Cooking Without Crepe Pans and Other Expensive Kitchen Tools

by Thursday Bram on 5 February 2008 11 comments

I like kitchen gadgets as much as the next girl, but I just can’t justify splurging on a crepe pan (or other tool) that I’ll use maybe once a month, at the most. So which kitchen utensils can do double duty and pick up for that missing crepe pan? I know these are just a few examples — please add yours in the comments!

Skip the garlic peeler.
$9.00 for a garlic peeler? I don’t think so! To remove that papery skin on a clove of garlic, just take a wide knife and place the flat of the blade on the clove. Give the knife a sharp whack. The clove will break open and you’ll be able to remove the skin easily.

Crepes without the crepe pan. I’ll be the first to admit that cooking crepes isn’t easy, and a good crepe pan can make it easier. But what is a good crepe pan? They’re small griddle, sometimes with a deeper lip. As long as you have a good non-stick griddle, you have a big crepe pan. Same goes if you have an electric griddle, which I’ve heard can make the crepe process even easier. I haven’t tried an electric griddle out myself, though.

The all-in-one sifter-colander-strainer!
What do sifters, colanders and strainers have in common? They’re a way to carry around a bunch of holes. I keep just one hole-y instrument in my kitchen: an 8-inch strainer. I sift flour by taping the strainer over a bowl, drain pasta and strain anything that comes along.

Potato mashers.
I hate mashing potatoes by hand. My grandmother doesn’t even make her mashed potatoes with a hand masher. I have a mixer that handles well-boiled potatoes admirably well.

Lettuce knives, bagel slicers and other sharp implements. I made it through college and living in my first apartment with exactly one kitchen knife and one steak knife. I’m not advocating that level of kitchen austerity, but it convinced me that I don’t need specialized cutting knives for every single ingredient. I have a good set of knives and generally avoid specialized cutting instruments. The one exception: the pizza cutter. I think that every baker needs one! I have used my pizza cutter for all manner of unusual purposes — it’s the key to cutting homemade marshmallows.

Variations on the corkscrew theme.
I like the corkscrews with the two levers that look something like rabbit ears. They’re a bit upscale from the twisty bit of metal I have on my pocket knife, and they’re under ten bucks just about everywhere. I actually got mine for free, when my step-dad upgraded to a $50 Rabbit Corkscrew that happens to include a foil cutter. He was a little sad, though — he had really wanted the $150 Screwpull Satin Wine Opener.

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Guest's picture
Howie

Another alternative to the knife strategy (I use that for one or two cloves). Try throwing all the cloves into a plastic bowl with a lid. Put the lid on, shake vigorously for about 10-15 seconds. Open the lid and, PRESTO, peeled garlic. It's best if it is a hard plastic bowl.

Guest's picture
Kathryn

Pyrex mixing bowls are handy multipurposers--you can obviously mix things in them, but you can also use them as serving bowls, balance them over a large pot to serve as a double boiler (7-minute frosting is a sadly dying art), heat things in the microwave or conventional oven. You can even use them to bake the perfect base for a barbie-doll cake! (Bake cake in pyrex bowl, decorate like a ball gown, and insert real barbie doll with clothing on top half!)

Also, if you don't have a popcorn popper but want to break the micro habit, you can pop corn very well in a large dutch oven--just add a few tablespoons of oil and 1/3 c popcorn, keep your burner on medium, and shake frequently while heating.

Guest's picture
Barbara

those small, round plastic containers that you buy grated parmesan cheese in or small soups from chinese restaurants are awesome for a variety of things. I use mine for making salad dressing. Put all the ingredients in, seal the lid, and shake vigorously. Or making big batches of homemade tomato sauces like Bolognese and storing it in the freezer for future use. These are great for portion control too. Scoop out a single serving of yogurt from a larger container and bring it into work for breakfast. Best of all is that they're (relatively) free!

Myscha Theriault's picture

I love it. Cool post.

There's a hand held potato masher that came with the cottage I've never used. I've been sitting here today wondering what else on Earth I could get rid of to streamline things. That's going in the donation box. Thanks, Thursday.

Guest's picture
Alyson

if you want to find multiple uses for things and he HATES uni-taskers (crepe pans, food dehydrators, egg separators, etc). He often teaches ways to utilize kitchen tools in new and different ways to eliminate the want for uni-taskers and he'll do segments on which types of things he thinks best (what kind of veggie peelers you should have in your kitchen and why). Slotted spoons for separating eggs, works great, just break into the spoon and the whites fall through and the yolk stays in the spoon. I love him, although his cheesecake has been harder than he let on.

Thursday Bram's picture

I completely agree with Alyson's recommendation (including difficulties with his cheesecake recipe). His refusal to use uni-taskers is an example I have taken to heart.

Guest's picture
Michelle

Great Post!

I'm an avid cook, but also a big fan of keeping things simple in the kitchen. You can cook just as easily without all the latest gizmos and all the expense that goes with them.

I'm remind of a less than thrifty roommate that came home (very excited) with a $20 contraption to hard boil eggs. I think I'll stick with a pot of water for that!

Guest's picture

A melon baller does a better job of coring an apple (slice in half first), and is much less dangerous than using a knife. I've cut myself with apple corers and knives doing this more than once. (Yes, I'm a klutz.)

I also use my Chinese strainer as a server for pasta salad and fruit salad, especially at potlucks. Things don't slip off it as easily as a slotted metal spoon, you get more in one swoop, and you don't overwhelm your plate with juiciness. It works great.

Guest's picture
paanta

If you make crepes very often..and you should!...plain old steel crepe pans are totally a good $10 investment. They're light, which is great when you're spending more time with the pan swirling around off the burner than on. My next lightest pan is at least twice as heavy. Get two and you can cook a big mess o' crepes in about 10 minutes.

Two of 'em are the only single purpose pans I have. The only other single purpose devices I have, of any kind, are a salad spinner and wine key.

Knife-wise, one high quality 9" Chef's knife, a cheap bread knife, and a cheap paring knife are all you need for 99.9% of cooking.

Guest's picture
Katy

Yes, we only need 3 knives, but a steel or stone is needed to keep them sharp!

Instead of a double boiler, use two pots: put the chocolate, or whatever, into the smaller pot and put the smaller pot into a larger pot filled with boiling water.

Iron pots an pans last forever, though heavy.

Super post.

Guest's picture
Guest

Scissors are great for cutting pizza & chances are you already have a large pair !