New Uses for Things in the Kitchen
These items step up to the plate in less time than it takes to heat up leftovers.
More lovely to look at than the branded box from the store, but it still slides easily into the pantry for storage.
Keep linen placemats and runners crease-free; roll them around a paper towel holder instead of folding.
Attention, PTA members: Here’s a practical Transport Alternative for the bake sale. Tape a cereal box closed, then cut away the front or back panel to create a tray for those top-selling brownies. Best of all, you can just "donate" the box.
To get a tiny sequin in just the right spot during your next craft project, use the tip of a chopstick to nudge it into place without gumming up your fingers.
Secure a cupcake liner over the top of a jar with a rubber band. It can be a temporary fix if you’ve lost the lid, a pretty solution to keep flies out of the lemonade, or a cute topper for a gift-in-a-jar.
Using a large sewing needle, thread a string through the alternating colorful cupcake liners to make a ruffled garland.
Use a baster full of batter to squeeze custom pancakes onto the griddle. Start with easy letters and shapes, then work up to more complicated designs, like these leaves. (The trick is to draw the outlines and veins first, let them brown, then fill in the gaps with more batter.)
When frying, top the pan with an upside-down metal colander to protect yourself from burns while still allowing heat to escape.
To prevent a smelly, waterlogged sponge, air-dry it in a binder clip away from the sink.
To prevent balls of yarn from tangling, string the end of each through a colander hole.
Peel garlic. Place cloves in a bowl, cover with another bowl to form a sphere, and shake. The peels will flake off.
Pack small amounts of salt, pepper, and spices for a camping trip.
Eliminate sticky residue from an iron. Run the hot iron (no steam) over plain paper sprinkled with salt.
These durable bags can take a beating. Fill one up and give it a whack with a rolling pin to make crumbs out of crackers, cornflakes, or candy. Remember to twist the top closed to prevent flyaways.
The cold, hard truth: Small ice cubes melt fast, leaving a pitcher of lemonade watery. To make long-lasting jumbo cubes, use a muffin tin. Pop them out by running the back of the tin under hot water for 30 seconds.
Pack small amounts of your favorite spice (red pepper flakes, anyone?) in old Tic Tac boxes, to season food on-the-go.
Turn your fridge or stove hood into a memo board. Glue a magnet to the back of a pin and use it to hold reminders, invitations, and photos.
Sending Grandpa a shot of the all-star soccer team but don't want the postal journey to bend it (like Beckham)? Sandwich the picture between the large panels of a flattened box.
The next time a tumbler takes a tumble, sponge up the shards with a slice of bread. Even tiny slivers will cling to it.
Anchor a cutting board’s corners to make prep work easier and safer.
For mess-free tea, tie a bunch of bags to a chopstick and rest it across the pitcher’s rim (use 2 bags per cup of boiling water). Brew for about 4 minutes, then lift and discard the bags.
Absorb odors in the refrigerator’s vegetable drawer with a lining of newspaper.
One of the most popular kitchen tools also happens to double as a clean-up aid. Before draining the tub, use a colander to make scooping up small toys fun and easy.
Safeguard your taste buds during holiday card season. Replace a dried out ink pad with a damp sponge and use it to seal envelopes and attach stamps—no licking required.
Prevent hair balls. Add ⅛ to 1¼ teaspoon to your cat’s food for easy digestion.
To prevent a piecrust from burning while the filling cooks, make a foil collar to deflect heat. Take a piece of foil about 25 inches long, fold it into thirds lengthwise, and fasten the ends with a paper clip. Halfway into the baking, slip the collar over the crust (as shown). Leave it on until the pie is done.
Glam up a bathroom or vanity. Stock soaps and washcloths on top, or showcase your prettiest perfume bottles.
Hook extra dish towels and pot holders on a belt hanger for easy retrieval.
Let’s see—you need milk, eggs…and something to replace the stark white memo board that’s sucking all the style from your otherwise charming kitchen. Frame a pretty piece of fabric or paper, then write temporary to-dos on the glass with a dry-erase marker.
If you're the flaky type, cereal boxes (including the single-serving minis) can corral desk-drawer chaos. Slice off the tops and the bottoms and fill them with loose odds and ends.
Secure half-eaten bags of potato chips with a binder clip for an easy way to keep your favorite snack fresh and crunchy.
Keep kitchen twine from tangling and jamming your drawers by using a glass sugar dispenser as a spool. Simply place the twine in the jar and thread through the open hole.
Rough commute? Slide a drink cooler over an apple to keep it from bruising in your lunch tote.
Hang a clipboard on the wall (or inside a cabinet) to clamp down on place mats—and that old “I can’t find them!” excuse from the person setting the table.
Insert a straw until it reaches the bottom of the glass bottle. Shake the bottle, then pour, leaving the straw inside. The airflow provided by the straw breaks the condiment-stopping vacuum.
Stretch a rubber band around an opaque container. Each time you scoop out the flour or coffee, move the band down to mark the supply level. No need to lift the lid while making your grocery list—you can see how much is left in a snap.
When prebaking a piecrust, use beans to keep it from puffing up or shrinking into the pie plate: Line the bottom and sides of the cold dough with foil and fill to the brim with beans.
To get baked-on food off a glass pan or an oven rack, use dishwashing liquid and a ball of foil in place of a steel-wool soap pad, says Mary Findley, president of the cleaning-products developer Mary Moppins. It's one way to recycle those used but perfectly good pieces of foil you hate to throw out.
Forget keeping skin soft, baby oil also polishes chrome. Apply a dab to a cotton cloth and use it to shine everything from faucets to hubcaps. You'll end up with shiny, happy surfaces from a medicine-cabinet staple. (Who actually owns chrome cleaner, anyway?)
Use bubble wrap to save fruit and vegetables from bumps and bruises. Cut a piece to fit into the bottom of the refrigerator drawer as a pillow for your produce. Say goodbye to squished squashes or mushy mangoes.
Cut corn from the cob without the mess. Place an ear in the center of a Bundt pan. As you slide the knife down, the corn will fall right into the pan.
For a juicy bird that’s crispy all the way around, first layer potatoes, carrots, and onions on the bottom of the pan. Then season the chicken and place in the pan with the cavity over the center hole. Set the dish on a cookie sheet to collect any drippings and roast as usual.
Hang a skillet on a kitchen wall and you’ll have a convenient magnetic spot to display recipes, important reminders, and anything else your brain is too, well, fried to remember.
Use a chop stick to easily level flour in a measuring cup. Leave it in the flour canister and you won't have to rummage for a clean knife.
Catch the sticky stuff from bottles and jars in cupboards. No more shelves that require a full wipe-down after every spoonful of honey, slather of jam, or glug of olive oil.
An ice cream scoop deposits perfect domes for a Taj Mahal (or a yurt).
When the cork crumbles, salvage a bottle of wine by slowly pouring it through a filter into a pitcher or carafe. That way your $25 Fume Blanc won't go down the drain.
Avoid dirty dishes when baking by lining the bowl you’re using to mix dry ingredients with a clean filter. Then simply trash it when you’re done. You can make the same cakes, just with less cleanup.
For a dip that doesn't taste watered down, strain your yogurt before using it. Secure a paper coffee filter over the mouth of a deep cup or jar with a rubber band then pour in some yogurt. Any liquid in the yogurt will drain through the filter.
For sweet, juicy ham without the goopy stove-top glaze, pour a 20-ounce bottle of regular cola over a 10-pound precooked ham and roast for 2 1/2 hours at 350° F, basting every 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cut a hatch diamond pattern into the top, rub with a tablespoon of dry mustard, stud the centers of the diamonds with whole cloves, and pat with 1 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs. Return to oven for 35 minutes.
To stencil designs on frosted or unfrosted cakes, place cookie cutters on top and fill with sprinkles, powdered sugar, or cocoa powder. (Warning: This technique may convince guests you've taken a master class in cake decorating.)
Celebrating by candlelight? Spray the inside of a votive holder with a thin coating before dropping in a tea light. After the candle has burned down, the remaining wax will slip out.
Silence cabinet doors that slam by slicing a cork into thin disks and sticking them onto the inside corners of cabinets to muzzle the closing noise.
For a heat protector, slip a cork or two under a lid's handle and you'll always have something safe to grab.
For a new twist on a serial dinner favorite, add a layer of crunch to plain old mac-and-cheese. Top your child’s bowl with a sprinkling of flakes (even the bits at the bottom of the bag work). It’s easier and more kid-friendly than toasted bread crumbs.
For leak-resistant gloves at your fingertips, push one cotton ball into the end of each finger of a dishwashing glove to keep sharp nails from splitting the rubber.
Sort cookie sheets, cutting boards, and jelly-roll pans in the kitchen for easy access (and no more cymbal-crashing sounds) in an overstuffed cabinet.
To prevent your cutting board from sliding on the countertop, wet and wring out a towel, then lay it down for a nonskid work surface. There will be no more throwing in the towel while wrestling with your vegetables.
Let a colorful dish towel span the center of your table and you'll get two place mats for the price of an easy wash-and-dry staple and a Paris bistro feel (no passport required).
Steam perfect rice. Once the rice is tender, remove the pan from the heat, place a folded towel over the saucepan, replace the lid, and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes. The towel will absorb the excess moisture for great rice with no mush.
Cut mushrooms into neat slivers, all without a cutting board to clean.
Give this classic tool a permanent spot on your kitchen counter and―presto!―you'll have perfect slivers of your favorite summer foods.
Slice perfect pieces of mozzarella―and cut out the mess that goes with it. The wires divide the soft cheese into equal segments without squashing it. It's a clean cut, any way you slice it.
Use floss to slice soft cheese, cake, and hard-boiled eggs. (Or try it as a substitute for kitchen twine to truss a chicken.) It's hygienic, neat, and cheap. Unwaxed works best, and of course you know better than to mix mint-flavored with a vintage Gorgonzola.
To "puree" garlic hold the tines flat against a work surface, and vigorously rub a peeled clove across them. The result: A fine paste perfect for marinades, sauces, and vinaigrettes (and an end to hand washing the garlic press).
Use fork tines to poke holes in the foil seals of oil and syrup bottles to better control the way (and the amount) they pour.
Your icebox images will pop once they’re no longer buried under lists and bills. Give them an edge by gluing magnet strips to the backs of small frames, elevating snapshots and postcards to art.
Don't have a mortar and pestle? Crack coriander seeds (shown), cumin seeds, and peppercorns with a garlic press instead. When a recipe calls for "freshly cracked" or "coarsely ground" seeds, fill the chamber of a garlic press and squeeze to crush.
Is that a blueberry or cranberry muffin? Eliminate all the guessing at your next brunch by using colorful tees to denote which is which. (Also handy when distinguishing medium-rare from medium patties at a cookout.)
Revive burned muffins and cookies by running the charred bottoms lightly across the grater to help them rise from the ashes. Your baked goods will look golden brown, even if you forgot to set the timer.
To gloss the frosting on a freshly baked cake, lightly blow warm air over the top and the sides of the cake until the frosting melts a little. When it cools, the surface will stay shiny for a professional finish.
Shield a muffin tin from burned-on batter drips by laying a foil sheet across it, snipping an X over each cup, then popping in liners.
Need a pan in a pinch? Use aluminum foil. Rather than struggling to dislodge your rustic apple masterpiece from its (supposedly) nonstick pan, bake it on a cookie sheet, supporting its sides with a doubled-over strip of foil. Secure the foil with a paper clip.
When slicing messy foods like tomatoes, place the cutting board on a baking sheet. It will contain any juices, and make it easy to clean up—simply rinse in the sink.
To get your drain running again (without resorting to chemicals worthy of a hazmat suit) pour ½ cup soda, then ½ cup vinegar, down a clogged drain. Cover it with a wet cloth, wait 5 minutes, uncover, and flush with steaming-hot water.
Clean dirt from leafy vegetables by washing them in a bath of salt water.
Organize the spice cabinet by transferring canisters to the pockets and mounting the holder inside the pantry.
Contain plastic bags in a drawer or under the cabinet by stuffing them into an empty tube and pulling out as needed.
Use white toothpaste to buff scuffs out of linoleum tiles.
Prevent plastic wrap from smudging a birthday cake by sticking toothpicks in the top before covering.
Trade frostbite funk for a more pleasing freezer scent and wipe the inside of the icebox with an extract-dampened cotton pad.
Tidy countertops by gathering kitchen tools like spatulas and spoons in a widemouthed vase.
Make a cake stand by flipping the vase over and attaching a plate on top of it with double-sided tape.
Assemble an herb garden. Fill the bottom of the vase with pebbles (for drainage) before transferring small potted greens.
Keep Fido’s bowl from migrating away from its designated spot with a few pieces of Velcro on its bottom side.
Stop a seat cushion from tumbling off a chair by adhering strips of Velcro to the bottom of the cushion and the top of the seat.
After chopping onions, scrub your hands with salt and a splash of vinegar to eliminate the smell.
Clean a coffeemaker or a tea kettle by making a pot using a mixture of water and vinegar. Follow with several cycles of water to rinse.
Dislodge a stubborn price sticker. Paint with several coats of vinegar, let it sit for five minutes, then wipe away.
Deodorize a garbage disposal. Make vinegar ice cubes and feed them down the disposal. After grinding, run cold water through the drain.
Repair hardwood floors by rubbing shelled nuts into shallow scratches. Their natural oils help hide the flaws.
Crush graham crackers for a pie crust (without all the mess) by filling a bag, then running a rolling pin over it.
To funnel peppercorns into a mill, fill a baggie with the spices, snip off a corner, and pour the pepper through the hole.
If you don't have a pastry bag, you can use a plastic bag to decorate a cake or cupcakes. Scoop frosting into the bag, seal it shut, snip off a tiny corner, and start piping.