I have a pretty small kitchen with a limited amount of room (ask my basement how it feels about being the overflow storage space). So whenever I feel the inclination to add “just one more thing” to my cooking supplies, I have to ask myself, “Will I use it? Will it earn its real estate?”
The bar is set particularly high for items that, at least in theory, are single-purpose – or are billed that way, anyway. Because home cooks are often a resourceful bunch, there are usually plenty of clever strategies for making use of these types of tools or equipment. Here are a few ideas:
– Salad spinner. Only during the pandemic did I finally cave to add this tool to my kitchen. I was getting so many bags of salad with my weekly farm box that I felt this was an investment worth making.
Thankfully, it’s also handy for cleaning berries, which my family devours by the quart. The insert can serve as a plain old colander, as well.
– French press. Again, this is a recent acquisition prompted by at-home pandemic life – cold-brew coffee with a toddler in the house 24/7 is extremely helpful. But don’t discount it for making tea. My French press holds a generous amount of water perfect for brewing tea for several people.
– Coffee grinder. Some brands already advertise this, but you can grind your own spices in a coffee grinder. Although in this case, you may actually want separate pieces of equipment for each purpose so your coffee doesn’t taste like cumin.
– Potato ricer. Washington Post Food editor Joe Yonan has long endorsed a potato ricer for the best mashed potatoes. He says it’s just as handy for squeezing extra water out of greens and, of course, mashing other vegetables.
– Melon baller. Our colleague Laura Reiley, who covers the business of food for The Washington Post, recommends a melon baller for scraping out the strings and seeds of winter squash. Food assignment editor Olga Massov uses it to core apples.
– Strawberry huller. Here’s another one from Laura, who blew our minds with this: “A strawberry huller is the best dang fish bone remover there is.”
– Cookie/ice cream scoop. Don’t pay too much attention to what these are billed as. The tools that are often called dishers can handle a bowl of ice cream just as well as a batch of cookie dough.
– Ravioli mold. Olga has used this pasta tool as an ice tray. And in the Food Lab on more than one occasion, we’ve used a Bundt pan to make a large, attractive ice block for a punch bowl.
– Rolling pin. Not just for rolling! Food staff writer Emily Heil uses hers to pound meat (my alternative tool of choice for that is a small cast-iron skillet).