Gadgets that can make time-consuming or tricky cooking tasks easier do more than inspire gratitude: They create obsessions. To identify some of the tools, I tracked down three equipment fanatics who have made the quest for great gadgets part of their professional life: Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon.com, which recently launched an ambitious kitchenware site; Justin Schwartz, the director of editorial content for the about-to-launch Lechters.com kitchenware site; and Monika Schnacke, the president of Frieling USA, a kitchen-tool importer and manufacturer.
Jeff Bezos E-Commerce Visionary
Are you a gadget guy?
JB: Definitely. I carry a little camera with me everywhere and take pictures so I can reconstruct my life. I have a watch that corrects itself by radio signal 36 times a day. I would claim there are useful gadgets...and then there are things like my watch.
What are your favorite kitchen tools?
JB: First, the commercial-quality Orange X juicer ($160). Some things get better if you add electricity, and some things get worse. The Orange X would get worse. It's well balanced, with a big handle centered in the front that you pull down hard to extract the most juice with the least effort. It has no complicated parts that are hard to clean. Second, the Oxo salad spinner ($25). You know how your usual salad spinner has a string that pulls out like a yo-yo? Well, the Oxo has a soft, cushioned, nonstick rubber knob that's easy to pump up and down. Third, the Maverick Remote Check meat thermometer ($40). It comes with a probe that you slide into the meat and a pager that you clip to your belt. When your meat reaches the internal temperature you want, the pager buzzes. It's a great piece of equipment to own if you don't want to hang around and stare at food while it cooks.
What kitchen tool would you give as a gift?
JB: Rival's White Mountain hand-crank ice cream maker ($160). There is something very powerful about giving something from the 19th century. Making ice cream by hand is also a fun group activity. Here's a tip: If a few of you are taking turns cranking, go first. The handle gets harder to turn as the ice cream thickens.
What is the strangest-looking kitchen tool you own?
JB: Metrokane's Rabbit corkscrew ($80).
It looks mammalian. It opens a bottle in five seconds. It's amazingly simple to use, and I love simple.