I’ve had plenty of overnights at my boyfriend’s apartment when he’ll offer me toast and tea (I don’t drink coffee). I’m grateful for the hospitality, but of course, there’s just one problem: He doesn’t own spreading knives. Using a butter knife to spread still-cold butter on my toast means that it inevitably gets clumped on my bread; some bites have only the faintest taste of butter, while other parts feel like eating globs of fat. It looks a fright, but worse, I have to take giant bites to create a more acceptable bread-to-butter ratio in my mouth. This is in part the fault of Americans’ obsession with refrigeration, but it’s also because of bad knives. If only he owned a set of spreading knives.
The spreading knife is not a butter knife, though it does a far better job of applying a thin layer of the stuff than the cutlery that actually has butter in the name. It looks more like a metal spatula — the kind you’d use to frost a cupcake — only with a slightly serrated edge. My mother actually was my spreading-knife evangelist; our family has had one in our kitchen for as long as I can remember. When I was young and dumb, I would take out a butter knife to add cream cheese to my Murray’s Sturgeon Sunday bagels, only to have my mother yank the knife out of my hand and replace it with a spreading knife. The spreading knife yielded the perfect schmear — unlike a butter knife (which is too narrow to allow you to spread with precision), the wider surface area of the spreading knife ensured that no part of the bagel was thicker with cream cheese than others. Each bite was an equal-opportunity flavor experience.
You don’t even have to use it exclusively with cream cheese or butter. I’ve used it to spread Brie on bread for dinner-party guests; I’ve brought it along on hikes in the woods to spread tuna salad on wheat. It’s great for peanut butter and jelly, mayonnaise in a BLT, or just leveling some brownie batter. Actually, it does everything the butter knife is supposed to, only well.
More Strat-approved kitchen tools
Writer Kase Wickman adores the Modfacture garlic peeler: “All you have to do is pop the whole clove into the tube on the counter, push the whole thing down with your palm, and roll. The sides of the tube grab onto the skin and rip it off, and out tumbles your perfect little peeled garlic clove. Then all you have to do is rinse the tube, cook your meal, and enjoy your vampire-free life. Simple.”
Chef Gabriel Kreuther stands by the Benriner mandoline: “The setup is very simple: There’s the regular blade on one side, which allows you to get a precise, consistent cut. On the other side, you can add attachments to adjust the size of the cut. There’s one for a julienne, a dice, a chop — all in one piece of equipment. I use it for all my garnishes and salads, and no knife has ever created a better julienne.”
Writer Rachel Khong tipped us off to the best dishwashing gloves, called Mommy Hands: “Never shall a dish slide from Mommy Hands. And the gloves are thick, meaning you can get the water incredibly hot. Case in point: Once I turned the water on so hot that I warped a takeout container. My hands, sheathed in my Mommy Hands, remained protected, intact and unburned.”
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