13 Dumb Kitchen Gadgets That Are a Spectacular Waste of Money
Kale strippers, tomato knives... a freaking mango splitter? Civilization has moved beyond the spear-and-fire cave kitchen to some outrageously ridiculous stuff, and cooking gear has gotten really, really specialized -- at wasting your money. Does the desperation of last-minute shopping for Aunt Susie fuel these innovations? Who knows? They're not anywhere near the basic tools that every home cook needs or even the advanced ones that are worth the splurge. Don't be a sucker. Pass on these "tools."
Use this instead: A blender
Unless you regularly host bitchin' pool parties with hordes of frozen-beverage enthusiasts, there is little to no need to invest in what is basically just a tropically themed blender with insecurity issues. A margarita maker is the appliance equivalent of the guy who goes to Señor Frog's for the appetizer specials.
But guess what? Virtually every blender has a "Crush Ice" button. So instead of buying a massive, expensive kitchen appliance, get a multi-purpose blender, like an Oster Reverse Crush counterforms blender, or, if you want to splurge, a Vitamix (which, admittedly, is more expensive than a margarita maker, but is damn more useful). It even has a "Frozen Drinks" button. Just add the ice right alongside your margarita ingredients and blend away.
Use this instead: A serrated knife
Due to their ultra-delicate skin and soft flesh, tomatoes can be tricky to cut, especially if you're using a dull knife, which can slip off the side or squish the tomato entirely. Many companies have capitalized on this challenge by creating "special" tomato-only knives no different than the serrated ones you'll find in a typical knife block. Don't be a sucker -- you probably already have one in your kitchen.
Use this instead: A knife
The thing about mango slicers is that they actually leave you with more work than if you just used a dang sharpened chef's knife. Unless the mango miraculously conforms to the size and shape of the tool, you'll end up having to saw off the fruit that inevitably remains on the pit. Sure, the fruit is a bit weird to cut, but it's also quite simple, and anyway, using a specialized slicer makes you look like a total noob.
Use this instead: A fork
You know what else can pit, scoop, and mash an avocado? A knife, a spoon, and a fork. Buying a special masher for avocado toast or guacamole is like Philip Morris paying for cigarettes. It doesn't make any sense.
Use this instead: A paring knife and gloves
While the corer's ability to seed jalapeños quickly can potentially reduce the chance of you burning your hands, or worse, your eyes, it's also a totally unnecessary tool unless you happen to own a Chili's Grill & Bar and personally make all the jalapeño poppers. Which is pretty unlikely. For the surely few times a year you must core a hot pepper, use a paring knife and gloves, or just wash your hands well.
Use this instead: Your hands!
Buying a kale stripper, a device that does exactly what you think it does, is completely insane, and the plastic tool doesn't even work all that well. Half the time it just breaks the stem. Use your damn hands! Start towards the bottom of the stem and gently rip the leafy part. C'mon, people.
Use this instead: A pot and a slotted spoon
Here is another perfect example of big business capitalizing on our fears. Poaching eggs is intimidating, but you don't need to buy an entire cabinet-clogging contraption to side-step a very basic life skill.
Use this instead: A food processor
A Garlic Zoom is a tiny Seussian tool that vaguely resembles a toy car. It minces garlic, and will surely only be used once before it's relegated to that drawer in your kitchen meant for twine, Chinese takeout chopsticks, and an unreasonable number of Stevia packets that you justify stealing from Starbucks because it can afford the loss. Invest in a mini-food processor to take care of tedious and annoying bulk garlic chopping. Not only is it faster and more efficient, it chops virtually anything. Of course a knife will do the job just fine, too.
Use this instead: A whisk and a bowl
Although properly emulsifying vinaigrette requires some finesse, it doesn't require its own gadget, especially one that's comprised of items you surely already have. A salad dressing emulsifier is a jar with a whisk attachment. Seriously, that's it. A bowl and a whisk, or a small food processor -- if you've got the budget -- will produce perfectly mixed homemade salad dressings just fine.
Use this instead: A nonstick pan
A traditional crepe maker is a hot, round, nonstick surface, very similar to another hot, round, nonstick surface known as a pan. How often are you eating crepes? Be reasonable.
Use this instead: Two metal bowls
Peeling large quantities of garlic is the worst, but that doesn't mean you should waste your money and drawer space on a rubber-roll garlic peeler. Instead, grab two bowls of the same size -- light, medium-sized metal ones are ideal -- place a head of garlic in one, then top it with the other so it looks like an orb. Shake 'em like maracas. The garlic bounces off the bowls' walls and breaks from its skin. Voilà, peeled garlic and a small upper-arm workout.
Use this instead: Aluminum foil
Roasting garlic brings out its natural sweetness while mellowing the intense flavor. But rather than buying a garlic roaster, a little terra cotta or cast-iron pot that's just another thing to worry about breaking, rusting, or cleaning, rip off a piece of aluminum foil, cut off the top of the garlic, rub the remaining head with oil, and cover with the foil. Bake it at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes until it's nice and tender. Aluminum foil conducts heat beautifully and also lends itself to an easy cleanup.
Use this instead: A mesh sieve
Want to channel your inner Martha by dusting powdered sugar over all of your baked goods? Great, but do you really think Martha would waste money on a jar topped with a fine sieve when a multi-purpose mesh strainer would do the same exact job? Probably, she's mad rich.
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