A pizza sitting on top of a stove

Use This for That in the Kitchen to Reduce Clutter and Save Money

Over the years I have been uniquely privileged to sit under the personal tutelage of world-famous gourmet cooks the likes of Julia Child, Christopher Kimball, Martin Yan, and Jacques Pepin.

A pizza sitting on top of a stove

Currently, I have standing appointments with Ina Garten, Ree Drummond, Molly Yeh, and Alton Brown. They come to my home and demonstrate every technique imaginable while I sit, front-row-center in front of the television. Or sometimes my coaches show up on my iPad right there on my kitchen counter, where they walk me step-by-step through recipes and techniques.

They’ve taught me the importance of three things: fresh ingredients, the right equipment and a lot of practice. Which brings me to the topic of today’s column: the right equipment.

We could go broke furnishing our kitchens with the ‘right equipment’ if we look to television cooks and professional chefs as examples—although I must say that the late Julia Child was the queen of using this-for-that. Just check out the photos in her classic tome, The Way to Cook. There are so many clever ways we can use this-for-that and still get the same results.


Also known as a double boiler, bain-marie technique means cooking over hot water instead of directly over the heat source. You can buy a beautiful copper-clad double boiler at Williams-Sonoma for $365—and spend the rest of your life polishing copper—or you can use what you have already:

Fill a small pot with about an inch of water and bring it to a boil; reduce the heat so the water is barely simmering. Place a metal bowl about the same size as the pot on top to make a bain-marie. Make sure the bottom of the bowl is suspended above the water level itself before you proceed.

MORE: A “Unitasker” by Any Other Name is Still a Waste of Time and Money

Pizza or Baking Stone

Baking pizza and bread on stone produce excellent results. You can fork over a lot of money for the FibraMent-D oven baking stone or, you can take about $5 to your local floor tile or home improvement center and buy unglazed quarry (terracotta) tiles, which will do a fine job.

You will want tiles that are at least ½ inch thick. That is a pretty standard size and shouldn’t be hard to find. If you have any concerns about there being lead in the tiles you will want to contact the manufacturer to be sure. As long as the materials are things like “all-natural clay and shale” you are good. Concrete is not a good choice. Some of the tiles at Home Depot are called Saltillo tiles or pavers. Other places have other names. Fireclay is a manufacturer that makes lead free tiles. You may also have some small, local manufacturers if you look around your area.

You can completely cover the shelves of your oven with tile and just leave it that way for all uses, or use one 16-inch square tile that you use for baking bread and pizza. At less than $5 a tile, you’ll save a lot of dough.

Pastry Brushes

You can spend for a 3-piece pastry brush set from the kitchen department, or buy virtually the same set of paintbrushes in the home improvement aisle for half the price.

Artist-style brushes are handy for all kinds of uses in the kitchen. Use them to apply an egg wash or spread glaze on pastries before baking, coat bread with oil or melted butter, or baste meat with pan sauces or a marinade.

Pro tip: Designate your brushes for sweet or savory applications. Even when you wash them well between use, you could still end up with a bit of garlicky flavor in your sweet pastry.


Before you run out and buy every size of baking pan (8×8, 9×9, 9×13, 10×15) consider that you can probably use the size pan you have, provided you fill it correctly and you adjust the oven time and temperature accordingly. Regardless of the size of your pan, here are some filling guidelines:

  • Cakes and cupcakes: Fill no less than 1/2 and no more than 2/3 full.
  • Quick bread and muffins: Fill 2/3 full.
  • Casseroles and soufflés: Fill no more or less than 3/4- to 1-inch below the rim.
  • Pies: Fill almost to the top.

As for baking times, good cooks and bakers never rely on the times indicated in the recipe. They use them as guidelines, preferring to rely on visual indicators and doneness testers like inserting the blade of a knife into the center of a cake (if it comes out clean, the cake is done). And, when substituting a different size pan, one needs to be even less reliant on the printed guidelines as well.

Need more specific details? You will find a comprehensive Baking Pan Substitution Chart and details for how to measure a pan’s volume Baking Pans Substitution Chart.

RELATED: Cheapskate Gourmet: Salad Dressings

Photo credit: Pinterest

Question: What this do you use for that in your kitchen? Please share in the comments below. Our inquiring minds want to know!

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12 replies
  1. Laurie says:

    one thing to mention about using the tiles for a pizza stone I would worry that the tile would not be food safe or would have products that could make you sick. Also the paint brushes may not be safe to use around food and may be imported with chemicals not suitable for food.

  2. Lorrie says:

    When I cook things get spread everywhere. I learned years ago to more which coffee cups were exactly 8 oz in case I couldn’t find my one cup measure. And which spoon could mimic my teaspoon etc. My mother had aluminum cups she measured and scratched inside to mark out her own measurements for the same purpose. Great for camping cooks!

  3. Sue in TX says:

    I live in a tiny house with a corresponding tiny kitchen for 6 months each year. This is a big step up from the 120 sq ft camper we lived in for 6 winters.
    No single use appliances allowed – just a multi-cooker (rice/stew/slow) a mixer and a blender. Add a coffeemaker if you wish
    Every baking dish – casseroles, pie and cake pans, must be able to go in both microwave and conventional oven, and to the table or buffet as a serving dish. Similar pieces must nest.
    Skillets, sauce pans, soup pots and Dutch ovens must be useable in the oven or on the stove top and be attractive enough for the buffet or table as a server. All must nest, have interchangeable lids and have “ear” type handles, not long ones. One metal colander lives in the soup pot, serves for all washing and draining, and can double as a pasta insert in the pot.
    The ceramic tile “pizza stone” lives in the stove broiler when not in use. It is also for baking bread and rolls.
    And you would be amazed at how much cooking you can do with a few basic utensils and knives. We have gotten rid of every specialty/novelty item in favor of: a good set of knives, 2 silicon scrapers, 1 whisk, 3 mixing spoons, 3 turners/spatulas, 2 pair of tongs, an instant read thermometer and a great hand can opener. Oh, and a set of barbecue tools. Remember our grandmothers cooked 3 meals a day for years with no more than this.
    Similarly, you can pare down your wraps – we have foil, parchment, and 2 sizes of zip bags, as well as nesting reusable covered containers. I have learned to live with this selection in my “big” kitchen too, saving not only space but money.

    • Bookworm says:

      Right, or for chopping them, use a potato masher. If there are just a few eggs to chop, I use a kitchen fork — this Granny fork: www.amazon.com/Lamson-33420-Granny-Riveted-Handle/dp/B0018N0X1Y/ref=pd_bxgy_79_2/131-1227293-0776733?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B0018N0X1Y&pd_rd_r=90bc731a-f295-4aa5-9306-7b39bfe55930&pd_rd_w=L4Po9&pd_rd_wg=WOKmi&pf_rd_p=a2006322-0bc0-4db9-a08e-d168c18ce6f0&pf_rd_r=DGW8PV2Z0SB82X7FVZHQ&psc=1&refRID=DGW8PV2Z0SB82X7FVZHQ. This fork is my go-to for most mixing and cooking.

  4. Sherrie Clinton says:

    I use the beater from my hand mixer to cut kiwifruit to snack size bites for my great granddaughter. Just cut kiwifruit in half, push beater to bottom of fruit, give a twist and pull out. Perfect bite size pieces and no peeling.


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