Tips & Techniques

Why a Hammer & Screwdriver Belong in Your Kitchen

March  8, 2016

This morning, we noticed cookbook author and cookie aficionado Dorie Greenspan using a peculiar yet sensible instrument to crush graham crackers for cheesecake.

When we asked her about how the hammer made its way from the toolshed to her kitchen, Dorie said:

My husband bought it for me, but I can't remember why. [...] I used to crush crackers in the food processor or with a rolling pin, but one day I grabbed the hammer and have used it ever since—more fun.

Not a single-use item, the hammer can also be used, along with a screwdriver, to break up massive blocks of chocolate (perhaps a problem unique to authors of baking books?):

For really large blocks, I pack the chocolate in a heavy garbage bag and drop it a few times on the pavement. I use the driveway and try to do it when my neighbors can't see me—they'd think I'm nuts. The pavement drops gets the block down to manageable—with screwdriver and hammer—chunks.

Dorie also uses the hammer for savory applications: smashed potatoes. "Oh, and [it's] also good for cracking lobster claws," she said.

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What other less-than-usual tools does Dorie keep in the kitchen? "I keep a small pair of pliers in that same drawer for pulling out fish bones."

Weird items have also found their way into the Food52 team's kitchens, too, where they earn their place when we realize they do the job better than more traditional tools (or not!):

  • Zoe Paknad, like Dorie, turns to a hammer, which she uses to crush nuts for filling baklava...
  • and Francesca Andreani has used a screwdriver to shuck oysters (not ideal, she says).
  • Kenzi Wilbur's antique ice pick works just as well as a cake tester.
  • And, in the best example yet, Hannah Wilken has watched her boyfriend use an iron, rather than a grill pan, to make super-thin grilled cheese sandwiches.

Hannah also uses a salad spinner to wash her sweaters, one at a time, which sparks a whole other question: Which kitchen tools do you use for other tasks throughout your house?

Do you use kitchen tools that are not intended as kitchen tools? Or household tools that originated as kitchen tools? Tell us in the comments!

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  • LeBec Fin
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I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


LeBec F. March 9, 2016
my favorite unusual tool in the kitchen is an old credit card/bank card/ etc. which I use as a small bench-scraper! The one problem is that they often hide themselves, but when they are in sight, i just grab them, scrape the counter and trash the mess. Small formica samples from a construction supplies box store- also work -but are a bit smaller.

As much as I use a scraper, I use round black plastic take-out containers . We keep a short stack of them in front of our raised microwave, as a 'saucer' for a mug or bowl to be nuked , or as a food container for nuking. We cover them lightly with their clear plastic flat-domed lid, and saran never enters the picture! I also use the rounds when I chop, slice, grate, or clean up --as they are lightweight and stackable; much handier than bowls for me (except when I need a rounded bottom for mixing liquid ingredients or for sieving flour into).
henandchicks March 8, 2016
Dorrie Greenspan has such great recipes and ideas, but this one is silly. Crushing graham crackers with a hammer? How is this more effective- or fun- than a rolling pin or processor?
Colleen S. March 8, 2016
mudding knives…from frosting cakes to using a a dough scraper/knife. It is the best tool to make its way into my kitchen.. and they come in all different sizes. Also a screw and screwdriver, just in case the wine opener is missing….
cookinalong March 9, 2016
OK, I've got to ask...What's a mudding knife?
Smaug March 8, 2016
Mom always kept a hack saw around for frozen meat and such. Works well enough, but the sawdust is a little weird. My favorite kitchen tool is an air conditioner (pretty much always on "fan only") that blows across a low table in the dining room- if I want to warm something cold or cool something hot, or dry something, I put it on a cooling rack on the table, and it goes surprisingly fast. Pair of quick grip clamps to attach a wooden board to my formica table for kneading doughs etc. (I don't like working on formica). I import various sharpening devices from the woodshop, but that hardly counts.
ktr March 8, 2016
I use clothes pins instead of twist ties to keep bags closed.
cookinalong March 8, 2016
I use a rubber mallet I got at Home Depot for about $7 for all the hammer tasks mentioned above. The mallet has the advantage of a bigger striking surface and with the rubber you don't have to worry about damaging countertops or other surfaces like a hammer would. I also use the trusty mallet to flatten chicken breasts, veal or pork medallions and crushing lots of garlic.
Smaug March 8, 2016
I'm not sure what happened to the "I Agree" button, but I agree. The pin that holds the head on my Kitchen Aid mixer continually slides out; I keep a little metal hammer my brother made in shop class around for that, but rubber or wood is usually best for food purposes.