To complement the threads on implements you wish you had, and useless ones you wish you’d never gotten, here’s one for a little bragging about what you’ve improvised to perform a task for which you lack the special equipment.
SPAETZLE MAKING: I don’t do this often, and am short on storage space. I’d read that you could make holes in an aluminum foil pie plate but when I tried that, the steam coming up from the pot of boiling water made the foil too hot to hold, and it set the batter before there was time for it to drip through the holes. I happened to have a styrofoam tray which was thick and long (about the proportions of this posting window), having held the family pack of chicken thighs I’d just bought. I made holes on one side of it, poured the batter onto the other side, then squeegeed it over the holes with a bench scraper. Worked perfectly. After washing it, it lives behind my microwave between uses.
Oldie but a goodie…the hillbilly sandwich press:
I use a sad iron, if you know what that is…
Perfect size for a small sandwich or a good-sized steak. Bacon, too.
It’s not much of a stretch to use my real plumber’s torch instead of a more wimpy brulee torch to finish things off with a nice surface browning. And to make thin meat medallions, I use my framing hammer or baby (2#) hand sledge instead of a proper wooden meat tenderizer mallet. I have used plenty of construction tools in cooking, including hand saws, utility knives, and I’m sure I’ve cordless drilled a few things too. Not to mention surgical hemostats, needle holders and scissors.
+1 for the cordless drill.
Sometimes you have to look at things a little differently to see its potential. I do a lot of cake decorating and the hardware store (or my garage) has tools that are as effective as anything dedicated specifically for cake. Things like fine tooth hacksaw (leveler), flat edge trowel (icing smoother) dry wall circle cutter for marking fondant and cake boards to be cut to size, foam board, modeling tools, etc.
My favorite repurposed item is a strap wrench for a jar opener.
OOh! I hadn’t thought of that one. Love it! I don’t change my own oil anymore but I think I still have a strap wrench somewhere. I will dig it up.
That’s exactly what I use. It was my maternal grandmother’s. I have two of them and they are Heavyyyyy. I wrap mine in AL foil before using it as a weight. In their off time they make pretty good book (cookbook) ends.
My kitchen MacGyvering is nowhere near as creative as yours, but when I make chicken under a brick, I flatten it with freeweights placed inside a frying pan; my double boiler is a metal bowl resting on an empty tuna can inside a larger pot; and I use a Microplane grater, which as everyone probably recalls, was originally a woodworking tool (but I take no credit for that bit of ingenuity).
Looks pretty happy to me.
Well, it’s hardly “MacGyverware”, but after spending a lot of time end effort trying to find a nice ceramic or glass cooking spoon stand, I finally discovered that a heavy Pyrex measuring cup works perfectly – and you can measure stuff with it too!
When LC came out with the s/s knobs, I replaced the two black ones I had. Stuck them in a drawer. Fast forward a few years: using range top grill for burgers and I got tired of making a foil helmet to melt the cheese on mine. (Husband didn’t like cheeseburgers.) Grabbed a small s/s mixing bowl, asked husband to drill hole at top and stuck one of those black knobs on it. Now I see a couple catalogs selling the cheese melters. My MacGuyver version’s cost = zip.
Since this thread was revived, I should report on finally using MollyJames’ tip. I had to replace a kitchen oven light bulb and the frosted glass cover was stuck and there was no easy way to really grip it enough to unscrew it. Then I thought about how that looked a bit like a jar cover…dug out the old oil filter strap wrench and voila! Easy peasy.
I had the same problem. The ceramic ones are all so big! While cleaning out my pantry I realized my empty Cafe du Monde coffee can was just the right size. The added bonus is that since it’s thin metal I’m able to put my U shaped Bread Bag clips and Pot Clip Spoon Rest around the top.
I use my potato ricer to make spaetzle. Works good!
To get the grated potatoes as dry as possible for latkes, I dump them into a muslin drawstring bag that came with my china cap*. Then I twist the top of the bag around a wooden spoon to force out the liquid. It’s a little labor intensive, but it doesn’t require as much upper body strength as wringing the potatoes out in a towel. (I tried the potato ricer for this task as well. Fail.)
*I have no idea why. It’s supposed to be for straining jelly. I have made jelly approximately zero times.
What is the most unusual tool that you’ve found to be useful in the kitchen?
I guess mine would be my DataVac. It’s a powerful blower that folks use to clean out computers, keyboards, digital cameras, etc. instead of using canned air.
The DataVac is great for drying those intricate things that are impossible to dry with a towel. I just used it to blow dry the fiendishly complicated top of my Contigo travel mug. Worked great!
PS. Also just a quick plug for the Contigo. Despite the complicated top, it works great. Keeps coffee nice and hot. Just push the button and drink. No plastic caps or little cups to fumble with and drop on the floor or your lap. It has NEVER leaked even a drop in my shoulder bag.
Popcorn maker to roast coffee beans.