The $2 Kitchen Tool with So Many Off-Label Uses One Chef Can't Live Without
In chef Nir Sarig's kitchen, cooking gadgets virtually line the walls. Cabinets are Jenga-style packed with pots, pants, strainers, steamers. Small appliances threaten to topple over from where they're stacked precariously atop the fridge. Proofing baskets and antique utensils perch readily on hooks. And for everything else that doesn't fit, there's a large plastic storage bin on an overhang outside the kitchen window.
Space is certainly precious in Sarig's French-Colonial-style Brooklyn apartment, where he develops recipes for his forthcoming restaurant, Eti. But one of his most valued and versatile assets is so small, it easily gets lost.
To buy: Ateco Stainless Steel Cake Tester, $6 for 3 at amazon.com
"It's used by line cooks, the people who cook the steaks, the fish-not necessarily for cakes," Sarig says. His fine-dining background meant not being able to cut all the way into a serving of meat destined for a diner's plate to check for doneness. But this discreet, toothpick-thin skewer can tell him everything he needed to know.
"For fish, you can feel the resistance with the cake tester," he says. "Poking it into a raw fish, you need to use force, but when it's cooked and all the fibers are softened, it goes inside like butter." While the latter will result in a succulent, tender dish, an undercooked, tester-resistant fish could present health risks.
Steaks and meats, too, can communicate a lot through the tester. "You poke the steak with the cake tester and leave it inside for a few seconds, then you pull it out and you put the tester on your lip and feel the temperature," Sarig says. "The warmer the tip is, the more done it is. When you get more experienced, you know if it's medium or medium-rare or whatever. You don't need to open the steak, you already know by its touch."
Amazon shoppers have also noted the tool's off-label use as a meat thermometer "if you're into the old-school way of testing the heat against your bottom lip," per one review. A few others have even shouted out its ability to help them perfect various potato-cooking techniques.
The cake tester's merits in the kitchen are industry common knowledge. "I used to give them to cooks the first time they did the grill well, as, like, a gift from the chef," Sarig says. "Basically, in fine dining, you use this cake tester, and everybody has their own one. It's like a pen, everyone is attached to their own."
Shop the multiuse kitchen tool one chef can't live without for $6 per set of three on Amazon.