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Why you don’t need to spend a fortune on fancy kitchen gadgets

CUTTING PIZZA
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The new trend of putting non-kitchen items to culinary use is creative and practical.

A few years ago when my oldest daughter was just starting to cook on her own, she made quesadillas for dinner one night. I walked into the kitchen just in time to see her cutting them up with a pair of scissors.

“What are you doing?” I asked incredulously. “Cutting up the quesadilla,” she replied nonchalantly while neatly snipping evenly-sized rectangles.

“Why didn’t you just use the pizza cutter?” I asked. “Because it never cuts all the way through and you have to go over and over the place you want to cut,” she responded (accurately). “Scissors are easier.”

Although I had spent many an evening sawing away at a pizza or quesadilla with our garbage pizza cutter, it would never have occurred to me to use scissors. Scissors were for cutting paper, after all, not food. But from that day forward, my life was changed. Scissors went on our knife rack, to be used on food and food only.

Lifehacker recently had a post about the phenomenon of non-kitchen items being put to culinary use, and one item in particular caught my eye: the hairdryer.

As you may or may not know, I am a big fan of keeping a tape measurer in my kitchen, for measuring pie crust dimensions and the like. Hair driers are another unexpected non-kitchen tool with delicious applications; food writer Helen Rosner recently caused a bit of Twitter tumult by using hers to help crisp up some chicken skin.

The measuring tape is legit. I only make pie once a year (at Thanksgiving, of course), but I still keep my measuring tape in the junk drawer in the kitchen for just that occasion. But a hairdryer to crisp up chicken skin? I literally don’t understand how that would work, but you can bet I’ll be trying it. I’m also seeing a whole new world of chocolate-tempering possibilities in my future.

Some other favorites of mine are jewelry hammers (to crush crackers and cookies for toppings and crusts), paintbrushes (for egg washes and basting), and old coffee cans (to bake banana bread in). A friend of mine used to jimmy a whisk attachment onto her drill for giant batches of meringues, and another friend used to borrow her husband’s propane torch to carmelize the sugar on her crème brulee.

What about you? What’s your favorite non-kitchen item that regularly (or occasionally) makes a cameo for culinary purposes?

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