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Kitchen tongs: The most versatile kitchen tool you own
Nowadays, food processors, KitchenAids and even toastie machines are considered to be the most versatile kitchen tools. However, but we mustn’t forget about the basic chef utensils, especially humble kitchen tong. The kitchen tong is much simpler to use than these electrical kitchen appliances, but is just as adaptable. It can be used for a whole manner of reasons, whether it’s flipping burgers on the grill, stirring the peppers in your wok or retrieving something that is just out of reach.
However, when it comes to knowing which tongs to buy you may become spoilt for choice. It is high unlikely that you are going to have a full set of both nylon and stainless steel cooking tools, so it may be useful to decide which you reach for the most often. Remember, although you do need the best utensils for your cooking, you can certainly have too many for one kitchen.
Nylon vs Stainless Steel: Which are best?
If you find that you use nonstick cookware, cast-iron skillets or enamel-coated dutch-ovens, you are going to need utensils that won’t scratch these delicate surfaces. This means a pair of nylon tongs will be best suited to your utensil needs. Nylon utensils are more flexible than stainless steel designs, and some nylon tongs are going to scrape corners far better than the latter. That said, nylon tongs can be much harder to clean as the likes of creamy sauces, rice and eggs tend to stick to them. This means you may have to scrape off any left-overs yourself, as a scrubbing-brush alone will not always suffice. Additionally, as they are plastic, they may can melt when accidentally exposed to flames - not to mention the fact they just aren’t as aesthetically pleasing as stainless steel designs.
And regarding stainless steel tongs, these are usually made much thinner and sturdier, meaning they are better for removing oven-baked food from a dish, crucially without disturbing the layers of a pie or lasagna. They are also better for scraping pans, should that be necessary, so if you’re tossing a pan of honey glazed carrots and wish to scrape bits off of the bottom, then reaching for a pair of stainless steel tongs is your best bet. There are fewer cons with stainless steel tongs, so if you can put up with the occasional piercing sound of metal on metal, this is the option for you.
You could, of course, also purchase a pair of wooden tongs, but beyond tossing a salad or serving cold or cool food, you won’t find much use for them.
What are common uses for kitchen tongs?
Kitchen tongs are most commonly used to grasp something that the user is unable to handle themselves, due to heat, but there is far more to the most versatile kitchen tool than that - they are referred to as a chef’s second pair of hands for good reason!
When baking potatoes, the best way to achieve that crispy exterior and fluffy inside is to wrap the potatoes in foil and cook them directly on the oven’s rack. You can use tongs to pull the hot potatoes from the oven without burning yourself, as even an oven mitt can lead to a dropped potato and burned hands. Pulling a cob of corn from boiling water is another handy trick, and there really is no easier way to remove large items from a pot of boiling water than with a pair of kitchen tongs. As well as tossing a salad with tongs, you can also toss a stir fry, although it should go without saying that this will only work with stainless steel tongs, as they are far more heavy duty than nylon tongs.
Using tongs to turn meat in a pan or on the grill will not only save you from burning your hands, but also help to retain any juices. Spearing food with a fork allows the juices to run out which can quickly lead to dried out steaks, burgers and chicken breasts but tongs allow for a firm grip without losing any juices.
Not only can kitchen tongs be used to retrieve anything that is stored just out of reach, such as a roll of kitchen towel, but they can also be used to retrieve toast. It may be that the slice of toast is a little too hot to handle and rather than jamming a butter knife in there, you can simply use a pair of tongs, which will be safe, quick and efficient. Of course, do unplug the toaster from the wall before you do this.
You can also wave goodbye to your juicer, as a sturdy pair of tongs can work just as well. You may be used to using your hands, or even a fork, but this method will also help you to get much more juice out of your oranges, lemons and limes. Simply cut the fruit in half and place a wedge between the prongs. Then, squeeze the open end of the tongs with both hands, either over a pitcher or other vessel, and there you have it - you have squeezed a lemon (or orange, or lime) within a matter of seconds. Next time you do this, remember this useful tip: the inner lip on stainless steel tongs will minimise slippage.
Shredding meat is another surprising way you are able to use your kitchen tongs. Why fork out for a crab or lobster claw when you have a perfectly capable utensil in your drawer? Simply take a fork and your tongs, and use the fork to hold the cooked meat in place whilst you tear bits off with the tongs.
Baking a pie and seeking that professional finish? You can even use your tongs to decorate the crust of your pie! Simply clamp the tip of the tongs on the edge of the crust to add original decorative patterns.
As well as achieving that professional finish on your pies, you can also use tongs to plate your spaghetti, just like they do in some authentic Italian restaurants. To do so, use the tongs to pick up the spaghetti from the saucepan, hold it above the plate and slowly lower the pasta while turning the plate. In order to build the pasta up to a peak, work from the outside inwards.
Now that you have achieved the quality presentation of your favourite Italian delight, it’s time to achieve the perfect finish to your favourite Mexican delicacie. You can use your tongs to toast tortillas over an open flame until they are perfectly charred. This method requires less than a minute of your time, and will make a huge taste difference in the tacos you serve at dinner.
If you are a following a recipe, whether it’s in a magazine or book, or on a card or sheet, you can use your tongs as a makeshift recipe stand for easy reading and cooking. This makes following the recipe far easier than if you were to lie it flat, and have to constantly tilt your head on an angle.
A bottle of beer can be the ultimate complimentary touch for any meal…so where do kitchen tongs come into this? You can use the inner edge of a metal tong arm to catch and pop off the bottle cap!
If the above reasons are not quirky enough for you, why not let the little ones use tongs to eat Chinese food? When they see everyone else eating Chinese cuisine with chopsticks, they may feel left out, but also grow frustrated when trying to use them, so letting them use a small pair of tongs will soon solve that problem, and allow them to join in with everyone else.
And, of course, you can always use tongs to serve food. With Christmas around the corner, they are the perfect utensil to place in the middle of the table, allowing guests to help themselves to the plated heaps of roast potatoes, Brussels sprouts, turkey, pigs in blankets, Yorkshire puddings - you name it, the tongs will serve it.
What should I look out for when buying a new pair of kitchen tongs?
Generally, a good pair of kitchen tongs should measure anywhere between nine and twelve inches, with stainless steel tongs weighing around five ounces. If the packaging states that the tongs weigh less than this, it is likely that they are not strong enough to be useful, and may bend or break relatively fast. Longer tongs of around 13.5 to 15.5 inches are ideal if you host barbecues, or operate a very hot grill frequently, and are often found in commercial kitchens.
Kitchen tongs with locking mechanisms are recommended, though this should only lock when the tongs are pointed up and squeezed close. Similarly, they should only unlock when pointing downwards and being squeezed. Usually, this is achieved with a pin, set just below the mechanism that is engaged when tipped up. Locks that call for fiddling or require two hands to operate are fairly useless, as they contradict that whole idea of tongs being a chef’s second pair of hands, and hence often fail over time.
Heat resistant pads are also advisable, as it is no secret that steel is a conductor of heat. So, if you are working over a hot stove, tongs can heat up pretty quickly.
How to clean kitchen tongs?
You should clean your kitchen tongs as you would any other kitchen utensil, of course airing extra caution if you have handled raw meat. If you own stainless steel tongs, wash them with a proper metallic detergent and never leave them unwashed for more than three days after use. Use either a sponge, cloth or steel wool, as you would with any other utensil or dish.
Tongs may be the essential grill tool, but as you now know they are good for far more than simply turning cuts of meat. Take a moisturised paper towel and place it between your tongs - this will clean up a hot grill quicker and much easier than most other grill cleaning tools on the market, and it won’t cost you an extra penny whatsoever.