Kenji recently shared some of his favorite kitchen unitaskers—you know, those devices with a solitary, often useless purpose. But, as Kenji pointed out, just because many unitaskers are utterly ridiculous doesn't mean that every unitasker is. Some are truly useful—essential, even.
Here are some of my favorites, not including the ones Kenji already listed in his article.
A Porcelain or Ceramic Ginger Grater
What it's for: Grating fresh ginger, obviously.
Why I love it: Grating ginger is a minor pain in the ass—rub it on a Microplane and the grater's holes quickly become clogged with the ginger's long, tough fibers, making the tool increasingly less effective and more difficult to clean. A porcelain or ceramic grater, on the other hand, has tiny little pointy teeth that do a miraculous job of rapidly reducing the ginger to a purée, while separating out those annoying fibers. When you're all done, it's a lot easier to clean, too. I love this ceramic one from Kyocera, which has a moat around the grating surface to catch all the ginger purée and its juices, plus a rubberized base that helps it stick firmly to your countertop. They claim it's good for grating nutmeg and cheese as well, but personally, I use a Microplane or box grater for those.
What else it's good for: Scratching itches.
A Salad Spinner
What it's for: Does this really require explanation? Okay, just in case: It uses centrifugal force to drive water off washed lettuce, herbs, and other leafy vegetables...because nobody likes a watery salad.
Why I love it: It should go without saying that you should wash your vegetables before eating them raw—a surprising number of cases of food poisoning come from tainted uncooked vegetables. But once washed, of course, they're dripping wet, which can ruin salads, make minced herbs clump, et cetera. A salad spinner is the fastest, most efficient way to dry your greens off and get them ready for serving. Plus, the strainer basket works as a built-in colander, which means you can wash your greens right in the spinner itself. This model from Zyliss came out on top in our rigorous equipment tests.
What else it's good for: An amusement park ride for hamsters.*
* Do not, under any circumstances, put a living creature in a salad spinner. We joke, but we are not sociopaths. Right?
What it's for: It's a Japanese lid!
Why I love it: I can't remember how I first got my rubber otoshibuta, but for the longest time, I had no idea what it was. Eventually, some Serious Eats readers helped identify it for me, and I've used it a ton ever since. An otoshibuta is, in essence, a lid; the original ones are made of wood. But it's not just any lid: It's submergible. That means you can set an otoshibuta directly on the surface of the food you're cooking, which is handy for simmered foods and pickles that require keeping everything covered in liquid. Since they're not made of metal and fit a variety of diameters, they're also really handy as bowl covers when you're reheating food in the microwave.
What else it's good for: The world's most frustrating game of Frisbee.
A Salt Cellar or Salt Pig
What it's for: Keeping your salt within easy reach at all times.
Why I love it: There's hardly a recipe I make that doesn't require salt, often added repeatedly throughout the cooking process. Salt needs to be one of the most accessible ingredients in your kitchen, and a big salt cellar or salt pig is just what you need for that—not a shaker, not a grinder, and not a box in a cabinet. You can read my full case for why everyone should have one, which includes a few other product suggestions, plus some really inexpensive ideas if you don't want to spend much for what is, at its heart, just a container.
What else it's good for: Killing a whole bunch of bacteria (salt is magic like that).
An Oyster Knife
What it's for: Shucking oysters.
Why I love it: An oyster is a stubborn bivalve, and opening one is not easy. Sure, you could make like a bird and try flying high into the air and dropping the oyster on the rocks below to crack its thick shell, but I think an oyster knife makes it easier. The thing is, you really do need to use an oyster knife, which is specially designed to wedge into the oyster's hinge, pop it open, and cut its strong adductor muscle. These knives come in a variety of designs, some with longer blades, some with shorter, some straight, some curved. My personal favorite is the Duxbury oyster knife made by R. Murphy Knives, but you may find another one more comfortable and effective. And if you need a primer on how to shuck an oyster, we've got you covered with a guide and video here.
What else it's good for: Opening mail.
A Bag Sealer
What it's for: Resealing plastic food bags.
Why I love it: I took a trip to Japan back in January, and, while there, I wandered into one of their dollar stores. Japanese dollar stores are waaaaaay better than their American counterparts—like health care and toilets, they're one of those things that are just done better there. One of the items I grabbed while there was a cheap little bag resealer. It has a wire heating element that gets just hot enough to fuse the opening in a bag of potato chips, frozen vegetables, or crackers, and I can't believe how much I love using it. I know what you're all saying: What's wrong with a rubber band? But rubber bands break, and...I don't know, they're just not as good. What can I say? I like hermetically sealing things.
What else it's good for: Lighting a joint. Just kidding, that doesn't work—I tried.
A Milk Frother
What it's for: Frothing milk for iced and hot cappuccinos and lattes.
Why I love it: Many of the milk frothers out there do a poor job of emulating the thick, creamy foam produced by a good espresso machine's steaming wand, over-aerating the milk to the point where it gets a light sudsy texture. I've always been very pleased with Nespresso's frother on this front. It whisks the milk just like a lot of other frothers, but manages to get much closer to the ideal cappuccino-foam consistency I'm looking for. Plus, it has a nonstick interior that makes it easy to clean, and a hot/cold setting so you can choose between hot drinks and iced ones. (Pro tip: If your milk doesn't froth, it's the milk that's the problem, not the machine.)
What else it's good for: Matcha lattes. Just add matcha powder to the frother with milk, and boom.
A Drying Mat and Rack
What they're for: Drying dishes after washing them.
Why I love them: A lot of dish racks are overcomplicated, oversize behemoths that claim precious counter space and never give it up. They're really not necessary. A good dish mat, combined with a small rack, is more than adequate for most after-meal cleanup. This mat is made from absorbent microfibers that dry quickly after being dripped on, while the rack can hold dishes, cutting boards, and trays vertically for efficient drying. The best part is that the mat can be folded up and stashed away, and the rack can easily slide into a cabinet, meaning you don't have to relinquish that counter space forever.
What else they're good for: Your record collection after it's gotten soaked in a heavy rain.
What they're for: Precision tong work.
Why I love them: You could argue that these aren't really a unitasker, given that you can stir, grab, and more with them. At their core, though, cooking chopsticks are just like tongs, except with way more precision thanks to their delicate, narrow form. They're extra long—which keeps your hand farther away from the heat than normal chopsticks you'd use for eating—and a string keeps the pair connected, so you're never left searching for one while your food threatens to burn. I always keep a pair in my utensil crock by the stove, alongside spatulas, metal locking tongs, and large spoons. With some practice, you can even learn to use them instead of the more traditional fork when making a French omelette.
What else they're good for: Nunchucks. Duh.
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