The U.S. vs. Spain: Kitchen Tools Edition

After receiving a small pressure cooker from my mother-in-law (yeah, I got the hookup!), I started thinking about which kitchen gadgets seem to be more popular here in Spain as well as which don’t even seem to exist.

Tools Popular in Spain

Olla a presion

Pressure cooker. This is gaining popularity in the U.S. as well, but in Spain a kitchen is not a kitchen nor is a cook a cook without one of these. Pressure cooking makes cooking easier and faster! Who doesn’t want that. Have you made chickpeas from scratch? Then you’ll know that, even after being soaked all night, they take forever to cook. Other good things to make in a pressure cooker include whole grains, chicken stock, soups, cabbage, and many more.

Source: Donovan Govan.

Immersion blender. Also called a stick blender, this tool is very useful for pureeing soups and, in my case, make homemade mayonnaise! I learned how to make mayonnaise from—you guessed it!—my suegra especially for my husband, who is mayonnaise snob and refuses to eat the jarred kind. It’s so easy to make, and I’ve begun to agree with him: homemade or none at all! You can also make whipped cream, hummus, chopped nuts, smoothies, and tomato sauce. It can’t do everything that a regular blender does, but it sure can try! In Spanish kitchens, these small gadgets save a lot of room—most normal blenders occupy a lot of precious counter space!

Kitchen Scale

Kitchen scale. After receiving a gift certificate to a local kitchen-supply store, I finally caved and got a kitchen scale. I was tired of converting grams to cups when making Spanish recipes, and I had heard that using a scale is much more reliable anyhow, so I set off on the adventure of grams, kilos, and milliliters in 2012! In Spain (and most other countries), recipes are in grams and milliliters, not cups. Even the butter that I buy comes with lines for 25 g, not tablespoons. A food editor at Serious Eats once carried out a test by asking ten people to measure a cup of all-purpose flour. Their “cups” were not equal; they varied from four to six ounces. That could end up making a big difference when you’re baking a delicate cake!

Thermomix

Thermomix. All bow down to the almighty Thermomix, a machine most Americans have never heard of, but which reigns above all others in the Spanish kitchen. What does this machine do? Well it serves as a kitchen scale, for one. It can also knead your bread, chop your vegetables, grate, whisk, mill, juice, blend, and on and on. There are dozens of magazines devoted to the appliance. Spanish cooks pass around the newest Thermomix recipe with lightning speed—one day you’ll be eating the tarta de tres chocolates in your in-laws’ house, and the next in your cousin’s. One thing, though: these things don’t come cheap—they cost upwards of $1,000!

Tools Popular in the U.S.

Crockpot Slow Cooker

Slow cooker. The slow cooker, or crockpot as we always called it in my house, reigns supreme in the U.S. No home is complete without it … and why would you want to be without it? They’re cheap, and they make great stews, roasts, and pulled pork.

Stand Mixer

Stand mixer. The reason more Spaniards don’t have one of these comes down to one word: space. They take up a lot of it, and as much as I admire the work that they do, I wouldn’t buy one or ask for one as a gift if I had a small kitchen. (That almost comes with the territory in Spain.) One thing I wish I could rent a stand mixer to do: whip egg whites.

Electric Can Opener

Electric can opener. Maybe it’s just anecdotal, but I’ve yet to see an electric can opener here, whereas they’re run-of-the-mill in the U.S. No problem, though! It just takes a bit more elbow grease—and hey, it’s probably character building too!

Which appliances would you not be able to live without?

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23 comments

  1. i have a teeny-tiny kitchen, even by spain standards, and i would still love to have a kitchenaid. i miss that thing so bad!!! can’t wait to go home this summer and use my mom’s one to death!

  2. Haha I was thinking “I’ve never heard of a Theromomix”, and then when you said they cost more than $1000 it all made sense!

    Those little immersion blenders are great, I love making smoothies with mine.

    And maybe they don’t have electric can openers because so few things require can openers. I don’t have one because all the cans either have pull tabs or that weird soft foil lid. Do you get stuff that you need a can opener for?

    1. Ha yeahhh in Spain I think they’re around €800, but still: no way!

      I agree that that’s the reason why they don’t have them. I don’t think I’ve bought anything recently that required a can opener. Yep, not needed!

  3. I love my immersion blender! It’s a lot easier to use and easier to clean than a full-size smoothie blender. I’d love to hear your suegra’s recipe for mayonesa casera……

    And I have to second Jessica’s observation that there are no can-openers in Spain because all the tin cans come with pull-tabs pre-installed…something I wish America did because I HATE cranking cans open.

  4. Perhaps it’s old school but everyone I knew grew up with a pressure cooker, of course back then they weren’t electric. You would always see the steam and hear the whistling sound coming from kitchens and the hopes that you put the lid on tight enough so it wouldn’t blow up. My brother and I were scared to death of it…yup good time, good times lol!

    Now the Thermomix is totally new to me but it seems like the Vitamix that we have here minus the scale. Hmmm now I’m intrigued and will have to hunt for it, thanks for posting about it.

  5. I hate Thermomix, it takes out all the pleasure of cooking! Like, real cooking. My friends are all crazy about it an they even got it for Christmas but all I can think is : lazy cooks. That’s what they are! I’d rather make everything from scratch, it tastes better ;)
    Last week at El Corte Inglés we saw the Kitchen Aid mixers and they’re expensive! and huge! not so convenient…

    1. It’s funny, because my MIL is definitely NOT a lazy cook; she cooks so many things, with and without the Thermomix, but I suppose how I could see lazy cooks using it and never doing any real cooking. But I admit, sometimes you just need to shred cabbage, and then it comes in handy to have a food processor or a Thermomix.

      On Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 11:13 AM, Kaley…& Ms wrote:

      >

  6. I turned my nose at the Keurig for a long time…and then I bought one two weeks ago and now I can’t imagine NOT having it! It’s a total luxury but I do like the speed and lack of coffee mess.
    My señora would make mayo soup -that was the worst meal I ate in Spain. It was about 1/2 way through my semester…I hadn’t eaten fast-food but the day she made that for lunch, I ran to the nearest Burger King.

      1. It was awful. I was always the first to eat the comida (I had 2 other American roommates and they came back later). I asked what it was and my senora just told me to guess. I thought it was clam chowder. Nope. Cooked mayor with garlic. AWFUL!!!

  7. Funny…my mother-in-law kept urging and urging me to buy that missing part that went with the pressure cooker that is here in our rented apartment. I finally did, and I use it ALL THE TIME! The immersion blender seems to be a must too. And I was tired of doing math, so I bought a scale off Amazon finally. All three totally worth it! The Thermomix, well…Spanish people rave and rave about it. I hear cheesecakes don’t turn out that great (from my American friend). I also have a slow cooker here, which I’ve plenty of times also. The electric can opener was always used at my parents’ house, but a little elbow grease never killed anyone, right? I am still dreaming of a Kitchenaid though!

  8. Hah. My parents have a pressure cooker and a lot of Filipino households do, and I guess that’s one of the 42093209384 things we got from the Spaniards.

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