March 27, 2013 at 8:15 AM ET
Chris Kimball, guru of all things kitchen, shares his tips for using everyday items in unexpected ways.
Tongs = citrus reamer or bottle opener
Your kitchen or grill tongs can do double-duty to get juice from citrus fruits like lemon, lime or oranges. Just hold half of a lemon in one hand, the closed tongs in the other, and use the tips of the tongs (twist and push) to juice the fruit. It's easy and quick.
Another use for your tongs: a bottle opener. Use the long arms of the tongs, placing one arm under the lip of the bottle cap, the other on top of the cap, and twist up. The top pops right off. This is a handy trick when you're out by the grill and want to open your beer!
Spice bottle + heavy-duty coffee mug = mortar and pestle
If you need to crush some peppercorns or spices and you don't own a mortar and pestle, improvise one with a glass spice bottle and a sturdy coffee mug. Choose a mug that's low and wide, rather than tall and skinny. Put your ingredients at the bottom of the mug, and use the spice bottle as a pestle to grind and crush it.
Bowl of salted ice water = fast wine-chiller
Need to chill down that bottle of white wine fast? Get a big bowl of ice, add a little water and a generous handful of salt (1/4 to ½ cup). Stir in the salt, and put the bottle in the bowl. Because salt lowers the freezing temperature of water, it will get much colder, so the wine chills faster. You can see the temperature instantly drop into the 20s. This method can take a room-temperature bottle of wine down to 50 degrees (the ideal drinking temperature) in just 30 minutes, compared to a full hour if you stuck that same bottle in the freezer.
Bundt pan = vertical chicken roaster
Vertical chicken roasters hold a whole chicken upright, like it's sitting up. This method gets the skin beautifully crispy all over, and helps the meat cook more evenly. But did you know your bundt cake pan can do double-duty as a chicken roaster? Just sit the chicken up on the center tube of the pan, legs down. Tip: put the pan on a sheet tray or shallow roasting pan to catch any drippings that might go down the tube; but most of the juices will be captured in the inverted cake pan.
Uncooked spaghetti = cake tester; and uncooked spaghetti + plastic wrap = pie or cake protector
When you're baking a cake, you usually stick a toothpick into the center to be sure no wet batter remains unbaked. But if you don't have a toothpick, grab a strand of spaghetti. It works just as well as a toothpick (and its length works even better when you're baking a deep cake like a bundt cake, or have to reach far into the oven).
Another baking use for spaghetti? Break the pieces into shorter sticks and stand them in a frosted cake or cream pie, then drape a sheet of plastic wrap over the top. This keeps the plastic from sticking to the frosting or cream, and keeps your baked goods looking great.
Beer cozy = fruit protector
If you like to carry fruit to work or school, there's an easy way to make sure it's protected from getting bruised in your backpack, lunchbox or purse. Slip a piece of fruit, such as an apple, into one of those stretchy foam insulating sleeves known as a beer cozy, which is designed to keep your can of beer (or soda) cold and your hand warm and dry.