What’s on Hand

From wine bottles to plastic bags, it’s amazing what you can use to replace common kitchen tools.

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Let’s face it. Despite best intentions, sometimes we just don’t have what we need when it comes time to cook dinner. The good news is that, whether it’s a kitchen tool or ingredient, there can be fitting substitutes. You just need to use your imagination (this article will also help!)

HELPFUL HACKS AND SWAPS

An ancient kitchen utensil used for evenly flattening cookie and pie dough, rolling pins also come in handy for pizza dough and crushing crackers and breadcrumbs. They are large and awkward to store if you have limited kitchen space so a wine bottle makes a perfectly good substitute! After which, you can treat yourself to a glass for a job well done! 

Pastry bags aren’t just for icing. They’re also useful for piping the filling into deviled eggs and plating puréed ingredients. The catch is that they’re a pain to clean so we recommend using a small zip-up plastic bag instead. Just place your mixture inside, snip off a corner, squeeze out any air, and have at it. If you find yourself piping often, this may not be the best option, since it’s not eco-friendly. 

Pastry bags aren’t just for icing. They’re also useful for piping the filling into deviled eggs and plating puréed ingredients.

If you like to make guacamole and margaritas, you likely own a citrus reamer. They’re very useful for extracting every last drop of juice from citrus fruits. That said, maybe you’re making dinner at a friend’s house or at the cottage and find yourself without one. Don’t fret – a fork will do the trick. Just stab the fruit with a fork and move it clockwise while you squeeze the lemon. 

Burger presses are an unnecessary kitchen gadget. The next time you want to make uniform burger patties or plate the perfect tartare, simply grab a measuring cup or cookie cutter. Don’t own a steamer basket? No sweat. All you need is a large kitchen strainer or colander. Place your food inside and set it on top your pot of boiling water. Basic utensils have many purposes so before you buy that next kitchen gadget, check to see if something you already own might do the job. 

Don’t own a steamer basket? No sweat. All you need is a large kitchen strainer or colander.

COMMON INGREDIENT SUBSTITUTIONS

When it comes to cooking, it’s worth keeping a cheat sheet of handy substitutions. While some are obvious, others may surprise you. Picture this, you are about to make your famous fried chicken recipe when you realize you don’t have buttermilk. Did you know that you can make a simple swap with milk plus vinegar or lemon juice? It’s magic! 

Heavy cream is a common ingredient in quiche, mashed potatoes and pasta sauce but can be substituted with whole milk, evaporated milk or coconut milk but keep in mind that the latter will impart its unique flavor so choose carefully. Similarly, when sour cream is called for, try using plain Greek yogurt instead. It has a similar consistency but is far healthier for you. It’s also a great substitute for mayonnaise. 

When it comes to cooking, it’s worth keeping a cheat sheet of handy substitutions.

Take time to consider the texture, flavor and cook time of the ingredient that you’re looking to substitute. Remember, what grows together, goes together. If a recipe calls for a certain root vegetable, it’s safe to say that you can replace it with another root veggie. Herbs and greens can be a little trickier. Are they bitter or mild in flavor? Fresh herbs generally fall into two distinct categories: tender and bright (i.e. dill, chive, parsley) and woody and savory such as rosemary and sage. Choosing the wrong fresh herb can ruin a dish so be sure to do a little research before you think about swapping.  

In the spice department, there are four flavor categories: earthy, floral, peppery and warm. Therefore, try to substitute spices with the same characteristics. Replacing curry powder with turmeric makes a lot more sense than nutmeg. You want to “keep it in the family,” so to speak. The same goes for oils and fats. Choose replacements based on whether or not they fall into the neutral oils, flavored oils or solid fats grouping. Carefully consider flavor and smoke point.