Kitchen tools
January 21, 2011 4:11 PM   Subscribe

Your kitchen implements that aren't meant for kitchen: tell me of them.

It has been my observation that many devices and tools meant for kitchen use are substandard to those used in other places. For example chip clips: Most chip clip bags are made of a pathetic plastic that is not worth a cow chip in weight. However those big honking binder clips - they are indestructible and can hold a bag closed very well.

What other non-kitchen items grace your kitchen with their usefulness.
posted by Brent Parker to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 115 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Dental floss works wonders when cutting through dough. When I make cinnamon rolls, it's what I use to get a clean cut without smooshing it all together. Just wrap it around the dough in a loop and pull on the ends of the floss.
posted by routergirl at 4:14 PM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Long-necked lab flasks (like these) are great for oils and such. I picked up a few quite cheap as unused surplus; I assume their volume markings are inaccurate or something, but that doesn't matter for kitchen use. The long neck makes it very easy to pour a measured amount of a thick liquid like cooking oil.
posted by hattifattener at 4:17 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: Rubber bands, for removing stubborn lids.
posted by SillyShepherd at 4:19 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Paintbrushes (clean, unused) are great for a variety of cake and cookie decorating uses.
I also use clothespins to keep all my bags closed.
But the most useful thing is probably a sharpie for labeling freezer bags.
posted by phunniemee at 4:32 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: Rubber gloves for cutting hot peppers (so you don't rub your eyes with pepper juice later) or beets (so you don't stain your hands). They can also help you open jars.

Kevlar gloves for when you don't want to use the guard on your mandoline.

Jars or vases for holding spoons, tongs and other utensils.

Unglazed terracotta tiles can be used as baking stones (research this first so you select the correct ones).

Floss can also cut soft cheeses.

Cut a piece of foam shelf liner and put it under your cutting board so it doesn't slide.

(Why yes, I do watch a lot of Good Eats. How can you tell?)
posted by runningwithscissors at 4:33 PM on January 21, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: We have a fantastic woodworking rasp that is far superior than any cheese grater I have ever encountered. (Also for zesting oranges!)
posted by Andrhia at 4:34 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I use regular laundry pegs for a lot of stuff - clipping the dish gloves to something so they can dry on the inside, clipping packets closed, keeping recipe pages open and where I want them and so on.

I sometimes use the kindling hatchet on particularly large and recalcitrant pumpkins (my brother in law has a bayonet for the same reason) when even a sturdy chef knife can't easily crack the damn thing open.

I use my husbands weights to weigh down terrines, cheese and tofu (they're washable so better than a foil-wrapped brick that I was using previously).

And, sort-of-but-not-quite, I use a wooden stool to drain preserves and jellies or whey from cheese. I put the stool upside down on the bench with a bowl on the underseat and tie the cheesecloth to each leg and then I have both hands for pouring and adjusting and I don't have to reposition or tie or anything. Genius!
posted by ninazer0 at 4:37 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and I use the laundry rack to put fresh pasta on and cableties on anything that needs to stay shut for a while.
posted by ninazer0 at 4:39 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: The Microplane rasps were originally developed as wood rasps, I think, but they are now sold in kitchen stores as well. I agree, they're great for zesting, or hard cheeses, or nutmeg, or ginger…
posted by hattifattener at 4:40 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: One of my favorite things is meant for the kitchen, just not the *home* kitchen: Cambro Storage Containers.

I have several 2qt, 4qt, and 6qt square containers and few 1 qt round containers. I find these one of the most useful tools in my kitchen and something you never see at a "Kitchen Store." The containers take hot or cold liquids or other foods, are airtight (I use one as a fantastic bread storage container), have clear measure lines, and are stackable! They make it tremendously easy to do things like make and store stock and stack lots of items in the fridge.

Much much more durable and convenient and efficiently built than any consumer-grade food storage system I've seen. Oh, and if you buy them at your local restaurant supply store they are quite inexpensive (<$5/container).
posted by donovan at 4:49 PM on January 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Spice jars? Nah. When Mrs. Plinth was in the hospital post birth, they had tons of teeny weeny glass jars full of sterilized water that they dumped out and attached to the breast pump and then put in the freezer. After use, they were going in the trash. I intercepted them and nearly all our spices that we buy in bulk are in those jars.
posted by plinth at 4:51 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: I keep a pair of needle nose pliers in the kitchen for removing the pin bones in a salmon filet and for tearing off the membrane on a rack of ribs. It occasionally has other uses. I'd really like to find a stainless steel pair.

A screwdriver also helps with removing the rib membrane.

Unglazed quarry tiles make great pizza and bread baking stones.

Ditto the foam shelf liner. We keep a couple of them rolled up, cut to size of our large boards.

Not so much the kitchen, but I keep a garden trowel near my grill for spreading the coals around.
posted by bondcliff at 4:52 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This isn't really kitchen but is cooking: I dutch oven a lot, and good welders gloves are much better than any hook or hotpad.
posted by PixieS at 4:53 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: 1. A Welding glove will beat the snot out of an oven mitt any day of the week.
2. The only place I use a bookrest is my kitchen table.
3. Sciscors.
4. Earplugs (for me for the toddler).
4. My Toolbox... which is a kitchen toolbox. The kitchen drawers keep the heavy rotation gear, but I'll pull out the toolbox to find various scaled cutters, a silpat, specialty knives, a meat fork, extra wine stoppers (I'm far more in favor of killing the bottle), When I travel and plan to seriously cook, this gets loaded up and brought with me.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:01 PM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing the floss. My cousin works in a government building, and after 9/11 they wouldn't even let you bring a plastic knife in. So a lot of birthday cakes and such were cut with dental floss.

Also, tweezers are good to have around for fish bones and other fiddly work.

And finally...this is cheating since it IS a cooking instrument, but I don't think a lot of Western cooks know how awesome cooking chopsticks are. They're so much more versatile than tongs.
posted by Caravantea at 5:05 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: Replace your tweezers with a set of surgical needle-nose pliers and you will tripple (if not better) the speed at which you remove pinbones from fish.
posted by Nanukthedog at 5:11 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A blowtorch is an excellent way to brown a rib roast on the outside before putting it in a low oven to finish (as per Thomas Keller's recipe).
I finally have a rolling pin, but before that, a wine bottle worked extremely well.
The handle of a screwdriver will help with grinding pepper, if you've got a small enough bowl.
nthing the use of floss in the kitchen. It can hold together filet mignon, hold together your bouquet garnis, or even truss a chicken.
posted by Gilbert at 5:11 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: My mother is a nurse, and I grew up thinking everyone had a rubber tourniquet in their kitchen for use in opening jars - I was well into my teens before I realized what they were traditionally used for. When I moved into my own apartment, I made sure she grabbed me one from the hospital. I'd have no idea how to open stubborn jars without one.
posted by something something at 5:25 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: My old lab goggles are now onion cutting goggles. They work wonderfully.
posted by astapasta24 at 6:02 PM on January 21, 2011 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Scissors, for cutting pizza.
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:09 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A stool which I train cats to sit on (by giving them treats on the stool, and only on the stool) instead of winding about underfoot.
posted by amtho at 6:16 PM on January 21, 2011 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Low-tack blue painter's tape with a Sharpie works great for labeling stuff.

Nitrile gloves are very useful for dealing with chile peppers or anything you don't want to get on your skin.

People have already mentioned paintbrushes — a synthetic-bristle brush is good for cleaning out a blade-style coffee or spice grinder.

We keep a pants/skirt hanger (about like this one) in the kitchen and hang bunches of bananas over the bar and use the clips for hanging up dish gloves after using them.

I prefer a 2-inch diameter dowel, about 18 to 24 inches long, to a standard rolling pin, and it's a lot cheaper than getting a "French-style rolling pin" from a fancy kitchen store.

Fiberglass window screening, cut to the right size, is near-essential for growing sprouts in canning jars.
posted by Lexica at 6:16 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: American Science and Surplus in Chicago is FULL of this sort of thing; so much lab equiptment can be repurposed for the kitchen.

I use their wee screw top bottles to hold salad dressing for packed lunches (smaller and more leakproof than any Tupperware on earth,) I use their plastic flasks to carry booze (I ride my bike a lot, weight and breakability matters, I'd rather carry plastic than metal or glass).

The piece de resistance: I bottle my homemade aromatic bitters in their Eyedropper Bottles. They'd also be amazing for homemade vanilla extract.

I like the little Nalgene-brand containers they sell at the Container Store a lot, as well. They do very well at holding small quantities of leaky materials (salad dressings, peanut butter, hummus, etc) in a lunch. A good screwtop is really essential if you're throwing something liquid in a purse/messenger bag/etc, and so few food-specific storage containers make the cut.
posted by Juliet Banana at 6:17 PM on January 21, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Blow torch, pliers, brushes, binder clips, pottery vases and metal nails (handy for roasting potatoes).
posted by jadepearl at 6:53 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: Strap wrench for opening jars.
posted by Bruce H. at 7:23 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: One of my favorite things is meant for the kitchen, just not the *home* kitchen: Cambro Storage Containers.

I love my plastic cambro tubs but the clear ones are apparently all BPAtastic. The translucent ones are supposedly BPA-free so I've been using those for hot liquids and all my clear tubs are holding random ingredients in the pantry.

I use a fair assortment of non-kitchen things in the kitchen. Off the top of my head --

Cloth diapers make incredibly good pot holders
Stainless-steel pliers are great for removing fish bones
A woodworking plane upside-down works as a bonito shaver
A handful of silica gel packets dropped into a decanter will help it dry without water spots
Plumbing torch for whatever needs to be set on fire/browned/blackened
posted by foodgeek at 7:28 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: • I use a Rubbermaid Slim Cooler to sous-vide steaks; full of 130ºF water it loses about 1ºF every ten minutes.

• The best plastic bags for casual kitchen use are the ones they won't sell you – the ones that are on big rolls in the produce section. Throw a roll in your shopping cart, sneak them past the register, and use them for everything.
posted by nicwolff at 10:17 PM on January 21, 2011

Best answer: Industrial infrared thermometer.

Want to make sure that wine is properly chilled? Zap! Want to see if that pizza stone is up to temperature? Zap! Want to see if the bread water is the right temperature to encourage yeast growth without killing it? Zap! Want to see if that pot is hot before you put in the taco meat? Zap!

Also a lot of them have a laser pointer which is awesome.
posted by IvyMike at 11:21 PM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I keep foam earplugs in the drawer near my blender because the thing sounds so much like a jet engine that I worry about hearing damage.

I keep multi-colored bendy straws in a heavy clear-glass vase because I got tired of picking them up off the floor after the umpteenth time they slid out of the plastic bag on the pantry shelf. Now they look kind of festive in the vase.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:43 AM on January 22, 2011

Best answer: Much like astapasta24, I frequently don my ski goggles while chopping onions.

I lined my cabinets with thin plastic fluorescent light covers like this. It comes in big sheets at the home improvement store, and I scored and broke it in rectangles to fit. I think it will probably last the lifetime of my cabinets, as it's very sturdy and easy to clean.
posted by CheeseLouise at 7:19 AM on January 22, 2011

Best answer: I use automotive safety wire and pliers to seal stuffed birds for roasting.
posted by workerant at 9:40 AM on January 22, 2011

Best answer: Alton Brown tipped me off that it makes sense to "make" your own pizza stone with tiles from Home Depot or some such. Cheaper.

Yes to floss. Razor blades can be good for cutting dough, depending. Indirect, but you can use curtain rods or broomsticks to hang homemade pasta dough while it dries. I use a rubber mallet sometimes, in conjunction with a ziploc baggie or wax paper, to pound herbs for summer soups or meat for cutlets. I dunno if it's just me, but those pharmaceutical-grade porcelain mortar and pestle sets are cheaper and seem to work much better (and bonus, are simple to wash) than any of the fancy marble and other shit kitchen ones I've tried.
posted by ifjuly at 10:25 AM on January 22, 2011

Best answer: I just saw last week someplace sells spice racks that are actually lab test tubes, stoppered and all that, in a rack. Personally wouldn't be great for me--I prefer a wide mouth so my measuring spoons can dip in--but cute and potentially space-saving if you favor height to width I suppose.
posted by ifjuly at 10:27 AM on January 22, 2011

Carving jack-o-lanterns with a knife? No way, that's too slow and dangerous. I draw the design with a Sharpie (erasing with a little hairspray squirted on a paper towel if necessary) and cut out it with a jigsaw.
posted by Daddy-O at 9:45 PM on January 22, 2011

I keep a stack of neodymium magnets around. Great for clipping bags closed, holding a recipe to the radiator pipe that runs next to my stove, etc.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:47 AM on January 23, 2011

I just saw last week someplace sells spice racks that are actually lab test tubes, stoppered and all that, in a rack

Bah. What you want are 50 ml centrifuge tubes and a test tube rack for spices. Airtight screw caps are better than stoppers. I trust lab plasticware much more than dollar store tupperware.
posted by benzenedream at 5:30 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I find garden shears way handier at cutting open lobster shells than your traditional kitchen shears specially sold for the purpose.
posted by jng at 8:21 PM on January 23, 2011

Matches. To prevent tears when cutting onions I hold two of three in my mouth with the match Heads pointing out. Works a treat.
posted by boogiefunk at 6:43 AM on January 24, 2011

I wear a lab coat instead of an apron. It's got great pockets and it covers clothes a lot better.
posted by eritain at 8:53 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

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