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Kitchen gadget: The bench scraper

The bench scraper is a handy tool for keeping your work surface clean

One of my favorite tools in the kitchen is a bench scraper, also known as a bench knife.

A simple thing, really, it's nothing more than a flat piece of metal or plastic, sometimes with a handy grip at one end. Unassuming but totally indispensable.

True to its name, the bench scraper is perfect for scraping your work surface clean. Whether you're cleaning up after kneading a batch of dough, shaving tempered chocolate or collecting all your freshly minced carrots, a scraper's wide edge makes quick work of it.

It also works well when you're portioning dough for rolls or cutting cookie logs (hence the name "bench knife"). Many scrapers come with both flat and rounded edges, making for a super-size spatula of sorts -- great when you're scraping every last bit of frosting or appetizer dip out of your mixing bowl. Others, like the one pictured, have a handy ruler at the bottom when measuring dough.

Best of all, they're cheap. A basic scraper should set you back no more than $1. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I'd recommend a sturdy metal scraper with a wooden or plastic handle; I've seen them as low as $7.

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