5 Useful Drugstore Kitchen Finds

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Like most people, I oil my wooden cutting boards and kitchen utensils with a laxative. Don’t you? It’s called mineral oil. You can pay about six dollars for it at the fancy cooking store, or you can pick up some at Walgreen’s for about two bucks. It’s the exact same thing (trust me, I’ve worked at fancy kitchen stores), but they keep them in different spots, since most fancy cooking stores don’t carry laxatives.

Drugstores aren’t just for photo prints, nail polish, and condoms. You can get useful kitchen tools there, but they are not shelved with the jenky drugstore kitchen tools like $5 nonstick skillets that that fall apart of you look at them the wrong way. These tools are incognito. And why not skimp when possible? Hopefully your savings can lead to a splurge later on, like a foxy new piece of Le Creuset.

Mineral Oil


Yes, it is a laxative, and that’s why you find it at the drugstore. But I hope you only have need for it in the kitchen. Do your cutting boards have that whitish bloom on them? Do your wooden spoons feel fuzzy? Your utensils need a good moisturizing, and not with cooking oil, such as olive oil, because it can go rancid. Mineral oil doesn’t. Cut a piece of an old, clean t-shirt and pour a few good glugs of mineral oil on there. Then rub and rub and smooth. I start with my cutting boards and finish with wooden spoons and spatulas. It’s a five-minute investment of time that will prolong the life span of your tools, keeping them from smelling gross and splitting. I do it about once a season. Also, your own hands will be so soft afterwards.

Dental Floss


Way back in middle school, our home economics teacher taught us to slice sheet cakes with dental floss. Since floss has minimal surface area, there’s no way sticky cake gunk can build up and clog the blade as it would on a knife (I happen to love slyly eating that cake gunk, by the way, but it is messy and inefficient). You can also slice through soft, crumbly cheeses like chèrve with dental floss. Just don’t be like Bridget Jones and use blue floss, or any flavored floss, or you may wind up with blue soup.

Knee-high Nylons


In her cookbook Nigella Bites, Nigella Lawson recommends using a “knee-high hosiery sock” in lieu of cheesecloth to make a sachet for soup and stocks. “I am just not one of those efficiently traditional domestic types that keep cheesecloths and muslins on hand,” she writes. Once again, avoid the Bridget Jones blue floss fiasco by skipping the tie altogether and folding the lip of the stocking over the opening to make a pouch. This substitution only works one way. Alas, I must be an efficiently traditional domestic type, for I keep no hosiery of any kind on hand, and cheesecloth is a terrible stand-in for a night on the town.

Drinking Straws


I use drinking straws instead of wooden dowels to support stacked tiers on a wedding cake. In fact, they support the cake better than dowels; it has something to do with cake displacement and load-bearing, but mostly I know that plastic straws work, and I like how easy they are to cut. Plus you can still use them for, you know, drinking stuff.

Tweezers


Cheap tweezers cost about a dollar. They’re useful for times when you want to futzily arrange flowers or micro-greens on top of fancy plate presentations. Or you might get a splinter from a skewer, or find a pin-bone in your salmon fillet that the fishmonger overlooked. I deliver a pair of cheap tweezers with wedding cakes so the people serving the cake can easily extract the drinking straws before they cut the cake. Yes, I know, hardly of you make wedding cakes, but if you keep straws around, too, you’ll be ready when the time comes.

Sara Bir is Paste’s food editor.