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DIY Kitchen Tools You Can MacGyver Yourself

Don’t have a gadget your recipe calls for? Just make it yourself with the tools you do have. 

Published Jan. 2, 2024.

There are hundreds of thousands of kitchen tools on the market these days.

If you name it, gadget experts Lisa McManus and Hannah Crowley have probably tried it. They even wrote a book about it! 

But at home, you probably don’t have a plethora of tools and gadgets. An avid breadmaker might have a bread lame to score the loaf, but its less likely if it’s your first time making bread. Or perhaps you’re not into a single-use piece of equipment. So what if a recipe calls for something not in your kitchen?

We say MacGyver it.

Lisa and Hannah, as well as many of our genius colleagues, figured out how to make a tool with items you probably do have.

Here are 15 of them.

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1. Banneton: Use a Towel-Lined Colander

Bannetons are a cotton-lined proofing basket used to help your bread dough release easily. The lining is porous, giving your dough beneficial breathing room.

However, a rounded colander works just as well! Simply line a colander with a clean kitchen towel and add your dough. A round colander keeps the loaf’s shape and its perforations provide breathability.

bread dough sitting in a towel lined colander
Let your bread dough proof right inside a towel-lined colander.

2. Pizza Peel: Use a Rimmed Baking Sheet

When making homemade pizza, a pizza peel is helpful for transferring and removing delicate loaves and pizza rounds in and out of the oven. It also makes it easy to rotate your food in the oven so it cooks evenly.

Don’t have one? Grab an overturned rimmed baking sheet dusted with flour. Works like a charm.

3. Bread Lame: Use a Paring Knife

Bread lames are used to score your bread dough before baking. This creates a designated weak spot in the surface of the loaf so that it expands in a predetermined way instead of bursting unpredictably in the oven.

Don’t have one? A sharp paring knife can still do the job. Unlike a large chef’s knife, it’ll slice just deep enough without dragging at the dough.

4. Tortilla Press: Use a Pie Plate

A tortilla press easily cranks out consistent tortillas. These simple devices generally consist of two flat plates joined by a hinge and a handle. Simply add your ball of masa and pull the lever for even weight distribution.

Don’t have one? Grab a glass pie plate and a zipper-lock bag. Cut open the bag along the side seams, open it up, and place a dough ball in the middle. Fold the other half of the bag back over the dough, and then press it flat using a pie plate. The glass allows you to see the tortilla through it!

5. Steamer: Use a Platter and a Wok or Dutch Oven

Steamer baskets allow you to cook your food quickly, consistently, and efficiently. These perforated platforms provide enough gentle steam to cook through meat, veggies, dumplings, and more. 

Here’s how to MacGyver one: Grab an oval platter (or square plate) about 2 inches shorter in length than the diameter of the wok lid (or diameter of Dutch oven) that you are using. Bring ¾ to 1 inch water to boil in the wok over high heat. When the water is boiling, set the plate in the wok (it will rest on the wok’s sides) or set it on a bowl placed right side up in a Dutch oven. Cover and steam.

chef is lifting lid from wok to showcase 4 steamed dumplings on a platter
Resting a plate on the sides of a wok allows steam to penetrate your food.

6. Knife Guard: Use a Manila Folder

Knife guards are a plastic covering used for drawer storage or travel. They protect your blade and your fingers, keeping both safe and intact if the knife gets jostled around.

But if you’re packing to move or simply want to avoid injury, grab a manila folder. Here’s how we like to fold our impromptu knife guard:

chef is measuring the length of the blade with a ruler and marking the manila folder with a sharpee

1. Place your knife’s blade along the crease of a manila folder and mark a line about 1⁄2 inch from the tip of the blade and another about 1⁄2 inch from the spine.

chef is using scissors to cut the manila folder into a rectangle

2. Using these marks as guides, cut the folder into a rectangle.

chef is stapling the side of the rectangle

3. Staple the top half and side of the rectangle at 1⁄2-inch intervals, leaving the back end open to slide in the knife.

chef is trimming the ends of the knife guard with scissors

4. If the handle of the knife prevents the guard from fully covering the blade, snip the opening at an angle to accommodate it.

Once covered, your knives are ready to pack for travel. More on that here.

7. Mixing Glass and Barspoon: Use a Measuring Cup and a Chopstick/Butter Knife

A mixing glass and barspoon make a great stirred cocktail. The long spoon makes it easy to stir up a cocktail in a tall glass and even fish out garnishes from the jar. But you don’t need a fully stocked bar to make a libation. 

Simply pouring your cocktail ingredients into a measuring cup full of ice and giving it a good stir with a chopstick or butter knife will do just fine. Stirring won’t get you the frothy texture of many shaken drinks, but the drink itself will still taste good.

8. Roasting Rack: Use Aluminum Foil

Nestling a handsome turkey or large roast on a roasting rack is as Norman Rockwell as it gets. The rack itself allows heat to circulate around your showstopper for even cooking.

Don’t have one? Grab some aluminum foil. 

Roll three pieces of foil into tight cylinders and place them 2 inches apart across the middle of the roasting pan. Position the roast so that it sits evenly atop the cylinders. After cooking, cool the foil rolls and discard.

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9. Strawberry Huller: Use a Straw

A strawberry huller makes quick work of an often tedious job. If you’re planning on hulling a lot of strawberries, it might be worth grabbing. But if you only need a few, use a straw.

Start by pulling the leaves upward in one direction. Hold the strawberry in your non-dominant hand and line up the hole of the straw with the end of the strawberry (the pointy bit). Apply pressure to the straw but take care not to bruise the flesh of the berry by squeezing.

Push the straw through the berry, holding the top with your index finger. Once you feel the straw at the stem, gently twist while pushing through the berry.

10. Pie Weights: Use Dried Beans, Raw Rice, Granulated Sugar

Ceramic pie weights are what’s used to blind-bake a pie crust. Applying even weight across the dough before baking means the dough won’t puff up, leaving you more room for filling. A slumped pie crust provides less room for filling.

Don’t have pie weights on hand? Line your pie crust with aluminum foil and top it evenly with dried beans, raw rice, or granulated sugar.

11. Ice Cream Maker: Use a Blender

An electric ice cream maker churns out customized ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sorbet at home. If your freezer looks like the service counter of an ice cream shop, it might be worth investing in.

But for a quick and easy alternative, just use your blender. This egg-free recipe blends heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, whole milk, vanilla, and corn syrup into a creamy masterpiece.

Not to mention we have a dozen flavor variations like Mint Cookie, Strawberry Buttermilk, and Banana Walnut Chocolate Chunk.

Watch Cook’s Country’s Morgan Bolling demonstrate how to make ice cream with a blender.

12. Milk Frother: Use a Glass Jar and a Microwave

Latté and cappuccino lovers stand by their milk frother. It’s a handheld device that aerates and froths all kinds of dairy to create the perfect coffee drink. To make your own frother at home, grab a glass jar and your microwave.

Fill the jar no more than halfway with cold whole milk. Put the lid on tightly and shake the jar vigorously—like a cocktail shaker—for a full 30 seconds. Take off the lid and you’ll see that the milk is mildly foamy and bubbly. Put the open jar in the microwave and run it on high for 30 seconds. The foam will rise and become more stable as the milk heats.

13. Grill Press: Use a Cake Pan

A grill press is a heavy metal disk or rectangle that is placed on top of food as it cooks in a skillet or on a griddle, giving your grilled cheese, bacon, burger patty, or steak that perfect crust.

To mimic this effect, use a cake pan to press down on your food while it’s in your skillet. This simulates a grill press and helps create an extra-crisp crust.

14. Pastry Bag: Use a Zipper-Lock Bag

Pastry bags make filling and piping decorative designs on cakes and cookies incredibly easy. Their triangular shape is easy to fill.

But, in a pinch, a zipper-lock bag works fine. Cut a small hole on one of the bottom corners of your zipper-lock bag. Insert a tip, if using, then fill the bag with whatever it is you plan to pipe!

15. Knife Sharpener: Use a Coffee Mug

Keeping your knives sharp is cooking 101. A sharpener is useful for maintaining your blade so you can slice and dice through all your ingredients with ease. In a pinch, though, you can actually use a coffee mug

The key is to use a mug where the bottom is unfinished (no glaze); you can use a chefs knife or smaller knife. The unglazed ceramic surface has a bit of grit to it, so it works as a honing rod, straightening the edge of the blade.

Ideally you should drag the edge across the ceramic surface at an angle of 15-20 degrees on both sides of the blade, heel to tip, using a light pressure, and being as consistent as possible along the length of the blade and on both sides of the blade.

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