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
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.
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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!