The Most Helpful Multi-Tasking Tools in My Kitchen

These items have utility beyond their original purpose.

black matte sheet pan with cut broccoli, carrots, and zucchini with bowl of spices

Treehugger / Ali Elshabrawi

When a friend who just bought a house asked if I could recommend a food processor to buy, I had to admit that I don't own one. She was shocked, and perhaps rightfully so. Food processors are widely regarded as a basic kitchen tool, and I am known in my friend circle as someone who spends a great deal of time in the kitchen. This led us to a conversation about how I make do with my blender and Kitchen-Aid mixer. Between the two of them, I was always able to make what I wanted and never felt like I needed a food processor.

Our discussion got me thinking about versatile tools in the kitchen, and which ones I reach for again and again. Some – like the above-mentioned blender and mixer – are great at multi-tasking, but there are others that fall into that category, too. These are the tools that can wear many hats and reduce the amount of clutter in your kitchen, which in turn makes you more inclined to cook.

Dutch Oven

overhead shot of Dutch oven filled with creamy tomato sauce and noodles accentuated with leaves

Treehugger / Ali Elshabrawi

One is my Dutch oven, made by Le Creuset, which I've written about before. It's my go-to pot for almost everything I make, whether it's boiled, braised, or baked. But my iron crepe pan is a very close second. It may not have the high sides and lid that the Dutch oven does, but it stays on my stove all day long because I use it for nearly every meal – frying eggs or broiling a frittata, sautéing greens or frying tofu, halloumi, or black beans for a quick lunch, making small quantities of pasta sauces, baking fruit cobblers, frying potato samosas.

Sheet Pan

angled shot of speckled sheet pan with baked s'mores on parchment paper

Treehugger / Ali Elshabrawi

My sheet pan sees plenty of use, too. I recently splurged on a large one (at 15 inches by 21 inches it's considered a "two-thirds" or "three-quarters" size) and, because of its size, I use it far more than I ever did my smaller cookie sheets. It holds a full batch of granola and enough roasted vegetables to last several days. I can bake a dozen bagels on it and large quantities of cookies, making the baking process faster and less daunting. I use it as a handy tray for collecting piles of prepped vegetables prior to stir-frying or making a curry, and it can be easily moved around the kitchen or put outside on the screen porch (our makeshift overflow fridge in winter) to make space for other things. 

Box Grater

overhead close shot of box grater shredding hard butter into glass bowl

Treehugger / Ali Elshabrawi

The box grater gets pulled out of the drawer frequently, too. Obviously it does a good job at shredding cheese for my kids' beloved grilled cheese sandwiches and my morning omelets, but I also use it to cut cold butter into flour to make pastry (thanks to my editor Melissa for that incredible trick), and to cut ginger root, garlic, and citrus zest into smaller pieces that I sometimes finish off with a knife. It's perfect for adding chocolate sprinkles to a dessert, making bread crumbs from stale loaf ends, and cutting burnt bottoms off cookies.

Tea Towels

neatly folded multicolor and tan tea towles in white kitchen drawer

Treehugger / Ali Elshabrawi

As someone who avoids plastic wrap and paper towels, I can't forget tea towels. I keep a stash of clean ones folded in a kitchen drawer and change them out every day or two, depending on how much they've been used. My favorites are linen, and I use them to wrap balls of rising dough, to cover trays of proofing breads, pastries, or phyllo, to drain steamed spinach, dry herbs or greens, to wrap freshly baked goods ahead of serving, to press tofu with a weight on top before frying, and of course to clean up messes. (Those ones go straight into the laundry.)

Mason Jars

two large urn-shaped glass jars filled with cut fruit on wooden cutting board

Treehugger / Ali Elshabrawi

Mason jars are another versatile workhorse. I use them for seasonal canning, but also for storing pantry goods. When reusables were allowed at the local bulk food store pre-pandemic, I filled jars directly. I store most of my family's leftovers in them, which makes for easy access in the fridge. They guarantee leak-proof transportation to get-togethers with friends. I freeze stock, pesto, and other ingredients in wide-mouth jars (read How to Freeze Food in Glass Jars); shake up salad dressings, stir-fry sauces, and cocktail mix; and pack them with vegetables and dip or salad for lunches. They're handy for melting butter or heating milk in the microwave.

Not every tool can be used in multiple ways, and that's OK – but treasure those that can be. They will save you time, money, space, and waste.