It’s a struggle most home cooks know well: you go to the trouble of making an involved, faithfully followed recipe only to have your kitchen look like a war zone when the cooking is done. I’m no different. While I love to spend time in the kitchen, I’ve accepted the reality that I’m a messy cook — someone who, without thinking, will use every one-off gadget in the drawer when a multipurpose item would do the trick. So I decided to try going back to basics, and that’s when I discovered there was a masterful tool just sitting there in my cutlery drawer: the humble spoon.
If your love for Marie Kondo-style minimalism extends to cooking, learning how to maximize the potential of the metal kitchen spoon will make a huge difference in your life. The key is choosing a sturdy, well-made utensil, with a not-too-shallow head and a bit of weight to it — Henckels stainless steel options are a good, durable standard for everyday use. Plus, they’re easy to wash, don’t stain, and won’t absorb odours.
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Here are a few surprising ways that the humble kitchen spoon can make your life easier.
A Kitchen Gadget That Can Peel, Core and Crush
Readying freshly chopped ginger for an aromatic meal? No need to bring out the hard-to-clean peeler — the edge of the spoon’s metal head will do the trick. Simply hold the root firmly in hand, grip the spoon closer to the head, and scrape the ginger’s skin towards you. Crushing garlic to separate skin from flesh is equally easy — just place the base of the spoon’s bowl on top of a clove, press down with a bit of force, and the peel will pop off.
Roasting squash or prepping cucumbers for a Greek salad? A spoon can help scoop out seeds in a snap. Likewise, if you’re juicing lemons or limes, palm the sliced half of the citrus in one hand, insert the spoon’s head with the other, and twist and squeeze.
If you’re about to dice a tomato and need it without all its seeds and juices, the tip of a spoon’s head can help core and de-seed quickly — once you pierce the skin with the tip of the spoon, it’ll be easy to cut the top off (as you would a pumpkin) and use the spoon to remove the seeds. The same goes for coring an apple — simply cut the apple in half, push the spoon head in at a few places around the core and it’ll pop out cleanly.
It’s a Natural Measurer
It’s almost too obvious to mention, but as long as you’re not creating molecular gastronomy, or a delicate baking recipe where precision truly matters, a metal kitchen spoon easily doubles as a tablespoon for both dry ingredients (like spices) and wet (like soy sauce and olive oil). Understanding what measuring sizes look like will really help you with your eyeballing here. For example, a tablespoon of liquid is about the size of a poker chip. And if you’re able to remember that four tablespoons make up a ¼ cup, eight create a ½ cup and so on, it’s easy to cut down on all the measuring spoons you’d typically use.
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It Can Unstick and Take the Heat
If you’re handling sticky substances like honey or maple, the spoon can keep mess to a minimum with a simple trick: Coat it with a bit of olive oil, pour the sticky ingredient on to the spoon, and it’ll slide right off into the mixing bowl without stubbornly clinging.
Making dessert or something that requires a sweet ingredient? If you’re heating sugar, dip the spoon in once the sugar liquefies. If it creates fine strands when you pull the spoon out, it’s an indication your sugar has reached the ideal temperature of 223°F.
A Perfect Reminder to Taste, Taste, Taste
One thing that everyone from seasoned home cooks to professional chefs will tell you is that the key to a great dish is tasting as you go — and the basic metal kitchen spoon is the ideal vehicle for it. Some chefs will carry a spoon around for that very reason, or at least keep a jar of spoons next to the stove as a reminder to sample sauces, soups, stews, whipped cream, you name it. The spoon holds liquid, scoops dense foods like casseroles or cold treats like ice cream, and it will reach into those smaller jars for you so you can sample your smoothies, dressings or condiments.
This Utensil’s Not Just For Food
All night baking-spree? Have puffy, irritated eyes? Place two metal spoons in the fridge for about 20 minutes. When they’re cold enough, take the spoons out, put the bowl of each spoon over your eyes until the spoons warm, and bask in the relief. Repeat if necessary.