It takes a computer geek to see a kitchen in a whole new way.
I've been thumbing through Jeff Potter's new book, Cooking for Geeks, and picking up brilliant ideas. Potter isn't actually a food writer -- he's a computer geek and entrepreneur who just happens to love cooking. And his book is written almost like a computer manual, only much, much more fun and with better pictures. Also, you can actually understand what he's talking about.
Anyhoo, one of my favorite sections is the chapter on hacking your kitchen equipment. Potter explains, "Thinking like a hacker means thinking of an end state and then figuring out how to get there in a time- and space-optimal (and fewest dishes possible) way." In other words, before you buy another gadget or appliance, look at what you already have and see how else you can use it.
1. Spray your muffin tin on the dishwasher door. Of course! Otherwise you get non-stick spray all over the counter -- or all over your stovetop. But your dishwasher door is going to get cleaned soon, anyway.
2. Use a strainer as a splatter guard. You toss some just-washed veggies into a pan of hot olive oil and what happens? Splattering, all over you (ouch!) and your stovetop. Pop your strainer upside-down over the pan and you're saved! Of course, it helps if the strainer and the pan are the same size.
3. Roast peppers in a toaster. Way more energy efficient than turning on the oven. I'll sometimes roast peppers (during the non-grilling season) with tongs over the gas flame of my stove, but I like the toaster idea even better.
4. Use a metal (or glass) bowl as a double boiler. You need a double boiler for fancy sauces like Hollandaise (mmm, eggs benedict) and, if you don't have a microwave, for melting chocolate. I do this all the time, though I prefer using a heat-proof glass bowl.
5. Use a mug as a plastic bag holder. Sure you could dump your coffee grounds directly into the garbage can instead of into a bag. But maybe you want to carry your grounds outside to the compost? Use a mug to hold your bag.
These ideas got me looking around my kitchen to see how else I could "hack" my equipment.
6. Use your coffee grinder as a spice grinder. Actually, I've been doing this for years. Have you ever baked cookies using freshly ground spices? Holy smokes.
7. Use your rolling pin as a meat tenderizer. It's big, it's heavy, it has a handle, it does the job.
8. Save your jam jars for leftovers. So much prettier than plasticware, plus no toxins! Most jam jars have just enough space for a single serving of pasta, salad, soup, or casserole.
What are your favorite kitchen equipment hacks?
Excerpted from "Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food (First Edition)," by Jeff Potter(Published by O'Reilly Media, Inc.; 2010; ISBN 978-0-569-80588-3)