This Inexpensive Tool Will Quickly Become Your Favorite One in the Kitchen
Rock your cooking world for under $10.
What makes a great kitchen tool? A truly great kitchen tool is one that is a multitasker, is affordable, and that you find yourself reaching for over and over. And I'm here to nominate my favorite (and unsung) hero tool, which I guarantee will quickly become yours as well: the bench scraper.
What is a bench scraper and why is it so amazing?
A bench scraper (also known as a dough scraper) is technically a baker's tool: a wide, thin metal blade with a blunted edge, with some sort of handle. They can be as simple as a rectangular piece of metal with a wood strip across the top, or fancy as a hoe-shaped piece with a T shaped handle, but the usefulness is the same. Bakers use them to help keep their bench, or work surface, clean of flour or stuck bits of dough. They also use them to help shape breads with sticky dough, cut chunks of dough for shaping, or to cut square or triangular treats like scones or biscuits for baking.
And while this amazing tool would be terrific if you just needed those applications, I use mine for so much more.
The many things a bench scraper can do
Transferring chopped and sliced ingredients: Bench scrapers are ideal for transferring chopped or sliced ingredients from the cutting board to bowl/pan/pot. The thin blade slides easily under a pile of prep, and the wide surface allows you to move twice as much as you would with just your cupped hands, and safer than using the side of your chef's knife.
Cubing butter and shortening: If you love to make pastry, the bench scraper is great for cubing butter or shortening.
Managing pastry: Speaking of pastry, the bench scraper is the best tool for moving a thin pie crust or folding over a laminated dough, helping to keep your warm hands off of your cold pastry.
Frosting cakes: You can use it to smooth the sides of frosting on a cake, either for a perfect smooth icing finish, or that popular naked cake look.
Chopping ground beef while it cooks: If you like to make dishes like chili, which require the pre-cooking of ground meats into crumbles, and are tired of the work of trying to make your spoon or spatula break apart the meat, as long as you are not cooking in a non-stick pan, you can use the bench scraper to safely chop the meat as it cooks. The blade is sharp enough to get through the clumps but still blunted so it won't damage your pan.
Three bench scrapers to buy now
Here are my three favorite bench scrapers to get you started, from under $10 to just over $20.
Pro Dough Pastry Scraper/Cutter/Chopper
This scraper is the one I reach for first. The handle is just the rolled end of the metal, and offset, making it the perfect one for transferring ingredients from my cutting board. It has a handy ruler on the edge, which is terrific for measuring things like the width of slice and bake cookies or cinnamon rolls.
Buy it: Pro Dough Pastry Scraper/Cutter/Chopper ($7.39), amazon.com
Dexter Russell Sani-Safe Dough Cutter/Scraper
When it comes to cutting butter or shortening, or using as a chopper, I prefer this model, which has a sturdy straight handle and is dishwasher safe.
Buy it: Dexter Russell Sani-Safe Dough Cutter/Scraper ($14.95), amazon.com
Bleteleh Jumbo Heavy Duty Commercial Dough Cutter/Scraper
For working with breads, especially sticky ones, I prefer a different style of handle for better control. This is the one I turn to for working with my sourdough, but also for helping smooth frosting on tall cakes.
Buy it: Bleteleh Jumbo Heavy Duty Commercial Dough Cutter/Scraper ($22.95), amazon.com