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What simple kitchen tool have you found surprisingly useful?

 
pollinator
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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Hello all!

I came to the realisation yesterday that the handy dandy little piece of kitchen hardware that I was using to make seeding and gutting of butternut squash a breeze, and would later facilitate the scooping of roasted veg away from its rind, was in fact a purpose-built avocado tool.

I don't have a picture right now, but I will post one when I am home. It looks like a shallow scoop-shaped teardrop, with blunt serrations on the point, and on the curve opposite it. I have been using it for years without it clicking that I have repurposed it from its original intended use, and it occurred to me to wonder what else I had done that with.

It represents a tool-oriented function stacking of an object that was nominally a single-function utensil. Does anyone else have examples they'd like to share of tool-oriented or usage-oriented function stacking? And no, I'm not talking about using a wrench as a hammer, or the handle of a screwdriver as a hammer, or a lead pipe as a hammer. Though the adjustable wrench with a hammer head welded on is an intriguing case study in self-ownership.

Any observations?

-CK
 
pollinator
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I use an ice cream churn to knead dough with. I wanted a smaller version of the bread bucket shown here, because my family doesn't eat enough bread to be worth making a whole loaf, and my bad shoulder acts up if I try to knead by hand. After more experimenting and prototyping than I care to admit, it occurred to me that I already had one, ready to go. I had bought several kinds of ice cream churns at garage sales over the years. Including a pair of single-serving hand-cranked churns, intended for children. I think they were 50 cents a piece. But, since the paddle is strong enough to handle frozen ice cream, it can also handle bread dough.

Each one holds just enough for one single-serving loaf of bread, 2 dinner rolls, or a medium-sized pizza crust. And as a bonus, they are small enough I can take one around the house with me and multitask.

I haven't tried using the bigger churns for a full-sized loaf yet. But the little ones are working great!
 
pollinator
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Location: South Central PA
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My ricer, I used to use a cheap stainless steel version but I bought my mom an ergonomic version when she broke her hand...after I tried it out I was hooked! The basket is still stainless, but it only has holes on the bottom, so less splatter, and it operates very easily. Got the same one for myself shortly thereafter. We always use a ricer for mashed potatoes.
 
pollinator
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A pair of steel kitchen graters, like the ones shown below.

These are the flat kind with coarse to fine grating abilities.   Our own were purchased for nearly nothing at a thrift store and have handles that curve out-of-plane with the grating surface so that, oriented the right way on a flat surface, the grating surface is raised off the counter surface by ~ 2 cm.  The advantage of that is being able to lay them in a pan of water to hold things above the water line for boiling, steaming, etc.   Also, since the handles are curved, you can use them like hand-held, slotted paddles to transfer hot, chunky things like a roasted chicken or boiled seitan from one vessel to another.  Then again they are often used as a tofu or homemade cheese squeezer, placing the pair on either side, to get extra water out of the saturated item.

Oh...and you can grate cheese, vegetables, fresh ginger, and frozen tofu and seitan with them.   [And you don't have to stress over the decision of whether to purchase the corded or cordless versions..... ;-)  ]
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master steward
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I'm pretty sure my husband's favorite tool is kitchen shears. He uses them to cut bacon, cut open packages, cut cooked streak into small bites (super handy when you have tiny ravenous children who need itty bitty bites and need them fast. The scissors are much faster than a knife and fork). He even slices carrots straight into the pot or pan with the kitchen shears. They're great for harvesting nettle, too.

I think my favorite simple kitchen tool is my small, thin stainless steel spatula. It's nice and small, so I can get it inside small pans for scrambling eggs or flipping pancakes. It's flexible enough that I can get under pancakes nicely, while firm enough not to drop my food when I pick it up with the spatula.. It does a fantastic job of scraping pans clean, as it has a thin edge. I use it for serving up brownies, as it slices and serves beautifully. Added bonus: my husband found it in a bin of kitchen stuff at the dump, so it was totally free!
 
master steward
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My O'Greenic Pancake Pan, I rarely use it for pancakes. It is two small pans attached to the handle so that it can be flipped over.  

Dear hubby uses every day for making hashbrowns.

I use it for sandwiches like grill cheese and Reubens.
 
gardener
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Ice cream scoop.
I primarily use it to portion burgers.
I scoop the burger mix,  packing and leveling it with a scraper/spatula in my other hand.
The lever extraction action makes it easy to  release the measured portion.

 
gardener
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Location: Soutwest Ohio
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For many years I resisted getting a zester, feeling like they were an over-hyped unitasker. I ended up finding one on sale for almost nothing and decided to go ahead and get it for those rare moments I needed zest and didn't feel like doing all the work with a knife. Now I have only once used it for zesting a citrus, but find I use it quite regularly for all sorts of other things. Shaving tiny bits of chocolate onto a dessert? Check. Powdering a nut to add into oatmeal for nutrient benefits (wife hates chewing on whole nuts)? Check. And of course turning garlic into a paste in a matter of seconds? Oh my god where has it been my whole life, erm... check.
 
Chris Kott
pollinator
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Actually, I was also thinking the same, though mine is a microplane, and in addition to making lovely garlic mush in seconds, it takes care of ginger and turmeric roots, too, and probably horseradish, and any other root veggie or spice you'd normally crush and chop, and then add to the pot and wish you'd been able to make finer and more uniform.

Actually I have found really good uses in herbal preparations (lots of root spices and veg in fire cider). Microplanes produce finer, more uniform pieces, so if you're trying for some semblance of homogenaiety, it's really useful.

-CK
 
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When I get unwanted plastic credit-card type promotions in the mail I cut them on a sharp diagonal and use them to scrape grease or residue out pots and pans before they get washed.
The pointy end is especially useful for cleaning out that gap between the edge of my counter and the stove top, or working off baked-on drips around the gas burner.  

They are very good for removing labels from glass jars that merit re-use.

To be clear:  I use these for cleaning; never for food prep.  They ultimately get nasty, so I either re-cut them or throw them out.
I surely wish these wouldn't come in the mail at all, but by finding a use for them before they enter the waste stream I can indulge in a tiny sliver of sweet revenge.

 
pollinator
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A kitchen screwdriver.

(Not the kind with vodka and fresh orange juice, though Lord knows they are indeed helpful.)

Nope, a heavy duty, flat, corrosion resistant mechanic screwdriver to use as a prybar and chop tough or frozen food apart.

Why? Because I have seen too many tips snapped off of nice chef knives. They were used as prybars or frozen food chisels. It was the only tool at hand, it seems. Trust me, it takes a lot of work to reprofile a broken tip.

So I'm spreading the word: get yourself a kitchen screwdriver, wash it well, and keep it in your drawer.
 
pollinator
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Tomato spoons are actually fairly helpful at coring tomatoes or removing bad spots from them.

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pollinator
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Colander!  It makes an awesome splatter screen!
 
D. Logan
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Janet Reed wrote:Colander!  It makes an awesome splatter screen!



The funny thing here is that I use my splatter screen as a strainer...
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