Your kitchen tools aren’t always what they seem. In fact, there are kind of a lot of ways to repurpose super common kitchen tools in ways that you may have never expected. For example, did you know you can use a wooden spoon to keep boiling water from bubbling over? (You can!) That trick, and these 12 others, are some that you should definitely know about.
1. Use chopsticks or a straw to pit cherries and hull strawberries.
This is a great reason to save those chopsticks from takeout and keep plastic straws on hand. To hull strawberries, simply push the tip of the straw through the bottom of the strawberry until the green leaves pop off at the top. Ta da—a strawed strawberry (trademark).
You can use a similar technique to pit cherries. Online practitioners recommend placing your cherry on top of a glass bottle, then poking the straw through until the pit pops into the bottle. Less mess!
2. Use a thumbtack to make hard-boiled eggs easier to peel.
If you don’t keep a thumbtack in your kitchen drawer, you might want to start. This trick is approved by egg cooking professionals. Just barely pierce the shell of your egg immediately before (this is key) you put it into boiling water. When your hard-boiled egg is ready, it will be all around easier to peel.
3. Turn the bottom of a ceramic mug into a makeshift knife sharpener.
Dull knives and no knife sharpener? Flip your mug over—if it’s a ceramic mug, the rough bottom will make an excellent sharpener in a pinch. To do it, turn your mug upside down, and repeatedly swipe the edges of your knife along the edge of your mug until it reaches desired sharpness.
4. Use a wooden spoon as a lid for your pot.
This tip is kind of crazy—and one I haven’t personally tried—but apparently if you set a wooden spoon on top of a pot of boiling water, it won’t boil over. The reason this trick works is because the spoon pops the bubbles before they have a chance to overflow. Yay, science!
5. Separate egg yolks and whites with a water bottle.
If separating an egg with its own shell leads you to many broken egg yolks, you may want to try this out. To do it, crack an egg (or many—maybe you’re making an omelet!) into a bowl. Then, take a water bottle, squeeze it, and place the bottle opening over the yolk. When you’ve got a good grip on the yolk, release the bottle slightly—this will create a vacuum and suck the yolk into the bottle. Then, gently set the yolk into another bowl, and go forth and make hollandaise.
6. Make guacamole and pasta sauce with a potato masher.
To make tomato sauce with a masher, I’ll use canned petite diced tomatoes (with the juices), then sauté them with olive oil, garlic, and my go-to spices (usually bay leaves, red pepper flakes, and black pepper). After everything has had about 10 minutes to stew together, I’ll squish it all up with that potato masher. This is a great hack if you don’t have a food processor or immersion blender, but still want to get saucy.
7. Open jars with an oyster knife.
OK, I realize this tip is a little niche (not everyone has an oyster knife), but it’s worth investing in one even if you only use it for this reason. Why? Well, you see, the edge of the knife is perfectly sized to fit underneath any (and I mean any!) jar lid, and it really has made my life so much easier (I open a lot of jars, OK). So if you’re having trouble opening a jar, simply pop that oyster knife under the lid, pull it towards yourself until you hear a pop indicating the pressure has been released, and then open it up.
8. Juice citrus with tongs.
Juicing citrus can be a pain, especially if you’re a nail biter (cough, cough, me) and your hands are covered in little tiny cuts. Instead, use tongs to squeeze citrus over a bowl or cup. Place a halved piece of citrus—anything from lemon to grapefruit will work—between the arms of your tongs, and squeeze. Done and done.
9. Store muffin and cupcake papers in a Mason jar.
Your Mason jar is perfectly sized for these bad boys. So instead of letting them run wild in your kitchen cabinets, pop them in one of your jars. If your papers are cute, you can even leave it on the counter—it’ll add a nice pop of color!
10. Zest lemons or grate ginger with a cheese grater.
This one is pretty self explanatory—if you know how to grate cheese, you’ll have no problem doing the same with lemon zest and ginger. One small tip: I like to freeze my ginger before grating it, because I find that it makes it easier to handle, though you definitely don’t have to do this if you’re in a time crunch.
11. Peel mangoes with a cup.
This trick seems to good to be true, but it’s the real freakin’ deal. Set a glass on a flat surface. Cut your mango in half, then holding it vertically, gently bring the edge of the mango to meet the edge of the glass. Push the mango down so that the glass slips between the meat and the skin of the mango. Continue to press the mango downward, sliding the rim of the glass along the length of the fruit until the whole thing is separated from the skin—and lands cleanly inside the cup.
12. Grind spices with your coffee grinder.
Let’s be real—no one has a mortar and pestle in their house (except for, the Barefoot Contessa, I guess?). If you want to grind up whole spices on your own, you’re best off using a coffee grinder. Grind them the same way you would coffee beans. When you’re finished, clean out your grinder by giving a tablespoon of rice a quick whirl. It will remove any unwanted flavors, so you don’t accidentally end up with a spicy cup of Joe.
13. Peel garlic faster with the flat side of your knife.
Instead of trimming the tip of your garlic off, and then slowly peeling back that paper, give it a good wack with the side of your knife (chefs knife preferably). Lay the knife on top of the garlic on the counter, then bop it once, hard, with the heel of your hand or the side of your fist. The paper will slide right off and you won’t have stinky garlic hands!