As a cookbook author and recipe developer, there’s nothing I love more than a fully stocked kitchen. But while I like my cooking “toys,” I don’t have many single-use tools. Part of it is to avoid clutter, but mostly it’s because these gadgets don’t do a better job than kitchen tools I already have.
Before you’re tempted to buy another one-hit wonder, here’s a quick list of kitchen utensils you can ditch — and a few you never knew you needed.
Kitchen Tools You Don’t Need
Garlic Skin Remover
If there’s a task I dislike more than picking the sticky, papery skin off garlic cloves, it’s cleaning the inside of a silicone tube designed solely for that purpose. Instead, just use the flat side of a knife to smash each clove (yeah, stress release!). The skins will break apart and should come right off — with one less “tool” you have to wash.
Picking the tiny leaves off a stem of thyme or rosemary is another tedious task, so someone decided we needed some help and invented a plastic card with a hole in it. You place the stem of the herb in the hole, pull down and — voilà — the leaves are stripped from the stem.
Cool idea, but guess what? Your hands work just as well: Hold the herb stem upside down. Place your thumb and index finger just above the leaves, then pull firmly downward. This should strip the leaves cleanly from the stem — no fuss, no muss.
Ripe avocados have delicate flesh, and they’re not cheap, so you want to make sure that you get every little bit of edible deliciousness, right? Enter the avocado scoop, which carefully slips under the skin so you don’t waste a bit of that delicious avocado. It does work, but I hate to break it to you, but you can get the exact same result with… a spoon. (*mic drop).
These decorative silicone lids prevent pots from boiling over, thanks to the cutouts in the middle that break up the surface tension of the water. But guess what else works? A wooden spoon or spatula.
Set the spoon at an angle across the edge of the pot. As the water boils, the spoon will break the surface tension, keeping your pot from making a mess of the stove when you’re not looking.
How many times have you wasted perfectly good parts of a strawberry trying to remove the leaves and core? Enter the strawberry huller, a short, squat pair of plastic tweezers that does the job for you.
Or you could just use a paring knife: Simply pluck off the leaves, and use the tip of the knife — which is designed for fine work such as this — to remove the hull.
There are plenty of fancy dishes that require you to separate egg yolks and whites. However, you don’t need any fancy tools to do so. This is another task for your hands. Simply crack each egg into your hand, with a bowl at the ready. Let the whites run between your fingers into the bowl, and carefully transfer the yolk to another bowl.
But if you’ve got kids at home (or you just like doing cool tricks), you can use the plastic bottle method:
Kitchen Tools You Do Need
One Good Knife
You need a good knife to cut just about everything you cook, but you really don’t need to spend a lot of money on one. To find the right one, hold it in your hand before you buy to make sure it fits your hand comfortably. A chef’s knife should be slightly heavy, which will give you more control. Look for one that’s eight inches or so — anything longer will be unwieldy. You’ll likely own this knife for years, so you want to feel comfortable with it.
Once you have a good knife, a bench/bowl scraper can keep it nice and sharp. (Dull knives are dangerous.) It’s basically a plastic rectangle with one tapered and one curved edge. Use it to move things around your cutting board instead of your knife — all that scraping across a wood or plastic surface will eventually dull the blade.
And like all good kitchen tools, you can use for many other tasks: Use it to clean out the last bits of food from bowls and pots, and you can even “chop” softer foods that tend to stick to your knife, like roasted eggplant or cooked sweet potatoes.
A Y peeler is a vegetable peeler with a blade that’s perpendicular to the handle instead of in line with it. You can zip up and down veggies, making quick work of food prep. The small size of the peeler means you have more control when peeling unwieldy or smaller items. It can also stand in for a spiralizer, turning vegetables into pasta-like ribbons for lower carb “pasta” dishes.
A good pair of spring-loaded tongs — I prefer the nine-inch version — is like an extension of your hand. You can use them to turn food with greater control, toss (and serve) salad, stir pasta and grab hot pans from the oven. You want your tongs to have a bit of weight and a comfortable grip; cheaper ones feel too light in your hands and sometimes have too strong of a spring to be useful.