Essential Tools

In Praise of Single-Use Kitchen Tools

February 28, 2017

I hear (you hear, we all hear) that every tool and gadget in your kitchen should serve more than one purpose. That I (et al.) should streamline our kitchens, have one version, the best version, of only the most versatile tools and get rid of the rest. Downsize, organize.

I beg to differ.

My kitchen drawers and cabinets would make the King Of Multi-Use, Mr. Alton Brown (whose cookbooks, TV shows, and recipes I love, by the way) go apoplectic. His head would explode should he dare look into any of my general population kitchen drawers. You know what, though? I know what’s where, and why—in my mind and my own illogical logic, it all makes sense. (This does not include the kitchen junk drawer. That is a different story for a different day.)

I have a LOT of single use items in those drawers.

Case in point—take my most recent prize, the can colander. It is a round, standard can-width rubber colander. It is perfect for draining the goo off of beans, a task which I had previously done by either trying to leave the lid partially attached, flushing the beans with water, and draining them using the lid as a sort of bean dam (pain in the rear, prone to down-the-disposal bean loss) or by dumping them into a strainer, rinsing, and then adding them to whatever pan is their final destination (cleaning bean shrapnel out of a fine strainer is also a pain in the rear). Now my perfectly-sized colander with perfectly-sized holes makes bean draining a snap—it fits right on the can. I can drain the goo, then rinse the beans (still in the can), and drain the water. And the cleanup is a breeze.

Let’s talk about cherry pitters. They pit cherries. The can also pit olives, but then you have that one cylinder of olive still attached to the pit that you don’t want to waste so you have to stop what you are doing and nip it off. Better just to buy pitted olives. The cherry pitter DOES, however, work on cherries. I am here to tell you that when you are pitting one zillion cherries for a pie or a batch of cherry jam, you want that pitter. Who cares if it only comes out a couple of times a year? You NEED it those couple of times!

There are quite a few used-once-or-twice-a-year times in my kitchen but I am always happy to find these friends at the ready when I need them. Yeah, they take up a lot of space, but I would rather get a bigger kitchen (seriously, I need a bigger kitchen!) than get rid of them.

Pictured are a few of my friends:

1) Weird cheese knife. Used only for cheese, specifically hard cheese. It’s cool looking, right?

2) Cherry pitter. We have already discussed this.

3) Pie crust protector. If you bake pies and you DON’T have one, you are remiss.

4) Put it in the water egg done-ness thing. This actually does not work; I threw it away. Even I have standards.

5) My can colander!

6) through 8) This is a thingy for mushing garlic. You use that blue tube to peel the garlic, the green ceramic to rub the garlic into a paste, and the little brush to sweep in into whatever. I actually never use this as it is more trouble than it’s worth, but I bought it in D.C. at a food expo for the National Beef Cook-off, so it has memories attached plus it’s pretty. I am keeping it.

9) though 17) Even I don’t know why I have six wine openers and three beer openers. Well, two of the beer bottle openers were gifts (the turtle and the wall thing), and my mother-in-law got the third (the fish) in Japan in the 60’s. This does not explain all of the wine openers.

18) through 20) Yep, I have three citrus squeezers. I got the silver one first and if it ever breaks (it won’t) I am getting the green one. Maybe I will anyway. Is there a big pink grapefruit one? If yes, I want it.

21) This is a zero-use spoon. The shape is odd and makes it ungainly. It’s pretty though, isn’t it?

22) Oyster knife (we actually have two of these).

23) Wooden thing into which you shove the oyster and hold him there while you shuck him. We have two of these, too. Oyster shuck-off anyone?

24) Egg topper. You can top your soft-boiled eggs and also raw eggs that you empty out so you can make your own cascarones. Which I have never done. But I could if I wanted.

25) Egg poacher. I rarely use it.

26) Bread dough mixer thing and all around cool-looking tool. Makes a well-mixed, shaggy bread dough. And, yes, I have two. Gifts from when I first started making bread.

There’s more! I have a Spiralizer and all it does is make things into spirals which is FUN and, well, just fun. I have an oil warmer from Italy, I suppose you could warm other stuff in it too but the bowl is pretty small. One could argue that my electric tea kettle is single use, but I literally use it every single day. Anyhow, you get my point.

And so I say to you: GO FORTH and BUY THOSE GADGETS! Crap up your kitchen drawers and cabinets, and next time you need just the exact right tool for just the exact task at hand, you will be prepared. Right now I am going to make some sweet potato twirls to roast a piece of chicken atop. I rest my case.

We like single-use tools, too:

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • FrugalCat
  • Carla Fisher
    Carla Fisher
  • luvcookbooks
  • Rhonda35
  • Antonietta Sculimbrene
    Antonietta Sculimbrene

Written by: aargersi

Country living, garden to table cooking, recent beek, rescue all of the dogs, #adoptdontshop


FrugalCat October 10, 2019
Let's see- specific cutters/ slicers- mango, apple, pear, egg, avocado, pineapple
egg poachers and egg coddler
jar spatula
peeler, tomato peeler, julienne peeler
can colander - love it too!
herb stripper
same weird looking cheese knife as you have

Carla F. May 4, 2017
I have gadget envy. But I bet you would, too, if you saw my pistachio nut cracker. A friend gave it to me because her dentist invented it. I believe I've used it once, but I couldn't swear to it.
Lindsay-Jean H. May 5, 2017
I had no idea such a thing existed! I kind of want one now...
aargersi May 5, 2017
Looking it up now, with intent
luvcookbooks May 4, 2017
Ox you!! That is all.
Rhonda35 March 7, 2017
I am eyeing several of your gadgets with envy - I really, really want a can colander! (Something I did not know existed until I read this article.)
Antonietta S. March 5, 2017
I have almost all of the items you describe and more. I even have an asparagus peeler and a green bean frencher. When you need them, they work better than almost anything else. I bought the van colander for draining tuna cans. I will have to try it for beans.
MtIdaho March 5, 2017
When making apple or pear dishes, I always use my corer, which zips through the middle of the apple and then releases the core... can't think of another use for it, though. It's long and skinny so doesn't take up much room in the drawer. The clamp-to-the-counter apple peeler/corer is another matter, however. Too complicated to set up and use, although it still sits in its box in the pantry.
BerryBaby March 7, 2017
I use the apple corer to make watermelon tubes.
You can also use it when carving a pumpkin to make perfectly round, little eyeballs.
kathleen B. March 5, 2017
I love this article (and the comments)! I could certainly identify! There is a sisterhood/brotherhood of folks just like me! But no one mentioned the strawberry huller - my best friend and I have matching ones. Great tool – I used it this morning. It can be used on tomatoes too, so maybe that took it out of the running as a single-use kitchen tool.
Beehive A. March 5, 2017
What!? No avocado and mango tools? Both are double ended, with one end to pit the fruit and the other to slice. I do use the avocado one to slice hard boiled eggs, so not completely single use.
aargersi March 6, 2017
I have an egg slicer too :-)
Sandra L. March 5, 2017
Couldn't do without my egg poacher although I do wonder if the rubber/plastic is poisoning my egg.
Question: Has anybody out there bought the OXO good grip spiralizer? I did and would love to say I love it but it does not grip the counter top as promised. I need 3 hands, one for the crank and 2 for holding the damn thing in place. It slides all over the place. I tried wood, oilcloth, and stainless counter tops. None held. Any suggestions?
Jules555 March 1, 2017
Filed under learn something new every day-I have the can colander. Did not even know that is what it is for and have only ever used it for squashing into a can of tuna to drain it. Pretty excited to open a can of beans now.

I also have many, many single use items. Plastic avocado slicer anyone? 2 garlic presses. Plastic tube to peel garlic. Roll-y thing to cut up garlic. Etc, etc.
Char D. March 1, 2017
I have a dresser-drawer full of single-use items. Seriously! I used to keep them in baskets and pitchers on the counter, on the shelves, in the pantry (in two plastic storage tubs) -everywhere throughout the kitchen, and never in the first place I looked. Finally, my dear hubby reinforced the bottoms of the dresser drawers in a vintage family dresser, and I oiled the finish to make it look less old. Voila! An entire drawer of little bins and dividers, each full of goodies. Also a few things in two other drawers, but we won't discuss all of that...

And yes, I want a can colander too! To keep my cherry pitter/lettuce head corer/fish lifter, etc company.
Allison C. February 28, 2017
Hahaha this is great! I am definitely putting that can colander on my wish list! We are opening up a can of beans or veggies probably every single night!
Lis February 28, 2017
Having pitted 11lbs of Montmorency cherries this summer, I honestly can say I prefer just using a wooden skewer to the pitter, which I had enough trouble using on Bings.
EmilyC February 28, 2017
This gave me a good laugh! I can relate on many levels. As soon as I read your article, I googled can colander. I kind of want one now.
Greenstuff February 28, 2017
Yes!! I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this. We seriously downsized a year ago, but how much space do my five oyster knives take up? And my three juicers--they're three different colors, how fun is that?! And who would begrudge me my herring fork and my yak butter tea spoon?? I am favoriting this article.
Shalini February 28, 2017
Hilarious! I totally agree about the cherry pitter. The thing to help shuck oysters I could use. Also, now that you know you don't won't use some of these, will they be pared from your drawer?
aargersi March 1, 2017
Heh - probably not, in fact I will likely continue to collect!!!
Olivia B. February 28, 2017
I recently took home a gadget that claimed to help you Hasselback potatoes recently. It was on my stoop within minutes. I've also taken home an industrial french fry cutter that I had to suction to my floor and throw my entire body weight into to get the potato to cut. Clearly single-use potato-cutting tools need some work.
mrslarkin February 28, 2017
I love one-use tools, the stranger, the better.

I sometimes use my citrus juicers (I have TWO!) to crush nuts. The kind that grow on trees. ;)

I also have a Slicky sesame seed grinder. Everything about this tool is adorable.

And I found an old Blitzhacker at an animal shelter tag sale several years ago. In original packaging! It's like the OG Slap Chop I guess.

I have can colander envy.

Megan L. March 1, 2017
Nuts in the citrus juicer! Brilliant!
ktr February 28, 2017
Why didn't I think to use my cherry pitter when I accidentally bought non-pitted olives recently?!?!
cookinginvictoria February 28, 2017
Abbie, I love this! I am on the single-use utensil team too! I have many of these tools in my two totally overloaded utensil drawers. (Yes, I need a bigger kitchen too!) I have the bread dough stirrer (which I too haven't used but I think I might some day) the hard cheese knife (which is also perfect for slicing tomatoes, BTW), and the pie crust cover. I also have multi-bladed scissors that are meant for micing herbs! It works well but cleaning out the tiny blades is a pain. But I digress. . . I think that I really need a can colander now. Where did you find it?

Many moons ago in a Food52 post, Merrill demonstrated a genius technique of pitting olives by whacking them with a chef's knife. This is how I pit olives now rather than forcing my cherry pitter to do double duty. :)
aargersi February 28, 2017
Can Colander - Bed Bath and Beyond! On the One Use Wonder Wall !!!