32 Secret Uses for Ordinary Kitchen Gadgets
Professional chefs share how they make common kitchen tools more useful.
Use a carving fork to serve pasta
“I can’t get through a night without it. Except we don’t use it to carve. Instead, we use it to deftly spin pasta and deliver a neat nest of noodles into a bowl. Using a large spoon in your left hand and the fork in your right, scoop the noodles with the fork and spin on the spoon until a nice bundle forms and set in the bowl—boom!—first class spaghetti.” —Chef Ryan Hardy at New York City’s Charlie Bird
Use a microwave to juice a lemon
“To juice a lemon, microwave it for 10 seconds. It breaks down the cells and makes the juice flow a lot faster. A good trick to keep in mind when trying to squeeze as much juices out as possible for a vinaigrette.” —Chef/Partner Laurent Tourondel, New York’s Arlington Club. Don’t miss these other smart uses for kitchen tools.
Use paint scrapers as offset spatulas
“I always have paint scrapers of various sizes on hand. They are great for everything from cleaning/scraping pots and pans (non-stick only) to tempering chocolate, it’s like a Brillo pad and palette knife in one!” —Curtis Stone, celebrity chef and television personality
Use a box grater to purée
“Transform your average grater into a tomato skinner and purée machine. Using the ‘wide hole side,’ hold a large tomato against the grater, with the stem end in your hand (have a plate underneath to catch the purée). Start pushing and turning the tomato, rotating in a circular motion as you grind the tomato through the grater. Your purée will fall on the plate while the skin and tomato belly button will end up in your hand to discard.” —Andrew Zimmern, chef and host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods America
Use your stainless steel sink to remove garlic odor
“Smelly garlic and onion hands? Wet them and rub on the sink’s edge where it’s easy to get the sides of and in between your fingers. It totally works!” —Alina Eisenhauer, Owner and Executive Chef at Sweet Kitchen + Bar in Massachusetts, and winner of Food Network’s Sweet Genius
Use kitchen scissors to cut foods quickly
“They’re not just herb clippers! Trim asparagus ends or aritchokes’ pointy tips pre-steaming, cut up pizza (raw and vegan, for me!), dehydrated crackers, or kale for an easy-to-chew salad.” —Laura Miller of Tastemade’s “Raw.Vegan. Not Gross.” These are the kitchen gadgets you are definitely wasting your money on.
Use a cheese grater to whip up biscuits or pie crust
“My cheese grater makes a quick job of pie crust or biscuits. Instead of cutting the butter into the flour, simply grate a stick of frozen butter, then mix with the flour until the crumbly mixture forms. It’s also great for shredding veggies (e.g., fine carrot shreds or quickly “minced” onions), if you don’t have a mandoline or food processor.” —Beth Moncel of BudgetBytes.com and author of Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half
Use a bent fork to pit cherries
“It might be fairly unconventional, but it’s effective: For a makeshift cherry pit remover, take a four-prong fork with the two outer prongs bent. It’ll make pitting a breeze!” —Chef Dominique Ansel of New York’s Dominique Ansel’s Bakery
Use sandwich bags to butter pans
“To keep hands clean when buttering pans, I put them inside a plastic sandwich bag and grab hold of a stick of butter. After rubbing the pan with butter, just invert the plastic bag and toss. Your pans are perfectly buttered and your hands grease-free.” — Pamela Giusto-Sorrells of Pamela’s Products
Use a wooden spoon as a “thermometer”
“Use one as a thermometer for deep frying. When the oil is up to the correct temperature for deep frying, the wooden spoon will begin to bubble around its end. Also, if a wine cork gets stuck in the bottle, I use the end of the spoon to pop it into the bottle. —Executive Chef Kolin Vazzoler of California’s Simi Winery
Use a meat grinder to make noodles
“This nifty machine does double duty: Just take the knife edge out of the grinder and just use it to extrude noodles, allowing you to get perfectly round noodles with any size diameter.”—Chef Johnny Prep Here are some ways you’ve been using kitchen appliances all wrong.
Use freezer bags for mess-free breading
“Some of my favorite uses besides storage: Filling them with purées, sauces, or chocolate and cutting a tip off a bottom corner for a disposable pastry bag; mess-free, even breading: put flour in one, beaten eggs in a second and breadcrumbs in a third (dip foods like shrimp in each, close, and shake); cutting them open and placing on a tortilla press so fresh tortillas come off very easily.” —Chef Johnny Prep
Use a Silpat mat to make chocolate topping.
“Spread warm melted chocolate evenly over the mat and place it in the freezer. After it has firmed up (about five minutes), roll the Silpat like a sleeping bag. All the chocolate cracks and separates into homemade chocolate chips! You can sprinkle these on cakes or cookies, or in ice cream for crunch.”—Chloe Coscarelli, Winner of Food Network “Cupcake Wars” and creator of Farm Sanctuary’s Thanksgiving Menu
Use a cast-iron pan to grind pepper
“Fresh ground pepper makes a big difference in flavor, but with pepper grinders it’s hard to get the perfect grind. You can use coffee grinders, but you’ll get pepper that is ground too fine or too many peppers that don’t get ground. With a cast-iron pan, place peppercorns on a cutting board, whack them a few times and then rub the pan over them for a consistent grind. The more you rub, the finer it gets. Try this with any type of peppercorn, coriander, and many other seeds.” —Chef Johnny Prep
Use a kitchen towel for a bain marie
“For all recipes that need a bain marie (water bath): Use a towel in the bottom of the pan, then add water. This works for flan, rice pudding, foie gras terrine, and crème caramel” —Ariane Daguin, Co-Founder & CEO of D’Artagnan
Use a strainer to fry small items
“I use a strainer or small china cap to deep fry small items (garlic chips, herbs like sage leaves, etc.) in hot oil so they don’t get lost or overcook.” —Victor Albisu, Chef/Owner of Washington, D.C.’s Del Campo Don’t miss these 20 alternative names for common kitchen utensils.
Befriend kitchen tongs as bottle openers
“Quickly twist open a bottle of beer by clamping tongs around a stubborn cap.” —Matt Lambert, executive chef and owner of the Musket Room in New York City
Use a coffee grinder to pulverize herbs
“I love grinding up flax and other seeds in a coffee grinder. You actually get a lot more nutritional value when they are ground fresh. I also use it for herbs and spices. I use lavender in a lot of my desserts, and the coffee grinder gives the perfect consistency for baking (and nothing beats the smell of ground up fresh lavender!) — Laura Miller of Tastemade’s “Raw.Vegan. Not Gross.”
Use a muffin tin for mini-omelets
“For mini omelets, just fill each tin with one egg and top with your favorite toppings. Then, bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Great for making personalized omelets for big groups, or as a ‘to-go’ breakfast in the morning.” —Celebrations.com contributors, Adriane and Claudia Kiss aka The Kissters
Mince garlic with a can
“If you don’t have a garlic press, wrap peeled garlic cloves (and other spices, if desired) in tinfoil, and smash them with a can from the pantry.” —Calvin Harris, chef and curator of Self Healthy Kitchen
Use a cupcake pan to make tart shells
“I use a cupcake pan or muffin tin to create tart shells or mini edible bowls. First, take roll-out sugar cookie dough and cut into flowers or circles slightly larger than the bottom of the holes in the pan. Place pan upside down on a baking sheet and drape each “cookie” over one of the cups. Bake and cool according to recipe directions.” —Alina Eisenhauer, Owner and Executive Chef at Sweet Kitchen + Bar in Massachusetts, and winner of Food Network’s Sweet Genius
Use ice cube trays to freeze pesto
“For herb infusions for stews and soups, pour fresh herb pestos into ice cube trays, then, once frozen, store in an airtight bag. I also use ice cubes trays to freeze leftover canned chipotle or small amounts of stock. And when my daughter was little, I’d make purées and freeze them in trays for homemade baby food.” —Ellie Krieger, host of The Food Network’s Healthy Appetite and author of Weeknight Wonders Check out these other clever substitutes for kitchen gadgets.
Drain with a baking rack
“No strainer? Use a wire rack with a grid-like pattern. Empty pots and pans through the rack for perfectly strained veggies, potatoes, and pastas.” —Tom Costello, executive chef at Thyme Restaurant in Yorktown Heights, New York
Make fluffy couscous in a baking dish
“Add a thin layer of couscous to the bottom of a large baking dish, pour in boiling water, and leave the dish on the countertop, covered, for five minutes. The pasta won’t get weighed down like it does in a pot, so it will come out perfectly soft.” —Nadia Giosia, host of Cooking Channel’s Nadia G’s Bitchin’ Kitchen
Roll dough with a wine bottle
“If you don’t have a rolling pin, remove the label from an empty, clean wine or liquor bottle and fill the bottle with cold water. Try this with dough for biscuits, piecrusts, and tarts.” —Damian Sansonetti, chef and owner of Piccolo in Portland, Maine
Use a bench scraper to pick up more than dough
“The most important tool in my kitchen is my plastic Matfer bench scraper [also known as a dough cutter]. Use it for everything from picking up chopped herbs and getting the last bit of food out of a bowl, to passing a purée through a sieve and even working with pasta.” —Executive Chef Michael Metzner of Giovanni’s Bistro in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey.
Use measuring cups for dry goods
“I use measuring cups for baking as scoops in containers for things like rice, lentils, and nuts to save time while cooking too. They’re not just for baking!”—Doron Petersan, owner of Sticky Fingers bakery and winner of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars”
Grill with a pie tin
“To create a makeshift smoker, place damp wood chips in a pie tin, and set it over hot coals.” —Elliot Lopez, executive chef of NYY Steak’s stadium and New York City locations
Use plastic wrap for fancy cooking
“Saran wrap isn’t just for storing leftovers. It’s perfect for shaping and manipulating food into fancy shapes to show off to your friends and family when entertaining. I use it to make my signature Beef Carpaccio and Lobster Torchon.” —Jesse Schenker, Executive Chef of New York City’s Recette
Use a microplane to grind spices
“People know to use one for zesting citrus and grating cheese, but I love it to ground up spices, like nutmeg.”—Michael Mina, Restauranteur and Chef at Miami Beach’s Michael Mina 74
Use your phone or tablet to make cooking more fun
“To make cooking more enjoyable, I stream an old favorite like “Pulp Fiction” on my iPad when executing challenging recipes for leisurely watching. If I’m working on a familiar dish that requires a lot of chopping or a long marinating period, I’ll watch something suspenseful like ‘Sons of Anarchy.’ When cooking with my little sous chef Hudson, it’s especially helpful! “—Curtis Stone, celebrity chef and television personality. Next, don’t miss these 50 kitchen mistakes it’s time to stop making.