Halloween is fast approaching, and laboratory vessels like test tubes and beakers make great substitutions for the standard orange and black Solo cups, adding a little weird-science flare to whatever potion you might be serving. But lab ware, with its heat- and shatter-resistance and various shapes, can be a versatile addition to the kitchen and dining room well beyond the holiday. When integrated with simple tableware, porcelain and glass laboratory items add graceful points of visual interest to formal tables, but when arranged en masse in the kitchen, they impart an air of no-nonsense utility.
Flasks, cylinders, and test tubes work well for keeping oils and vinegars in the kitchen when fitted with rubber, glass, or cork stoppers, or serve as elegant cruets and decanters at the table. Tight-sealing specimen containers make excellent, inexpensive spice jars: The clear-glass type allows for easy identification of contents, while colored varieties protect contents from light degradation. Watch glasses make for a stylish presentation of small bites or individual hors d'oeuvres. Evaporating dishes and long-handled casseroles are beautiful for presenting sauces or serving soups. And crucibles perform as delicate salt and pepper cellars or as dainty receptacles for a few sips of a liqueur or cordial.
Companies that specialize in supplying lab ware to professional laboratories, such as Lab Depot and Lab Safety, tend to offer the best prices, but items are often only available in large quantities. Home Science Tools offers individual pieces, but its wares tend to be more expensive and limited than those of professional suppliers. In any case, when you are ordering lab ware, it is important to have an understanding of metric volume (250 mL is about a cup) or to consult a conversion site (convertunits.com or convertit.com). Many standard items are rather tinyan aspect that is generally not obvious in catalogue photographs.
About the author: Amanda Clarke is a recovering restaurant pastry chef with a background in architecture. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes, tests, and develops recipes and works on freelance food-styling gigs between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.