10 Must-Have Tools for Quick Pickling Vegetables

Everything you need for delicious and versatile quick pickles, including the perfect pickling containers.

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Cucumbers in jars, ready to be pickled
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We've all had it happen: You spring for that jumbo bag of carrots or green beans, convincing yourself that this time you'll use them up right away. But the week gets busy, schedules get crunched, and your veggies sit in the fridge, getting wilted and soft. What to do? While roasting is one method to make them shine, I'm always looking for creative ways to brighten up the vegetables in my life. So, when I need to spruce up my veggies, I dig into my pantry to pull out glass jars and a bevy of spices for quick pickling.

Quick pickling brings your vegetables back from the brink, helping them last longer while imparting a strong kick of flavor. A proper pickle also preserves the texture of your veggies: while it may not make them as crisp as their just-picked former selves, it will at least make their softer current state more palatable and keep them from wilting further. It's also an easy pick-me-up for winter veggies and an antidote for feeling uninspired after looking at the same onions, radishes, and hot house cucumbers on your weekly shopping trips. Also referred to as "refrigerator pickles," this technique infuses new life into vegetables with minimum effort and—perhaps more importantly—fewer items to wash. While traditional canning is designed for long-term, shelf-stable storage, quick pickling creates side dishes and garnishes ready in as little as 30 minutes and should be continually refrigerated and eaten within a week. Have questions about how to get started? Here are your answers, plus our favorite tools for successful pickling.

Our Top Picks

Best Bottle Brush: Full Circle Clean Reach Bottle Brush

pickling tools
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Target.

Pros: The sturdy design and replaceable brush heads are a more eco-friendly option than traditional bottle brushes.
Cons: Slightly more expensive than other bottle brushes.

A bottle brush helps you clean the hard-to-reach insides of jars, making sure they're ready to hold your pickles. There are hundreds of bottle brushes on the market, but we picked this one for a few reasons.

First, it has an ergonomic handle that's comfortable to use, and it's attractive enough to sit out on your kitchen counter within easy reach. What was most exciting to us, though, is that you can replace the brush heads. Having replacement heads on hand (available here) makes it easy to keep your bottle brush fresh and is a more sustainable option than buying a whole new brush each time.

Best Vegetable Peeler Set: KitchenAid Universal 2-Piece Peeler Set

pickling tools
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Walmart.

Pros: Durable peelers that come in two styles to effectively take on any peeling task.
Cons: The cost of a two-piece set is higher than buying a single peeler.

Peeling isn't a must for every pickle, but having a peeler on hand can make life a lot easier when working with hearty root vegetables like beets or carrots or other thick-skinned veggies like butternut squash.

We like that this set includes a Y peeler and a Euro peeler, so you can pick based on what you're peeling. This set also scored points with us for their durability and sleek design—I've used a KitchenAid Euro peeler for about four years, and it's not in danger of breaking any time soon. The only downside is that these peelers have a higher up-front cost than your standard store brand peeler, but much like the chef knife below, they pay for themselves over time.

Best Kitchen Shears: Wüsthof Come-Apart Kitchen Shears

pickling tools
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Williams Sonoma.

Pros: These are sturdy, durable all-purpose shears that come apart for easy cleaning.
Cons: The shears are not dishwasher-safe.

Good kitchen shears make snipping off stems and ends a breeze, as well as cutting fresh herbs or chives to flavor your pickling brine. We love the durability of Wüsthof products, and these shears are our favorites because they pull apart for easy cleaning. That means no more food stuck at the joint in the scissors, making for safer and more sanitary food prep.

The pull-apart feature makes these shears easier to clean than their competitors, but they are still not dishwasher-safe. So, if you go with these shears, we recommend to hand wash them.

Best Chef's Knife: 8-inch Wüsthof Chef Knife

pickling tools
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Wüsthof.

Pros: An extremely durable, functional knife that will last for years and even decades.
Cons: It has a high up-front cost.

A trusty chef knife is a kitchen staple, especially one that feels comfortable in hand and is nicely balanced (in other words, the center of gravity is in the middle of the knife). This knife is high quality and comfortable, fitting in most people's hands and slicing cleanly through dense veggies.

It's incredibly durable, too. I have used a Wüsthof chef knife daily for almost ten years, and it's still good as new, requiring just an occasional sharpening. If properly cared for, this knife will easily last for decades. Like the Wüsthof kitchen shears, it is recommended that you hand wash the knife and, if you use a knife block, always thoroughly dry it before putting it away.

Best Measuring Cups: Pyrex Glass Measuring Cup Set

pickling tools
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Target.

Pros: Sturdy, heat-resistant tempered glass can handle hot liquids and even a stint in the microwave.
Cons: The cups don't nest together perfectly for storage.

Tempered glass measuring cups are sturdy enough to handle hot pickling brine and can handle microwave to heat water in a hurry. The three sizes in this set ensure you always have the size you need on hand.

We like this set because they are durable and loved by manyhome cooks. They also have a variety of uses beyond your pickling projects. Our only complaint? The cups don't nest together neatly, so you'll need a good amount of cabinet space to hold them.

Best Pickling Jars: Ball 16-ounce Wide Mouth Mason Jars

pickling tools
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Target and Ace Hardware.

Pros: These durable jars are heat-resistant and durable with reusable lids.
Cons: Continued use can cause rust on lids.

Wide mouth jars are easier to clean and fill than other pint jars, and these ones are foodsafe and heat resistant. Ball brand jars have been used by home preserving enthusiasts for over a century, and continuously receive high consumer reviews.

We love that these jars are versatile enough to hold most pickles, though they may be slightly too short for full-sized pickle spears or carrot sticks. Thankfully Ball jars come in a range of sizes: These ones are our favorites for larger pickle projects. Our only concern is that after many uses, the lids and bands can rust after continous contact with vinegar and salt. To prevent this, try putting a square of waxed paper between your lid and jar (just make sure it doesn't touch your food), or invest in a pack of leak-proof plastic lids.

Best Funnel: Zoie + Chloe 3-in-1 Stainless Steel Funnel Set

pickling tools
Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: Durable, easy-to-clean, and versatile funnel set helps you fill jars easily.
Cons: Some consumers found it to be top-heavy while full.

Using a funnel helps prevent spills in the kitchen, keeping your brine in the jars where it belongs as you fill them. I love to buy products that will serve multiple purposes in my kitchen, and this funnel set is a great example. While we often want our pickling spices to go into the jar with our brine, choosing a funnel with a strainer means you can strain out those spices when you'd like or use it for other purposes in the kitchen.

Like any funnel, this one can be top-heavy (and thus prone to tipping over) when full. To prevent that, gently hold it in place with one hand while you pour your brine with the other.

Best Tape for Labeling: ScotchBlue Painter's Tape

pickling tools
Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: This tape stays where you put it and doesn't leave a sticky residue behind.
Cons: Does not adhere well to cold jars.

Painter's tape and masking tape are kitchen staples for labeling homemade goods, and we like this brand because it stays put but peels off without leaving a sticky residue.
Like any masking or painter's tape, this one has trouble adhering to refrigerated jars since they build up condensation on their surfaces once removed from the fridge. This issue is easy to remedy, though—make sure to label your jars before putting them in the fridge.

Best Markers: Sharpie Permanent Markers

pickling tools
Courtesy of Amazon

Also available at Walmart.

Pros: Makes strong, long-lasting marks on a variety of surfaces.
Cons: Won't work well on wet surfaces.

Permanent markers are the other key component to labeling your new pickles. Sharpie brand is our choice because the ink holds fast, and they produce a clean, consistent line. We like a fine point permanent marker, rather than the ultra fine point markers, because the thicker lines make labels easier to read at a distance. Make sure to wipe any excess brine off your jar before labeling: permanent markers tend to write poorly, if at all, on wet surfaces.

Best Pickling Weights: Masontops Pickle Pebble Fermentation Weights

pickling tools
Courtesy of Amazon

Pros: These weights fit snugly in wide mouth mason jars to hold your veggies under the brine for safe and evenly-cured pickles.
Cons: The weights are best stored in the original packaging to prevent damage.

Keeping your pickles submerged in their brine is the key to quick pickling success. Some vegetables, especially lightweight ones like radishes, like to float to the top of the jar, resulting in uneven pickling or even in spoilage if left unattended for too long.

Pickle Pebbles are sturdy glass weights that fit in jars and hold your quick pickles under the brine (they're great for fermentation projects, too). The shape makes them challenging to store without putting them in a box or a drawer, so make sure to hold on to their original packaging or set aside a corner of a drawer to keep them in.

Conclusion

Making quick pickles is easy with the right tools and some simple tips. By having everything you need ready to go before starting your pickling adventure, you can ensure that you'll be ready to preserve your veggies quickly and easily whenever the need arises.

The Research

We scoured consumer reviews and drew on our own experience in the kitchen to bring together this list of tools and tips. Our focus was on recommending the same high-quality tools we use in our kitchens, with an eye towards tools versatile enough to make pickling easy but also to use in everyday cooking.

Pro Panel Q+A

Q: What equipment do I need for quick pickling?

A: Of course, you also need the stuff to go in the jars, namely your vinegar, salt, water, and veggies, along with any spices, aromatics, or other flavorings you might want to include. These can vary widely among recipes, and we'll go over everything you need to pickle like a pro.There are as many varieties of pickles as there are stars in the sky, so don't be afraid to experiment and get creative! For pickle inspiration, check out Joe Kindred's Grandfather Pickles, Bread and Butter Zucchini Pickles, or Anya Von Bremzen's Quick Cucumber Pickles.

Now, let's talk about the steps—rinsing and chopping vegetables, creating the brine, and combining everything to create simple and delicious pickles.

Q: How do I prep my vegetables for quick pickling?

A: You can quick pickle a host of vegetables, including carrots, radishes, jalapeño peppers, beets, cucumbers, green beans, or cauliflower. Most any vegetable, besides leafy greens, are fair game here. You can even pickle fruit!

First things first: Give your chosen vegetables a quick rinse in cool or room temperature water, and pat dry with a towel. For root veggies or anything that tends to collect dirt, a once-over with a vegetable brush or clean paper towelwill keep unwanted bits out of your pickles. It's also a good idea to give the lidded jar you're planning to use a quick wash, too. Here's where a bottle brush will come in handy for scrubbing out the insides of tall glass containers.

Next, prepare your veggies for chopping. Snip or cut the ends and roots off green beans or radishes using kitchen shears or a chef's knife.For green beans and pea pods, you can simply snap the ends off by hand. If you're using veggies with thick skins like carrots, parsnips, and beets, you may want to peel them. You can leave these unpeeled, too—just note that they may take slightly longer to finish pickling. It's easiest to work with a peeler with a sturdy grip to keep your fingers from slipping.

When it comes to chopping or slicing, think about how you'll be using your pickled veggies. Thin slices, like discs of carrots, radishes, or jalapeños, are great as a sandwich filler or in a bowl with rice and eggs, while ginger or daikon matchsticks add a bit of texture to stir-fry or noodle dishes. Thicker sticks, typically carrots or cucumbers, can add crunch to a tuna sandwich or a bit of variety to your charcuterie plate. An 8-inch chef knife is comfortable if you're doing lots of chopping and can handle all of your vegetable prep for quick pickling.

Q: How do I make a pickle brine?

A: "Brine" can refer to a few different things: a salt-water solution, or a salt, water, and vinegar mixture. The former is used for foods like lacto-fermented pickles and sauerkraut,and the vinegar-based brine is for quick pickles. In some cases, vinegar-based brines use both sugar and salt, like Andrew Zimmern's beet pickles.To keep flavors balanced, make sure to use water and vinegar (not just straight vinegar), and if you are using sugar, keep the salt in the recipe.

Something magical happens once your vegetables are enrobed in their salty, vinegar-y bath. The salt and vinegar work their way into the vegetables, flavoring and preserving them. It takes a lot less time than you'd think, and most pickles will be ready overnight. Don't be afraid to let them sit in the fridge a bit longer, though: The longer your vegetables sit in a brine, the deeper the flavor.

Quick pickling is often an exercise in what you have on hand. Start by heating and stirring together 1/2 cup of water, 1/2 cup of vinegar (apple cider or white vinegar are good options), 1 teaspoon of fine sea salt, and (if desired) 1 tablespoon of sugar. You can also make a quick pickle brine without turning on the stove, but the heat will meld ingredients together faster without adding time to the process.

Once your brine is ready, you can use it hot or cold. A warm brine soaks into the vegetables more quickly than cool brine and is a great choice to speed up pickling for dense, sturdy root vegetables or fresh, crunchy veggies. Allow your brine to cool down a bit, and pour slowly and with care to keep the heat from shocking and breaking your jar (it's unlikely, but better safe than sorry). For wilting or delicate veggies, always use brine that's been cooled to room temperature (or never heated at all). It's also the way to go if you're using a food-safe container that may not be heat resistant.

In some pickle recipes, spices and other flavorings are added to the brine as you're making it. In others, they're added to the jar along with the veggies. If you're looking for inspiration, add a little heat to your hot dogs and veggie burgers with spicy dill quick pickles. Or, forego the brine altogether and try something like Chef David Chang's Superfast Salt-and-Sugar Pickles, which preserves the crunch of radishes, daikon, and watermelon with a quick toss of fine sea salt and sugar.

Pro tip: Unsure about how much brine you need? Fill the container you're going to use with water. Pour out that water into a measuring cup and now you know.

Q: I've got everything ready to go: How do I turn brine and veggies into pickles?

A: You've prepped your veggies, made your brine, and assembled your spices. Now it's time to put everything together! Pack your veggies into a 16-ounce wide mouth mason jar as tightly as possible, as this keeps them from floating to the top.

If you have enough containers, consider putting a single kind of vegetable in each jar since they can pickle at varying speeds. For example, thinly sliced onions don't need as long as chunky carrot sticks. Vegetables like beets also leech color, which can be fun as long as you expect everything to turn pink. After the veggies are in the jar, place a funnel on top to avoid splashing and have more control over the amount of liquid you're adding.

If your spices aren't already in the prepared brine, add them at this step. Then, slowly pour the brine into the jar until your veggies are covered. Keeping your veggies under the brine is the biggest key to pickling success: otherwise, they won't pickle all the way through, and you run the risk of mold growing on the exposed areas. If your veggies keep floating up, consider getting pickle pebblesor other food-safe fermentation weights to help hold them in place.

Once the lid is securely closed, grab a piece of painter's tape and a permanent marker. You can use masking tape or a scrap of paper, too. Write down the date and attach it to the top so you don't have to remember which day you made the pickles when you reach for them later in the week.

Our Expertise

Julia Skinner, PhD is the founder of fermentation and food history company Root, as well as a food writer. She has been making quick pickles since 2003 and has over a decade of experience teaching fermentation and quick pickling.

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