As a former (and still occasional) restaurant pizza cook, there was one tool we used that was really handy in the pizza kitchen, and that was the humble squeeze bottle. It was one of those things we really didn’t think about too much, but man, those things sure made our lives easier. And better yet, a lot less messy. Fortunately, they’re one restaurant tool that translates well to home chefs, which is why you should have at least have one on hand at home.
While there are many different varieties of squeeze bottles with different shapes and caps, the most useful kind is the cylindrical plastic version with the screw-top lid (like this). They come in multiple sizes and thicknesses depending on just what you need to store in it. Squeeze bottles are reusable and top-rack dishwasher safe (unless otherwise noted), though you may want to invest in a bottle brush and clean them by hand, since a dishwasher can miss spots on the interior, considering the bottle’s neck is narrower than the body.
This bottle is a unitasker in the best possible way, letting you control exactly how much sauce, oil, or dressing you want to coax out of it and into/onto a dish. This might seem obvious, but that amount of control is so important for great cooking, and for professional-looking results.
Think of the culinary freedom this allows for. If you just need a bit of flavored oil to finish off a dish, you can determine how much to add, down to a single drop. This is why fine dining restaurants love their squeeze bottles so much; plating delicate sauces in an aesthetic manner takes surgical precision. When I was making pizzas, we used an army of squeeze bottles to store sauces and oils to finish off each different pie as it came out of the oven.
But a squeeze bottle is not just for supreme control—it also helps you keep coordinated in the kitchen as you multitask. If you need to add some cooking oil into a frying pan for, say, sautéing veggies, keeping it in a squeeze bottle near the stove means you don’t have to monkey around with a drippy screw-top bottle. One generous squirt should do the trick.
That brings me to my next point: Squeeze bottles help you keep messes to a minimum, especially with oil. While I’m not particularly a klutz in the kitchen, I do make mistakes now and then. The last thing you want is to spill oil on the countertops, table, or floor, since it’s such a goddamn hassle to clean up. It’s even annoying to wash it off your hands. So a squeeze bottle naturally prevents most disasters. Any splashing out of the tapered top will keep a mess to the bare minimum, even if you drop it on the floor.
Beyond practicality, squeeze bottles can make your food look more appetizing. Who doesn’t want to dive into a rice bowl with a picturesque zig-zag of sriracha mayo on top? Or a hot dog with those perfect squiggles of ketchup and mustard?
And it isn’t just the food that can be helped out by a kitchen squeeze bottle. Keeping dishwashing soap in one of these is a great way to dispense exactly as much cleaning solution as you want, with minimal dribbling.
Any liquid that can quickly over-season a dish is ideal in a squeeze bottle. I’m talking about oil, salad dressing, condiments, sauces, and even slow-moving stuff like syrups and honey, which clings relentlessly to spoons and can cause waste, unless you eat whatever’s stuck to the spoon. Yum.
You can get squeeze bottles easily at grocery stores, big-box stores, and restaurant supply stores, as well as tons of online shops. But you can also get squeeze bottles for free, if you play your cards right.
Some products come in squeeze bottles that you can wash and reuse, like Jet’s ranch dressing, which even comes with a little red plastic cap. Bachan’s barbecue sauce, which we love, comes in a squeeze bottle that can be repurposed. And one of my new favorite products, Graza olive oil, comes in a plastic squeeze bottle, the kind with the fixed screw nozzle, like Sriracha. (Seriously, why doesn’t more oil come packaged in squeeze bottles like that?)
Once you start using a squeeze bottle at home, you’ll soon find your countertops lined with a dozen or more—and you’ll wonder why you didn’t incorporate them into your cooking sooner.