I consider myself a minimalist in the kitchen. Maybe that comes from living in tiny spaces for most of my adult life, or from my time in kitchens, where optimization and economy of movement are professional and sometimes moral imperatives. Over the years, I’ve pared down my equipment to the bare essentials. And if I had to pick one tool to have handy in the kitchen—or even in daily life—it would have to be this bowl scraper from J.B. Prince.
I first encountered this particular bowl scraper as a young intern at Rouge Tomate, in New York City. One of the pastry cooks, Gael, was expertly fashioning hundreds of small diamond shapes out of razor-thin slices of mango. Each order consisted of about 20 to 30 pieces, and as you might imagine, there was some considerable waste. I was assigned to help him. As the piles of perfect diamonds collected, so too did the pile of mango trim grow on our cutting boards. Without skipping a beat, Gael reached into his breast pocket, pulled out a tiny bowl scraper, and swiped all of the trim away in one fluid motion. Meanwhile, I was drowning in mango trimmings. I didn’t have a scraper. I looked longingly at his. Sensing my desperation, he handed me his own. “Keep it,” he said. Gael probably changed my life that day.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s just a bowl scraper. It’s so small. It couldn’t be that useful. Well, let me set things straight.
First, let’s talk about the price. At a staggering $1.30, it’s likely the cheapest piece of kitchen equipment you could own.* In fact, at one point I owned at least 10 of these scrapers at a time, doling them out to cooks in need and friends who didn’t know they needed one. And as we will see, this particular bowl scraper might have the highest benefit-to-cost ratio of any tool out there.
* Unfortunately, that price jumps quite a bit if you're looking to order it online at this time; if you want to keep costs lower than the roughly $10 shipping and handling fee currently associated with the J.B. Prince scraper, we strongly recommend this slightly larger Ateco bowl scraper instead—at the time of writing, it sells for $4.10 on Amazon, with free shipping.
Next, let’s look at the size and construction. This scraper measures four-and-a-half by three inches, which is the perfect size to comfortably fit in any chest or pant pocket. The material is hard, nonporous, but flexible plastic, with two sharp ends. One end is slightly sharper and rounded with an asymmetrical bevel (similar to the cutting edge of a Japanese-style knife), while the other end is straight. Even though it’s made of plastic, it’s surprisingly durable. I’ve accidentally run both serrated and normal knives across the surface, resulting in scratches but never cracks or breakage. These scrapers can even withstand an errant chop from a heavy cleaver. And anecdotally, these scrapers are somewhat heat resistant—up to 400 degrees (though I doubt they’re advertised this way).
But what can you actually do with this bowl scraper? Of course, there’s its intended purpose, which it accomplishes masterfully. Scraping dough out of a bowl with this thing is a dream. The sharper rounded edge picks up dough effortlessly, and it feels like the scraper is glued to the surface of the bowl as you move it across. And because the scraper material is nonporous, dough doesn’t stick or snag at all. I find the size of the scraper just big enough and the material just stable enough to handle medium-sized doughs, up to 800 grams in total weight—which is no small feat for something that fits in your chest pocket.
Because of the flat, asymmetrical edge, cutting and dividing dough is a breeze. I use this scraper whenever I make gnocchi, cut logs for orecchiette, or have to divide small portions of dough. Since it’s made of plastic, I don’t have to worry about ruining a nice wooden, granite, or marble table surface, either. I also love shaping sticky doughs like high-hydration brioche with this tool, using the flat side to round and tighten portions.
Outside of dough work, this bowl scraper shines even brighter. Corralling cut ingredients from your cutting board is an essential kitchen skill, and using a fast, lightweight bowl scraper like this one makes the process almost second nature. Need to quickly clean up the mess of carrot peels on your station and that explosion of whole wheat flour on the counter? Bowl scraper’s got your back. Pushing purées or mashed potatoes through a fine-mesh tamis? Bowl scraper is the weapon of choice. This scraper even performs well outside of the kitchen. Need a bookmark? Bench scraper is better than a bookmark (waterproof, stainless, won’t rip, won’t quit). Got a knot in your neck? Use the scraper for myofascial release, not unlike a traditional Gua Sha scraper. In fact, despite its simple design, I’m sure you could come up with several uses for the scraper that don’t involve food.
So scrape together some loose change and get yourself a bowl scraper. You won’t regret it. And given the outrageously low price, what’s there to lose? In the exalted words of the minimalist luminary Marie Kondo, I guarantee that this little guy will spark joy.