Avoid a crusty plate with your meal
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Do you have a spoon rest? Do you love it? Because if so, please tell me. It is rare, with apologies to my former colleague, that I find someone who really loves their spoon rest. It is a clever idea to have a receptacle for a kitchen tool that's still in use. If you don't designate an area for them, they end up floating around the kitchen or buried in the sink—a very inconvenient quality for something that you're going to need imminently. But a spoon rest is always lacking somehow. It can't hold the utensil you're hoping it will hold, it will only have space for your mixing spoon, but not your tasting spoon, or it soon turns from charming to splattered-in-gunk. It is, in short, an imperfect solution to a perpetual problem.

But there is a better way, one I learned from the cooking program I'm attending, where we regularly dirty many knives, spoons, whisks, and other assorted gadgets over the course of our five-hour class: Use a small bain marie beside your cooking station. A bain marie, literally, is a hot water bath, but in the kitchen I'm learning in, it refers to a kind of squat small pot with tall sides and no handles. They come in all sizes, and are often used as a container for, say, stock or duck fat. You can buy one on Amazon, or very cheaply at a restaurant supply store.

I bought a one-and-a-quarter quart one for my utensil resting purposes at home, which is fairly small. But it works like a charm to hold the utensils I need while I'm cooking, without the sloppiness of a spoon rest. The advantage of a bain marie is that you can add a couple of inches of water to the bottom, then your utensils emerge when you need to use them again without crusted gunk on the sides. Plus, it stores your utensils vertically rather than horizontally, a big space-saving hack for smaller kitchens. (I was doubly convinced on this method when I saw that The Wirecutter's Michael Sullivan recommended a bain marie as an unexpected kitchen essential earlier this year.) Give a bain marie a try and, I promise, that spoon rest will lose its luster.