The Odd Household Items We Use Instead Of Kitchen Tools

Do you really need a tool for that?

cut dough with glass

Cameron Beall

As Southerners, it’s in our nature to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, whether it’s cooking for our own families or baking a pie for a friendly neighbor. As an avid cook and baker myself, I have a soft spot for many of my kitchen tools—my favorite chef's knife, the passed-down food processor and KitchenAid stand mixer that are going on 20 years, and my Le Creuset Dutch oven. But when it comes to things like rolling pins and biscuit cutters, they haven’t ever landed in my kitchen. 

It’s easy to eat up precious kitchen space with little-used or unnecessary kitchen gadgets. So rather than buying yet another tool to rattle around in the back of your cupboards and be brought out once a year, we have some Grandma-approved, resourceful tricks and tips that use existing household items to save you room in your kitchen and change in your pocket.

A Cup Or Jelly Jar

“I never saw my grandmother use a biscuit cutter! She usually grabbed jelly jars or a small glass,” says senior social media editor Brennan Long. No need to have a drawer full of circular cookie and biscuit cutters when something already in your kitchen will do. Just dig into your glassware cabinet to find a vessel with the diameter of your liking. For smaller shapes, use a shot glass, and for best results, use a thin-edged cup. “My great-grandmother used an old orange juice can (not a jar), and I still use the same one today,” says senior digital food editor Kimberly Holland.

Parchment Paper

Ready to ice the perfect cake or cookie, but don’t have any piping bags? No worries: Cut a square of parchment paper and roll it into a cone to create your own. Bonus, if you have a metal tip, drop it into the bottom of the cone. No muffin papers either? Create your own liners by cutting 5x5 inch squares of parchment paper and press them into the muffin pan using a small cup. For best results, use cooking spray or butter the pan before adding the papers so that they will stay in place.

cookbook on pant hanger

Cameron Beall

A Pants Hanger

If you’re low on counter space, instead of a cookbook stand, try this space-saving hack and avoid getting your cookbooks or Southern Living magazines covered in food. Assistant food editor Alana Al-Hatlani says to hang them from a pants hanger on your cabinet knob. “A chef taught me this trick and it’s nice because the recipe is also right in front of your face the entire time you’re cooking,” says Al-Hatlani. “But it doesn’t really work with super heavy cookbooks,” she cautions. 

A Shower Cap

Skip fiddling with the plastic wrap that inevitably gets mangled and use a shower cap instead. “My grandmother used shower caps to cover bowls. She used it mostly for proofing dough,” says senior news editor Megan Overdeep. So, on your next hotel stay, snag the freebie shower cap for baking your next loaf. 

Wine bottle rolling pin

Cameron Beall

A Wine Bottle

From cookie dough and pie crust to pizza dough, a wine bottle (empty or full) can work magic as a rolling pin. My favorite ones for the task are skinny, long-necked bottles like my Dr. Loosen Riesling white wine bottle above. “I am forever guilty of using a wine bottle to roll out pizza dough,” says Long. But its capabilities don’t stop at rolling. I’ve been known to use a good ole wine bottle in lieu of a meat tenderizer as well. Word of warning, though: You have to have some accuracy with this so you don’t shatter the bottle against your countertop. 

A Mesh Strainer

Forgo your giant colander for this multi-purpose tool. A wire, fine-mesh strainer’s skillset goes beyond just draining pasta water. Instead of buying a bulky flour sifter that you only break out once in a blue moon or just forgoing the step when called for in a recipe altogether, use your mesh strainer to create fine flour and achieve the best baking results. It’s also great for sifting powdered sugar over finished desserts. And if you’re making a cocktail that requires straining, rather than attempting the rarely successful act of not letting anything fall out of the shaker, just pour it through the same strainer for a debris-free drink. 

A Mason Jar

While the tubular, silicone garlic peelers are easy to use and take up relatively little space, they’re not necessary. Instead of a dedicated tool, just toss your cloves of garlic into any jar with a lid and shake until the peel releases from the garlic.

Sheet Trays

The stack of baking sheets you use for roasting veggies and baking cookies are more handy than you might think. You can use them to make layer cakes. Whether you simply don’t have a cake pan or just not the right sized one, you can hand cut unique layers from the sheet cake. This trick gives you control over the shape and size of your cake’s layers. Just trace your shape on parchment paper, lay it on the sheet cake and cut around the paper, then repeat.

cast iron pan on dark background
Getty Images

Cast Iron Skillet

Craving a panini, but you don’t have a panini press? No stress. Use a smaller cast iron skillet (really, any skillet will do) and place it on top of the sandwich in a larger skillet. Press down until smooshed to your liking.


I stand by the fact that pizza cutters never work as well as a long, sharp knife or better yet—scissors. Handy-dandy kitchen scissors will glide through even the crustiest of crusts. Now, let’s not go opening our Amazon package with the same scissors, but that’s another topic.

A Grater

Instead of a garlic press, which does a mediocre job or nearly causes you to chop off a finger to achieve finely chopped or minced garlic, use the small side of your cheese grater or a microplane to do the job.

The Trusty Butter Knife

“Instead of getting one of those rubber grippy pads or fancy jar openers to help open tricky jars, I use the handle of a butter knife to tap all the way around the top of the lid a few times, and it usually works like a charm,” says travel and culture editor Tara Massouleh McCay of the trick she learned from her mom.

Melted Chocolate
Burak Karademir/Getty Images

Heat-Proof Bowl

If a recipe calls for a double boiler and you don’t have one, don’t panic. This technique is mostly used for melting chocolate and you don’t need a clunky, specified pot to do so. Rather, use a saucepan and a slightly smaller heat-proof bowl. Fill the pot with an inch or two of water and nestle the smaller bowl on top with the desired melting ingredient.

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