I have a small kitchen. That is, there’s enough room to turn around, but my rear end tends to bump the refrigerator every time I bend down to check the oven. It’s close quarters, but it gets the job done, and in a way, it’s been a bit of an inspiration.
In our old home, I accumulated a fair amount of kitchen hardware. No, I take that back. I had a TON of kitchen hardware. It seemed like there was a gadget for everything from specifically preserving bananas to grating cheese versus grating apples. I had a chopper for any occasion and a mold for every season. It might have been well-stocked, but it was a cluttered nightmare.
Thankfully, the small kitchen reminded me why I started gathering these little gadgets in the first place: I love to cook. And, when presented with newly restricted quarters, I was forced to figure out what I really needed and what I didn’t.
As I picked through the piles of tools, my parameters for whether or not to keep an item were:
- Does it do more than one thing?
- Is it replicating any of the other tools’ multi-functions?
- Do I really need the other functions that this tool is capable of?
I still have a few “fun” kitchen tools that I use when I’m feeling particularly creative, but there are a number that I can’t cook or bake without.
Wire Mesh Strainer: This little guy comes in handy for a number of kitchen needs. From straining mashed apples into fine applesauce to sifting flour to working as a small-batch colander for kid-sized servings of boiled veggies, a good strainer can replace quite a few one-use wonders. (photo credit)
Zester Grater: I only have one of these and I use it for just about all of my grating needs. From shredding cheese to grating fresh nutmeg to zesting a lemon, this sturdy grater handles just about everything I throw at it and it’s still as sharp as the day I bought it almost seven years ago. (photo credit)
Pizza Cutter: I got this tip from chef Alton Brown a few years back, and it’s proved to be incredibly handy. If something needs to be cut, I think pizza cutter first. From cookies to sweet bars to pasta or flat breads such as pita and focaccia, the rolling blade makes it easy to maneuver, safer to use and simple to wash. (photo credit)
Kitchen Aid Mixer: This mixer is probably the most-used tool in my culinary arsenal. From beating egg whites to kneading bread or creaming butter and sugar until nice and fluffy, I can pop my ingredients in the mixer and let it run while I put the rest of the recipe together. And depending on how often you’ll use them, there are several attachments you can get that replace bulkier kitchen tools such as the Grater, Juicer, Pasta Maker, Ice Cream Maker, Grain Mill, Meat Grinder, Fruit and Vegetable Strainer/Grinder, Sausage Stuffer and Ravioli Maker. (photo credit)
Cuisinart: I thought long and hard about this one, but in the end the Cuisinart saves so much time and effort that it was worth the extra space it took up. And I’ve found that I use it quite frequently. From chopping pecans to making cashew butter to turning tomatoes into every culinary use imaginable, I can whip this little gadget out and have it do all the prep work without dirtying up a cutting board, knife and extra bowl(s), saving me time and the inevitable chopping wrist cramps. (photo credit)
Immersion Blender: As much as the Cuisinart is useful for chopping and grinding, liquid is one thing it has a hard time with. But, instead of keeping a giant blender around, I decided to go with the compact immersion blender. About the size of a large spatula, this tool works exactly how its name suggests: By immersing it in the liquid you want to blend. I love this for soups and sauces as I don’t have to take anything out of the pot, I just leave it on the stove and puree away. I can even use it on smoothies by using a stainless steel milkshake cup to hold the frozen fruit and yogurt. (photo credit)
Ice Cream Scoop: This one does a lot of its originally intended function around our house, but it also comes in handy for a number of other cooking projects such as making meatballs, cleaning out pumpkins and other squashes, scooping side dishes and measuring out muffin or pancake batter. In fact, a regular ice cream scoop holds approximately one-quarter cup, so you can use it for general measuring, too. (photo credit)
There are a few other items that serve several purposes around our kitchen, but every day I’m finding new ways to eliminate one and tack on another use to an existing, hardworking utensil. And the more creative I get, the more room I free up for practicing the trial and error of amateur culinary art.
What are some kitchen tools you’ve used for more than one purpose?
This is a guest post written by Kristin Hackler. Kristin is a mom, journalist and children’s book author. She is a regular contributor to eBay.com on home and family related topics.