Common Appliances, Uncommon Uses

All those kitchen appliances, taking up shelf space until the next time you’re craving waffles or dried fruit or sorbet. Isn’t there a way to employ them more often? We were inspired by a Chowhound post that asked for alternate uses for a waffle iron.

As we researched, we found people who brew beer in coffee makers or cook fish in the dishwasher, but not every experiment was worth the time or effort. We came up with the following parameters: (1) the food should taste as good or better than when made in the conventional manner, (2) the cooking time should be equal to or shorter than normal, and (3) the method should use the appliance in a way that’s totally different from what it’s known for.

Imagine our delight at seeing a soufflé rise up in the slow cooker, a frozen mixed drink take shape in the ice cream maker. Our late-night snack cravings found succor with a waffle iron. And if you don’t have these appliances, or don’t understand why anyone would veer from the standard, there are conventional instructions for most of the recipes too.

Make Waffle Fries, Quesadillas, Brownies, Muffins, and Hash Browns Using a Waffle Iron

Good waffles are delicious in the iron, but we thought that anything with a batter base or that required a crispy texture could be waffled. We settled on waffle fries, quesadillas, brownies, muffins, and hash browns.

Recipe and photo from Serious Eats

Awesome Pull-Apart Waffle Fries
If you’re only making waffles in your waffle maker, you’re making a mistake. This idea from Serious Eats is amazing: First take some leftover french fries that you have sitting in the fridge from ordering in the night before. They are impossible to reheat anyway (too greasy and always too soggy) so this is truly an excellent idea. Put them in the waffle iron and in 10 to 15 minutes, you’ll have a crispy, delicious potato mound that begs to be dipped in ketchup or melted cheese.

Recipe and photo from Tablespoon

Quesadillas
Another trick for the waffle iron, waffle quesadillas are a fast way to make lunch without getting many dishes dirty. Using flour tortillas, grease the waffle iron and place the tortilla into the device and sprinkle grated cheese, spices, and diced peppers on top. This method makes for a much crispier quesadilla than if you’d just used the microwave, and it even reheats easily later on. Hand-held and perfect for an afternoon snack, waffle quesadillas are worth a try before you give up and order in—you can usually make one with whatever you find in the fridge.

Recipes and photo from CHOW

Intense Brownies
Using CHOW's Intense Brownies recipe, follow the mixing instructions (steps 2 and 3). Heat the waffle iron to its lowest setting. When it's hot, add a third of the batter to the ungreased iron. Close it and let the brownies cook until they are firm and starting to get very brown on the edges, about four minutes. Remove them from the iron and let them sit a few minutes to crisp up. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Citrus–Poppy Seed Muffins
Follow the mixing instructions (steps 2 and 3). Heat the waffle iron to its lowest setting. When it's hot, add a third of the batter to the ungreased iron. Close it and let the muffins cook until they are browned and set all the way through, about five minutes. Remove them from the iron and eat as is or with a squeeze of lemon and some powdered sugar. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Chile-Cilantro Hash Browns
Gather the ingredients listed in our recipe. Heat the waffle iron to its medium setting. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and grate them on the large holes of a box grater. Squeeze the mixture by the handful to release as much moisture as possible.

When the iron is hot, fill the bottom half with 1/8 inch vegetable oil (about 1 tablespoon). Squeeze the grated potato mixture between your hands again to release any excess moisture. Combine the potato mixture, chili powder, and black pepper and mix until well combined.

Place half of the mixture (about 1 cup) in the iron, sprinkle half of the salt over top, brush the top of the iron with vegetable oil, close it, and cook until the hash browns are golden brown and crisp, about eight to ten minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Make Frozen Cocktails Using an Ice Cream Maker

The ice cream makers that have the bowls with the water cores not only are good at freezing liquids into solid ice cream, but also can turn out a great slushy drink. We made a frozen mixed cocktail worthy of a few paper umbrellas.

Frozen Coco Loco
This blended cocktail will keep you cool all summer long. It has the perfect ratio of alcohol to water, allowing it to hold onto its frozen integrity. If you made this in a blender, it would be too icy.

Make Duck Confit, Soufflés, and Frittatas Using a Slow Cooker

A slow cooker is perfect for a braise or a long-cooked sauce, because it maintains consistent heat and is safe enough to be left unattended. We wanted to apply those qualities to recipes that give us a headache due to their long cooking time or complicated preparations; we settled on slow cooker versions of a soufflé, duck confit, and a frittata.

Recipe and photo from CHOW

Smoked Cheddar Soufflé
To make this soufflé in a slow cooker, start by filling a small saucepan with water and bringing it to a boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and let the water simmer while you prepare the soufflé. Follow steps 1 through 5 of the recipe, without preheating the baking sheet.

Once the soufflé is ready, pour about 2 cups of the simmering water into the slow cooker and place the soufflé dish in the water (the water should come a third to halfway up the sides of the dish). Cover the slow cooker and cook the soufflé on high until it has puffed and is set in the middle, about one hour and forty-five minutes.

Duck Confit
Duck confit can be a pain to make on the stovetop or in the oven, because you want the fat to stay at a constant temperature while it cooks the duck. This version, developed specifically for the slow cooker, solves that problem and results in tender, flavorful meat.

Recipe and photo from Simple Nourished Living

Spaghetti Frittata
This recipe is so simple it can hardly be called a recipe. Crack a few eggs in a bowl; whisk them together and pop in some delicious add-ins like sliced ham, diced red peppers, and seasonings; and then pour the egg mixture over leftover pasta into the slow cooker. Top with cheese, and let cook until the eggs have reached the consistency you want. Voila! Breakfast (or even dinner) in a snap.

Make Home-Brewed Sake Using a Yogurt Maker

Recipe and photo from Umami Mart

Amazake
Amazake is delicious nonalcoholic sweet sake that you can make easily at home with the aid of your yogurt maker. All you need is water, short-grain white rice, and dry koji, which is sold at health food stores, Japanese markets, and even Whole Foods, and used to ferment soybeans. In 24 hours or less, you’ll have homemade amazake, which is said to be great for digestion and even a suitable hangover cure.

Make Eggs Using a Coffee Pot

Recipe and photo from Cooking With Your Coffee Maker

Hard-Boiled Eggs
If you’re sick of ruining hard-boiled eggs and throwing out the greenish-tinged yolks, try repurposing your coffee pot and you can make a batch of four or five hard-cooked eggs (depending on the size of your coffee pot) while you’re getting ready for work. This method takes a little longer, so be patient; but if you’re interested in multitasking in the kitchen, this may be the technique for you.

Make Mac 'n' Cheese Using a Rice Cooker

Recipe and photo from The Washington Post

Mac and Cheese
Your rice cooker is hardly pulling its weight in the kitchen if you’re only using it for making rice. This recipe for macaroni and cheese is a simple and tasty alternative to slaving over a batch of homemade mac with a complicated roux. Put the pasta, broth, and salt in the rice cooker and let it cook until the liquid is absorbed. Then just add the cheese and the milk, and continue to cook on medium to high heat until the consistency is just right.

Make Shredded Meat with a Stand Mixer

Photo from CHOW

Pulled Pork
Pulled pork is a fabulous recipe to multiply for larger groups, but the actual pulling apart of the slow-cooked meat can be annoying. Normally you’d use two forks and pull the meat apart by hand, but this is a killer task to outsource to your stand mixer. Our video shows how you can cut down a time-consuming task easily and with little effort, and you can use this method for chicken salad too.

This story was originally published by The CHOW Editorial Team on May 7, 2008

Caitlin M. O'Shaughnessy is a New York City–based food writer and editor at Penguin who has worked on and recipe-tested several cookbooks. She is currently in search of NYC's best ramen, and is one of the few people who admit to disliking brunch.