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.

Steel Muddler

Amazon

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.

Potato Masher

Amazon

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.

Meat Tenderizer

Amazon

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.

Honing Steel

Amazon

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.

Serrated Peeler

Amazon

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.

Avocado Slicer

Amazon

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

Amazon

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.

Citrus Squeezer

Amazon

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).

Egg Separator

Amazon

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!).

Salad Chopper

Amazon

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.

Greg is a Chicago guy who likes to cook, dine, and help others navigate their food choices. Why? Because food is an integral part of our lives, he's the best version of himself when he's well fed, and he wants to help others more consistently make a routine activity into something special. When he's not writing, he's watching sports, searching out ways to laugh, offering unsolicited-yet-rational positions on social media, handling the domestic responsibilities of a husband and dad, and figuring out his next meal.
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