Maybe you made schnitzel a few years ago. You dutifully took out your meat mallet, pounded the chicken or pork into a thin cutlet, and then moved on with your recipe. You washed that mallet, put it away, and, let's be honest, haven't taken it out since.
Today is the day to seize that mallet and let it shine again. You may not be eating as much meat as you used to—or maybe you're eating more meat than you used to, I don't know your life—but there are still plenty of times when your meat mallet (excuse me, kitchen mallet) can come in handy. Here's a few ways we've been using ours lately.
Using the mallet to crush some garlic is safer than using the side of a knife—and the average kitchen mallet has more weight, too, so that garlic clove will really get crushed. Toss a few well-crushed cloves into these Instant Pot beans and hardly wait as they dissolve into the flavorful broth.Anna Stockwell
To get the most flavor from these reedy stems, you want to expose their core—but you usually want to be able to fish out the stem in the end, like in this fragrant braised chicken-leg recipe (which is also perfumed with smashed garlic, btw). Kitchen mallet to the rescue.Chris Morocco
Ever heard of the technique where you par-boil small potatoes, crush them into craggy discs, and then pan-fry them to achieve a crispy fractured shell filled with the lightest potato fluff? Let a kitchen mallet get you there faster, and with less burning flesh than you'd experience trying to do the smushing with the heel of your hand.
Cookbook author Andrea Nguyen says her kitchen mallet is one of the best birthday gifts she's ever received. She uses it to smash charred ginger, exposing the fibrous, flavorful flesh to a vat of broth for pho.Andrea Nguyen
Break Up Nuts
Sure, you could coarsely chop nuts with a knife, but when you can HULK smash them, why bother? (Just kidding, don't actually HULK smash them, just place the mallet on top of the pre-toasted nuts and apply gentle, even pressure to split the nuts.)
Bon Appétit Che Fico; San Francisco, CA
We love the classic Sichuan dish of smashed cucumbers swimming in a spicy, vinegary dressing. And we love Thai salads that start with bashed green beans. My colleague Anna Stockwell riffs on this method for her tangy green bean salad. Most recipes for this type of dish suggest smashing with a rolling pin, but that can be a bit unwieldy, and not all of us have massive mortar and pestle sets fit to do the job. The hammer shape of a kitchen mallet makes the task a breeze.
Some cocktails need crushed ice and not every fridge come with an ice crusher function. For that matter, not every fridge comes with an ice maker. For her crushed ice cocktails, Maggie Hoffman fills a reusable zip-top bag with ice cubes, wraps it in a dishtowel, and goes to town with her kitchen mallet. After drinks are made, the bag goes back in the freezer. When it's time for the next round, the mallet's back out to crush up any ice that's frozen back together.Tommy Werner
Press a Sandwich
For a perfectly golden grilled cheese, you want to press the sandwich into the pan. While you could stand there, using a spatula and your own dwindling energy to force that sandwich into submission, you could also do as food director Carla Lalli Music does and just put a kitchen mallet on it and walk away to tend to the soup or whatever. Ditto quesadillas. A disc-style mallet will accomplish this task more easily than a hammer-style mallet, but you could make it work with either.Anna Stockwell
Weigh Down Meat as It Cooks
Pounding a piece of meat into even thickness before cooking is a noble mallet-ian task, but consider this, too: some proteins, like a fish fillet or a pork chop have a tendency to bow in the center or curl up at the edge as they cook. The usual advice is to press it down with a spatula to discourage the bowing, but just plop that kitchen mallet on top of the cooking protein as soon as it hits the pan (don't press down, the weight of the mallet will be enough) and avoid the frustration altogether.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious