The pick of pitters

Test Kitchen

May 30, 2007|By Joannah Hill and Kate Shatzkin | Joannah Hill and Kate Shatzkin,Sun Reporters

The brief but delicious sour-cherry season in Maryland is soon to begin. From late June to early July, bakers stock up on these fragile fruit treasures -- and pit to beat the band. A good cherry pitter that removes the stone and leaves the fruit intact can be a cook's best friend this time of year.

We loaded up on cherries and tested four hand-held pitters for ease of use, comfort and containment (of that staining cherry juice). And if you're already overwhelmed with kitchen gadgets, we found some serviceable low-tech alternatives, too.

joannah.hill@baltsun.com

kate.shatzkin@baltsun.com

BEST PITTER

WESTMARK CHERRY STONER

Price: $11.99

Available at: Wegmans

Petite and slim with a matte cast-aluminum finish, this German-made pitter is the smallest of the group. No locking mechanism, no pit-catching cup -- nothing fancy here.

Pros: It fits comfortably in your hand. The pit pops out every time with an authoritative snap, and the cherry rolls out of the pitter with just a turn of the wrist.

Cons: It is rather small. Someone with a bigger grip may not find it so comfortable.

Bottom line: No bells and whistles needed. Simplicity in form and function wins out.

ALSO TESTED

ONEIDA CHERRY PITTER

Price: $9.99

Available at: Bed, Bath and Beyond

This pitter has a chrome-plated finish and a small lock that keeps the tool closed when not in use.

Pros: The medium-size pitter feels good in your hand, and the smooth spring mechanism pits perfectly.

Cons: After pitting, the cherry doesn't roll effortlessly out of the pitter, but has to be pulled out. And during a vigorous round of pitting, the lock fell into place, causing the pitter to close tight. Frustrating when you have a big bowl of cherries and some momentum going.

Bottom line: It gets the job done.

KITCHENAID CHERRY / OLIVE PITTER

Price: $9.99

Available at: Target

The SUV of cherry pitters. With a removable cup holder for cherry or olive pits, a latch lock and a basic black rubberized grip, this pitter clearly means business.

Pros: It's quite handsome-looking.

Cons: The catchall pitter cup is a great idea, but the pits rarely made it into the cup. It generally took a couple of squeezes to push the pit out, and then the pit usually didn't fit into the hole for the cup. The latch also had a frustrating tendency to slide down into the locked position, bringing pitting to a screeching halt. The pitted cherries had a mangled look.

Bottom line: Add-ons don't always add up.

RSVP ENDURANCE CHERRY & OLIVE PITTER

Price: $6.99

Available at: Amazon.com and chefstools.com

The most distinctive-looking pitter tested. The indentations on the pitter are presumably intended to fit the hand in an ergonomically correct fashion. (The box provides no clues to the unusual, modernistic design.)

Pros: The large bowl holds the cherry in place and the pit comes out reasonably well.

Cons: Working with the aptly named Endurance pitter called to mind one of those devices you squeeze to strengthen your grip. With no spring mechanism and awkwardly placed indentations, this tool was uncomfortable and a bit of a chore to use.

Bottom line: Saves time by combining food prep and a workout.

CHOPSTICKS AND PASTRY TIPS

Pitting cherries is not an everyday kitchen chore, so a chopstick or pastry tip (a recommendation from a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living) can substitute in a pinch. If you're using a pastry tip, one with a medium-sized serrated tip seems to work best. (We used an Ateco #32 tip.)

Pros: They're cheap, available and effective.

Cons: Excuse us while we wash the juice off our hands -- and the walls.

Bottom line: Sure, it's a little messy, but who cares? There will be pie when you're done.

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