New & NowEssential Tools

Why a Hammer & Screwdriver Belong in Your Kitchen

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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.

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."

4 French Recipes from Dorie Greenspan
4 French Recipes from Dorie Greenspan

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!

Tags: Kitchen Hacks, Tips & Techniques