Mini-Tongs

Whenever I go to San Francisco, I stay with a friend of mine who generously offers to put me up as long as I’m in town. It’s fun, especially since she likes to hit the off-price shops and her kitchen is filled with lots and lots of kitchen tools.

Since she knows I live abroad, where many of them aren’t available, if I express interest in something she’ll invariably say, “Oh, go ahead and take it. I can get another one easily.”

3tongs

After a bit of obligatory mock-protesting on my part, I grudgingly accept it, and in it goes, right into the suitcase. On my last trip, I noticed she had a pair of mini-tongs in her drawer, which were not only adorable, but fit too-perfectly in my hand.

Americans are known for our use of kitchen tongs. You don’t see them much in Europe, and most chefs use a turning fork to lift and serve food. You might recall that David Chang flipped out over a cook, who, preparing staff meal, had the audacity to use tongs to lift pieces of chicken. Mr. Chang said that tongs rip and tear food, which is an assessment that I can’t say I agree with, since in my twenty-five years of cooking, I can’t recall any food that I demolished by lifting with a pair of tongs.

Anyhow, when I told her how much I liked those tongs, I waited the usual response.
And waited.

And waited.

No response. She did offer up where she got them, though.

“Oh yes, I like them too. I bought them at a discount store in Hawaii. They sell them all over the place there.”

Um…ok.

minitongs

Dejected I went back to Paris, less one pair of seven-inch mini-tongs. I would’ve gone to Hawaii, but I would’ve had a heckuva time convincing the folks at United that it was an emergency and they needed to change my ticket so that I could head to Honolulu pick up a pair of tongs.

Most cooks are pretty particular about their tongs. Most favor plain tongs, without those annoying locking rings. (The first thing I do is pry them off.) Heavy metal ones are best and I can do without silicon tips or goofy features. Just plain, heavy-duty metal tongs, which act as an extension of my hand.

I usually get mine at restaurant supply shops, hefting them up and giving them a little test run by squeezing them a couple of times. I don’t look for the cheapest or the most expensive; I look for the ones that feel just right in my grip.

So imagine my delight in coming across these devils at my local market, right here in Paris! On Thursdays, when the Bastille market is less-busy than Sunday, there’s a stand that sells boxes of stuff, mostly crap, and everything is priced at €1. Rifling through as I usually do, I pushed aside the masking tape, emery boards, and toothpick holders (and a few little old ladies who had the nerve to get in my way), and there I saw it. A glistening flash of stainless steel in a sea of cellophane bags of moth balls and packets of three nylon scrunchies for a euro.

Verifying with a few open-and-closing movements that they were good-quality, and would last longer than one or two uses, I paid my one euro and brought them home, where they’ve been living amongst my other tongs, in happy harmony.


50 comments

  • *wipes tear*

    I love a happy ending!

    Your blog is great Dave! :-)

  • Paris: where one can easily find pincer à sucre but not a good honest set of tongs (nothing designed by Philippe Stark please). It’s a funny place.

  • Oh those are indeed adorable, and darn useful! I never seem to find the right ones for my grip. Although it’s highly improbable that I’ll find them, will keep the Bastille market in mind for my next trip to Paris next February.

  • That’s so weird that David Chang flipped out over tongs. I like using them to turn meat since stabbing meat with a fork causes the juices to run out. I’m glad that you found those mini-tongs! I know what you mean about looking for things in Paris. Right now I’m on a quest to find cornmeal for cornbread.

  • Jennifer: You can find cornmeal at natural food stores, like Naturalia and biocoop, or at Arab markets, which sell cornmeal, ranging from fine to coarse. Good luck with your cornbread!

  • Gotta love the crap stand!

  • Thanks for the leads!

  • Yeah..tongs! Handy for serving spaghetti and salad too. I would feel the loss without them in the kitchen.

  • I totally get this! My mini tongs are one of my favorite kitchen tools as well!

    I acquired a pair last summer and use them all the time. Sounds like that box of junk is a real treasure trove.

    Well done. Frugality and tenacity pay off! I love that!!

    How was your holiday weekend? I am curious to know what you did.

    XOXOXOX,

    ~ Paula
    (of Ambrosia Quest)

    Am trying to put some of the Thanksgiving shots on my Flickr page, but the uploader doesn’t seem to be cooperating. Check back in a bit and see if it’s fixed…-dl

  • I’ve been having friends bring tongs from the US, but I actually think that a good locking tong is a thing of beauty. A crap locking tong is just crap. But yesterday when I had a bunch of French people in my kitchen as I was finishing roasting the turkey, it wasn’t tongs that amazed them but my instant-read thwermometer. That’s another kitchen tool that’s apparently unknown here that I’d hate to be without.

  • My mini-tongs are the most-frequently used item in my kitchen! I don’t even own a pair of regular-sized ones–so glad that you, too, can now enjoy these at home. I don’t know what I’d do without them.

  • I couldn’t survive in the kitchen without my variously sized tongs. I like the larger ones to lock or I have to wrestle around to get them out of my overflowing crock, and the smaller ones not to. I use them for everything. As far as destroying the food, that is nonsense. . . unless you try and pick up a whole turkey or chicken, then there is bound to be some wreckage.

  • Must haves when I am working…

    – Eminceur
    – Santoku
    – Couteau d’office
    – Eplucheur
    – Sharpie
    – TONGS

  • Great tongs!! Will have to keep my eye out for a pair!! LOVE the Bastille market as well and that little stand is very useful for tourists who are renting an apartment!! You know you’ve found a terrific place when your 13 year old son lists it in his top THREE favorites in Paris!!
    P.S. I REALLY enjoy your blog David !!!

  • I love the ones I got, including silicon tip and lock, so it fits better in the drawer I keep my kitchen things.

    Aren’t they better to turn a piece of meat?

    Made a mental note: Bastille market, a place to go in Paris!

  • HI Marcia: I never keep my tongs in the drawer, I always keep them within reach of the stove. Anything in the drawer always seems to find it’s way to the bottom..especially when I’m in a panic and need it most!

    I do have a pair of spiffy All Clad tongs that has a locking mechanism that doesn’t get in the way. But still, if I could take it off, I would : )

  • I love cooking with tongs. I must admit, though, after reading about Chang’s “tong meltdown” I feel a tinge of guilt when I pull out my tongs. And, so it goes…

  • I have a couple pairs of those tongs. Two different sizes, of course. They can be found at almost any store in Florida. K-Mart, Sears, any department store with kitchen stuff, and Publix markets amongst many others.

  • we have them at the 100 yen stores (like the US$1 stores) here in Japan. they are great for me since my chopsticks skills suck, and help me when I cook.

  • I love mini tongs! They are great for removing that one ramekin of creme brulée that finishes baking before the others.

  • Will you still come to Hawaii to visit us anyway? My friend and I would love to attend a class of yours.
    Everyone I know owns at least two of those little tongs!
    Just wondering, why don’t you use whole eggs in your ice cream?

  • Well, you know I’m gonna keep coming back – incessantly. You’re my favorite addiction, David, and I can’t get enough of you. Altoid brownies, and all. ; )

    But, no delivery, yet. *pout*
    And, I’m such an impatient girl!

    So, what is up with all things electronic the last couple of days? Everyone I talk to is having multiple fritzes and oddities going on, including myself. Such a drag.

    After four fabulous days off, the last thing I want is my equipment slowing me down when I’m all charged up.

    So, are you really still trying to upload those photos… or are you just torturing us with aiyn…tisss..uh………………………………………………………………..pppppation!?

    Seriously.

    XOXOXOX,

    ~ Paula
    (of Ambrosia Quest)

  • :) I couldnt help but smile at this post David! I live in Asia and it’s tongs galore here. I have two sizes: the big long one and a smaller one. Yes I do clumsily ‘demolish’ the meat off of a barbequed meat or roast, unfortunately :-/

  • Chang sounds like a total nutcase after reading that.

    Of all the things to wig out about he chooses tongs?

  • Love them! I live in Hawaii and know where she got them so if you ever need more let me know!

  • Even we in Europe use them. Since the German cook Tom Mälzer all of Germany bought them and – as I live in Spain – I bought them here even before it became al de rigeur

  • I love the way you write, David.

    By the way, I use long wooden chopsticks instead of metal tongs. :P

  • Brooke: I wouldn’t feel too guilty using tongs; I’ve worked in restaurants for 25 years and I think Chef Chang is in the minority on this issue.

    Murasaki: I can use regular chopsticks pretty well, but those long ones used for cooking, I find a bit more vexing. But watching people who use them well is truly a thing of beauty.

    Holly: I’m assuming it’s one of the ABC Stores? She didn’t tell me!

    Greg: No comment, but I’ve seen chefs freak out over things a lot less important. And yes, turning chicken pieces for staff meal isn’t exactly high up there on the scale of things worth freaking out over.

  • Tongs are pretty useful, although the one kind of food I fear demolishing is salad greens. They don’t seem to get along with a pair of sharp metal tongs :)

  • As someone whose first line cook position was saute I can attest to the value of a good set of tongs. Like you, I never had a problem of food tearing. One trick I employ is to place one side of the business end on the edge of the counter and hammer it flat with a meat mallet and bend it to a 30 degree angle. That way it easily slides underneath whatever piece of food in the skillet that needs turning.

  • I also discovered tongs when i came to the US from Europe, but love the large ones with silicone tips ( for my All clad non stick pans) and locking mechanism ( for my utensil drawer!)
    David – I love your blogs, recipes and wit.

    I am sure you have discovered Cookin’ on Divisadero in SF, and I love looking in there for other people’s kitchen castoffs, there are some gems – I got an Alessi kettle years ago that is a work of art if not function.
    Another american invention I can’t get in the UK are ziplock bags – essential things in my kitchen.

  • love tongs when cooking noodles and frying big chicken pieces. tongs in various sizes are easily found here wherever kitchen stuff are sold. i’ve even seen a teeny tiny one for sugar cubes in a kitchen specialty store. very cute!

  • Ooooh now I want these! Mostly to go with my mini-whisk that I adore. I do have to say though I did rip a crust on a piece of fish using tongs last night… but I’m gonna go with the cause being my own ineptitude… not the tongs.

  • I made my husband read the part about taking the lock ring off as soon as you get your tongs…up until now he thought there was something wrong with me..or hanging them on the oven door…Ha!!
    Glad you found them!

  • I’m glad you found a pair. I was going to mention that I am pretty sure you can buy them at Ichibankan in SF’s Japantown. Or Daiso (also in the Bay Area). Either place should have them for $1/$1.50. Check out Ichibankan the next time your in the city (after your mini pair breaks ;) )

  • Jennifer K. wrote: “David Chang flipped out over tongs.”
    Ah, but Mr. Chang doesn’t use tongs to turn meat–he uses a pair of simple, aesthetic, and utilitarian chopsticks!

  • Perfect timing – today my mom called me to ask, what kitchen thing did I think my sister did not have, but would enjoy. My answer —

    “Does she have tongs?”

    Now reading your blog, while I love my simple big and medium tongs, it’s clear — I HAVE to get a pair of mini ones! Gosh, maybe I need a trip to Paris…

  • I wonder where does the name “Tongs” come from ?

    When I read the title, I laughed visualizing you cooking with those !

  • I can understand David Chang’s “Queen of Hearts” decree of death but if you actually use tongs equipped with nylon heads (OXO Goodgrips) and it will handle the food more gently.

  • The Bastille market is one of my favourite places in Paris. Perhaps the stall holder could be persuaded to keep a supply until next year? My next trip seems so far away!

  • David,

    I had dinner downstairs in Chez Panisse last night and noticed that the chef who was in charge of the chickens (roasting over coals) used a large pair of tongs.

    Fred Fllintstone

  • Tongs tear meat? Not so, M. Chang! We have and use three pairs in our house: Small wooden ones for toast, an all purpose maetal pear of medium size for all kinds of cooking, and an oversized long set with wooden handles for outdoor grilling over charcoal. All three are essential to survival. I’m a bit surprised DOT doesn’t have tongs.

  • Woooooo-Hooooo! I’m almost as excited as you probably were :)

    I love my tongs! I have 3 pair, and it still isn’t enough.

  • I love my tongs, I have 10 or more different sizes. I buy upwards of 100 on any given season and still don’t have enough.

  • I can never get enough tongs, leve my tongs

  • I just got some of these tongs, they are so very nice!

  • where can i buy the mini tongs; i cannot find them here in Kansas City!! Please Help!

  • Hi Lisa: Check out my post, How to Find Foods and Other Items Mentioned on My Site, which should help you in your search!

  • I agree with Chef Chang and am partly anti-tongs (except for plating long pastas or noodles and grilling). Work in any upscale restaurant filled with well-trained cooks and you’ll see the preferred tools are spoons and spatulas/fish turners. If you’re working with delicate proteins (esp. fish, poultry and most offal), the average professional cook (esp. in dinner rush) is way too rough with metal tongs. And try basting/arrose-ing with a pair of tongs. Try plating and saucing with tongs.

    Spoons + hands are far my gentle and you cook better because you’re physically touching the product (testing for doneness, feeling the heat, etc.) Look up blogs by Richie Nakano (“linecook415″ or Linecook blog) and “oui chef” about spoons vs. tong debate.

    Tongs have their place, but not for most items on the hot line in a professional kitchen. Cooking at home? Do whatever works for you.