For a long time, I've been trying to zen-ify my kitchen tool drawer. A few years ago, I got caught up in specialized doo-dads. One thing to squeeze lemons, another to squeeze limes, and yet something else to peel them. Now I've gotten my drawer down to 7 essential items (not including a few must-have knives) and here they are:
1. A pastry knife/cutter/scraper (I have one that's flexible plastic). This thing works wonders for chunking off bread dough, pasta dough, and scraping batter from the bowl. You could cut bread or pasta dough with a knife, but that's exactly why you need this tool!
2. The medium-small Microplane grater. This works for nutmeg, cheese, and zesting lemons. It's sharp, easy to clean, and you don't need a million different ones. I even use it for pulverizing onions and tomatoes for paella. Don't use it on ginger, though, it cuts the fibers. Instead, just cut up chunks of ginger and pulverize with the back of a wooden spoon and strain with...
3. A medium strainer. This thing is for straining pastry cream, soups and gravies, pulping soft ingredients like ripe tomatoes and banana, or in a pinch you can even make tea with it!
4. A quick read thermometer. I found I need it less as I get more experience cooking meat, but it's a great learning tool, and it can answer any doubts you have over the chicken you just pulled out of the oven or off the grill.
5. Kitchen shears. Get the kind you can take apart and wash, that way you can cut chives one minute and take apart a chicken the next, throw into hot suds or the dishwasher, and then go back for more. (After chicken, I would make sure you wash carefully though, maybe even add a little bleach to the wash water, before using on chives again...just to be safe).
6. A wine tool...enough said. I give myself a freebie on this one, since there's really no substitute. I like is this one. It also doubles as bottle opener for old skool beer or mineral water.
...and since 6 didn't really count as a gadget...
6. A kitchen scale. I've got an inexpensive one that does ounces and grams. It's essential for baking, though unfortunately doesn't get used very often.
7. Measuring spoon set. Sort of counts as a gadget, I guess.
So what do I do about those lemons or limes that need to be squeezed? I roll the citrus under my palm on a counter top using pressure to loosen up the fruit, then slice in half, stick a fork in the pulp and squeeze. Move the fork around a bit to get even more juice.
One final note on gadgets, here is the most egregiously superfluous gadget of all time...behold this misguided, inelegant waste of resources.