The Unexpected Kitchen Helper My Mother Swears By — And Gets for Free from Hotel Bathrooms

published Nov 17, 2022
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Credit: Sarah Crowley

Everyone loves a good kitchen hack — especially if it repurposes or recycles something in a clever or surprising way. Is it wisdom from a family elder? All the better. Bonus points if it’s also a little weird. This one, from my mother, is the trifecta. She’s a “helpful tip” kind of lady — not to mention a bit of a wizard in the kitchen — and she’s been sharing this one for as long as I can remember: It’s her disposable-hotel-shower-cap-as-all-purpose-kitchen-cover trick.

You may be thinking, “Do hotels still give out shower caps?” or perhaps even, “What’s a shower cap?” (For those not in the know, a shower cap is a plastic or cloth headpiece with an elastic rim worn to keep one’s hair dry when taking a shower. They also can help extend the life of a style, fend off frizz, prevent breakage, and more.) 

The answer to the first question, incredibly, is yes. While many hotels are moving away from tiny individual bottles of soap, conditioner, and shower gel in an effort to operate more sustainably, you can still find cheap, single-use shower caps (often packaged in a tiny square box) in hotel rooms. This is confirmed by my mother, who recently returned from an extended vacation during which she spotted and promptly snagged a few.

“I’m just delighted when I find them, and I pop them right into my luggage,” she says, while name checking Hilton and Viking Cruises as brands that provide shower caps gratis.

Credit: Mimi O'Connor

How to Use Hotel Shower Caps in the Kitchen

In “researching” this story (aka calling my mother), I discovered that her use of hotel shower caps includes, but is not limited to, pie covers. Indeed, she routinely employs this “simple and elegant solution” (her words) as a bowl cover for everything from fruit salad prepped for brunch the night before to a plate of cookies that needs to travel. 

“Anything you want to store in the fridge. It preserves and protects,” she says, adding, “I’m not the only one to have this idea.” In fact, she recalls her mother using similar “devices” in the kitchen back in the ’40s and ’50s. 

None of this is news to the folks at King Arthur Baking Company, where you can purchase a set of 10 food-safe “bowl covers” for $14.95. Apparently, these things can help provide the perfect environment for “proofing,” or letting dough rise — and King Arthur also recommends using its product for “covering leftovers and other refrigerated items right in their serving bowls.”

King Arthur concedes its test bakers have been using shower caps for years and, like my mother, find this method superior to tin foil or plastic wrap “because the strong elastic edges grip tightly to the bowl edges, to keep the insides moisture-locked and more secure.”

The legit covers may be, well, more legit, but my mother (for one) has no concerns about the safety of using shower caps. “I’m 82 and apparently have not been harmed by using hotel shower caps as food coverings.” Besides, “bowl covers” just don’t have that something-for-nothing MacGyver flair, let alone conversation-piece potential. This should not be discounted as we enter a time of year filled with gatherings — a time that also happens to be prime pie season.