Ditch the one-hit wonders and get your hands on the only true kitchen gadget you need.
As much as I hate clutter, I hate single-use kitchen tools even more. I blame those home-based “kitchen parties” for the deluge in useless gadgetry like avocado slicers, strawberry hullers, and pineapple corers. But one truly useful gadget that deserves a spot in your kitchen is the rasp, which is better known by its brand name Microplane.
You’ve seen it: a long, slender grating instrument, often with a soft-grip handle. They now come in several grating sizes, from fine to coarse, but I’ve found that the one classic rasp is all you really need. Its beauty lies in its simplicity—simply run a food item over the blades, and fine shreds of grated deliciousness appear on the other side. They cost about $15, and cleanup is a snap.
Here are some common kitchen tools you can scrap, plus how the rasp can work in their place.
There was a time when home cooks couldn’t get their hands on these fast enough. Stick a garlic clove into the little chamber, squeeze, and voilà: minced garlic. But the cleanup is the worst! You have to gouge out all of the leftover garlic skin (can you say food waste?). Scrape a clove along the rasp, and your garlic will positively melt into whatever you’re cooking. Bonus: This tip is also useful for shallots.
Cheese Grater/Box Grater
You’ve likely encountered such a tool at an Italian restaurant when the server asks whether you’d like more cheese on top. With the turn of a little hand crank, fluffy bits of Parmesan float over your dish. Save the pomp and circumstance and use a rasp for perfecting that plate of food. And since I hate risking my knuckles and fingernails on box graters, I also prefer a larger, paddle-size Microplane for grating greater amounts of cheese for something like pasta carbonara.
Spice Grinder/Mortar and Pestle
Unless your grinder doubles for coffee beans, your mortar and pestle are a beautiful work of art, or you’re regularly making large batches of garam masala, you’re better off sticking with a rasp to grate whole spices. Nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and star anise can be run over the blades for a hit of freshly ground spice to top baked goods and beverages.
Citrus Zester with Channel Knife
Have you ever used your channel knife? Didn’t think so. You will likely never have a use for the sizable zest that results from this tool. A finer zest blends better into finished dishes and vinaigrettes, without leaving that bitter aftertaste. Go ahead and zest away with your rasp.
RELATED: How to Zest a Lemon
I’m referring to a special knife with tiny holes along its surface used for scraping cold butter, not the knives that came with your silverware set. There are few things worse than tearing a beautiful slice of whole-grain bread with a cold pat of butter that won’t schmear. By running the cold stick over the rasp, the butter will easily spread—even with the knife that came with your silverware set.
It’s unlikely you have this one-use gadget in your drawer, but it's worth including how wonderful the rasp is for grating chocolate!
Okay, I’m not actually suggesting you toss your chef’s knife (side note: never toss a knife!). But unlike knives, rasps never seem to lose their edges. This is because rasps started as woodworking tools. I use the same rasp today that I won in a culinary school competition more than a decade ago, and it’s as sharp as ever. A dull knife will make cutting through foods like ginger, horseradish, and chile peppers seem like a walk through one of Dante’s rings of hell. But your Microplane makes it easy. Bonus: A rasp will leave the seeds of a hot pepper behind.
Ok so this isn’t *technically* a kitchen tool, but it’s still important. Singe a batch of cookies or cupcakes? Erase small misadventures with a light hand and a rasp, much like scraping off burnt bits of toast. We promise, no one will ever know.