Recently, I was in my kitchen emptying the dishwasher, and I came upon a utensil I had never used before. After inspecting it for a few moments, I turned to my wife and said, “I have no idea what this is, do you?” She looked at me, looked at the implement, then looked back at me and said, “I don’t know.” I thought, “I wonder if others are in the same boat with some of their kitchen utensils.” Inspired, I decided to write an article devoted to identifying odd kitchen tools, and what they’re used for.
The instrument that started this whole thing was a muddler. If you happen to make a lot of cocktails
, you might have known this. If not, we may have been just as clueless as I was.
Anyway, muddlers are used for, well, muddling—the process by which you mash, smash, and mix different ingredients (think the cherry, orange, and sugar in an old fashioned
). Cocktails, guacamoles, and pastes all would make use of a muddler.
Here’s something that comes with a lot of kitchen utensil sets. It’s a hand masher. I know, I know, aren’t there machines for mashing? Yes, there are. But, a hand masher works great if you want a little more texture in your mashed potatoes
Another kitchen set favorite is this hammer-looking thing. If you ever wondered why this mallet was included in a set of spoons and spatulas, I’ll tell you. It’s for tenderizing meat. Sometimes, when you have a tougher cut of steak you want to make more tender before cooking, you’d use one of these to pound it. It’s also wonderful for chicken breasts. Why? Because chicken
breasts are oddly shaped, so cooking them might produce a piece of meat that is overcooked and dry on one end, or undercooked on the other end. If you use this tenderizer to even out the meat, cooking times decrease, and you end up getting a more evenly cooked breast. It’s also wonderful for dishes like schnitzel, chicken parmesan, and veal marsala.
Next up! Do you have a kitchen knife set? Ever wondered what that long, non-knife piece is? It’s a honing steel. And while you might have known this, many people don’t realize what these are really for. Contrary to popular belief, they do not sharpen your knife. They simply hone it—straighten and smooth the blade—between sharpenings. To ensure proper safety and efficiency between sharpenings (a separate process), make sure to hone your non-serrated knives before each use.
Ever wonder why some peelers are serrated? Let’s say you have a fruit or veggie with a slick, shiny, but tough skin—think nectarines, or tomatoes
. The standard, smooth peeler you might use for peeling carrots or potatoes might be ineffective on these smoother-skinned items. That’s where a serrated peeler works wonderfully.
This is an avocado
slicer. I don’t know what your experience is, but every time I try to cut up an avocado, I end up making a real mess of things. Avocado slicers help split it, get that pesky pit out, and extract the good stuff with no problem. I might have to pick up one of these.
Grease Splatter Screen
These aren’t strainers. They’re not fly swatters either. They’re grease shields, or splatter guards. Whenever I’m cooking something in a pan, there’s always splatter—which sometimes hurts, and always leaves a mess. Place these atop that pan of bacon or those sautéed veggies and keep yourself and your counters a little more splatterless! I definitely need one (or three) of these.
This isn’t some odd ice cream scoop, it’s a citrus squeezer. I don’t have a juicer, and even if I did, I don’t always need a large yield. Sometimes I only want the juice of one half lemon, orange, or lime. In that case, I’d use a citrus squeezer. Just open it up, place up to half a piece of fruit in, close, and squeeze. This actually works great for iced tea, or for making water with fresh lemon juice (which I’m told is quite invigorating).
Alright, how about this one? Give up? It’s an egg
separator. For those occasions when you want to separate the egg yolk from the egg white, try one of these. It catches the yolk while letting the egg white strain into a bowl (which you hopefully placed underneath!).
This isn’t a two-bladed pizza cutter. It’s a salad chopper. Once you place your desired salad ingredients into a bowl, you roll this utensil through to more finely chop it all. The double-wheel blades provide balance, stability, and two-times the chopping power!
After looking into these items a bit closer, I think I need to add a thing or two to my stock and start using a few things I’ve had sitting around (I’m looking at you, muddler). Maybe I’ve helped you uncover a kitchen utensil mystery. Maybe I’ve even introduced you to a product you could really use. Either way, sometimes you’re only a tool away from lower frustration, easier preparation, and more sumptuous cooking.