My cocina is home to an array of cooking tools, accessories, and appliances — a “woman cave” of sorts. It includes everything from a traditional molcajete and olla de barro to a modern mixer and heavy duty commercial blender. Of course I have my favorites, and I’d say that my blender and a good knife are among them, but today I’m focusing on my favorite Mexican kitchen tools. These are the three utensils that I use with the most frequency and simply cannot live without. They’re indispensable to the success of the meals that I prepare and also make unique gifts for friends and family who enjoy Mexican cooking.
A comal is a thin, round cast iron griddle with a small rim around the edge. It’s primarily used for heating tortillas and toasting spices and vegetables – especially chiles. In Oaxaca, Mexico many people continue to use traditional clay comales, which have to be replaced more frequently because they are more fragile and can crack or chip over time. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and I prefer a 10” round cast iron comal, which is perfect for heating both corn and flour tortillas.
The second kitchen tool that I use on a daily basis is my wooden spatula. I also really like my large wooden spoons, ladles, and molinillo (wooden whisk), but my spatulas get the most use. I love them for scraping the bottom of pans when sautéing vegetables and browning rice. Wooden cooking utensils have been used for centuries throughout Mexico because of their durability. They’re also very pretty and rustic!
When it comes to citrus squeezers I have a slight obsession. I have an electric citrus juicer, a manual one with a slot machine-like handle from Mexico, and five small hand-held squeezers. Yes, five. They range in size and are usually made out of cast aluminum, although I have also seen plastic versions, which are not as durable. While you can use any citrus juicer for lemons, grapefruits, oranges, and large limes, I have found that only the handheld ones from Mexico work for extracting the juice from small Mexican and Key limes.
What are some of your favorite kitchen tools or appliances?