People are very resourceful, and the kitchen is one of the places where the most clever among us can shine. Kitchen equipment can be more expensive – and less durable – than similar tools designed for elsewhere, so it’s especially satisfying when you come up with a smart, practical way to use something you already have, or at least something that won’t cost you as much.
Here are eight of our favorite uses for non-culinary items:
Binder clips. They’re cheaper and sturdier than your standard chip clip. Keep a stash handy to use on snack bags and bags of flour. If you have a cookbook that won’t stay open, try clipping the pages together to the cover of the book.Ruler. It’s handy for measuring all kinds of food, whether it’s a rope of bagel dough or the size of an unmarked baking pan. If you need a straight edge for cutting dough, such as for a lattice pie crust or crackers, the ruler can help.Painter’s tape. It doesn’t stick to your walls, which makes it perfect for using in your kitchen, too. Write with permanent marker on strips of tape to label containers with what you have stored inside (name AND date, please!). The tape easily peels off when you’re done but is also surprisingly durable. I’ve put labels through the dishwasher and had them come out still attached and legible. If you happen to be the old-fashioned type who still prints recipes – or uses cutouts from the newspaper(!) – hang them on a wall or cabinet with the tape for easy access while cooking.Wire desk organizer. No need to seek out a storage rack specifically designated for baking sheets. Grab a wire rack designed for file folders instead, which will likely save you both cash and the time needed to track down the specialty equipment. This office staple is also handy for organizing pot lids, as well as muffin tins and cooling racks.Self-adjusting pliers. I credit my husband’s late grandfather – a journalist turned lobbyist/Capitol Hill aide turned farmer – for this one, which is using self-adjusting pliers as a nutcracker. It would never have occurred to me, until I visited the family farm in Alabama and we started cracking our way through a bowl of fresh, local pecans in the shell. Keep your ornamental Christmas nutcracker pristine for holiday display!Handheld torch. What you can find at the hardware store is going to be more powerful (it might take some getting used to for the fire-averse), durable and cheaper than those marketed for culinary purposes. Use it for creme brulee, browning meringue or just giving a hint of char when you don’t have access to an outdoor grill.Hammer. Need to crush nuts or break up hard caramel? Good old hammer to the rescue. I’ve used mine to pulverize peppermint candies for these marshmallows.Dental or medical tweezers. These are really handy if you’re into decorating cakes or cookies. Need to move that one sprinkle - on a Rainbow Sprinkle Birthday Cake, perhaps – to the perfect position? A pair of small curved dental tweezers can do the trick. I also like the suggestions from Sohla El-Waylly over at Serious Eats, who recommends tweezers (straight edge are better here) for fishing eggshell out of a bowl or food out of a jar. Larger sets can even be used for turning meat in a pan.