This inexpensive chopper-dough scraper is one of my indispensable kitchen tools
One of the handiest tools in my kitchen is this inexpensive tool sometimes called a bench knife, sometimes a scraper or chopper. Whether I'm making biscuits, chopping vegetables, or cutting up a watermelon, I use it every time I cook.
It's almost easier to show you than to tell you, so I've included plenty of photographs to illustrate some of the ways I use this blade.
Chopping onions for an omelet? Scoop them up on the blade and toss them in the pan in one quick motion.
Make sure to get a food-grade (18/8) stainless steel chopper. This rounded handle makes it easy on the hands.
How familiar with this tool are you?
New concept or old hat?
Cube butter to soften quickly for pastries and cakes
Cubing cold butter for pastry shells or biscuits? It's a snap.
Use your bench blade to slice that cube into three long strips. Stack them and turn them on their side and slice through again, then a few quick slices the other direction and you've got cubed butter.
Brand new cook? We were all in your shoes at one time. Wish someone had taught me this when I was starting out: Quick tip for softening butter fast.
Scrape up flour and dough bits when bakingClick thumbnail to view full-size
How about kneading bread or cutting biscuits? Dough scrapers are designed to make short work of baking cleanup.
After kneading, scrape the flour up and work it right back into your bread or pastry.
In fact, I save any scrapings I can't incorporate into the loaf in a Fido jar in the fridge and use them when making Bechamel sauce.
Get every drop of the tomato juice when you dice tomatoes for soups and stews
When chopping tomatoes for sauces or pico de gallo, use your scraper to get all that good juice into your bowl, flavoring your food
Use it the same way for juicy fruits, such as peaches and pears, when you slice them for pies and tarts or to add to smoothies.
Make quick work of scraping trimmings into your veggies stock freezer bowl
We pay extra for organic and locally grown produce, so we want to capture every bit of the healthy nutrients and good flavor.
Whether I'm chopping kale, peeling carrots or potatoes, or cutting butt ends off asparagus, celery or cucumbers, I'm not about to let the valuable nutrients go to waste.
One way we do that is by keeping a veggie soup stock bowl in the freezer to collect peelings, seeds and odd bits such as kale stems that are sometimes too tough to eat.
With a chopper blade like this one, it takes seconds to scrape all those bits into a freezer bowl. New concept for you? Learn how to make your own homemade veggie soup stock from scratch. Super easy!
Saves food, energy (Mine!) and time
Do you find a bench blade as indispensable in your kitchen as I do in mine? How much time and energy does it save you? If you don't already have one, how might this inexpensive tool be useful in your kitchen?
There's not a single recipe or cooking session--even preparing a quick snack--that I don't use my bench knife. What's so wonderful about this one, besides its versatility, is that it costs less than $5, yet is made of high quality, food-grade stainless steel.
Oh, and that little rolled handle? It's hollow, and sits above the flat of the blade, so it's ideal for catching small things that might slide off before you get them into your bowl, cooking pot or skillet.
You could spend more for a fancier one with a wooden handle, like the ones you see below, but I wouldn't want to be without that handy tube handle.
Pricier alternatives each have their advantages
While I prefer my inexpensive blade, especially for its tube handle, I can see the draw for a handsome, slightly larger blade with a beautiful wooden handle like this one.
This dough scraper is a little heavier than mine and has a lovely wooden handle.
Several people I know rely on Oxo Good Grips tools. Like all their products, this chopper/scraper has a handy, non-stick rubber-like grip.
Same food grade stainless steel, but with a comfort-grip, though in my mind, uglier handle.
Which would you rather have?
Of the three tools shown on this page, which do you prefer?
Curious about that term "food grade stainless steel"?
You may be wondering about that term "food grade stainless steel. It has to do with the properties of steel. Steel is made of iron and other metals, such as chromium and nickel. If a magnet sticks to it, the steel has less nickel and is more likely to corrode.
Corrosion, of course, is not good when you're cooking with acidic foods. You don't want to corrode and pit your stainless steel utensils and pots when you add tomatoes or citrus juices to your recipes.
Food grade stainless steel has more nickel in it and is resistant to corrosion. A magnet should not stick to food grade stainless steel. That means it is safe to cook in, to store food for short periods of time, and to use as plates or cups.
You wouldn't want to store food for long periods of time, even in food grade stainless steel, because its natural non-leaching properties break down when not exposed to oxygen continuously.
For more about food grade stainless steel, including scientific studies to back their claims, go to Sections 5.3 and 5.4 in Stainless Steel--When Health Comes First(pdf), by Euro/Inox, the European Stainless Steel Development Association.
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I hope you found something useful here today.
© 2014 Kathryn Grace