For those of us who love to cook, a trip to a pretentious kitchen store like Williams-Sonoma can be a fun way to spend an afternoon — and an expensive one. There’s something indulgent about silly little cooking gadgets like strawberry hullers or asparagus steamers. But at the end of the day, if you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you realize that these things for the most part are just a waste of money and kitchen space. More often than not, these gimmicky gadgets are cheaply made or serve one very obscure purpose, and then we can’t find the damned thing when it comes time to actually use it. This shouldn’t be how we cook. It’s frustrating, cluttered, and expensive.
Once we allow ourselves to let go of the idea that we have to have the newest quirky gizmo, we can embrace the usefulness of high-quality, multi-functional tools that will last for years in our kitchens.
Kitchen tools and equipment needn’t be purchased from a high-end retailer or snooty culinary website. For most kitchen tasks, you can (and should) purchase your kitchen tools at hardware stores. It turns out, Home Depot tools have some brilliant culinary uses, so let’s take a look at some of our favorites.
My favorite way of busting open large melons involves using this handy tool. Paired with your trusty chef’s knife, this will keep your fingers safe in what can be a slippery situation. To split open your favorite large or stubborn ingredients (pumpkins, watermelons, coconuts, etc.), simply place the blade of your knife where you’d like the cut and firmly whack the back of the blade with this rubbery tool. Your fruit or vegetable will open with ease, and your knife won’t be harmed. Better yet, neither will your fingers.
A blowtorch in the kitchen does so much more than just crème brûlée — though, admittedly, we do love it for this purpose, as ’90s Miami steakhouse as the dessert is. A blowtorch is wonderful for giving a toast or a char to just about anything from marshmallows to meringue, from peppers to fish. Just like many of the other items on this list, a hardware store version of this tool will get you a lot further than a dinky kitchen version.
Ah, the signature orange Home Depot bucket. This trusty pail is how I brine my Thanksgiving turkey every single year (don’t worry, that’s its only purpose). No need for fancy brining bags or expensive, bulky coolers. This bucket gets the job done perfectly and will fit into most refrigerators with a few shelf adjustments.
You may see a woodworking tool, but I see a microplane that’s in it for the long haul. Zest citrus, grate fresh nutmeg, or shave some chocolate or coconut flakes onto your dessert to give it a special touch. This little tool is meant to shave wood and is therefore sturdier and longer-lasting than a flimsy kitchen version.
Cracking open nuts with one of these will take any and all daintiness out of the process. Joint pliers will crack open a nut with ease and look pretty cool next to the cold one you’ve got resting on the tool chest.
And while these pliers may not fit the lobster or crab dinner aesthetic you’re probably going for, they’re great for cracking open those pesky shells. Maybe just do that part behind the scenes and not at the dinner table.
There are special tweezers made for the sole purpose of deboning fish. They’re lovely. They’re also needless. A pair of long-nose pliers will get the job done just fine. These are also great for fitting into those annoyingly slender jars when you just can’t get to that last pimento-stuffed olive.
When I was just starting to enjoy cooking, someone in my family stuffed my stocking one Christmas with some rather extravagantly pink, horribly bejeweled “onion goggles.” They were absurd. But you know what? They worked. Onions contain tear-inducing enzymes that are released when the onion is cut, and all that crying can be a real pain when all you’re trying to do is make yourself some lunch.
Throw on a pair of these bad boys to stop the fumes from getting into those baby blues. They’ll work just as well as the sparkly pink version, no emasculation required.
Wood is the start of any great project, sure, but have you ever considered making your own cutting board? Or making several and giving them as housewarming or wedding gifts? If you have a few basic woodworking and crafting skills, they can be super easy to make. Plus, the warm, personalized touch they give to a kitchen will make for a very thoughtful gift that will certainly be cherished.
Wooden dowels have many uses in the kitchen, and their varying sizes make for a long list of possibilities. If you’re into baking, the thinner versions make great cake dowels to hold your cake layers together. The thicker dowels can create the most heavy-duty, most affordable rolling pins you’ve ever had. Use them for rolling out doughs, breaking up nuts, and chasing off bad guys.
You say bathroom tile, I say beautiful cheese boards. For a tiny fraction of what you’d pay for the exact same thing labeled “cheese board,” you can simply use a piece of tile, and no one will be the wiser. And yes, you can usually buy single tiles. If you’re looking for a smaller piece, you may even be able to get one free if you ask nicely. People like to take these home to see how the tile will match their décor, so the more generous employees will sometimes allow you to take one or two free of charge.
From trussing poultry to holding herb bundles together, cooking twine is a must in every kitchen. While you can most certainly purchase this item at fancy kitchen retailers, you’ll end up paying about twice as much per yard. Best to buy in bulk here.
There aren’t a lot of ways you can’t use a good pair of trusty shears in the kitchen. Use them for everything from chopping herbs to breaking down poultry to opening food packages. Just like so many of the other items on our list, it’s best to go with the hardware store version rather than the kitchen version. Of course you can buy shears that are made specifically for the kitchen, but they’re likely to be much less burly than something like this. If they’re more of a heavy-duty model, you can expect to pay top dollar. In this case, just go with the toolbox version.
Let’s be honest — we’re not always the most flawless chefs in the kitchen. Sometimes things burn. It happens. But cleaning that burnt-on goo from sheet pans isn’t all that bad when you use one of these guys to do the hard work for you. Simply soap, soak, and scrape your baked-on troubles away.
Joint knives are also the perfect tool for making one of today’s trendier treats: Rolled ice cream. If you’d like to try this at home, simply spread your ice cream on an anti-griddle and use this trusty tool to shape your chilly rolls.
One of my favorite uses for an infrared thermometer in the kitchen is not to check food temperature itself (though that’s great, too!) but to check cooking surfaces. I have a pretty old-school grill that doesn’t have a built-in thermometer, so this little gadget helps me get the temperature right every time. It’s also perfect for checking the temperature of oil for frying. No need for messy, bulky ones that sit in the pot and get in the way.
The manliest oven mitts on the market, welding gloves can withstand temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. So whether you’re getting something off the hot grill, out of the oven, or you know, the surface of the sun, you should be good. While they don’t offer a lot of finesse with your hand movements, they’re great for grabbing a hot skillet from the coals — then goin’ out back and branding cattle or something.
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