Corn shucker #2
Photo by Donna

A few weeks ago I ran a post on baked buttered corn, a popular dish that requires three-quarters of the corn to be more or less juiced. I use the above corn cutter, costs about ten bucks.  It only does one thing, and that one thing, I can do with a knife or a knife and a blender, I resist letting any unitasker into my kitchen, and yet, I love this corn cutter. It's really easy to use and the result is perfect for what I want in my baked corn.  I'd buy another if someone borrowed this one and never gave it back.  But it made me curious.

A while back I went on a brief I-use-my-egg-separators-to-bake-pies rant, about useless kitchen gadgets.

What are some of your UNUSUAL favorite tools or gadgets.  Not the obvious tools like a good knife or a spoon, but the more uncommon of your cherished tools, unitaskers or not.  And why?  For instance, I know Cory cherishes his mini offset spatual, Michael Symon never wants to be without his plastic bench scraper, Keller wants a very specific pepper grinder (one with a fine grind).  Would love to know specific brands and where to find if it's unusual or difficult to find.

And especially would like to know store-bought gadgets like the above corn cutter that are actually useful.

If you don't have one, I would imagine that's a good sign!

Update 10/30: Thanks everyone for the awesome comments and ideas.  For some reason, Typepad took away the box where you can leave a comment.  I'm trying to figure this out. Comment should be open.  Sorry for the annoyance!

Update, mere moments later: The perp has returned the comment box! Comments welcome!


133 Wonderful responses to “Question to Chefs and Cooks:
Favorite Uncommon Tools”

  • Carey

    I have the strangest contraption that was passed down to me from my grandmother, and I have never seen one sold in any store. It is a metal “cage” that you put a slice of bread in to, and it allows you to slice that 1 piece in to 2 slices. She always made the most elegant ittle sandwiches, and I treasure having it.

  • Mike Pardus

    In any kitchen, at home or at work, a Swiss Army knife – “The Climber” is my fave. Don’t leave home without it

  • luis

    Couldn’t resist… Had to buy a couple more pans…yikes this get’s expensive.
    They are Magefesa’s Porcelain on steel.
    As far as I can see steel outperforms everything out there. Now my beautiful aluminum pans are under tha counter… and my induction safe stuff is on base.

  • John Webster

    Kitchen twine. Not uncommon but, it appears to be rarely found in a home kitchen. Indispensable.

  • Eve

    I agree with ArC – the pump-action tabletop cherry pitter is the business. The reason it’s so much better than the handheld ones is that the most time-consuming step of cherry pitting is picking up and positioning the cherry. With the tabletop pitter you can put two handfuls of cherries in the hopper at a time and gravity does the rest.

  • GG Mora

    Has no one mentioned a strawberry huller? I always pffffed at the idea and used the tip of a paring knife. But I decided to give the huller a shot when I was working on 8 flats’ worth of berries. Wow – MUCH faster than a paring knife, and leaves the top of the berry intact. And for only 99¢. Worth every penny.

  • judy Cozon

    I love my tongs – great for getting creme brulee’s out of a bain marie, tossing salads,
    grabbing anything you do or dont want in a pot, picking up just about anything!

  • allen

    My favorite gadget would have been the microplane until I left part of my thumb in the wok while grating some ginger during a rush midweek dinner. I still had a Mt. Fuji size pile of vegetables to chop and had to work my way through them with a paper towel wrapped around the thumb, rotating every time it turns red, I’m sure you’ve all been there before except for the rookies and liars of course.
    I used a cherry pitter for the first time last summer and loved it but it’s a short season and I don’t have an olive or cherry tree so instead I’m going to pick the magnetic strip on the wall screwed into two studs that holds all of my favorite items (and that fu#$*ng microplane!) no searching through drawers, no hunting or banging around with my sharp knives everything is right there.

    My oddest favorite item would have to be a clean dry pillow case, I’m a big fan of multi taskers and don’t have room in my puny cupboard for a salad spinner, so I wash the leaves in veggie cleaner and water solution and put them in a collander for a few minutes, then I put them in the pillow case and go outside and play helicopter for about 30 seconds and put them in a zip lock bag (whole leaves only according to the Splendid Table’s Lynne Rossetee Okaspar’s new book) with a dry paper towel and it lasts a good 10 days unstead of 3.

  • Rebecca

    I’m way to poor to buy gadgets- I need the 4 for food- but I have this wooden mortar and pestle that I think my parents got in Germany before I was born that I love. I almost never use the mortar (that’s the bowl, right?) but the pestle is SO HANDY! I use it to smash up potatoes and squash and such and to beat up meat when necessary and to make pie crust- pounding the frozen butter into the flour works awesomely- and break up lumps of frozen veggies and brown sugar and once in a while I’ve slept with it under my pillow in case in case I need a weapon in the middle of the night.

  • vtyankee

    A few years ago I was cleaning out my “tupperware” closet, getting rid of a lot of old, yellowing plastic containers. I came across a lidless round one, about 10 inches tall and 5 inches wide. I knew immediately that this one was NOT going in the trash, even though it looked awful.
    With a limited amount of counter space, putting my knives down or out of the way while using them was a problem. They would invariably hit or rub up against something that would dull the blade, or worse, cut the cook’s fingers….my fingers!
    So, this old tube shaped “tupperware” container became my temporary knife holder. It’s stable enough to hold a chef’s knife and several smaller knives (point down, handle sticking out). The plastic sides pose no threat to the sharpened edges, and the edges pose no threat to me or anyone else who happens along.
    It looks like hell, but it stays under the sink when I don’t need it.

  • cebm

    My favorite is my set of grapefruit spoons. Occasionally used for grapefruit but really great for removing ribs and seeds from all kinds of peppers etc…

  • Whitney Otawka

    I am a Chef and I could not live without my church key. I use it every single day, much more efficient for opening cans of liquid then a can opener.

  • MonkeyBoy

    A grill that is used only for charring peppers on top of a gas range.

    I couldn’t find anything reasonable in my local stores so I bought an “instant bbq” kit (an aluminum foil pan that contains charcoal with a metal grid screen on top) and gave the grid a 90 degree bend near each end so it would stand above a burner.

  • MonkeyBoy

    Presto Salad Shooter.

    My mother gave me one years ago. It is fairly useless as a gadget. However its shredder blade has the best size I’ve found for making shredded zucchini (it gives sorta round zucchini ztrings), which I find makes the best sauteed zucchini.

    1) shred zucchinis into colander, sprinkling salt on after every zuke.
    2) wait for a lot of moisture to drip out and then push with your hands to force out even more.
    3) Get a fry pan very hot and then just add the shreds, and stir around.
    4) After 2 or 3 minutes just as the shreds start to lose their bright green color, remove from heat and add some butter and lemon juice.

    One gadget for one recipie

  • Chris Smith

    Three words: Iced Tea Spoon. I have a crock of two dozen in the kitchen and another dozen in my work roll. They’ll change your life!

  • allen

    correction to previous post: the author of splendid table book is : Lynne Rossetto Kasper, I made it into some wierd morphed Irish German name somehow.Sorry to anyone seeking the book by author and to the author.

  • Robert

    So after reading the comments I have to second the fat separator and the oyster knife as unitaskers.

    Next on my list is a combo item of bandsaw/meat grinder. Best ever home butchering tool invented. Funny how when you have a bandsaw that very little of your game animal becomes ground meat or sausage.

  • Steve Braverman

    About 20+ years ago I bought a turkish coffee gringer that I have used as a pepper mill. It is brass, tall (about 25 cm) and heavy. It initally had a detachable base which was used to gring quantities of pepper but over the years the bottom of the base gave out. I still use it at least two – three times a day. I think I first saw one on the Frugal Gourmet’s PBS show.

  • Kat

    I have one of those mini battery operated frothers (I think it is for foam on coffee) that I use for cold Frappe (Greek style coffee)and also use to emulsify small amounts of salad dressing. Works well enough and after a quick rinse it is ready to go.

  • Jake Orr

    Ginger used to give me fits. I love Indian food, but the texture of my ginger was always really unpleasant; stringy and fibrous, and mincing with a knife left juice on my board and pulp in my dish. On a lark, I tried an amazing ginger/horseradish grater by Triangle and I love it. If you want to jam out a single portion of fresh apple sauce or quick puree, it’ll do that too.

  • Rhonda

    Chef Pardus:

    I wish I had a witness and wrote down what I thought you might say and put it in a sealed envelope.

    I was right.

    As for guessing what Chef delGrosso will say, I fold.

  • eightysixchef

    Too many great posts to read through to see if anyone asked this question already, what is Chef Keller’s specific pepper grinder? As for my kitchen gadget it has to be my marble mortar and pestle. I use it all the time, although it’s not a unitasker. I don’t think I own a unitasker.

  • Col

    I love my cherry/olive pitter. Or — does that count as 2 because it works with 2 different foods?

    Then make it my tomato corer.

  • Dennis

    I just stay away from the Seen On TV power tools like the Salad Shooter and the like.
    Beating eggs with chop sticks … I like that one!!

  • Abra Bennett

    Wow, 127 comments and no one has mentioned the Prep Taxi! I love mine so much that I brought it to France in my luggage, there’s nothing like it for transferring food from the cutting board to the pan. You can see one here

    After that, I guess I’d have to say my pizza stone, which I love for the super-crisping effect and my offset smoker, which, sadly, didn’t fit in my luggage.

  • Cathy

    Hinged citrus juicer! No juice on the hands, no pulp in the glass and no seeds. Great for juicing limes or lemons for cocktails.

  • Andrew

    I got two:

    1) Danish Dough Whisk, which is the bread baker’s best friend. The stiff wire loop on a long wooden handle mixes bread doughs and batters in a jif, without overworking them. Hard to find in stores, but available online at places like Fantes.

    2) Suribachi, the Japanese ceramic mortar & wooden pestle. Works wonderfully to crush spices, nuts, etc, and to make pesto, curry pastes, etc. Very satisfying to use, and they are usually pretty enough to double as a serving bowl (Get one at least 8″ wide.)

    – aj

  • Stephanie

    My Back-to-Basics Apple Peeler w/ suction cup base. Fun to use and it really works! I can get an apple pie prepped in minutes.

  • chicu

    single use gadget I use everyday and would gladly worship? my one-cup stove-top espresso maker. I could probably live without it, but it wouldn’t be pretty..

  • Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    I don’t even remember how I acquire mine. I know they were inexpensive. And they have moved way behind just crab & lobster fork. 7 inches long, a very narrow scoop at one end, a two-prong tiny fork at the other: great to extract stuff from hard to get narrow places, and so they are used mostly now to extract marrow out of bones. Also triple duty as oyster fork.

    The one there are not exactly the same but very similar to the ones I have