Does your kitchen drawer stick when you try to open it because of the bounty of gadgets stuffed inside? Join the over-enthusiastic-about-culinary-gear club. For those of us who love experimenting in the kitchen, it’s easy to start accumulating cooking tools. There’s a gadget for everything, from banana slicers to pickle pickers. (Regular knives and forks are so outdated.)
On the flipside, certain kitchen tools truly serve as dependable, muti-functional workhorses and will continue to be your go-to gadgets for years to come. As you begin to toss the clutter in an attempt to lighten your load and “unstick” those drawers, be sure to hang on tight to these items.Perhaps not surprising to the frugal cooks out there, these multi-purpose tools are non-electric, simple in design, generally low-cost and can even be readily found at a thrift shop, proving once again that simplicity goes hand-in-hand with saving time, money and, in this case, kitchen drawer space!
1. Salad Spinner
Don’t let the name fool you—a salad spinner can be used to wash more than lettuce. Use the spinner to clean any greens, such as spinach, kale and Swiss chard, and herbs also. Lightweight berries, such as raspberries or blueberries, clean up and dry nicely in a spinner, as well.
Bonus feature: Most salad spinners come with a deep bowl that forms the perfect shape for an impromptu cake cover.
2. Pastry Blender
The name “pastry blender” sounds so refined, but what we’re really talking about here is the “mash and musher.” While this device works very well to blend up flour and butter for pie crust, it can be readily used for anything requiring some force, such as tenderizing meat, crushing egg yolks for deviled eggs, or blending avocado for guacamole.
3. Muffin Pans
Think of a muffin pan as the kitchen fairy of single-serving proportions. Use it anytime you want to prepare and freeze individuals servings of something. For example, let’s say you made a big batch of refried beans and want to freeze it into smaller, manageable servings. Lightly oil the muffin cups, place a hefty scoop of the bean mixture into each cup, and freeze. Then, pop the beans out of each cup and store in a freezer bag. Defrost as needed for handy individual servings for dishes like nachos and burritos.
Bonus feature: Flip the muffin pan over and use the reverse side as a mold for making mini edible bowls.
There are many styles of graters out there: hand-held graters, rotary graters, box graters, et cetera. While a grater is a must-have kitchen tool for any cook, there’s no need to have every style under the sun. You’ll need it to shred cheese for pizza and nachos, process vegetables for soups and breads, zest lemons for desserts and sauces, and shave chocolate as pie garnishes. We’ve even heard of people shaving butter for pie crust—genius! Evaluate how you you’ll use your grater most, and choose the style that you’re most comfortable with.
5. Kitchen Scissors
Kitchen scissors chop and cut anything thin, from herbs to bacon, along with opening up those pesky “easy to open” plastic bags. For double-duty fun, pick up a pair of herb scissors, which combine five blades for faster even cutting. Trust us, they save a lot of time during the garden processing season.
6. Mesh Metal Strainer
You can skip the flour sifter with a simple metal strainer: Just place the ingredients you want to sift in the strainer and gently stir till they sift through. This technique also helps avoid lumps when adding flour to a white sauce or gravy. A metal strainer can also be used when your want to pull out solids from a hot liquid, like packing sauerkraut in canning jars.
7. Cold Wine Bottle
OK, it might be a stretch to call a wine bottle a kitchen tool, but bear with me. If you really need to free up space in the kitchen drawers, toss the rolling pin and replace it with the cold bottle of wine sitting in your refrigerator. Not only does the bottle shape substitute nicely, the chill significantly helps evenly and smoothly roll out a butter pie crust. Having chilled wine on hand also then gives you a reason for an impromptu happy hour while your pie bakes!
About the Author: Lisa Kivirist farms, writes and runs a diversified operation from Inn Serendipity, her family’s farm and bed-and-breakfast in Wisconsin. She is co-author of Farmstead Chef (New Society Publishers, 2011), ECOpreneuring (New Society Publishers, 2008) and Rural Renaissance (New Society Publishers, 2009).