The 7 gadgets you need for holiday food prep

The 7 gadgets you need for holiday food prep

The cooking season is here and with it comes hours of slicing and dicing to prepare meals for the holidays and other large gatherings. To help you speed through your food prep, Consumer Reports found some great gadgets and countertop appliances that did well in our tests. Use them to do some of your chopping ahead of time. Depending how far you work in advance, you can freeze or refrigerate certain ingredients until you’re ready to assemble your dishes (check the recipe first). Here’s some low-cost kitchen gear that’ll speed up your work so you can enjoy your guests.

Best chopper for onions
The Cuisinart Mini Prep Plus DLC-2A, $ 40, is a 3-cup chopper that combines very good value with solid performance. In our food processor tests, it was particularly adept at chopping almonds and onions, and at grating hard parmesan cheese. Other machines were better at puréeing. The Cuisinart Mini Prep is perfect for kitchens with limited counter space.

Peelers for potatoes
The Kyocera Perfect Peeler, $ 18, has a comfortable handle and sharp ceramic blade that adjusts to left, right, and center positions. While vertical blades are tried and true, some of our testers prefer horizontal blades such as the Kyocera’s for right- or left-handers. The Oxo Good Grips Serrated Peeler, $ 8, has a more familiar vertical blade. Testers described a smooth cutting action with the two-sided serrated blade on the swivel peeler. It was able to peel cleanly without a lot of pressure.

Knife sets for slicing and dicing
Our top-rated kitchen knife sets can cost up to $ 600 but for $ 75 you can buy the Ginsu Chikara. For some, the name Ginsu is synonymous with hammy 1970s-era infomercials, but this is a serious cutlery company. Its 8-piece set offers incredible value, providing the cutting performance and handle comfort of knives costing three and four times as much. The set includes a chef’s and santoku knife, but not a slicer.

Zester without the mess
Although it’s shaped like a lemon, the Better Blade ZestNest, $ 15, was a winner in our tests. It has a sharp blade and easy-grip case that holds one-third cup zest. Conventional zesters, with a handle and curved metal end, are easy to use and a grater-style zester can work fast. The ZestNest combines both virtues and stores extra zest. The downside: You can’t see how much zest is in the nest.

Garlic press that doesn’t clog
The Oxo Good Grips garlic press, $ 16,  has a large garlic chamber, ergonomic grip, and built-in rubber pad that cleans the small holes. The lever-style garlic press lets you mince cloves with minimal pressure. We also tested the Joseph & Joseph one-piece garlic rocker that eliminates moving parts but it can trap garlic in its mincing holes as you rock it over the cloves.

Mandolins for thin slices
You can pay $ 100 or more for a mandolin but the slicers in our tests ranged in price from $ 18 to $ 25. In our tests slicing tomatoes, onions, cucumbers and zucchini, we preferred the Zyliss, $ 20. We found the Zyliss easy to use and clean and it produced slices of a consistent size. To protect your fingers from the blade, it has a retractable blade guard and a safety lock. And the Zyliss is dishwasher safe.

Graters for cheese and more
Oxo Good Grips also makes an $ 18 box grater that our testers found convenient. It has multiple grating surfaces, a soft grip, nonslip base, and an optional storage container with measurement markings. Box graters offer the best combination of stability and grating options but can be bulky. Consider adding a smaller, handheld rotary grater for tableside grating of hard cheese. Models with a sealed cap let you store cheese inside.

—Mary H.J. Farrell

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

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