Everyone Should Have This Kitchen Tool That Isn’t for Cooking at All

“How do you open jars,” I texted a dear friend one night after a particularly grueling and soul-sapping tussle with a stubborn marinara lid that bruised both hands and ego and made me wonder how I managed to independently feed myself. 

“A mallet,” he told me. Specifically, this rubber mallet for under $12. As a person who lives alone with physical limitations and a lot of adaptations in his life, I trusted his recommendation implicitly. Five minutes later, my purchase was confirmed. Two years later, my mallet still has pride of place on the window sill above the sink. Friends laugh when they see it. They’re missing out.

I’ve tried all manner of jar-opening devices in my years (these did nothing for me) and many a kitchen trick to break a stubborn seal, like gripping the lid with a towel, holding the jar under a stream of hot water, thumping the sides and bottom to release the seal, even the ill-advised insertion of a knife point between the lid and jar lip. Sometimes these techniques even work!

But with a light tap of the mallet on two or three spots along the vertical edges of a lid, it easily twists open, vacuum released. This mallet method is dead simple, takes seconds and works every time. (You also won’t gauge yourself on a sharp knife or open scissor, and it’d be pretty hard to hit your own thumb.)

The story doesn’t end there, because although I bought the rubber mallet for speedily dispatching cantankerous jar lids, I find myself grasping the handle and swinging the business end more often than I expected.

Ice that’s partially melted into chunks shatters beneath the mallet’s weight. Garlic peels fly. Meat (in zip-top bags) is gently massaged into uniform thinness. The mallet head is easily covered in a clean bag or cloth, or otherwise sanitized, but mostly I cover the food at the point of contact, rather than the mallet. A sturdy tap is usually all it takes to do whatever needs to be done, and I gotta admit, swinging a hammer around the kitchen is a lot of fun.

Occasionally, I even use the rubber mallet for nonculinary utilitarian tasks like, you know, building furniture (those pesky dowel ends!). But the next time a friend ribs me with a “why do you have a mallet in your kitchen” line, I’m going to grab the tightest-lidded jar I can find for a demo — and then send them the link above. 

For even more smart buys we love, this handy multitool is one my colleague has in his bug-out bag, and another coworker swears by this Powrun P-One car jump starter battery pack (here’s why she likes it).