Spend enough time in a professional kitchen and you pick up plenty of MacGyver-like skills and tricks that can come in handy in all sorts of situations — techniques you only learn when you’re on an undermanned, overworked line and every second counts. With that in mind, welcome to Chef Hacks, wherein each entry will be devoted to one such useful, unexpected technique that you can put to use immediately. Today: the Red Cat’s Jimmy Bradley opens wine using nothing more than a shoe and a hard surface.
Opening wine with a shoe is one of those hacks that everyone in the restaurant industry has seen or tried, but few people in the real world know about. It’s practicality is difficult to argue with, though, especially as more people head out for picnics or hikes and might forget their necessary corkscrews.
“I used to do it back in the day,” Bradley says. “When you used to be able to get wine on airplanes or trains. I’d go to the bathroom or the bar car and smack my bottle around with my shoe.” Grub Street doesn’t suggest following either of those options — unless you want to spend time in a Homeland security office — but it’s still a great camping trick for those nights when you can’t find a corkscrew. (You may recall Bradley has a similarly useful method for making coffee.) “It’s a manifestation of hippies,” Bradley adds, “opening wine without the right tools.”
1. Use a shoe with sides that will go at least partway up the bottle. Make sure you take the foil off the bottle’s top. (If you don’t have a knife you can just pull the foil off.)
2. Put the bottom of the bottle inside the shoe so it’s somewhat snug in the heel.
3. Hit the heel of the shoe against a hard vertical surface. The shoe will cushion the bottle while the pressure from the blows forces the cork out.
4. After a few blows the cork will come out far enough that you can just yank it. (Grub Street recommends doing that last bit with your teeth for added flair.)