Kitchen hacks for aging cooks

Photo of a gas stove top. Back left, a dark blue cast iron casserole. Back right, a cheap steel casserole. Front right, a metal heat diffuser. Steel knobs are marked in red.
Kitchen hacks for aging cooks: out with heavy cast iron, in with light weight

Aging cooks need kitchen hacks. Let me share a couple of my own kitchen tricks: a cheap casserole dish with a heat diffuser, and nail polish markings on stove knobs.

Kitchen hack #1: a light-weight 2-handled steel casserole

First, a cheap metal casserole. Why would I change utensils when for years I’ve used a cast iron casserole for stews, soups, tagines and casseroles? The old blue iron wonder has done great service for a couple of decades, going from stove top to oven.

Problem A: my hands aren’t as strong as they were and one of these days I’m going to find cast iron casserole too heavy. When it’s full of hot food, that’ll be a double problem.

Photo of a large, shiny new steel casserole on a gas stove. A heat diffuser sits between the pot and the flame.
This new pot for old hands is cheap, light, and multi-purpose.

Solution: a cheap stainless steel casserole dish that is lighter than the lid of the old dish. This kind of utensil brings its own problems, and I’ll see how I go.

Problem A: Food cooked on the stove top tends to stick and burn. Solution, easy: a heat diffuser, which is working brilliantly so far.

Problem B: Cleaning is more difficult! I forgot this problem when I bought it. I’ll see how I go. If cleaning this pot proves too annoying, there’s another option: upgrade to a better stainless steel casserole. But so far, so good.

Kitchen hack No. 2: mark stove knobs with nail polish

Do you have stove knobs that are steel on steel? Too cool for school but hard for older people to read when eyesight is fading. Shameless, I paint the OFF mark with red nail polish.

How To Be Old: a book for curious grown-ups

18 thoughts on “Kitchen hacks for aging cooks

  1. Been there, done that, although my nail polish is yellow (not really)!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yellow on grey: na, insufficient colour contrast.

  2. I traded out cast iron a long time ago. Miss the cooking but it’s just too heavy. Like the diffuser idea. Also you can get non-stick versions. My new car has the pull to open the gas tank at the bottom of the dashboard. There are two levers. One opens the hood and the other the gas tank lid. I had to put tape on the gas tank because I can’t read it so I couldn’t tell them apart.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      You make me think that every testing panel for every product should include an octogenarian. But we are so ingenious,aren’t we? Those twin levers must have been a pain until you taped one.

      1. They were. There is no light under the dash and if there are raised symbols, I couldn’t make any sense out of it. My first “adjustment” was when I put a large S on my shampoo and a large C on my conditioner because I couldn’t read the containers. Now many of the manufacturers use different shapes to differentiate between the two. I have always said that there needs to be old people on the beta testing — small print, hard to open caps in a wet shower, symbols that make no sense. We’d be very helpful.

  3. realruth says:

    I’ve trained my pharmacist not to put my pills in childproof bottles, because they were too hard for my arthritic hands to undo.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Excellent. Here’s to independent pharmacists!

  4. We need all the help we can get! Thank you for writing about your current solutions.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      They are common ones, Anne, I think– but new to some readers I expect.

  5. The touch-screen buttons on the induction hob and the oven are problematic at times. I needed to have thought ahead and manage by being very careful. I did choose a washing machine with “proper” knobs, not electronic push buttons. It is still going strong 28 years on. A tool which I find excellent is a “popping device” to “pop” the seal on jar lids so they are easy to open.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      So many clever tricks. I wonder if my kitchen tool is a popping device? I do use it that way.

  6. Cathy Cade says:

    Our cooker is so old that the oven temperature markings have worn off so I’ve had to resort to ermanent markings where I think I recall the originals. We have an electric hob, which is impossible to turn down far enough not to burn. I bought a diffuser ages ago but it didn’t work too well so I invested in an induction hob which is more adjustable. Only problem is It only works with pots that have magnetic bases. If I forget and put my ingredients in the wrong pot, instead of saving washing up, I end up with twice as much.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Isn’t life just so darn complicated? I also have an oven with invisible temperature markings. But so far so good. (Do you still need those wrong pots?)

  7. Cathy Cade says:

    oh yes – I only have the one induction hob (I bought it to see what I though of it – I like gadgets) so I still use the electric hob for steaming and frying.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Oh, I see! You are clever, Cathy.

  8. Elizabeth says:

    The controls on the front of our dishwasher are nearly indecipherable. My husband constantly hits “delay” and then can’t figure out why the thing doesn’t start! I hadn’t thought of a diffuser, but I have experienced things scorching in my stainless steel dutch oven, so I will have to try one.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      So far the diffuser is working perfectly.

      1. Elizabeth says:

        Good purchase.

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