After stumbling across an interesting article by Hanne Blank—(apparent) hobbyist chef and widely known activist on the issues of weight, bisexuality, and sexuality—I've become even more fascinated by kitchen shortcuts. Former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold's recently released Modernist Cuisine also spurred a similar interest, particularly after reading a WSJ piece in which Myhrvold attests —by law of science, of course— that a ¼-inch-thick sheet of steel is more than adequate in place of an expensive pizza brick oven.
Because: "Pizza in a brick oven cooks at about 800 degrees—way hotter than the highest setting of most home ovens. The metal sheet is more conductive than a brick oven's stone, so it can cook just as fast at a lower temperature."
Akin to Myhrvold's suggestion, Hanne similarly proposes: Why buy fancy kitchen gadgets, when cheap items work just as well? Below, four of Hanne's replacements for common yuppie gadgetry, most of which you can likely find in your junk drawer.
Cheaper than a pitter, and perhaps sitting in the bottom of one of your drawers right now, Hanne recommends hairpins. They work well as cherry pitters (especially if you're doing a whole pie's worth), and are also great tools for pitting olives and hulling strawberries.
If you've had children, you just might have an old baby food spoon lying around. If not, pick one up. Apparently they make a handy little gourmet tool: "You will use these to hull strawberries, put stuffings into mushroom caps and deviled eggs, to scoop the innards out of cherry tomatoes (so you can stuff them later, natch), to portion perfect little blobs of garnishes onto things, and so on."
Incredibly cheap, and always sold in bulk, it's about time I found another use for skewers other than just plain skewer-ing. Hanne recommends thinking of skewers as "heavy-duty toothpicks that give you a little extra reach so you don't singe your fingers": You can test a cake, or skewer shut stuffed meat or fish, etc.
Who doesn't have a pair of pliers sitting around? If you're ambitious (and rugged) enough of a cook, you may find yourself boning fish and plucking feathers, in which case pliers are a great tool for the job. Hanne adds: "Cracking small things open, like cardamom pods, is also easy with a pair of good pliers."
Thanks to Hanne for the resourceful tips—if anybody else has anything to add, please, by all means, comment below.
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