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9 Clever Substitutes for Everyday Kitchen Gadgets

If your whisk is in the dishwasher or you can’t stand forking out money for a cooking utensil you’ll only pull out once a year, try these easy swaps with products you have on hand.

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You need: A whisk

Sub in: Two forks. Whisks add in air when you’re blending ingredients such as eggs and whipping cream. If you don’t have a whisk handy, you can achieve the same effect by taping together two forks. Find forks with the same-sized handles and tines. Place one on top of the other so that their tines overlap. Create some space between the two eating implements by putting a small piece of folded paper towel between the upper parts of their handles—this will help aerate your mixture. Tape the handles and paper towel together, then whisk away. Tip: Avoid using this makeshift whisk on non-stick pans; the forks can damage the lining. These tricks can help you make perfect eggs every time.

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You need: A meat mallet

Sub in: A heavy saucepan. Meat mallets flatten foods like chicken breasts so that they cook evenly. The pressure also tenderizes meat. If you don’t own a mallet—how many people do?—use a sauté pan to pound meat to the desired thickness. Sandwich the meat first in plastic wrap to avoid splatters and to keep the meat clean. Tip: You can also flatten meat with a rolling pin. Looking for more kitchen tricks? Your salt shaker has many brilliant uses you’ve never thought of.

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You need: A steamer basket

Sub in: Aluminum foil and a heat-proof plate. The purpose of these baskets is to place food over steam without letting water touch it. For a replacement, crumple some tin foil into three large balls (see a visual how-to at noshon.it). Place them in a triangle pattern at the bottom of a large pot. Top them with a heat-proof plate, like a pie plate, that’s smaller than the pot. Add water to just beneath the plate, then put flat items such as spinach, dumplings or salmon on top of the plate. Once the water comes to a simmer, cover the pot. Tip: For food with a lot of volume, like broccoli, use a colander instead of aluminum foil.

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You need: A jar opener

Sub in: Rubber bands. You’re trying to cook dinner when you realize that the container of pasta sauce is stuck tight—and it had never occurred to you buy a jar opener. To get a better grip on a tight or slippery lid, wrap its edge with a rubber band (thicker ones seem to work better). Hold the jar with one hand and twist the lid with the other. Voila! The lid opens easily. Tip: You can improve your grip even more by putting an additional rubber band around the center of the jar and grasping the container there. You’ll wish you’d always known these 25 brilliant kitchen shortcuts.

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You need: A grater

Sub in: A food processor. Grater nowhere to be found? To grate hard and semi-hard cheeses, spray non-stick cooking spray on the blades of a food processor. Dice the cheese into small pieces, add them to the processor, close the lid and pulse for two to three seconds or until you’re satisfied with the result. Tip: For hard vegetables, such as zucchini and carrots, peel and cut up the veggies, then use the grater blade on your food processor and pulse.

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You need: A rolling pin

Sub in: A vodka or wine bottle. If you only bake pies once or twice a year, why fill up scarce kitchen space with a rolling pin when a vodka or wine bottle can just as easily do the trick? Cover the bottles with plastic cling wrap to prevent sticking, then use the bottles exactly as you would a roller. Tip: If you freeze a vodka bottle beforehand, the coolness of your “rolling pin” will help the fat in your pie crust dough stay solid, which in turn yields a flakier crust.

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iStock/Kevin Dyer

You need: A colander

Sub in: An aluminum pie tin. If you have to strain pasta or vegetables but find yourself without a colander, poke holes in a disposable aluminum pie tin and place the food inside to strain. Tip: No pie tin? Simply add holes to a sheet of aluminum foil, securely wrap it over your pot and carefully strain the food.

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iStock/&#169 Nick Schlax

You need: A bottle opener

Sub in: A large spoon. Want to quoff a beer or soda, but the bottle opener is MIA? Try this: Hold the bottle by its neck in one hand and a large spoon in your other one. Put the front tip of the spoon under the cap, then lift up the cap until it pops open, as Wikihow demonstrates. Tip: You can also use another bottle as an opener. Hold one bottle upside down and use its lid to wedge off the other bottle’s cap. If you’re not careful, however, you may remove the wrong cap and end up with a giant spill.

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You need: A sifter

Sub in: A metal sieve. Sifting fluffs up flour and mixes dry ingredients together. For a good substitute, hold a metal strainer (fine-meshed ones are best) over a bowl with one hand. Put the ingredients in the strainer and use your other hand to gently tap the sides so that the ingredients slowly sift through the holes. Tip: You can also use a whisk to blend ingredients together but the flour won’t get as light as it would with a sifter or sieve.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest