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Thursday, August 24, 2023

Your Favorite Multi-Purpose Kitchen Tools

not related to this post but a favorite lunch or dinner for me these days -- 
tomato, basil, garlic, Parmesan omelette

It's blackberry harvest season in my area. Every day there's another batch ready to pick and freeze to use in fall, winter, and spring. I have these two jumbo zip-loc bags that came in grocery shipments during the lockdowns. Each is about the size of a standard bed pillow when filled.

My family's part is to do most of the picking and I rinse and freeze the Barries on trays then add to the jumbo bags once frozen. One bag is now completely filled and I'm about 1/3 of the way on the second bag. 

This morning as I was rinsing today's batch of berries, I thought about how useful this large bowl has been over the years. Twenty-five years ago, my little family's bread consumption exploded. I had been mixing the dough by hand in my largest mixing bowl, which meant I could bake 2 loaves at a time. In order to keep up with my family's appetites, I needed a much larger bowl. I bought a large, shallow stainless steel bowl at Target just for mixing bread dough. This bowl is so large I could not only mix the dough but also knead the dough in the bowl, making enough for 4 to 5 loaves in one go. I used this bowl for bread dough for 15 years, until I bought a stand mixer to do the dough mixing and kneading.

What I discovered was this oversized bowl also makes a great basin for washing and rinsing. When we were redoing our kitchen, I used it as a portable sink for dishwashing. And when I've needed to rinse produce from our property, this bowl has been just the right dimensions for that purpose. I can rinse 2 quarts of blackberries at a time in this bowl, or large leaves of kale or chard or heads of Romaine lettuce.

I do still use the bowl for mixing dough, pie pastry dough. I can mix a batch of pie dough enough for 5 single crusts at a time in this bowl. In addition, this bowl is our popcorn bowl. When our family of 4 to 5 wants popcorn, our appetites aren't exactly dainty. We make a gigantic bowl of popcorn, oftentimes having some leftover for snacking the next day.

I think I originally spent $7 for the bowl, and out of that I've gotten a bowl to mix large batches of dough, a popcorn bowl, a kitchen sink, and a produce rinse container.

There's another favorite multi-purpose tool of mine, the serving spoons that came with my stainless flatware. Along with forks, spoons, and knives came a large slotted serving spoon and a non-slotted serving spoon. I had intended to buy things like mixing spoons for cooking, but I never did get around to it. All these many, many years of marriage, I've used the serving spoons as mixing spoons. When I mixed bread dough by hand, it was one of these serving spoons that I used. 

The slotted spoon is not only handy for serving foods that you want to drain a little, like veggies that have been cooked in liquid, but it has also been my slotted spoon for deep-frying, when needing to remove fried foods from the oil while leaving most of the hot oil in the pot. 

I've also found the size and the rounded edge of these spoons to work well when cooking in my non-stick pan. We have a non-stick spatula for those pans, but it's so old it's quite warped. The rounded edge of a spoon also works and doesn't scratch the finish. 

It's funny -- when my son and daughter-in-law were asking for hints for a Christmas gift a couple of years ago, one of the first things that popped into my mind was a mixing spoon. I really have always intended to buy one. But now, in looking back over my many years of home-cooking, I haven't needed a mixing spoon, the serving spoon has worked just fine.

When I first married, I thought I would need so many tools and gadgets to outfit my kitchen. As it turns out, I didn't need nearly as much as I had believed. It reminds me of how simply many folks lived up until the second half of the 20th century. Tools often had multiple uses. take a 19th century washpan, for example. The washpan was not only used for dishes, but also for laundry (to heat the water and wash the clothing) and for bathing. Now that's versatility!

These thoughts got me to wondering what you've found to be your favorite kitchen tools, ones that you've used for much more than you originally thought you would. Do you have favorite multi or dual purpose kitchen or cleaning tools?


  1. As a wedding gift, we got a set of stainless steel mixing bowls, and one of the big ones we use every day for different things. The other sizes get used, but not on a daily basis. My favorite spoon, that gets used everywhere, is a wooden spoon that used to be my mother's, and I remember using it as a kid. I've gotten my own wooden spoons, but the quality is just not the same.

    1. What a wonderful kitchen tool to have, Live and Learn -- your mom's wooden spoon. I agree, wooden spoons these days don't feel like they'd hold up very long. The wood itself feels softer than the spoons my mother used.

  2. I also use our serving spoons as mixing spoons. My mom always did it and it feels "right" in my hand. I don't have a slotted one, which would be a nice addition. My husband inherited iced tea spoons from grandparents--we don't use them for iced tea, but they are narrow with a long handle and are helpful for getting into long, narrow containers, or for getting every last drop when I make smoothies. I also like my variety of bowls--some plastic (hand me downs), some stainless steel, some glass. The plastic and glass ones can go in the microwave, and the glass ones can go in the oven (mostly for letting my bread proof). The glass ones are ones my mom bought me--they are nesting bowls and have a pretty white floral pattern on them, so you can also use them as serving bowls. I think I've mentioned this before, but I use my tea infuser for bigger herbs (bay leaves are notorious for breaking apart in their container and I'm too cheap to discard them and buy more) when cooking items that need to develop flavor over time, like soup or stew.

    That's all I can think of right now, but I bet I'll be noticing more things in the days ahead. :)

    1. Hi Kris,
      I love the idea of using a tea infuser for herbs in cooking. I think a tea ball would be great for pickling spices when making sweet pickles. Hmmm, you've got me thinking about the relish I'll be making next month. Using a tea ball would mean I wouldn't have the chore of washing cheesecloth thoroughly after making relish in late September.

  3. DH was a meat-cutter a couple of years while we were dating, so he bought us Forschner knives when we married. I got cut once with a dull knife, so I really appreciate the safety and efficiency of good knives. I also love all my sizes of stainless steel bowls, and I use all of them in any given week. The first stand mixer (hand-me-down) I had had heavy glass bowls, which I LOVED for mixing and serving -- one big and one small. The big one eventually broke, but the small one is my go-to for salsa, coleslaw, immediate family fruit salad (not for a party), etc. Long-handled wooden spoons are great for cooking jam (DS and I made some today), polenta, and other things like that. I have a couple of old ones that I treasure. My big metal cooking spoons (one with and one without slots) were leftover serving spoons we purchased from Smart & Final to serve side dishes when we "catered" our own wedding. Years ago, I splurged on a Pampered Chef whisk to replace the flimsy little one I had from the grocery store, and I adore that. I do, also enjoy having a pasta spoon/fork (whatever you call that), and flat, curved, and heavy tongs (each handy for different uses.)

    I like simple, multi-function tools best, as above, but my favorite "gadgets" are probably my garlic press and my apple corer-peeler-slicer that suctions to the countertop. I use those two a LOT! :) Sara

    1. Hi Sara,
      Great list!
      Oh, I love those heavy glass bowls that stand mixers used to come with as standard. using them for serving is a great way to get more use from them.

      You know, I prefer chopping garlic with a knife. The garlic press I have is a pain to clean out if the garlic dries in the holes while I'm cooking. But if I found a better press, I'd consider using it. My family, however, prefers the press over hand-chopping.

    2. Hee, hee, Lili! The garlic getting dried in the holes IS a potential problem, so although I carry a press in our camping gear, I often just chop it then. At home, our sons and I all just are in the habit of immediately washing it out after pressing; but some designs are definitely easier to use/clean than others. I just love them for the way they help you get all of the garlic's oily flavor, without having to cook it or let it meld in a sauce or dressing. As for the glass mixing bowls, they LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG outlived that old mixer (almost three decades for the one I still have), but I DID use them double-duty even when I still had that mixer. I miss the days of lots of things being glass, not plastic!!!! Sara

    3. PS... You CAN smash the garlic with the flat of a knife before chopping to get a more-similar flavor to pressed, as you probably know, but maybe others here don't.

    4. Hi Sara,
      I admit, I don't always get the garlic press into the soapy water before it dries out. I'll have to work on that, if I want to use the press.

  4. I love so many kitchen gadgets that I can't name a favorite. I like the small silicone spatulas, tupperware plastic bowls (huge one for dough to rise, 3 smaller ones with lids for salads), bread machine and pressure cooker (do these count?), long, slender silicone jar spatula, 2 larger serving spoons (one with slots one without). I frequently visit estate sales and often see something that would be a good addition to my kitchen. I bought a Ninja blender, a kitchen aid mixer twice (for two kids), an instant pot for my daughter.

    1. Hi Alice,
      It sounds like you have a very well-equipped kitchen put together at small expense. Good job!

      I have yet to find Kitchen Aid mixers at garage sales, but I do see a lot of other nice appliances. I saw a Vitamix blender this past weekend at an estate sale. That's perhaps the priciest kitchen tool/small appliance I've seen at garage or estate sales.

  5. We use plastic dish pans for all sorts of activities (beyond the kitchen too.) I use it to carry stuff from one room to the next, as auxiliary dish racks, to wash produce, to hold works in progress. It is the perfect size, depth and shape. No sharp edges and sturdy. Of course I buy several and it's cheap on sale, $1.59. My next favorite is a flexible cooking spatula that I bought in new condition from a thrift store. We have used it everyday for the last decade. When the handle cracked my husband replaced it with a wooden handle, even varnished it, which now is better than ever. I love a cabbage peeler that shreds thinly. I use it daily to add cabbage in a toss salad. Of course, our absolute favorite cookware set is Rena Ware that my mother in law bought for our wedding 48 years ago which we still use daily.

    Have a great day,


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