You may not own a bench scraper. In fact, it's possible you don't even know what it is. But hopefully, by the time you've heard us out, you'll be convinced you need one.
A bench scraper (also called a dough scraper or a bench knife) is a blunt-edged rectangular metal blade about the size of a small notepad that's a classic pastry tool. But even if you don't bake regularly, it can still be a worthy investment for general cooking prep. It's also space-efficient and easy to stow away in a prep drawer, and is a crazy-easy-to-clean, dishwasher-safe tool that can last you for decades. And you can add a quality scraper to your kitchen for less than the price of a fancy sandwich.
Pastry Tasks, Traditional And Otherwise
Bench scrapers are designed to to make working with, lifting, turning and portioning dough easier. For instance, they're a useful way to gather up bits as you're working any pastry, and re-incorporate the stray bits back into your mass of dough. Turn the scraper on its side to pry off biscuits that have stuck to a surface, or to move large, delicate cut-out cookies. If you're trying to pry a thin pie crust off the board, it's far superior to, say, a spatula, since the tool is wide enough and the blade thin enough to get under even the thinnest pie dough.
Although they aren't knife-sharp, bench scrapers work well for cutting, too: dividing scones into triangles, cutting fresh ravioli, forming granola bars, slicing refrigerator cookies, cutting breadsticks...you get the idea. They're particularly fantastic for slicing brownies, fudge, or other bars into perfect squares without scraping your non-stick baking pans, and thanks to the measurements on the side, you can use them to portion out everything from pizza dough to tortillas to naan.
Another biggie: chiselling away at those sticky, pesky bits of dough off the counter after you're finished with any baking project. There's no easier way to clean up a floured surface (or any dirty counter, for that matter). It's also fantastic for scraping baking sheets clean -- just don't use them on the nonstick ones.
The tool's hard angle makes it useful for other, non-classical baking uses. We like to use the bench scraper as a spatula of sorts for smoothing batter in a large pan, in the event of making a jelly roll or sheet cake. The generously-sized straight edge is the easiest way to achieve an even level of batter. If you ice a lot of desserts, it's also ideal for creating clean edges on the side of a frosted cake.
Cooking Prep And Cleanup
For those of you who don't bake regularly, the bench scraper still serves enough functions to make it worth the purchase. It makes both prep and cleanup substantially easier, and could practically replace the chef's knife for a number of kitchen functions.
The bench scraper is the best scooper the kitchen has to offer. Use it to transfer chopped vegetables and herbs from the cutting board to the stove. (If you do this repeatedly with a chef's knife, you may end up with a dull knife as a result, a non-issue with the already-dull bench scraper.) Recruit the scraper to corral the likes of sliced strawberries into a bowl of salad, to simply to sweep scraps into the garbage.
Like a chef's knife, a bench scraper is also handy for crushing spices and garlic. If you've ever worried about cutting yourself or warping your knife while bashing garlic, a bench scraper is the perfect stand-in. Its large surface area makes it ideal for crushing large amounts of something, whether it's Sichuan peppercorns or a large handful of garlic cloves. (It can roughly chop that garlic in a pinch, too.)
If you've made meatloaf, lasagna, meatballs or anything else prone to sticking after a stint in the oven, use the bench knife to gently lift the edges away from a glass pan. Use it to measure meatballs or dumpling fillings, or in my favourite hack: to break up minced meat as it browns in a pan.
Like a good set of kitchen tongs, the dough scraper's uses extend far beyond the kitchen. It's the best way to clean off countertops when you can "feel" things left behind, but can't see them. I've used it to chisel away at spilled candle wax. Some people even use it to break down completed puzzles. And if you wanted to, you could probably even use it to fight off ninja warriors.
So if you don't have one, get one. Trust us: you'll regret not having purchased it sooner.