The Seemingly Silly Kitchen Utensil I Surprisingly Reach for All the Time
In early 2020, just before the pandemic in the States, I attended a kitchen gadget party at a friend’s house. As I sat around her kitchen table, I flipped through the catalog and munched on marinated olives and assorted cheeses. I picked out a few interesting items, but I didn’t realize I’d have so much time to use them in the coming months. My shipment arrived just as my family was falling into a quarantine routine, and soon I was cooking more often than I had in the past 10 years.
One purchase from that night has proved to be worth way more than its price: the Mix ‘N Chop by Pampered Chef. Usually, I’m not very keen on crowding up my limited kitchen drawer space with utensils that only do one job with one food; it’s just not spatially economical. But I’ve actually always been bothered by my inability to crumble ground meat properly. I’m just bad at it. Whenever I used to brown ground meat, especially poultry, I’d end up with oversized chunks of meat — which crowded my tacos and ruined the consistency of my chili — rather than small, crumbly pieces. So when I read the description of this pinwheel-shaped utensil, which said it will crumble meat with ease, I was sold, despite the fact that it seemed to have only one purpose.
When my delivery arrived at my doorstep, I opened the package and insisted on making tacos that week to try out my new tool. The results were amazing! Dropping the raw beef into the hot pan, I plunged the pinwheel in different spots while moving it in small half circles. The meat was moved around the pan, broke into perfectly sized pieces, and cooked evenly. I was sold.
As I kept cooking and cooking during quarantine, I found that this little, “one-job-only” apparatus could do so much more. A few years ago, I discovered the power of tomato paste. Before, not only had I rarely used it, but I also had no idea how to use it correctly. Now, I pop open one of those tiny cans of flavor for all my tomato-based recipes — like chicken cacciatore, beef stew, and pork chops pizzaiola — drop a dollop or two into whatever vegetables I’m sautéing, and cook the paste until it darkens into a deep red. As it turns out, the Mix ‘N Chop is the perfect tool for this task too. Spinning the blades throughout the mixture incorporates the paste into the vegetables evenly, while keeping everything moving, so it doesn’t burn.
The utensil is useful when working with other forms of tomatoes as well: It can easily break up canned whole tomatoes or, if you’re especially ambitious, fresh ones after they’ve cooked.
I’ve also used it when making scrambled eggs. For some reason, I tend to cook eggs in one flat circle, pulling them inward with a spatula but always failing to cut them up into fluffy curds that can be shared easily by my family of four. But now, they turn out exactly how I like them. After I pour the eggs into the skillet, I stand the Mix ‘N Chop straight up and spin it over and over again. The eggs move around the pan and cook while simultaneously separating into delicious, soft chunks.
I also tend to have leftovers from dinner pretty much every night. I simply can’t stop making too much rice for my small family. If you’ve ever heated up refrigerated rice, you know how much it sticks together. A fork can break it apart but still leaves chunks behind. The Mix ‘N Chop does a great job. With only a few twists of the blades, all of the rice separates into the same consistency it had when freshly cooked.
I bought the Mix ‘N Chop thinking it would take up space in my drawer while only serving one purpose in my kitchen. Instead, I keep finding new jobs this little guy can do. I know I’ll be using it later this month to break up sausage for stuffing and to smash canned yams for sugary soufflé, and I predict it will work wonders on mashed potatoes (if you, like me, prefer some chunks in there now and then). One of the best parts is that it’s made from nylon, which means it doesn’t scratch my nonstick cookware, but instead slides easily over the surface without any damage.
Do you have a meat chopper? What do you use it for?