Two Kitchen Tools

Electric Kettle & Mini Masher

Images and text by Gabrielle.

In March I wrote about the food habits we had picked up from our time in France, and since that post, I remembered two things in our kitchen that we wouldn’t own if we hadn’t moved to France. So I wanted to share them with you. Neither is particularly French, but we started using these tools because they happened to be in the kitchen of La Cressonnière, and we loved them so much, they were two of our first purchases when we moved back to the U.S.!

The best looking electric tea kettle.

The first is an electric kettle. Apparently, these are common as can be — like more standard than a toaster — in every Western country but the U.S.. And they’re definitely sold here, but I had never seen one used by an American friend, and I had never used one myself, until we lived in France.

They are so handy! The water heats to boiling super fast. It’s great for making hot drinks, for making ramen (or cup noodles, as my kids call them), or anytime you need a small amount of boiling water fast (like when we made dye for Easter eggs). Sometimes it surprises me how often we use it.

There are tons of options available. We use this ceramic one — I chose it for its looks (I thought it would be pretty sitting on the counter) but it works great too. : )

Mini Masher - the very best tool for making guacamole and egg salad

I don’t know the official name for the second tool. We call it a mini-masher, and it took me several searches to track one down. This is the one we have, and I found two others, here and here. Dang I love this tool! I use it for two things specifically: to mash avocados for guacamole, and to mash boiled eggs for egg salad.

If you don’t eat either of those things, I would not recommend this tool to you. But if you do eat guacamole and egg salad, this tool will make you about 75% more willing to make them, because it does the job so well, so quickly and so easily — even if the avocado isn’t perfectly ripe!

Of course, this made me wonder: do you use/adore any kitchen tools that you think are probably uncommon? Where did you discover them? What do you use them for? Also, have you used either of the tools I featured? I’d love to hear!

P.S. — Travel season is here! If you’re headed to France, here are Five Fabulous Souvenirs Under $5. And here are 5 more!

101 thoughts on “Two Kitchen Tools”

  1. I can’t believe kettles aren’t common in the US! How do you boil your water for tea, cooking and the million other things! In my family home in Ireland, there is always always hot water in the kettle so that whoever walks into the kitchen next can make the next pot of tea! And in relation to other kitchen tools – I live in Germany now – you would not believe the specialist assortment of kitchen tools available here. There are tools for EVERYTHING. A pineapple cutter. An apple cutter. We have a tool for picking the stones out of cherries!

        1. I am also astounded that electic kettles are not common in the US. What do you use instead? I too live in Germany and agree with Fiona there is a gadget for everything, the weirdest one I´ve come across is a machine for cooking boiled eggs which is very commen here. My parents visited Germany many years ago and raved about it even then.

          1. Everyone I know in the US who wants hot water for tea or a hot drink either has a kettle on top of their stove, or heats up water in the microwave.

          2. Actually, it seems that every other person I visit in the US has an electric kettle, so I don’t think they are exactly rare here.
            But I resist. I still like the stove-top version. Also, the stove top version is a hold over from my solar house days. Generally, it’s inefficient to use electricity to heat anything in a solar-electric house. But someday I may get one, who knows!

    1. We have a potato masher, but it’s much bigger than this and doesn’t have sharp teeth. And if I do a search for potato masher, this tool doesn’t come up for me.

      I suppose I could use the tool I showed for potatoes, but they would probably need to be little — it doesn’t seem like it would be very helpful on a large potato. Then again, I’ve never tried it. : )

  2. Ooh, I’ve been looking for a mini-masher! I have no idea what it’s called either, which is probably why it’s been hard for me to find one. We eat a lot of beans, and sometimes you want to mash some or all of them to get a difference consistency. I use my potato masher, but it takes a lot longer than it should, since half the beans (or more) slide right between the prongs. I’m off to buy one from your links immediately!

  3. We have an electric kettle, but only because I once lived in Australia, where everyone also used them. We use ours every day and it would annoy me to no end to go back to using a stove top kettle, as it would take so much longer. Now the masher — that is something I had not heard of which seems very useful. LOVE the electric kettle you featured here.

    1. Same here! When our last electric kettle died in Australia my husband decided he wanted to go down the old fashioned route and get a stove top kettle. All of our friends thought it was very odd!
      It turned out for the best though as we moved to the US and the kettle was one thing we didn’t have to worry about not working here because of the difference in voltage!

  4. I recently picked up a portable induction cooktop & though it’s fairly new to me (only had it for 2 weeks now), I’m finding very little reason to go back to my flat-top electric stove! Boiling water, cooking eggs, everything goes so quickly! I don’t have a microwave so I use it for re-heating leftovers and dare I say it’s as fast as it would take to reheat in a microwave but tastes so much better because it’s re-heated on the stove where I can add some water as I reheat so it doesn’t dry out like things can in a microwave. It’s also a dream to clean. We bought it to test out induction cooking as we are pondering a kitchen remodel right now & I thought gas was the way I want to go, but induction is looking more & more likely in my dream kitchen!

  5. I am so surprised to learn that Americans don’t use electric kettles the same way we do in Canada! I use mine every day…sometimes two or three times a day. I’m happy you have one now… and what a pretty looking kettle it is!

  6. Likewise, I can’t believe an electric kettle isn’t standard equipment in the US! It really is a different world out there ;-)

    We use a small electric cofee-grinder for grinding spices. So much nicer than the pre-ground stuff and so much easier than a mortar and pestle!

  7. Lucinda Harvey

    I have a ricer that I purchased while living in Italy to make gnocchi, little potato dumplings. I also use it to squish the water out of thawed spinach and on grated potatoes for hash browns.

  8. Individual pizza knives! Only ever used them in France. The blade is serrated and ovoid–allowing a rocking motion. We bought ours in a small cookware shop in Paris. So much more effective than American table setting knives, or even steak knives.

    Every so often I highlight favorite kitchen gadgets on my blog–pastry scraper marked as a ruler; pear corer that is amazing on pears, jalapeños, cucumbers; unique whisks; just-right baking pans; etc.

  9. I am an American who uses an electric kettle, and everyone who comes over has NO IDEA what it is! Then they are absolutely amazed by how fast it boils the water. My husband originally got it to boil water for tea at work, but now we have a second one that sits on our kitchen counter and we use it every single day. I think Americans don’t drink enough tea to even consider having one. Everyone has a coffee pot instead.

    1. So how long does it actually take to boil water? And how much does the electric kettle hold? We are avid herbal tea and cocoa lovers, but can it really beat the speed of the microwave? :)

  10. Love my electric kettle! Second one in 10 years, currently stainless steel but I now thinking of that ceramic one!!

  11. Oh my gosh, that’s hilarious. In Canada everyone has an electric kettle. We use ours like 3 times a day. Add that to my list of “Why Americans are Weirder than Canadians” LOL

    1. It’s odd isn’t it. We use an electric kettle everyday (fellow canuck). I would say “Why Americans are different from Canadians” lol.

      Never heard of using a microwave to boil water (there used to be an item circulating the internet years ago about water exploding in the microwave – don’t know if that’s true or not).

      The little masher wouldn’t work for me; I just use a fork for guacamole (we like it chunky) and I hate egg salad LOL>

  12. Oh my. We use our immersion blender all. the. time. Most frequently we use it for salad dressings which we make in straight-sided pint mason jars – our blender head fits right in there. I also use it for soup, of course, but also to puree fruits and veggies (for instance: a can of tomatoes when I need them pureed but all I have is chopped). Ours even came with a little chopping container so we can use it for chopping small batches of onions and other veggies, making salsa, etc. The longer I have it, the more I realize how much I can use it for.

    1. I use my immersion blender almost daily too! We love it for getting the chunks out of my kids’ hot cocoa.

    2. Yes to the immersion blender! Mashed potatos, soups… Living in France we have a Moulinex of course, it also comes with the little container that you can grind herbs or finely dice onions with. Best part is it takes up no counter space and is super easy to clean!

  13. I have an electric wheat grinder and love it. I left it behind when we moved across county with only a van load of stuff for a year long internship–but quickly had my mom ship it to me. I love getting whole wheat flour for a fraction of the cost it would be to buy it, and I get it fresh and at the texture I want.

    1. Ahh I covet these. I saw one for the first time at a sourdough bread course. Do you bake a lot? I’m sure most people would not mind the texture of their flour I imagine. A friend who is a baker said he worked in a bakery in Berlin that had one in the basement and looked like a washing machine…and each day/week a farmer would turn up with grain from his field to grind up. Super cool

      1. I bake bread once a week, and also use it for cookies, pancakes and such. Mine isn’t the size of a washing machine–more like a large food processor. I haven’t grown my own wheat (nor do I even think I will), but I do want to grow my own grain corn and it makes great cornmeal as well.

  14. I have been resisting an electric kettle for so many years (despite so many friends seeming to be united in a campaign to covert me from my old stainless steel stovetop job). I never liked the look of the plastic and metal electric kettles. I didn’t know such pretty ceramic versions were available. I may be converted yet.

  15. For both guacamole and egg salad, I use my pastry cutter. Too bad, because that mini masher is so, so cute. Love the links to affordable souvenirs; gift giving makes my heart sing. xox

  16. We had that same ceramic kettle, but a floral pattern. It was awesome and so quick until a vase fell on it and they both shattered. But yes! Not so common in the US. I don’t know why. It’s fast and I assume it saves more energy than boiling a kettle on a stove.

  17. My Aunt gave us an Inuit Ulu knife many years ago and my parents didn’t know what to do with it but they kept it because it reminded them of her. The Ulu knife soon became our exclusive pizza slicer. When we were kids we thought it was really cool to take turns using such a novel knife, but since it was really sharp it wasn’t kept within reach for any other purpose.

  18. I’m in Canada, we personally never had an electric kettle(stovetop kettle, pot or microwave) and most of my friends have an electric kettle, though I’ve never seen one as lovely as yours! I actually have the stovetop kettle precisely BECAUSE I didn’t like the look of most electric kettles.

    Two of the first things I bought right after I moved out of my parents house were a melon baller and a crepe pan (even before buying a shower curtain; I used ikea cardboard for about a week as a curtain…). Growing up we would use melon ballers to eat out of the rounded end slices of watermelon…it’s been about 12 years and I’ve still never tried a regular spoon to even know if it’s worth the baller.

  19. I’ve lived in the US all my life, & all of my immediate family has electric kettles & have had them for a long time. I registered for one when I got married, & the lady who got it for us was got one for herself – she’d never knew about them until she shopped our registry.

    The non-traditional ways I regularly use the kettle is to add hot water to the bath water of the bath-takers in my house when they’ve exhausted the hot water tank; & to pour over & kill to the root the noxious weeds that show up. Just be careful as you pour because it will kill everything, so it’s best for those weeds that grow in pavement cracks or in bare soil – but it’s totally environmentally safe!

  20. I too am surprised about the electric kettle. Every Australian house has one. It is interesting how different the norm can be from one country to another. I remember being so surprised too when you wrote about the use of cutlery. I always thought everyone ate with the fork in their left hand and the knife in their right. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t the norm in the western world! One thing we use a lot in our house is a kiwi fruit cutter – it has a serrated end for opening the kiwi and a spoon at the other end to scoop out the flesh. They are often sold with the ore-packaged kiwi fruit.

      1. The kiwi cutters come with our pre-packaged kiwis about half the time (I’m in the US), but we started re-using them, since we can’t count on getting them!

      2. I got an electric kettle after my first trip to England many years ago. (I live in the East bay!) We stayed in little B&Bs and each provided a kettle and biscuits in the room and it was such a nice way to refresh in the afternoon.

    1. Oh dear, I remember scolding my husband to be on his knife and fork etiquette…until I realised you do it differently in the US!

  21. I use a handheld strainer tool I got from my grandmother that I haven’t seen anywhere else EVER. Everyone who comes over thinks its some sort of garden trowel. Ha. This is the closest I can find to what I have
    Its so great for straining little pots of noodles or peas or rice, etc. I use it everyday.

  22. I love your kettle :) We’ve always kept an electric kettle, probably because my parents had one in our house when I was younger (our first one was plastic, and my stepmom accidentally melted it one Thanksgiving when, in the midst of the hectic rush to get things done right before dinner, she absentmindedly set it on the stove and turned on the gas burner!).

    I agree with comments above about the ricer–love ours for mashing things and getting them really smooth. I also love our bench scraper, for scraping the counter clean after rolling out or kneading dough (or cutting dough into portions), and I couldn’t do without our tiny glass prep bowls. We use them for setting out ingredients while prepping, but also for serving small sides or snacks to the kids and heating up small portions of things in the microwave. We got a set that came with little plastic lids, making them even handier when we can prep or portion things ahead of time and pop them in the fridge for a bit :)

  23. We also use an electric kettle, although not quite as pretty as yours. I lived in Scotland for a few months after graduating from college and of course everyone there uses one. They are so completely awesome and it is hard to believe that people here don’t know about them as much, although I’m sure it has to do with hot tea consumption not being the same as it is in other countries.

  24. I think people from the States don’t have electric kettles because we just don’t drink as much tea. When I lived in London, I had a kettle and made tea with it constantly. That was just the culture. In the US we typically have coffee in the morning, work all day and get home too late to have coffee or tea in the evening. Also, US electric power is weaker in the US, so as fast as electric kettles are, they take twice as long as in the UK. I imagine that the culture of kettles is self-reinforcing. If you always have hot water around, you are probably more inclined to buy instant soup, hot chocolate, or oatmeal. I am not a very virtuous grocery shopper, but it would never occur to me to buy those.

  25. I live in Switzerland and used e-kettle for years, until 3 years ago when we moved house and had a new induction cook top. Boiling water with induction cook top turned out as fast as an e-kettle so that the kettle became a clutter. On top of that our coffee machine also gives hot water, so our e-kettle is now retired.

    What we can’t live without now are garlic crusher, rice cooker and our Tefal Actifry. The last one is extremely awesome as we use it a lot to make guilt-free french fries ;)

  26. Electric kettle’s are great! You’re so right that no one ever uses them in the U.S. and they are so versatile and fast. When I traveled in China, there’s hot water everywhere. Even on the trains there are huge thermoses full of plain hot water and all of the passengers fill their portable-lidded teacups with them throughout their journey. This is what gave me the idea to get an electric tea kettle. It’s so nice to have that spontaneous cup of tea and not have to wait very long.

  27. My partner campaigned for years to get an electric kettle, which I thought was ridiculous because I am a coffee drinker. I only drink tea once in a great while – I have at least four completely different kinds of coffee makers in my house – Keurig, Nespresso, drip, french press. We finally got a cheap electric kettle from Costco and use it every day, but the main use is to heat water for the french press coffee maker.

    I have a handheld electric whisk that I use all the time for whipping cream and making salad dressing. I also couldn’t live without my cheese plane. In addition to slicing hard cheeses, it’s great for slicing off cold butter for toast. Also, I love my pizza slicer and use it to slice quesadillas and grilled cheese in addition to pizzas. I also use my kitchen shears for cutting as many things as I can – chives, green onions, haricots vert stems, anything small enough.

  28. Microplane zester tops my list for odd kitchen tools I use ! I love it for not only zesting lemons and limes, but also for grating hard cheeses like Parmesan and Romano.

    My husband had an electric kettle in his office at work, but I have recently kidnapped it – perfect for making instant oatmeal!

    1. my wife uses it to make garlic paste for salad dressing, it makes the garlic better able to emulsify (spelling?)

  29. I have the same electric kettle. I love it. I already had one when I saw it (I drink tea everyday, especially in winter), but bought it anyway and gave my old one to my college-age niece. She loves keeping it in her room for personal tea time without roommates. When I visited London last year I was pleased to see that there is a kettle with tea bags and biscuits in every hotel room.

  30. I live in Canada and you can add me to the surprised to learn electric kettles are not standard in the US! They’ve been common here for ages – so much more efficient! And that ceramic one is SO lovely!

    My most used but odd kitchen tool is our fondue set (it was a wedding gift to my mom decades ago), they’re around but not very common in Canada outside of Quebec.

  31. I’m as astounded as others that electric kettles are uncommon in the States. When I saw your beautiful one I thought ‘I’ve never seen a ceramic one before’, but reaching back to childhood memories, I realised they were all ceramic then, but different in that the (short) power cord went to the kettle itself, so you had to unplug it every time you wanted to move it away from the power socket – which usually included when you wanted to fill it. The innovation of having power go to a separate base (some time in the late 70s, I think) massively increased the convenience of these kettles. I’m certain they waste less energy than heating on the stove top, and it’s easier to tell when the water has boiled than if you do it in the microwave.

  32. I live in Canada and I was given an electric kettle when I moved into my first apartment. Still have the same one which is now about 27 years old. I used to use it lots but haven’t for many, many years now as I always make sure to put a boiling water tap in my houses. So handy for tea, soaking stubborn cooked on food and many other uses. I think it is the most used ‘appliance’ in my kitchen and I can’t imagine what I did without one! It is a tiny, sleek spout next to my sink and is barely noticeable, yet is invaluable.

  33. Never have owned an electric kettle but we do own what is called a “hot pot”. This is shorter and wider than an electric kettle which allows all sorts of cooking directly in it. For instance, if you are in a motel and want to cook macaroni and cheese dinner for the kids, this is the fastest way to bring the water to a bowl, etc. I also use it to quick hard cook eggs. Great for camping (if you have an electric outlet) to heat up soup or chili. They used to be one of the least expensive kitchen appliances around, but I see they have gone up in price. Still, affordable though and comes in handy.

  34. This is so bizarre to me.

    I live in New Zealand.

    These are both items that are pretty much in every home.
    How do you make a cup of tea or cofee without a jug (kettle)?
    Do you boil water in a pot?

    Mashers are used here to mash potatos and other cooked veges mostly.
    Although I whip my potatos.

    I am so intrigued now. I wonder what else is so common here but not in the states.

  35. The no-kettle thing has me bamboozled too. How do you live without one? Tea, baby-formula and food heat ups, getting the pasta water boiling quicker – ours is used at least 15 times a day! Maybe because in the US you drink more coffee than tea (and have a dedicated coffee maker)?

  36. I rely on our electric kettle for speeding up the process of boiling water for pasta, by filling the pot with 2 full kettles of pre-boiled water. I have a fetish for kitchen gadgets and always love to discover new ones so can’t wait to start mashing avocados with the mini-masher. I love using a citrus press for limes, which I discovered years ago ( I also discovered a spider is great for draining pasta and putting it directly into a pan of sauce among other uses. It is so great for pasta, though, if you like to use some of the pasta water as you don’t dump it through a colander this way.

  37. My daughter lived in France for almost a year and taught me (when she returned home) the advantage of an electric kettle. Mine is Bodum and makes just the right amount for a cup of hot chocolate on cold (and not so cold) mornings. Your ceramic one is lovely; maybe my next one will be ceramic.

  38. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    An electric kettle has been on my list and the one you are showing is perfection. JOY!

  39. I have a tea kettle, but don’t really use it that often. If I want a cup of tea, I usually heat up a cup of water in the microwave. I do use it to heat up water for boiling pasta or eggs faster.

    1. Please be careful Angel when choosing to microwave water. I have one friend who severely scalded her face and another friend whose microwave door blew off, both while simply trying to microwave a cup of water. Scary stuff.

      We learned from them and don’t even try to microwave water anymore.

  40. I’ve been putting off purchasing an electric tea kettle because all the ones I’ve seen are the ugly white plastic versions. Seeing Gabrielle’s pretty one makes me want to take the plunge!

    The one tool I love that’s difficult to find in the US is a swedish whisk. It looks like a cocktail strainer w/ a perpendicular handle and no center piece, and whips cream and egg whites soooo much faster than the balloon whisks! It’s also great for salad dressings and mayonnaise. We keep putting off buying an electric mixer since this $5 kitchen tool works so well. Seriously, chocolate mouse comes out in no time with just this tool.

  41. i use my bench/pastry scraper ALL the time ( but not primarily for baking. i use it when chopping fruits, veggies etc and gathering them up easily and quickly to throw into whatever recipe i’m making. i use it to clean off all random scraps on cutting board. once i started using it i found it made prep and clean up so much faster! (Sometimes I use it out of the kitchen too! cleaning up piles of glitter, scraps of paper, etc after my kids have been crafting)

    i have an electric kettle in my art studio, but in the kitchen seems just as fast to throw on a pot of water on the stove.

  42. I had never been in a home without an electric kettle until I moved to the US as a student. What was really incongruous about it though, was that every home (including the old, cheap, basic student housing) had extremely modern appliances of convenience like garbage disposals and dishwashers, which are luxuries certainly not for poor students back home… So modern, and yet everyone was still slowly heating their water in a pot on the stove if they wanted a cuppa!

  43. Everyone here in Ireland has an electric kettle (in fact it’s never called an electric kettle, just a kettle !)
    I remember learning , in home economics , at school , how much more energy efficient it is . Thus better for the environment .
    For example , if I am boiling a big pot of water for pasta I will do 3 boils of the kettle then onto the gas . So much faster.
    We also learned not to put in more water than we needed each time to save energy .

  44. Danielle Blake

    A bottle scraper. I use it as a tool for getting the last bits of something from a jar, as the most efficient spatula for removing batter from a bowl. Basically anywhere you need something scraped clean.

    I’ve heard these are originally from the Netherlands or Norway. Not sure which one actually made it first.

  45. love your ceramic kettle. I’ve never owned one, but loved using it when I spent a semester in Tel Aviv in college. I never adopted it in my own home, but It probably would have been great when I had a (slow) electric stove

  46. Grew up in TX and now live in TN and never once owned a kettle. We make coffee, tea and cocoa in the Keurig. It’s one appliance for all of our needs and I like clutter-free countertops.

    My favorite kitchen item is my grapefruit spoon, a gift from my husband. It is perfectly shaped to fit into a grapefruit section and has serrated edges. I’m still searching for a dependable can opener if you know of one. Ha!

  47. I have a small kitchen and adore quality simplicity – give me a nice knife, a big solid cutting board, and a wooden spoon and I could whip up anything. But there are a couple of things that clutter up my drawer that I love having on hand:

    1) A melon-baller. I rarely use it for its intended purpose (I prefer my melons in wedges) but it’s super handy for getting pits out of fruit! Peaches, pears, nectarines, plums. Once the fruit is cut in half with a knife, the baller cuts through the pulp around the pits so well!

    2) Grapefruit spoons. There is something ritualistic about eating a grapefruit with a serrated spoon that I find comforting in my morning routine.

  48. My in-laws have always had an electric kettle but not nearly as beautiful as yours! That masher would be great for mashing up bananas for banana bread :)

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