting boards are easier to safely clean as they can be run through the dishwasher.

Kitchen timer

Help keep your kitchen tasks under control with this battery-operated device. Time the seconds, minutes or hours needed for a cooking process. Many come with a flip-out stand and a magnetic backing, so you always can keep them handy. Some can be clipped to your belt if you need to leave the kitchen. Others come with a string to hang around your neck. This is a gadget I couldn't live without in my kitchen.

Food thermometers

Food thermometers help you save guessing time trying to decide when food is safely done. It is convenient to have both an "instant-read thermometer" that can be inserted at the end of cooking for foods like steaks and casseroles, plus an "ovenproof thermometer" that can be left in during cooking for foods like roasts and turkeys.

Appliance thermometers

Buy one for both the refrigerator and the freezer. Don't rely on just the settings of your refrigerator or freezer. Your freezer temperature should be at 0 F or lower; 40 F or lower is the recommended refrigerator temperature to slow bacterial growth and maintain quality. Freezing occurs at 32 F; adjust refrigerator temperature accordingly between 32 F and 40 F to prevent unwanted freezing, such as freezing milk.

Extra measuring cups and spoons

An extra set of liquid and solid measuring cups will save you lots of cleanup time between different uses. I have several adjustable teaspoon and tablespoon measurers that I love. Instead of a ring of six spoons, I only use two.

Cookbook holder

This handy-dandy gadget makes reading and following recipes so much easier. I have one that is clear plastic in which you insert your cookbook or recipe cards. The angled stand makes it easy to read and at the same time protects my recipes from greasy fingers and food splatters.

Adapted from: University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cooperative Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Contact: 770-535-8290.

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