By Adina Steiman
Sometimes, the function of a kitchen tool is uber-obvious. Microplanes are for grating. Whisks are for whisking. Knives…you get the idea. But other tools don’t spill their secret superpowers as easily. Case in point: The Bench Scraper. First off, the name is pretty baffling. What bench? And why would I want to scrape it? The tool’s name makes it seem more at home in a carpenter’s garage than a kitchen, and its shape doesn’t say much, either: A rectangular piece of metal with a handle attached. Most people wouldn’t consider this an essential part of their cooking arsenal. But Epicurious food editor Rhoda Boone would beg to differ.
"Bench scrapers don’t get the love they deserve in the kitchen," Boone says. The key to unlocking their potential? Do what Rhoda does: Think of the bench scraper as a wide, flat extension of your hand, and keep one alongside your cutting board. Pretty soon, you’ll discover your own favorite ways to use it. In the meantime, here are a few of Rhoda’s favorite bench-scraper moves to get you started:
TRANSFER CHOPPED INGREDIENTS
You know that move that everyone always does? The one where you awkwardly try to gather the chopped onions on your cutting board with your knife or your hands to shuttle them over to a waiting pan? Guaranteed, you will drop some onions. Or accidentally cut yourself. Or just have to make multiple trips back and forth. That is, unless you hold the bench scraper in one hand and use the other to sweep those onions on top. Voila: You have a wide and sturdy surface for ingredient transport.
CUTTING FAT INTO FLOUR
Sure, you could use a food processor for this—or, way more awkwardly, a couple of table knives. But the long, clean edge of a bench scraper is incomparably efficient.
SMOOSHING GARLIC, POTATOES, AND MORE
Want to crush boiled new potatoes before pan-frying them? Or smash a couple cloves of garlic before peeling them? No need to risk cutting yourself with a chef’s knife. Just lay the bench scraper on your ingredients and pound it with the heel of your hand—instant smash without the danger.
CUTTING DOUGH EVENLY
If you crack open Jenn Louis’s new book, Past on handmade pasta, you’ll see one tool over and over alongside the flour-dusted work surface. You guessed it: Our buddy the bench scraper. Use it to cut ropes of gnocchi dough into segments, divide a batch of pie dough in half, or slice chilled logs of cookie dough into rounds.
QUICKLY MEASURING INGREDIENTS
Rhoda’s a big fan of the bench scrapers that have measurements etched into the metal. That way, she points out, you can instantly check out whether you’ve cut your vegetables or meat to the size that’s called for in a recipe.
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PHOTO BY CHELSEA KYLE, FOOD STYLING BY RHODA BOONE