Faced with pounds of tart, garnet red Montmorency cherries to pit? Or bushels of sweetly tender golden Mirai corncobs to strip? Perhaps fragrant baskets full of Persian limes, Meyer lemons, or blood oranges to juice?
While versatility is prized in the kitchen, some tools do only one thing so well that they’re indispensable. They’re the ones you wish for when performing monumental prep tasks thinking, “There’s got to be a better way.”
An easy way to pit cherries without a pitter is to just squeeze out the stone through the stem end, but you crush the fruit and lose the juice. As for citrus, you can, of course, juice the fruit by hand, but it’s ineffective and uncomfortable. A knife slices kernels off cobs, but it can get dangerously wobbly—not to mention it sends golden bits bouncing off cutting boards and countertops onto the floor.
Here are some great single-minded gadgets.
The cherry pitter from OXO features a removable plastic cylindrical splatter shield.
Simply load a cherry under the slender silver pitting pin, then squeeze together the handles. The pit pops out through the splatter shield, while the juice is contained, preventing errant squirts and staining.
The handles lock together for storage, but you can open the pitter in the dishwasher or wash it by hand. The body is made of durable die-cast zinc, with soft, grippy handles.
Though purists claim recipes like clafoutis need the pits to impart a subtle almond perfume, those pits are not welcome in your morning preserves. This pitter will easily process pounds of cherries.
As much as I love eating corn directly off a generously buttered and salted cob, corn off the cob can be a fine ingredient in other dishes, like salad or salsa, or as an accompaniment to foie gras.
OXO’s new Corn Stripper looks like a big computer mouse from back in the day. It’s translucent plastic with two black rubbery grips on the sides. A small, toothy stainless steel blade on the underside shears kernels cleanly, securely biting into the rounded sides when you run it down the cob. The sliced kernels empty directly into the hollow stripper itself. The hopper holds a half cup of kernels, roughly one cob’s worth.
The stripper comes apart for cleaning and is dishwasher safe.
There is no better tool for making a party-size pitcher of margaritas than one of these aluminum squeezers. They’re better than an electric juicer or a manual reamer, because you don’t run the risk of getting a bunch of pith and pulp in the end product. And they’re better than those other manual squeezers that you have to twist the fruit back and forth on top of, because this kind is much easier to use. The long handles give you leverage and strength to press out every last drop.
Amco makes three of these classic enameled aluminum squeezers. The smallest one, designed for limes, is available in light or dark green; a slightly larger model for lemons comes in yellow; and the largest for oranges comes in, you guessed it, orange. Or you can just buy the orange one and use it for limes and lemons, too.
Here’s how they work: You slice your fruit in half, place the cut side down in the rounded bottom cup, then squeeze the handles together to press out the juice. The top cup presses down into the fruit, flipping the rind inside out. The bottom cup is slotted, so the juice flows out but the seeds and pulp remain.
The squeezers are dishwasher safe, but it’s best to at least rinse them out right after you’re done juicing, if not wash them immediately by hand.