For every ingredient and recipe under the sun, there is a specialized utensil to help you prepare it faster and easier. My imaginary dream kitchen used to have acres of cupboard space with shelves stuffed full of equipment for every culinary technique. But now, I’ve evolved into a kitchen minimalist, and I will not even allow single-use utensils through my door. Over the years I've learned and devised creative uses for everyday kitchen tools, so when I cook, I get the most prep work done with the least possible amount of equipment (and dishes).
Behold, the Top 10 best creative uses for kitchen utensils!
1. Use a Microplane to zest citrus, grate ginger and grind nutmeg.
If you only use your Microplane to grate cheese, you’re barely scratching (uh, grating) the surface of what this tool can do. Those sharp little rasps do a killer job of zesting oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits. By removing just the thin outer layer of the skin, which is full of fragrant oils, and leaving behind the white pith, it actually does a better job than a zesting tool.
The same goes for ginger. In no time, it gives you a juicy mound of fragrant ginger, leaving behind those chewy fibers.
Freshly grated nutmeg, like most spices, is infinitely more aromatic than its pre-ground counterpart. Since most cooks use nutmeg infrequently, it's pre-ground form is sure to spoil. With a Microplane, it’s spectacularly easy to swipe a whole nutmeg along its teeth and grate just what you need for your recipe. Bonus: whole nutmeg keeps for years!
2. Use a spoon to peel ginger.
Fresh ginger has rather thin skin, so peeling it with a paring knife or a vegetable peeler often removes some of the ginger’s fragrant flesh along with the skin. The best -- and easiest -- tool for peeling ginger is a regular ol’ teaspoon. Simply grasp the spoon at the base of the bowl and scrape its edge down the ginger root. It'll shave off just the tough skin!
3. Use a melon baller to core apples.
Apple corers may not take up much room, but I find them somewhat awkward and ineffective. They’re usually not wide enough to remove all of an apple's core, and even if they are, they take perfectly good apple flesh with them. Instead, when I’m making an apple pie or a tarte tatin, I wield a melon baller. It’s as easy as cutting the apple in half and scooping out the tough core!
4. Use a chef’s knife to peel garlic and pit olives.
Thin, papery garlic skin can be a real pain to remove, but you don’t need a special garlic peeler when you have a chef’s knife. Just place the garlic on a cutting board, put the widest part of your knife blade flat across it and thwack the blade with your fist. (Important: Lay the blade FLAT, parallel to the cutting board, so you don’t cut yourself.)
Smashing the clove looses it from the skin, making it infinitely easier to peel them. This technique is also great for pitting olives!
Learn other essential knife techniques in the FREE Craftsy class Complete Knife Skills.
5. Use a rubber band to open a jar.
Ever have that jar that just won’t open, regardless the brute strength applied. Before you invest in a bulky jar opener or go to the garage for the vise grip, try a rubber band. Stretch a thick rubber band around the jar lid, and give it a twist. The rubber gives you a far better grip than your hand or a dishtowel. It will help you get that jar open almost every time.
6. Use a garlic press to juice Key limes.
A citrus juicer or reamer works just fine for oranges, lemons and regular-size limes, but it won’t do you much good when you need to squeeze teeny-tiny Key limes for cocktails or Key lime pie. The garlic press works like a dream, enabling you to apply enough pressure to get out the maximum amount of juice, without pulverizing the whole fruit or making a mess.
Note: Even if your garlic press is clean, best to scrub it again before using it on limes, just to be safe.
7. Use a potato ricer to juice pomegranate seeds.
Store-bought pomegranate juice lacks the nuance and complexity of the fresh stuff. But how do you squeeze those ruby-red pomegranate arils without crushing the bitter seeds inside, giving your juice an acrid edge? Enter the potato ricer! Much like the garlic press does for Key limes, the ricer applies just enough pressure to squeeze out the juice without pulverizing the seeds. Juice the arils about half a cup at a time for best results and get gorgeous juice, perfect for cocktails, grenadine or pomegranate molasses.
8. Use a whisk to sift dry ingredients for baking.
Sifting is definitely important to the baking and cooking process, but you don’t need a hulking sifter taking up room in your cupboard when a whisk will get the job done, with less mess while you’re at it! Next time you need to combine dry ingredients for a batch of cookies, pancakes, cupcakes or whatever, just measure the ingredients into the bowl, stirring well with a wire whisk -- no muss, no fuss and perfectly sifted.
9. Use an ice cream scoop to fill cupcake tins.
When you try to fill muffin or cupcake tins using a spoon, it’s inevitable that you’ll get blobs of batter in between the cups and slightly different amounts of batter in each one. Leap both of these hurdles at once by employing an ice cream scoop.
10. Use a measuring cup to press in crusts.
It’s tough to achieve an even surface on graham cracker, chocolate wafer, shortbread and other press-in pie crusts using just your fingers. Next time you’re whipping up a cheesecake, just dump the buttery crumbs into the pan and start pressing down with the bottom of a measuring cup for a perfectly even, packed crust in no time.
Use these kitchen hacks as genius culinary techniques, minimizing the time you spend preping and cleaning and increasing the time you spend cooking, eating and enjoying!