Retailers will have you believe that you can never have too many kitchen gadgets, but real chefs know that you really only need a few basic tools to get the job done. Before you go out and buy a kitchen full of specialized tools, take another look at the items you already have—they may have more uses than expected. Here are five of my favorite multi-tasking kitchen tools that are worth their weight in gold.
- Cheese Grater – This tool should really be renamed the “all-purpose grater” because its use goes far beyond cheddar. Large-holed cheese graters are great for finely shredding vegetables for stir fries, salads, or hash browns, and they make a quick job of making biscuits and pie crusts by quickly shredding frozen butter. Small graters, like microplanes and zesters, are equally as useful. Go beyond citrus zest and use microplanes to grate cloves of garlic or spices, like whole nutmeg or cinnamon.
- Ice Cube Trays – Keep extra ice cube trays available for freezing small portions of leftover sauces and liquids, like tomato paste, buttermilk, or premixed smoothies. Have a bounty of fresh herbs from your garden? Preserve their freshness by stuffing the fresh herbs into an ice cube tray, covering with olive oil, and freezing for later use. Once your small portions are frozen solid, transfer them to a heavy duty freezer bag for long term storage.
- Mason Jars – All hail the mighty mason jar! Thanks to Pinterest, we all know how great mason jars are for crafting, but their use in the kitchen goes far beyond storage. Mason jar rings can be used as biscuit and cookie cutters, or as a mold when frying or poaching eggs. With a brisk shake, the jars make a quick job of making fresh salad dressing, and with a longer shake you can even make your own butter. And of course, mason jars double as a casual drinking glass. Cold iced tea never tastes better than when served in an old mason jar.
- Cast Iron Skillet – When is a skillet more than a skillet? When it’s made of cast iron! The super conductivity and durability of cast iron makes this skillet oven-proof, which means it’s just as great for baking as it is for sautéing. Bake corn bread, cake, pizza, and more right in your cast iron skillet. The naturally heavy weight of cast iron also makes it great for smashing cloves of garlic or even flattening dough for tortillas or cookies.
- Cooling Rack – Cooling racks are as useful for baking as they are for cooling. Placing a cooling rack over a conventional baking sheet allows air flow under your baked goods and prevents soggy bottoms, especially on breaded items. Using a cooling rack to lift meat off the pan as it roasts keeps it out of the juices and prevents stewing. Cooling racks are also excellent when coating cookies and candies with chocolate or icing. The excess icing falls below, preventing pooling around the edges.
What are your favorite multi-purpose kitchen tools?
For the past five years, Beth has been dishing out healthy, inexpensive recipes and teaching Budget Bytes and the corresponding cookbook, Budget Bytes – Over 100 Easy Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half. She loves getting creative in the kitchen and hopes to show others just how fun and rewarding cooking can be.basics through her popular blog,