Useless Kitchen Clutter

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Virgil Evetts

A few years ago I wrote an article about my favourite kitchen gadgets and appliances .And while  my ‘best of’ list remains pretty much unchanged, its counterpart of useless items and ill- conceived follies grows ever longer.  So as our local inorganic collection grow nearer, I find myself  thinking of those many items that were acquired with such high hopes, only to be abandoned  at the kerbside or dropped off at the local foundling home for  household clutter- A.K.A the Anglican  Op shop.

For the most part I learn from errors. There are after all only so many actions one ever needs to do in the kitchen – chopping- mixing, whipping, squashing, kneading, peeling… and all of these can be performed with a very small tool kit.  So why then are there untold thousands of different toys available for the modern impressionable cook? Put very simply, we’re suckers.

Cheap knives

If you buy a knife without first holding it in your hand, you’re a bloody fool. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.  Knives are the most import tool in the kitchen and should always be tried for comfort, balance and quality before you buy. Choose a reputable brand and be deeply suspicious of anything cheap.  Always buy knives individually (never buy sets)and be prepared to part with a lot of money per knife. You will never regret the investment. Never, never, for the love of god or science, buy knives off the TV. Actually don’t buy anything off the TV.

Wine glass tokens/tags

A terrible gift both given and received (I don’t think anybody has ever bought these for themselves). Really, how pissed-up and absent minded are you if you need a label on your wine glass? Carry an indelible marker with you if it’s really a problem and seek help.

Cheese sets

The sort of purchase or –as is far more likely- gift that gets used with mild enthusiasm once, and then spends an eternity gathering greasy kitchen dust in some bottom shelf purgatory. Who really needs three different types of cheese knives, a wire and a horrid marble chopping board anyway?  No, the swamp kauri ones are no better. A paring knife and a battered chopping board work fine for me, but then I’m not big on entertaining. Please don’t buy these though, you’re only encouraging producers to make more of the same – or worse, wooden napkin rings.

Garlic peeler

I was quite taken with these little rubber tubes when they first appeared a decade or so back, but quickly realised my mistake. Sure, they work beautifully… but so does the heel of my hand. Last I saw of mine it was perishing in an op-shop window.

Chainmail glove

Ok, these things are probably very handy if you’re a butcher or fond of drunken cooking, but the only purpose my one has served so far is shucking dried corn. One of my costlier mistakes, and destined to appear on TradeMe sometime soonish.

Tomato pulper

What a clever, clever gadget. It skins and de-seeds tomatoes, spitting out a stream of  the purest, ruby-red pulp. Fair enough, but who really cares? Unless you’re putting down litres of passata each summer this rather ugly hand-cranked nonsense is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

Seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time appliances

Let me see… waffle iron, pie maker, milkshake maker, ice-cream maker, rice cooker, pop corn maker, bread maker…

I’m sure there’ve been others  too, but these stand out as my personal best (or worst) examples of the genre. All of these appliances and their ilk do exactly what they claim, but the thing is, most of them do things you can do with existing equipment, or entirely by hand.

The few uniquely practical examples (e.g. waffle irons) will most likely fall into disuse within days. Sadly we never have as much time to make waffles, pies or ice cream as we imagine or hope.  So always think very long and hard before buying any new kitchen appliance, read reviews online and be very, very honest with yourself.

Clever looking choppy/slicey/gratey/shreddy things

Beware of anything demonstrated at an expo or shopping centre by people wearing headsets and doing fiddly stuff to carrots. These represent some of the most useless kitchen items ever created, and are likely to fail/cut your thumb off/reveal them to be utterly superfluous within minutes of opening the box. The same goes for miracle cloths and sponges. Run for the hills too if you hear the words “ 12 easy instalments of…”.

Salad spinner

This one seems to divide cooks. Personally I don’t get the need at all. Rinse you lettuce leaves, give them a bit of a shake, make your salad. If you need a machine to do this for you perhaps salads aren’t for you. No offence.

I am very pleased to report my kitchen is mostly free of all of these items now, but chances are some sparkly new and utterly pants toy will catch  my eye sooner or later…

What’s your worst kitchen purchase ever?

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17 thoughts on “Useless Kitchen Clutter

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  2. I use my waffle iron to make oatmeal pancakes – much easier than trying to flip them without making a mess.

  3. I’ll go out on a limb and disagree on cheap knives. Price is not an indication of quality, and the most important things about knives are:
    – using the appropriate knife for the job
    – keeping it sharp (my friends bought expensive knife brands but they won’t even cut butter now because they never get sharpened)
    – storing it well (not banging around unprotected in a drawer full of other knives)
    None of my knives cost over $20, but I sharpen them regularly (something you need to do for even an expensive knife). I would say never buy those cheap serrated knives though, unless it’s a victorinox tomato knife.

    Granted the other things on your list are clutter-monsters though. I think for some things people imagine that making certain things from scratch is almost impossible, without even trying it first (like pasta – never used a pasta roller, just a rolling pin).

  4. when my long term flatmate moved, we both realised what we wouldn’t have – we had a shared collection of kitchen things..

    i thought I would miss a toaster as I only had a sandwich toaster/maker. I don’t miss the toaster and I love creating interesting sandwiches in the other.

  5. I use my ice cream maker a lot (we have three kids) and don’t buy ice cream any more. I use my pasta maker whenever I make lasagne pasta, probably once every two or three weeks. I use my bread maker often to make and raise dough (but not for the baking part). I use my salad spinner every week because I pick (from my garden), wash and spin a week’s worth of salad at a time and if it’s too wet (just shaken) then it doesn’t last as long.

    You obviously aren’t a woman(!) because my girl friends and I love the wine glass token thingys – without them we end up drinking each other’s wine. OK, that might not be typically female, but it is amongst my friends.

    I don’t use my George Forman grill (because it’s so much easier to use and clean a frying pan), or the easy grater thing that my mother in law gave me (with the best of intentions because I hate grating… but I don’t like washing up much either), or my egg/tomato/onion slicer/chopper.

  6. Not sure I agree with avoiding stuff from shows, as some of my best purchases have been from there – like a silicone baking sheet long before they were generally available and a (yes!) “miracle sponge” called a Slurpex which sucks up humongous amounts of water and has rescued me from many a flood.

    Probably the worst gadget would have to be those green pods meant for poaching eggs – when I put the eggs into them they immediately sank to the bottom of the pan of water and stayed there. TradeMe ahoy. The best would have to be my Zyliss garlic press – works brilliantly and you don’t have to peel the garlic. I use it so much it lives in my plate rack.

  7. Beryl says.

    I bought a wide blade peeler from a well known kitchen shop in Auckland some years ago but had trouble removing the blade which broke. It was supposed to be an easy task to put in a new blade but not so. My engineer son in law tried to do the task but he was also stumped. Another useless item was a spray bottle for olive oil, it never did the job. Garlic crushers! I have given up on them and find my large stone pestle and mortar does a good job. If I want to remove the skin on garlic I just give the clove a little hit with the pestle then peel off the skin.

    I am coming up 70 in a few months and still use my mother in laws round grater and I have a tomato knife which belonged to my own Mum, in fact I have many items which would be called antique which I still use, excellent baking tins which put many modern ones to shame.

  8. Waffle makers are a total waste of time and space, only bought one because DH begged and he won’t get rid of it. Guess who has to clean it? But it only gets used a couple of times a year.

    However, I can’t do without my microwave rice cooker (it’s foolproof), my toasted sandwich press – this gets used for corn fritters, crepes, chapattis, all sorts of things – and my crockpot. The breadmaker gets a thrashing too, for more than bread, but then I haven’t got a food processor.

  9. So far its been an ice cream maker. Had it for a year now and its never been used. Its cheaper to buy it.

    I do own a pie maker, although it only gets used 1-2 times a year, I wont depart from it.

    Oh and I do own alot of useless knives.

    • Zeetra,
      What kind of Ice Cream maker did you buy?
      We bought a Cuisinart Self Chilling one and love it. We find, because we want to eat additive free ice cream, the home made is best. The price is similar and you know what it in the ice cream.
      We had a glut of blackberries over the summer and so got real good at blackberry ice cream and gelatos and sorbet.
      Cream, Milk, sugar mixed in chiiler tub and then puree fruit 5 minutes before end. 45 minutes and you have fresh blackberry ice cream.

  10. A jelly-mould bowl! When I turn it upside down to turn out onto a plate, the jelly sticks to it and I can’t get the mould off!!! I end up spooning the jelly out like it was a normal bowl (or maybe I’m doing something wrong)!

  11. Love this topic. I thought I really needed a turn handle parmesan grater and a pasta maker but have never used either.
    I would actually like to make pasta one day but it just hasn’t happened.
    I bought a slow cooker a year or so ago but then gave it away to a friend.
    Otherwise I think I am free of excess gadgets. I have mainly managed to avoid them.

  12. I have to comment on your hit list of kitchen gadgets.
    I have both a swamp kauri and a glass cheese board set and use them often. Even if it is just the two of us having nibblies in the lounge in the afternoon. Along with my cake stand and sandwich tier platter, they provides a touch of elegance to a weekend afternoon high tea.
    I love my rice cooker and use it at least twice a week, it is a plug in appliance and so frees up stove elements for other uses, also frees me up so I don’t have to hover over a potenially burnt pot of rice.
    I have a self refridgerated Ice Cream maker that gets a work out over summer and used at least every three weeks during the cooler months. I will agree that the ones you have to freeze the bowl before use are worse than useless. I get to make additive free frozen deserts and ice creams. NO PALM OIL or CORN SYRUP
    My breadmaker I use every day. Again frees me up to do other things, plus I get to know what is exactly in my bread.
    The one appliance I have bought that doesn’t get much, if any, use is my deep fryer. But it sits there ready to use if I wish. We don’t use it because of health issues but I like the idea that I could deep fry in a more healthy manner because of the temperature control function.
    We are gadget junkies but do use the things we buy.

    • Wendy: have to disagree with you about the freeze-the-bowl type of ice cream maker – my Breville Scoop Factory, teamed with my Ben & Jerry’s recipe book, turns out maddeningly delicious ice cream. The only disadvantage is that you can only make one batch a day, but that’s probably just as well.

  13. My tomato slicer- a square shaped thingy with multiple saw blades. Seemed a great idea at time. It actually works wonderfully as long as the tomatoes are almost green.

  14. A tupperware cutter to cut up onion……..It did work but I forgot to use it and really a knife does a better job

    I was not in love with the rice cooker either….Again it did work but I think a pot works just as well.