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De-Electrifying the Kitchen

I can't manage it completely, but I'm trying to minimize my kitchen's dependence on plug-in and battery-powered stuff. Batteries are expensive, wasteful and environmental cluster bombs; and I hate being leashed to cords and subjected to all the racket my motored small appliances make. I'm not trying to conserve energy or be a disaster prepper, especially, although those're incidental benefits.

I recently got a great manual apple peeler and cherry stoner, and am now looking for a hand-powered coffee mill.

Anyone have any tips or hand-powered tools to share in this vein?


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  1. I hope you already use a swingline can opener, possibly the wall mounted variety.

    EDIT: it's Swing A Way

    8 Replies
    1. re: Kris in Beijing

      Hi, Kris:

      Thanks! I am. LOL, this probably dates me, but I never suckered for an electric can opener. My mom, rest her soul, laid in a strategic reserve of Swing-A-Ways.


      1. re: kaleokahu

        I'm with you Kaleo. I just bought an all electric house that is already pre-plumbed with Natural Gas from the street. The previous owner had a panic attack over "the dangers of natural gas". Considering it is in a rural area, I'm even more perplexed why they did that considering the electrical outages that frequently occur.

        I see a wood fired outdoor oven (thinking pizza oven, probably Vesuvius though I like the Napleno better). Add a good smoker or smoke house and I'm pretty well set.

        Really, other than the refrigerator, all the other electrical things are pretty easily replaced by something our ancestors used or something at the local camping store.

        Looking overseas, things like a Kelly Kettle are easily within reach and much more efficient than the big box store stuff we take for granted. I've got a Tao Charcoal Burner in my future. ;-)

        1. re: Sid Post

          Sid if we're on an off-the-grid DIY tangent, why not use those masonry skills you didn't know you had and build your own brick or CMU backyard oven/grill - bake bread in the morning and roast things in the afternoon.

          1. re: hill food

            There are detailed instructions in the Cooking with Fire book on making backyard grills and ovens of various sorts, including a mud oven.

        2. re: kaleokahu

          I admit, I once used an electric opener. In my own defense, my right arm was broken and in a cast up to my armpit, bent at the elbow, hand canted down and in, what a mess. I could grip absolutely nothing. Not that I had any grip to speak of, what with the broken bone and all.

          Dude saw me trying to wrestle a can open and laughed his ass off. The very next day, he brought me an electric. Worked great, I just pressed down with my cast, and voila! Open sesame.

          1. re: kaleokahu

            I too have never had one. The one we had when I was a little kid terrified me! I quite like the one I have now that leaves no sharp edges. I also buy the pull-top cans whenever I can (tomatoes, tuna).

          2. Dare we ask what power├ęd things you are currently using?

            1. Lehman's hardware store in Kidron, Ohio, has a massive inventory of non-electric tools. They have a large Amish clientele (and also a lot of survivalists -- they sold a lot of stuff in the pre-Y2K panic).

              Order online here:

              1 Reply
              1. Some of the hand cranked flour mills will grind coffee beans too. Or you can get separate plates to do so.

                Options include the Family Grain Mill which has both electric and hand crank bases. I don't have it, so no endorsement implied. They have a variety of other attachments though including slicer and shredder, meat grinder, grain mill. You can see them all at Pleasant Hill Grains' website.

                I think the nicest quality is the Grainmaker, it does flour, beans, nut butters, coffee, flax

                1. You already have a cast iron stove, don't you? You might get some ideas on how to take a step further back in time/technology from a new book, Cooking With Fire


                  This was featured on a recent Splendid Table episode.

                  There are several routes to go with coffee mills:

                  - the kind the chuck wagon refurbishers bolt to the side of their wagons

                  - vertical shaft ones mounted on a fancy wood box

                  - compact ones marketed to backpackers. REI has sold some like that for years.

                  - turkish coffee mills (like tall brass pepper grinders).

                  1. Non-electric items I use fairly often (and that help me feel independent if there's no power):

                    - food mill (Oxo, with three plates of varying fineness)

                    - big-hole grater (Rosle horizontal version, easy to do a large quantity of cheese or potatoes or carrots right over a plate)

                    - pastry blender, for cutting butter or shortening into flour

                    - rotary eggbeater. I just can't get egg whites or whipped cream to the same point using a whisk without wearing out.

                    These are jobs for which a lot of cooks use a food processor or powered mixer. Oh, and a mortar and pestle in place of an electric spice grinder.

                    I don't have a mandoline, but it's another example. If very even, thin ribbons or slices are needed, it takes exceptional knife skills to get the same result, or a special blade on the food processor.

                    1. I have a plain old universal grinder. I also have a smaller nut grinder.

                      1. Interesting post, Kaleo. Your question made me stop and think about how many non-modern pieces I have - and use - in my kitchen. Many are hand-me-downs from family so they come with memories as well as function -- the ice cream maker was my grandfather's, the meat grinder and coffee mill belonged to my grandmother, my husband treasures the toast-tite. I would hate to be without my food mill, pasta machine and mandolin that I have bought. I make citrus juice with a hand-powered gizmo. I also have an antique grape press that I haven't used in a long while. My batterie de cuisine is pretty fundamental/traditional but I will admit that my FP, blender and toaster get a daily workout as well. There are no one-trick ponies in my kitchen - not an electric knife nor electric egg poacher to be found. As barefootgirl noted, Lehman's is a treasure trove of non-electric tools and gadgets. I finally found the pierced insert for sprinkling clothes from Lehman's.

                        Edit: I did not include the obvious - can opener, scissors, potato masher, etc even though there are electric substitutes for my manual gear.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Sherri

                          I only have two things that plug in in the kitchen that I regularly use--a toaster and my KA stand mixer. Couple other things that stay in the cabinet.

                        2. Hi K-

                          I admire your quest.

                          I too am 100 % free of US electrical 110v items anywhere in the house.

                          All jokes aside, your manually operated cherry pitting machine we discussed elsewhere is on sale with EBAY.USA right now:


                          1. I remember my great grandmother's coffee grinder.

                            I just put a manual meat grinder/sausage stuffer in the donation bin.

                            Lee Valley Garden Tools is a good source for hand kitchen tools.

                            1. The only juicer I have is one like this that was my mother's. It has a metal insert that catches the seeds.


                              12 Replies
                              1. re: c oliver

                                Hi, c oliver:

                                That looks like a great model. I coulda used that with yesterday's marmelade megabatch.


                                1. re: kaleokahu

                                  I am such a kitchen Luddite that I don't even own a juicer. Or a cherry pitter, or meat grinder. No apple slicer. See how basic my needs are?

                                  Nope, no fancy stuff here. Just keeping it real, that's me.

                                  1. re: DuffyH

                                    Hi, Duffy:

                                    I missed the "real" part, sorry.

                                    If you had 10-lb batches of cherries to pit and you tried the soda bottle/funnel/chopstick make-do, you'd be looking for a cherry pitter, trust me.

                                    I've tried a few manual meat grinders--and failed. So I guess I'm a semi-Luddite. Or would that be a demi-Luddite?


                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      I don't know how many pounds of cherries I pitted with a bobby pin during my Michigan childhood, but it was quite a few :) Really works well.

                                      I have a wooden juicer, and multiple glass juicers.

                                      1. re: foiegras

                                        I've used a bobby pin to pit olives, too. But it's easier with cherries because the dimple in the cherry really helps to make sure the bobby pin doesn't slip.

                                        1. re: DuffyH

                                          Hah - I forgot about the bobby pin. We just pitted 25# of sour cherries by hand.

                                          1. re: JoeBabbitt

                                            They also work for opening most interior door locks, like those found on most modern bathroom doors.

                                            1. re: DuffyH

                                              a small standard screwdriver works best on bathroom doors...

                                              most bobby pins have that annoying and intrusive blob on the end of the shafts - better off with 2 sewing needles if it's a real lock. (not that i know anything about picking locks)

                                              1. re: hill food

                                                When I convert one to a lock pick, I bite the plastic off the end, of course. Don't you?

                                2. re: c oliver

                                  I had a similar model but I far prefer the old fashion glass reamer.

                                  1. re: cleobeach

                                    I have one of those also but I can exert more pressure with the other one. I have relatively weak hands.

                                3. For a burr grinder, I use one of these: http://www.amazon.com/Hario-Coffee-Mi...

                                  We have two, one for coffee, the other spices.

                                    1. re: law_doc89

                                      More Chalcolithic here, but thanks.

                                      I did once own an electric knife...

                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                        electric knives are really good at carving up huge chunks of high density foam rubber, they will go dull/burn out fast though.

                                        1. re: hill food

                                          Hi, hill food:

                                          I once made a frittata that can best be described as "high density foam rubber", but I think my manual miter saw or plasma cutter could've handled it. ;)


                                          1. re: kaleokahu

                                            My best friend once baked a mince pie that my sharpest knife couldn't cut. Dude's chain saw was briefly considered.

                                            1. re: DuffyH

                                              You gotta be careful with the raker teeth snagging in mince pie. That's how I lost my first toe.

                                              Steel-toe cooking slippahs (oops, "flip flops") and Kevlar surf shorts from now on...

                                            2. re: kaleokahu

                                              yeah but the plasma cutter woulda gone through the pan, your counter, the substructure and well, you can guess how the rest of this gentle goodnight story might have played out...

                                              "and then daddy ran for the carbon tetrachloride fire extinguisher! AND a conventional one! yes he did!"

                                            3. re: hill food

                                              Bob spent a lot of time working in Sao Paulo Brazil about 20 years ago. He became acquainted with a wonderful older woman who sold 'precious stones' to American business people. She would invite him for dinner. He asked what he could bring her. An electric knife!

                                        2. Cast your own rocket stove and wok & roll brother! Material costs: about $4.50.

                                          And save those cherry pits, they burn beautifully. (I use walnuts from the tree in my backyard... By the time the highest ones fall - and I find them - they are a little dodgy for eating, but as fuel the rock!)