The bench scraper is one of those cooking tools, like the sheet pan, or the squeeze bottle, that have crossed over from the realm of professional cooks and into the home kitchen. But what is a bench scraper, and do you need one?
What Is a Bench Scraper?
A bench scraper, sometimes also called a bench knife, a dough scraper, or any number of other variations, is a flat, rectangular piece of steel with a handle along one edge. It's a sort of wide, dull knife that bakers use to divide, portion, scoop and transfer hunks of dough from one place to another.
It's also incredibly handy for scraping loose flour and bits of dough from a baker's counter (which is called a bench), as well as from other tools, like their baking peels, rolling pins and so on.
In short, it's like the chef's knife of the baking world, the tool that, if that's your line of work, you hold in your hand more than any other.
What Is It Good For?
When you're making bread, or any sort of yeast dough, like pizza dough, for instance, you know that many recipes call for making a double batch and then dividing the dough into individual portions, which you will then proof, shape and bake. A bench scraper is what a professional baker would use to divide the dough.
If you're weighing out the dough to make sure the quantities are exact, a bench scraper is what you'd use to trim off tiny bits of dough to get the weight correct.
And if you're making a huge batch of dough, a bench scraper can help you lift that mound of dough and shift it around your countertop.
What Else Is It Good For?
But what if you're not a professional baker? Or maybe you bake, but you make a loaf of bread now and then, and a regular kitchen knife has always been fine for cutting dough in half. Well, a bench scraper is good for more than just breads.
If you've ever rolled out a round of pie crust and need to lift it off your counter and drape it across your pie pan, a bench scraper is perfect for getting under that edge of pie dough so you can lift it up.
It's also perfect, either alone or with a mate, for cutting butter into flour for making pie dough, biscuits, scones and the like. Not to mention, cutting that biscuit and scone dough into individual portions.
And if you've ever tried cutting a pan of brownies or bars into perfect squares using a knife or ordinary spatula, you probably know that those tools leave something to be desired. A bench scraper is that something. Because it's a straight edge that lets you cut straight down, you can get right up against the edge of the brownie pan and cut a straight line right across.
Anything Other Than Doughs?
Now, imagine that instead of a pan of brownies, it's a lasagna, a casserole, or a frittata that you're looking to cut. A bench scraper will work just as well on those dishes as it will on brownies.
And while it may not have as sharp an edge as a chef's knife, a bench scraper is actually pretty handy for chopping. Most vegetables, like onions, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, even lettuce, can be roughly chopped using a bench scraper.
And if you've ever tried scooping your diced veggies from your cutting board into a bowl or pan using the edge of your knife, you know that it's a precarious operation at best. A bench scraper, with its wide blade, is perfect for transporting your chopped ingredients from one place to another with minimal spillage.
It's also a wonderful tool for cutting ropes of gnocchi. (OK, yes, that's a dough.)
A few more tasks that a bench scraper is good for:
- Smoothing the frosting on a cake
- Smashing garlic
- Scraping burnt-on gunk off a sheet pan
What Is a Rubber Scraper?
Most bench scrapers are made of stainless steel, and while there are plastic versions, the stainless steel ones are affordable enough that you shouldn't have to resort to anything else. But with that said, there are some rubber scrapers that have an advantage over the stainless steel kind.
Because it has a straight edge, a bench scraper isn't much good at scraping batter or other ingredients from the inside of a mixing bowl. For that, you need to use either a rubber spatula, or a rubber scraper. Rubber scrapers usually don't have a handle, and they feature two straight edges and one curved edge.
And it's the curved edge, along with its slightly flexible material, that makes it perfect for scraping out bowls. The straight edges do an equally good job at handling dough, although because they're rubber, they won't do as well when it comes to chopping and scraping hard surfaces.
What Is a Bench Scraper Not Good For?
Because its edge is relatively dull, a bench scraper wouldn't be the best tool to use for chopping delicate herbs, as it would tend to bruise them rather than chop them. So stick with a knife for jobs like that. Likewise, as we mentioned, since its edge is straight, it wouldn't be much help in scraping out bowls.