He said two of the most untrue things ever about me because I was born missing: that I wouldn’t be able to drive and that I wouldn’t be able to cook. In the car, the only thing I’m not excellent at is parallel parking, but that’s just because I’m an idiot from Florida. As for the kitchen, let’s just say there’s a waiting list for a dinner party at my house. The kitchen is where I bring my anxiety and enthusiasm to life into my many culinary projects – with the help of my favorite tools.
Kitchen utensils do not need to be marketed as accessible devices to function well with one hand. In fact, some one-handed or ultra-comfortable designs work very poorly for disabled, injured, or one-handed users. As a one-handed home cook, I’ve discovered that some of my most reliable kitchen tools are just coincidentally easy to use with one hand.
On a quiet gray afternoon, I might lump the ingredients together for a luscious blue cornbread using a wide silicone spatula and a large rubber-bottomed bowl from the OXO 3-Piece Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl Set. The bowl’s heavy weight and rubberized coating keep it stable on the counter while the lighter stainless steel bowls may spin and sway from mixing. (These lighter mixing bowls may work well in partially crowded restaurant kitchens because they rotate easily, but they require active use of both hands to prevent the bowl from spinning out and landing on the floor.) Plus, the OXO bowl rim has a small lip that allows me to tilt the bowl up without The need for fingers or downward pressure to keep it in place.
Sometimes a tool that doesn’t advertise useful features for a one-handed cook may outperform another that does. For example, the OXO Smooth Edge Can Opener doesn’t promote this fact, but its handles stay closed well enough that I don’t need to grab them while turning the handle. This makes it more accessible and functional than the Zyliss Lock N’ Lift, which advertises a locking mechanism but still requires a firm grip on the handles.
Other tools are useful simply because they allow different chefs to work as quickly as they can with the hands. During prep work, a common professional cooking technique is to use a bench scraper, like the one I use from Ateco, to move chopped and diced ingredients from a cutting board to the stove. This is a great tip for any home cook, but it’s especially useful for the one-handed chef.
Of course, there are tools specifically designed for one-handed use as well. While I love many of my kitchen utensils, my absolute favorite utensils are my Knork dinner “forks” (yes, they’re what they sound like – a hybrid of a knife and fork). Its design is suitable for one-handed eaters as well as anyone who simply refuses to use knives while eating. If you force the sharp side of a fork brutally into chicken breasts, crab cakes, and pancakes, and shake the bowl back and forth on your plate, Knorks is for you. To accommodate this popular style of eating, Knork designed the sides of the fork with beveled edges and widened the neck to create a finger platform on which you could apply force while “slicing.” Knork says it designed its flatware to complement the way people “eat naturally,” but both Knork’s eco-friendly flatware and party plate, which features a wine glass opening so you can “freely slice your food,” are also great designs for people like me. Like me, I have limited skill.
However, not all designs made on purpose with one hand were very successful. Some people care more about a virtual work environment than they do about getting the job done well. Take, for example, the bread guillotine, which my mother kindly bought me to furnish my first college dorm room. The first thing I noticed: his terrible violence. The exquisite V-shaped blade. look Tapered and sharp enough to do its job with just one hand. But there’s a reason this stuff isn’t found in any proper bagel—when this blade descends vertically over a reasonably fresh bun standing on its side, the blade just squashes the perfect curve of the bagel into its slot, creating the wretchedly smiling clown face of the bread. It is best to slice the bagel while it is laying flat, with one hand holding the bagel in place while the other hand cutting parallel to the cutting board. A one-handed approach that repeats this procedure may simply involve placing a fairly heavy weight such as pressing a panini on top of the bread. With designs for one-handed users, I don’t want to simply do the thing, I want to do the thing well.
When faced with long, repetitive tasks in the kitchen, such as constantly flipping bread, one-handed cooks can’t switch hands to reduce fatigue. A couple of years ago, several online commentators mocked the Üutensil Automatic Pot Stirrer for enabling what they saw as chronic laziness, even when it was clear that many people with disabilities could benefit greatly from an automatic pot stirrer. Unfortunately, the tool didn’t live up to its potential: I tried the product and found “Look, no hands!” The battery-powered motor lost all its power when it encountered the slightest hint of viscosity. While it may transfer thin liquids—which have little risk of getting stuck or burning at the bottom of the pan anyway—it’s useless for homemade sauces and custards, let alone risottos. Until a better automatic agitator comes along, marking in someone else’s arm will still be my preferred method.
Ultimately, the most accessible tools are those that are exceptionally well made: a sharp and durable chef’s knife, reliable kitchen shears, and a commercial-grade nonstick skillet. A fine tool that holds up to years of traditional and more innovative use – bench scrapers work twice as second as second hands, and bowls stay in place during more powerful one-handed whisking. Well-thought-out design – the kind that makes tasks faster and easier – often works for people with disabilities, too. As always, keep your best gadgets well guarded, and as Julia Child writes, they are hidden “away from the crazy and non-cooks.”