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Most useless kitchen gadget?

Pantagruel Aug 6, 2005 12:25 PM

In the Wall Street Journal Weekend Journal section yesterday, the Catalog Critic was about iced tea makers. The article begins with this question:

"We wondered: is it worth paying $15 to $60 for a contraption that saves the effort of pouring our tea from pot to pitcher and sticking it in the fridge?"

At the risk of seeming prejudiced, since I've never owned an iced tea maker, I'll answer with an emphatic, No, it's not worth it.

A far greater issue than the cost, which is trivial, would be the amount of space one of these things would waste. Because my kitchen is dimensionally challenged, I've decided to forego many utensils and machines that seem interesting but are not essential. But of all the useless gadgets I've ever heard of, an iced tea maker seems to be the absolute most useless.

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  1. w
    Wayne Keyser RE: Pantagruel Aug 7, 2005 12:03 AM

    Anything ... ANYTHING ... sold at Bed Bath & More in a designer color with all sorts of sleek lines, plastic-coated handle, etc - what I call "housie-wousie stuff" - I guarantee you it's going to break in a week if it works at all, and be twice as expensive as the restaurant-supply-store version that actually works, and lasts a lifetime.

    1. g
      Gary Soup RE: Pantagruel Aug 7, 2005 01:19 AM

      I'd say the most EXPENSIVE (and wasteful) useless gadget is the dishwasher, all things considered, with garbage disposals close behind.

      Link: http://eatingchinese.org

      16 Replies
      1. re: Gary Soup
        Sharuf RE: Gary Soup Aug 7, 2005 04:47 AM

        A dishwasher is a godsend! Both for hiding things and for cleaning them when you've got enough of a collection. I believe the dishwasher was invented by a woman.

        As for garbage disposals, I agree - no point in them at all. And to take things further, how about garbage compactors?

        1. re: Sharuf
          Sherri RE: Sharuf Aug 7, 2005 01:50 PM

          "how about garbage compactors?"

          Needless and useless is also what I thought about trash compactors until I built a house on a hillside. Now, I love the blasted thing for all the trips up to the trashcan it saves. One caveat: absolutely NO food goes into it. Paper only, and clean, non-food paper at that. It obligingly squishes boxes, bags and household detritus into one manageable chunk, but you could not have told me this until I lived with it. I'd always thought it belonged in the High-Compression Air-Filter category of useless gadgets.

          1. re: Sherri
            therealbigtasty RE: Sherri Nov 16, 2006 06:45 AM

            Plus it's really fun to get all drunk and put your empty bottles in them...and get all excited at the loud noise!!!

            Okay, so I know you're not supposed to do that.

        2. re: Gary Soup
          Pantagruel RE: Gary Soup Aug 7, 2005 04:39 PM

          Aren't garbage disposals ecologically beneficial, since it's preferable to send food waste into the sewer system than add to landfills?

          (Assuming you don't have a garden and room to compost.)

          1. re: Pantagruel
            Karl S. RE: Pantagruel Aug 7, 2005 04:51 PM

            It depends on the sewer system. IN some cases, a landfill would be preferable.

            1. re: Pantagruel
              rudeboy RE: Pantagruel Aug 7, 2005 04:56 PM

              Actually, the use of garbage disposals has contributed to increased nutrient loads to rivers and streams (along with erosion, runoff of overused fertilizer, etc.). This causes algal blooms and other undesirable effects, like "dead zones" in the Gulf of Mexico. Keep those nutrients in your little ecosystem by composting!

            2. re: Gary Soup
              danna RE: Gary Soup Aug 9, 2005 10:17 AM

              I'm flabergasted. How could you possibly find a garbage disposal useless? Do you really want to scrape your pots and plates into the trash? Peel your potatos over the trash? Scoop up nasty bits with your hands and drip across the floor on the way to the trash? I don't get it. I grew up with one, lived in kitchen-hell in my first house without one, and happily installed two in my new one.

              1. re: danna
                Shep RE: danna Aug 9, 2005 11:25 AM

                Depends on a couple things-how many mouths you're feeding, and the content of your diet. When there were two kids and two adults and a lot of meat being consumed, the disposal paid its way. Now it's just me, and relatively little meat in the house, and I happily carry most of my scraps out to the composter.

                1. re: danna
                  ju RE: danna Aug 9, 2005 11:27 AM

                  I do all that, as I don't have a garbage disposal where I'm living now. I used to, in my previous abode, and while it was nice to have one, it isn't as hellish to go without, as you make it out to be. But then, I didn't grow up with one, nor with a dishwasher either (only in America are these 'standard' kitchen items).

                  BTW, you can peel potatoes, carrots, garlic, onions etc over a piece of newspaper, then dump that in the trash. I keep a plastic tub lined with a plastic bag that I empty the contents of the sink strainer into (and you'll need a sink strainer if you don't have an undersink disposal). That then gets put in the trash. That way, you don't have to "scoop up nasty bits with your hands and drip across the floor on the way to the trash"

                  1. re: ju
                    curiousbaker RE: ju Aug 9, 2005 01:36 PM

                    Haven't had one since I left my parent's house at eighteen. They're nice and all, but certainly not essential. I use one bowl for all cooking scraps which gets dumped at the end of cooking, another which gets dumped at the end of dishwashing (by hand - never had a dishwasher either.) Not that big a deal, really.

                  2. re: danna
                    Candy RE: danna Aug 9, 2005 04:59 PM

                    I cannot imagine living without one, conditioning I guess. I've not lived without one since the late 50's. In my neighborhood's covenants and restrictions disposers are required to be installed in every home. The intenr is to cut down on vermin infestation. Ironically or because of it vermin are not a problem but the deer, racoons, possums, rabbits, coyote etc. are more of a hassle. This is a city neighborhood too.

                    1. re: Candy
                      Das Ubergeek RE: Candy Aug 9, 2005 07:04 PM

                      Ah, CC&Rs, the bane of condominium and co-op ownership.

                      I had a friend who lived in a condominium in Sherman Oaks whose CC&Rs specified that "noxious foods may not be prepared in the kitchen". So he made kai kiew warn (green Thai curry with chicken) and xoi sau rieng (sticky rice with durian) outside on his patio. In the 105 degree heat.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek
                        ju RE: Das Ubergeek Aug 9, 2005 07:19 PM

                        Great story. Bet the other condo owners didn't forsee someone would then cook these "noxious foods" outside, where their odour would disseminate even more effectively :)
                        I've been thinking of frying salted preserved fish("hum yui") and belachan (dried fermented shrimp paste) on my deck .......

                      2. re: Candy
                        jcanncuk RE: Candy Dec 12, 2006 03:51 PM

                        Garborators are BAD for the environment however convenient they are in the kitchen. I recently moved to an area that , believe it or not, has curbside composting! You have a sealed green box that you put all your compostables in (includes paper towels, kleenex, veggies, meat, etc etc) and it is picked up once per week. You can get "ripe" composting back for your garden any time you want it delivered. This is the future and we should all lobby our municipal gov'ts for similar service.

                        FYI - We also have a small bin we can keep in the kitchen. We put it on the counter when we are chopping and put our bits directly into it as well as the paper towels used to clean up the drips :-)

                        1. re: Candy
                          erbie RE: Candy Apr 12, 2008 05:17 PM

                          This machine looks interesting and I wish I had one but it's bit too pricey for me right now.


                      3. re: Gary Soup
                        saraeanderson RE: Gary Soup Dec 10, 2006 05:28 PM

                        No frigging way! I don't think my husband and I would ever fight again if we had a dishwasher. "It's your turn." "No, I did it last time, remember?" When I got to my parents' for dinner, I love doing dishes because they have a dishwasher - it's just so amazing to see cleanup go so fast!

                      4. s
                        snackish RE: Pantagruel Aug 7, 2005 01:43 AM

                        I vote for the dishwasher (which is my house is a dish rack) because of the sheer expense and waste of space.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: snackish
                          Karl S. RE: snackish Aug 7, 2005 02:20 PM

                          I have to agree: I came from a large family, and was the primary dishwasher for many years (asbestos hands to prove it, courtesy of familial insistence on using scalding water to wash things), and have reached the age of 44 without ever operating one by myself (I have stacked items into those of friends at their request, IIRC). The only time I might use one is when I entertain, but I could not use one because I have gold-rimmed china, sterling flatware and crystal, all of which ought be washed by hand. And when entertaining less formally, it's either paper or easy-to-clean stuff.

                          Then again, I was raised with the clean-as-you-go method and do it out of habit; I suspect if you don't do that, a dishwasher might seem temptingly handy.

                          1. re: Karl S.
                            Candy RE: Karl S. Nov 14, 2006 09:13 PM

                            My bone china and sterling flatware go in the dishwasher. Do not use the heated drying cycle and don't touch the china until it comes to room temp. Remove the sterling and dub it dry while the china cools. I do not put stemware in the DW because the stems are too long and it would knock them off. I do occasionally and I do mean only occasionally put Waterford bareware in the DW. Usually when there is a crowd and they are cluttering up needed counterspace. The water in S. Indiana is very hard and the minerals in the water will etch the glass ware. I learned this the hard way. It is actually better to wash china in the dishwasher because there is less chance of breaking it in a porcelain sink when your hands are wet and soapy and you are tired and don't want to face a kitchen stacked with dirty plates in the AM. No matter how many guests my kitchen is 99% nready to go in the AM. In my next home I hope to design a kitchen where I can have 2 dishwashers one to run and the other to load.

                          2. re: snackish
                            hobokeg RE: snackish Aug 8, 2005 05:10 AM

                            i usually agree, but every so often, when i have several guests, i wish i had one.

                          3. p
                            Phu Bai RE: Pantagruel Aug 7, 2005 09:29 AM

                            No Contest
                            The Electric can opener

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Phu Bai
                              Pantagruel RE: Phu Bai Aug 7, 2005 01:14 PM

                              Until I heard about the iced tea makers, the electric can opener was also my choice.

                              1. re: Phu Bai
                                Sam D. RE: Phu Bai Aug 7, 2005 04:54 PM

                                ...except for someone whose hands are afflicted with arthritis.

                                1. re: Sam D.
                                  snackish RE: Sam D. Aug 7, 2005 05:21 PM

                                  I just started having arthritis in my right hand, at age 43. I suspect almost 20 years of mousing have had deleterious effects.

                                  I am on the way to electric can opener. But what ever shall I do about a corkscrew?

                                  1. re: snackish
                                    PolarBear RE: snackish Aug 7, 2005 07:49 PM

                                    "But what ever shall I do about a corkscrew?"

                                    If you can grip with one hand, try a table top model or the "Rabbit" (or one of the knockoffs), amazing easy on the hands.

                                    1. re: snackish
                                      withalonge RE: snackish Aug 8, 2005 11:18 AM

                                      if ever you needed an excuse to buy one of those counter mounted quick pull wine bottle openers...


                                      1. re: withalonge
                                        vsoy RE: withalonge Dec 29, 2006 06:55 PM

                                        Oster has an electric wine cork puller for about $20. A winelover acquaintaince with carpel tunnel swears by it. The foil cutter is quite nice too.

                                2. b
                                  byrd RE: Pantagruel Aug 7, 2005 11:49 AM

                                  egg timer (sand or clock)
                                  oil spray pump
                                  spoon rests
                                  shrimp deveiner
                                  cookbook holder
                                  a set of twelve different sizes of melon ballers
                                  electric knife (cuts like my hedge trimmer)
                                  cherry/olive pitter combo
                                  not that i am not guilty of owning some of this nonsense

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: byrd
                                    curiousbaker RE: byrd Aug 8, 2005 03:59 PM

                                    I am in complete agreement with everything you mentioned - except the cherry/olive pitter. How else do you pit cherries and olives whole? I bought one on a whim and I found I actually use it with some regularity. Then again, I do love olives and cherries.

                                    Link: http://seasonalcook.blogspot.com/

                                    1. re: byrd
                                      wurstle RE: byrd Aug 8, 2005 04:31 PM

                                      I happen to love my cookbook holder. it keeps the page open for me to the recipe I need, plus it holds the book upright so I can easily see the recipe while I'm cooking/baking, and the shield keeps the book clean.

                                      but everyone's different I guess.

                                      1. re: wurstle
                                        Candy RE: wurstle Aug 8, 2005 04:35 PM

                                        I like mine too and the only thing I am sorry about is that I got one of those molded all in one piece so that if I need to turn a page I have to lift it out and put it back in. There was a more expensive model and I've not seen it again that had a wooden base and the shield could flip forward and another feature was that it could be adjusted for books of different thickneses.

                                        I have found my cherry/olive pitter pretty handy at times too.

                                        1. re: Candy
                                          Das Ubergeek RE: Candy Aug 8, 2005 08:04 PM

                                          I like my cherry/olive pitter quite a lot, actually. I was going to post that those little quick-chop gadgets (you know, you put the plastic shield over garlic or nuts or whatever and smack a plunger, which causes blades to come down and chop whatever it is) were the most useless kitchen gadgets of all time, but then a few years ago I had an inspiration.

                                          My little sister-in-law (then 5, now 9) always wants to be in the kitchen when I'm cooking, and I wanted to engage her, since the earlier they start the more likely they'll grow into Chowhounds. I was making marinara sauce one day, went into the drawer to get the "stinky" cutting-board that I use for fish, garlic, onions, leeks, etc., and saw the quick-chop.

                                          I put the board on the low table for her, put some garlic underneath, showed her how to hold it, and let her go to town. When she was done I did the same with the tomatoes. She had a blast, proudly announced that she'd helped me with dinner, and her fingers were safe.

                                          Nowadays, I'm teaching her how to properly use knives, under heavy supervision, so the quick-chop will go back to its useless mode until I need to give another little chowpup something to do.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                            cooknKate RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 26, 2006 11:31 PM

                                            I unashamedly love my mini food chopper. I actually have two, since I discovered that nothing chops garlic, ginger and shallot faster than that. I use one for smelly stuff and one for nuts or other 'non smelly' items.

                                            And the olive pitter?? Fabulous!! Unpitted kalamata olives are way cheaper than the pitted, and often the best ones I find are unpitted. Without that little gadget I would be miserable. And for the brief time of year when fresh cherries are in season, it's the best.

                                            1. re: cooknKate
                                              personalcheffie RE: cooknKate Dec 26, 2006 11:46 PM

                                              I cracked mine the first time I used it, guess I was a little heavy handed. I threw it away, think it was a Liefheit. PITA to clean.

                                              1. re: personalcheffie
                                                cooknKate RE: personalcheffie Dec 27, 2006 03:34 PM

                                                Yup.....I agree with the cleaning, but find that letting it soak in a sink of hot soapy water is the best way.

                                                1. re: cooknKate
                                                  personalcheffie RE: cooknKate Dec 29, 2006 02:12 PM

                                                  I think the Pampered Chef one you can open up and stick in the dishwasher. Problem is, I only use mine for glasses and plates because I only can fill it up every three or four days. Things that will sit there that long, especially tools, I use quite a few times a day, so I end up handwashing all my bowls, microplanes, measuring cups, etc.

                                          2. re: Candy
                                            wurstle RE: Candy Aug 9, 2005 04:43 PM

                                            that's the cookbook holder I have - it's adjustable for different size books and the front flips down to turn the page. Williams Sonoma has one for $30 similar to what I have and there are a bunch on amazon.com at varying prices.

                                        2. re: byrd
                                          danna RE: byrd Aug 9, 2005 10:21 AM

                                          I always thought the electric knife was a stupid thing, but I finally got one and now I'm really sold on it for making thin slices of turkey, roast beef, and cutting biscotti into slices after the first baking without having them crumble.

                                        3. k
                                          Karl S. RE: Pantagruel Aug 7, 2005 02:16 PM

                                          Well, you know that Alton Brown starts this inquiry with the following Category: Anything That Only Does One Job.

                                          I suspect he'd nominate special-purpose pie weights.

                                          1. r
                                            rudeboy RE: Pantagruel Aug 7, 2005 02:24 PM

                                            Byrd - you will only take my spoon rests if you pry them from my cold, dead fingers! ;-)

                                            I would like to point out that lots of dishwashers really don't use that much water. I recently installed mine, so as a test for me and my girlfriend, I ran a clean cycle with the dishcharge hose in a measured bucket. The normal cycle used 4.8 gallons total.

                                            The dishwasher doesn't continuously use water. There are three "slugs" of water on mine (JennAir) for the normal cycle, each using only a bit more than a gallon and a half.

                                            I don't pre-rinse at all (I scrape and compost), but some people do. The dishes always come out clean.

                                            I contend that washing dishes in the sink requires much more water. Very few people that I know wash their dishes by filling up each side of the sink for a wash and rinse. Most people rinse under running water and use the plastic soap/brush thing. Even "low-flow" faucet use 2.75 gallons per minute, and most are above that 5 gpm). Even running the water for a few minutes far exceeds that water usage for a dishwasher, especially considering the amount of dishes you can get into a load. And the electrical energy is accounted for somewhat in the energy that it takes to heat up the water that's running out of the faucet.

                                            I agree, though, if someone has an old dishwasher that requires lots of prerinsing, then this argument doesn't apply.

                                            19 Replies
                                            1. re: rudeboy
                                              David RE: rudeboy Aug 7, 2005 05:19 PM

                                              I could not agree more. My dishwasher cleans and sanitizes an entire load of dishes with one tablespoon of Cascade and I never prerinse my dishes. I am surprised how many people do not utilize this incredible time saver.

                                              1. re: rudeboy
                                                semmel RE: rudeboy Aug 7, 2005 08:43 PM

                                                I hate hate hate! washing dishes by hand. I don't have a split sink or a spray nozzle and the lighting is very bad in my kitchen. So I'm always finding a few items that I have to wash a second time. Cleaning up pots and pans used for cooking meat is almost enough to turn one into a vegetarian.

                                                So I leave them soaking in the sink. It is going to be an hour of dishwashing tonight.

                                                The worst though was when my building was without hot water for 12 days and I had to keep boiling water on the stove to wash my dishes.

                                                A pet peeve of my is that most cookware does not label its items as to whether it is an 8" x 8" or 9 x 9 square pan, or how many quarts a pot holds.

                                                My dad once bought me a humongous Reidel goblet. Have yet to figure out a use for it. Too much air exposure for champagne.

                                                1. re: rudeboy
                                                  Morton the Mousse RE: rudeboy Aug 7, 2005 10:52 PM

                                                  Plus, the dishwasher is much more sanitary. How many people really go to the trouble of properly sanitizing dishes by hand? Filling a sink with water, adding bleach, soaking the dishes and then letting them dry takes and eternity. Most people just rub their dishes with a disgusting old sponge and call it clean when the visible filth is gone.

                                                  My vote for the most useless kitchen gadget is the hard boiled egg slicer.

                                                  1. re: Morton the Mousse
                                                    kristen RE: Morton the Mousse Aug 8, 2005 05:14 AM

                                                    i use a sponge, hot water, and soap--no bleach. nobody's ever been sick from eating off my dishes.

                                                    1. re: kristen
                                                      Das Ubergeek RE: kristen Aug 8, 2005 11:32 AM

                                                      There are some dishes that must be done by hand -- crystal, china, wood, cooking knives, etc. -- these I do with scalding hot water, a sponge and dish soap.

                                                      The sponge gets put into the dishwasher before the dishwasher is started (usually once a week). After it's been washed four times it gets thrown out and a new one starts its tenure. Sponges cost 19 cents each at my local Vallarta market, there's no reason to let them get icky and gunky and poisonous.

                                                      1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                        foodiex2 RE: Das Ubergeek Aug 8, 2005 01:33 PM

                                                        Cooks Illustrated did a test on the best way of cleaning sponges and the worst (leaving the most germs) was running the them thru a dishwasher. The best was microwaving for 30 seconds.

                                                    2. re: Morton the Mousse
                                                      coll RE: Morton the Mousse Aug 8, 2005 07:45 AM

                                                      I love my hard boiled egg slicer, just discovered it slices mushrooms beautifully too.

                                                      1. re: coll
                                                        foodiex2 RE: coll Aug 8, 2005 01:36 PM

                                                        I recieved one as a gift when I was first married over 15 years ago. It is great for egg's, mushrooms, strawberries and even olives. However it is not invaluable enough for me to every reccomend that someone should go out buy one.

                                                      2. re: Morton the Mousse
                                                        Sir Gawain RE: Morton the Mousse Aug 8, 2005 01:34 PM

                                                        Nobody but germophobic Americans "sanitizes" their dishes. This "sanitize-everything" culture is nonsense, and actually contributes to the development of hardy, resistant strains of bacteria. The main reason why infections contracted at a hospital are so much harder to cure is that these bacteria are used to the omnipresent sanitizers, and immune to them. Using "germ-killing" lotions and cleaning products on everything is a bad idea in the long run.

                                                        Aside from helping them become resistant, it also makes one more sensitive even to normally "harmless" bacteria and germs, and prevents one from developing effective defenses against common microorganisms. The only people who should use household and personal sanitizers and bleaches extensively are those with either a compromised, or as yet undeveloped immunity system.

                                                        1. re: Sir Gawain
                                                          curiousbaker RE: Sir Gawain Aug 8, 2005 03:52 PM

                                                          Thanks, I was hoping someone would say that.

                                                          1. re: Sir Gawain
                                                            rudeboy RE: Sir Gawain Aug 9, 2005 12:00 AM

                                                            actually, I'd omit the underdeveloped immune systems, if you are talking about children. I would ban antibacterials and sanitizers, lock them outside with the dogs, and make them drink from the water hose (as I had to do).

                                                            1. re: rudeboy
                                                              Sir Gawain RE: rudeboy Aug 9, 2005 10:34 AM

                                                              I meant babies...

                                                              1. re: Sir Gawain
                                                                rudeboy RE: Sir Gawain Aug 9, 2005 11:48 AM

                                                                so did I!!!

                                                            2. re: Sir Gawain
                                                              danna RE: Sir Gawain Aug 9, 2005 10:25 AM

                                                              I agree 100% about antibiotic santizing agents, but I think the steaming hot water in the dishwasher is a good idea, especially for killing potential nasties on things that have touched raw chicken.

                                                            3. re: Morton the Mousse
                                                              Will Owen RE: Morton the Mousse Aug 8, 2005 08:15 PM

                                                              The egg slicer? USELESS?? Not when you're making a huge bowl of potato salad and have a 1-potato-to-1-egg recipe, it's not. Just wish someone would invent a boiled-egg PEELER that worked that well!

                                                              1. re: Will Owen
                                                                Shep RE: Will Owen Aug 9, 2005 11:39 AM

                                                                Shop vacuum. Roll the egg to crackle the shell, grasp firmly, apply vacuum hose with egg-peeling attachment, and it sucks the egg right out of the shell and deposits it into the reservoir. Peel three eggs a minute that way. Great for your wedding reception, bar mitzvah. Clean reservoir in the normal fashion after each use, of course.

                                                                1. re: Will Owen
                                                                  toodie jane RE: Will Owen Aug 10, 2005 01:46 PM

                                                                  re: dicing hard-cooked eggs in quantity
                                                                  Use a pastry cutter in a large deep bowl. I use a stoneware bowl with a matte glaze--the whole eggs don't slip around.
                                                                  "Biffa, Bamma, Booma! All-a salada!" (done)

                                                              2. re: rudeboy
                                                                julesrules RE: rudeboy Aug 8, 2005 03:15 PM

                                                                Thank you. I have always wondered where the people who say it's a waste of water are getting their information. I'm pretty sure that the way I wash dishes is not a water- or soap-saver. But I don't have to pre-rinse either.

                                                                1. re: rudeboy
                                                                  ju RE: rudeboy Aug 10, 2005 12:15 AM

                                                                  When I was living in Edinburgh in the late 80s, an American friend flew over for a visit. After I made him dinner, he offered to wash up, an offer I accepted with alacrity. After a few minutes, I heard him opening and closing cabinet doors in the kitchen and when I popped my head round the door to find out what was happening, he asked in bewilderment: "where's your dishwasher? ". After I stopped laughing, I explained that *he* was. And that very few homes in the UK had dishwashers, unlike in the US.

                                                                  I do like having a (non-human) dishwasher but it certainly isn't essential.

                                                                2. d
                                                                  Das Ubergeek RE: Pantagruel Aug 8, 2005 11:44 AM

                                                                  For a while, my mother decided, "Okay, he likes to cook, he just bought his first house, therefore he needs kitchen tools."

                                                                  You would not BELIEVE some of the things she bought. Ten, off the top of my head:

                                                                  1. Lemon covers. The idea is that you slice the lemon, put the cover on, squeeze, and the pits are trapped in the cover. I, on the other hand, slice the lemon off-centre (Vietnamese-style) and thus the pits remain in the part of the lemon I don't use.

                                                                  2. Garlic press. I wouldn't have a problem with this if it weren't so damn hard to keep clean. It saves me perhaps fifteen seconds' worth of pounding and chopping, and takes almost twenty minutes to clean, even with the stupid little tool that's attached to it. Now I either mince it on a cutting board, or I grind it in a molcajete. Both are much easier to clean than a garlic press.

                                                                  3. Citrus reamer. If you know how to properly cut citrus, you will get all the juice you can without having to resort to a tool -- and if you don't, just use the handle of a wooden cooking spoon.

                                                                  4. Automatic bread machine. It does make bread, albeit not very good bread (I like crust on mine, so all my bread tends to be freeform "artisanal-style" loaves), but the problem is that it takes up SO MUCH SPACE.

                                                                  5. Automatic pasta machine. Same problem. I have a pasta roller attachment for my Kitchenaid (without which I would be lost) which stores nicely in a cabinet. I have been making pasta since I was old enough to roll it out by hand, I certainly don't need a machine with custom, proprietary measuring cups, and again, it takes up SO MUCH SPACE.

                                                                  6. Electric wok. It doesn't get hot enough, even after an hour of preheating, to impart "wok hei" to my food, so it's basically a giant saucepan that plugs in. The only other use I've ever found for it was keeping gravy warm at Thanksgiving when the Crock Pot was deployed elsewhere.

                                                                  7. Jar opener. You know, the thing with the handle that supposedly grabs your jar lid and opens it? A thirty-cent piece of rubber does the same job and stores more easily.

                                                                  8. Bagel slicing kit. The idea is that you put a bagel in the holder so it's held steady, and you slice through the slot in the holder. Are there really people who can't slice a bagel without this?

                                                                  9. Shrimp deveiner. My God, what a useless thing. It can't even perform the one function for which it was invented without ruining the shrimp. Use a sharp knife and, if necessary, a toothpick.

                                                                  10. Fruit ripening bowl. It's a plastic bowl with a plastic cover that has small air holes in it. Supposedly it keeps fruit flies out and ripens your fruit at the same time. I live in the San Fernando Valley, where it's routinely above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, thus cooking the fruit rather than ripening it, and the holes are so large even regular flies can get in. Use a paper bag and a piece of apple if you have to.

                                                                  8 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                    Candy RE: Das Ubergeek Aug 8, 2005 12:08 PM

                                                                    Actually the holder for bagel slicng is a safety item. There are countless emergency room visits by people who have cut themselves badly while slicing bagels in half.

                                                                    1. re: Candy
                                                                      Jonathan Saw RE: Candy Aug 8, 2005 12:28 PM

                                                                      I remember reading a funny article that the majority of these bagel cutting accidents are in the South and Midwest, far from the bagel's "natural habitat" in New York or transplants in California.

                                                                      Apparently, many people in these areas believe that the palm of the hand is an acceptable substititute for a cutting board and are thus unprepared for the inevitable point when the resistance of the bagel disappears and the knife slice quickly through the bagel (and their hand).

                                                                      Honestly, I think they get what they deserve for thinking that "sundried tomato/basil/parmesan" or "blueberry/cinnamon crumb" are acceptable bagel varieties.


                                                                      1. re: Jonathan Saw
                                                                        Das Ubergeek RE: Jonathan Saw Aug 8, 2005 12:35 PM

                                                                        Wow. Just... wow.

                                                                        Now, I can't blame these poor Southerners and Midwesterners too much. "Bagels" to them often mean the frozen Lender's kind, which are not bagels so much as dense, breadlike gravity sinks. (They're HEAVY!)

                                                                        I wonder, though... first, do these people tend to injure themselves in the kitchen more often anyway, given the complete lack of sense demonstrated by CUTTING A BAGEL ON YOUR HAND, and second, how many of them would be likely to own bagel cutting kits?

                                                                        I've been slicing bagels without a fancy kit for decades and never once nicked my hand. I sold the kit at a rummage sale. Perhaps I saved some poor unsuspecting Indiana transplant from seriously injuring him- or herself and thus ruining his or her chance at a modelling career.

                                                                        1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                          Bob Geary RE: Das Ubergeek Aug 8, 2005 01:53 PM

                                                                          I've seen bagel professionals at the Bruegger's chain cut bagels in the my-palm-is-my-cutting-board manner - I always wince to see it - it's so clearly an accident waiting to happen.

                                                                          Lesser chain Finagle A Bagel (okay bagels, terrible coffee, and waaaay to cutesy a name) has the Bagel Buzz Saw, where the whole bagels are put onto a conveyer belt, where they travel to a huge razor-sharp spinning-at-a-zillion-rpm buzzsaw blade, which slices them cleanly in two and throws them at mach 3 or so to the finishing area, for a smear of whatever. It's kind of fun to watch, and who knows how many high-school-part-timers' fingers it's saved?

                                                                    2. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                      Will Owen RE: Das Ubergeek Aug 8, 2005 08:09 PM

                                                                      Most of your respondents jumped on the bagel-slicer...but I'm trying to figure out what's so hard about cleaning a garlic press. First of all, I always scrape all the pressed garlic off the outside with a sharp knife, then immediately put the press into whatever else is soaking in the sink. Then when it's time to clean it, I just hold the bottom of the press up tight against the sink faucet and blast away - the pressed residue usually falls out in a single wad, with maybe a shred or two inside to be picked out with the point of a knife.

                                                                      As for the little cleaning thingy, I lost track of that a week after I got the press, and I've never bothered to look for it.

                                                                      What kind do you have? Mine's a Susi, the three-piece kind with the swinging press foot. If yours is a two-piece, then just being hard to clean is the least of its flaws.

                                                                      1. re: Will Owen
                                                                        Candy RE: Will Owen Aug 8, 2005 09:19 PM

                                                                        I have a Susi too. I still have my cleaning gizmo after many years but don't use it. I do the same as you and also if I have left the skin on it is extremely easy to pick out.

                                                                        1. re: Candy
                                                                          Das Ubergeek RE: Candy Aug 9, 2005 02:10 PM

                                                                          I sold mine at a rummage sale, but I think it was the two-part kind.

                                                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                            rdowd RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 7, 2006 02:25 PM

                                                                            In "Kitchen Confidential," Bourdain says something like, "I don't know what that stuff coming out of the garlic press is - but it's not garlic!"
                                                                            I used to be a huge press devotee, squirting that stuff in to every dish I made. My KA model broke, though, and I never got around to replacing it - my knife skills immediately improved, and if you need a paste, just sprinkle some salt on the minced garlic, and use the spine of your knife to drag it across the board.

                                                                            I live in NYC, and have had to simplify everything. If I had to choose a useless gadget, it'd probably be my marble rolling pin.
                                                                            Most useful - board scraper.

                                                                    3. j
                                                                      Janet from Richmond RE: Pantagruel Aug 8, 2005 12:40 PM

                                                                      My husband has this plastic microwave cover/dome thing he loves and you get the same effect from putting a paper towel over what you are reheating. And this thing takes up a ton of space in the dishawasher.

                                                                      1. f
                                                                        foodiex2 RE: Pantagruel Aug 8, 2005 01:46 PM

                                                                        I love avocados as does my son. We aways have avocados in varying states of ripeness on hand in our house. My DH thought he found the most amazing too I could ever wish for- an avocado slicer. What an utter and total waste. Unless your avocado is rock solid and unripe all it does is squish the whole thing. I mean is it so hard to slice and avocado in hhalf , twist and then use same knife to "give you perfectly sized wedges to garnish your salad or just eat." Please!

                                                                        Link: http://www.kitchen-classics.com/avoca...

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                        1. re: foodiex2
                                                                          Candy RE: foodiex2 Aug 8, 2005 02:16 PM

                                                                          I've got one and have no problem in slicing dead ripe avacados with it quickly and neatly.

                                                                          1. re: Candy
                                                                            Das Ubergeek RE: Candy Aug 8, 2005 04:08 PM

                                                                            I use a metal serving spoon to slice them straight out of the skin, or I skin them and then slice them with a knife -- like so many others my drawer space is limited and an avocado slicer has only one function -- to slice avocadoes.

                                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                              foodiex2 RE: Das Ubergeek Aug 8, 2005 04:25 PM

                                                                              exactly, When I first saw it I said you have got to be kidding. I tried it once and then back it went. I traded it for a fabulous "cookie" spatula. It is extra thin and flat so it so great for cookies but also awesome for flipping fried eggs, delicate fishes, parmesian snow flakes, anything that needs a thin flexable lift.

                                                                              1. re: foodiex2
                                                                                Das Ubergeek RE: foodiex2 Aug 8, 2005 07:58 PM

                                                                                SEVENTEEN DOLLARS for twenty cents' worth of metal?!

                                                                                Uff da.

                                                                              2. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                Candy RE: Das Ubergeek Aug 8, 2005 04:28 PM

                                                                                It does a great job for me and I've got the drawer space for it so only doing one job is not an issue to me. What I have found pretty useless is those silicone pot holders. They are not flexible enough to grip things well. I ended up throwing them in my table linens drawer and occasionally use them as a trivet for a hot pot. I also have one of those crinkle cutters someone gave me. It hangs out in one of my knife drawers. I rarely even remember I have it unless I am getting someting out of that drawer. I guess each to thier own.

                                                                                1. re: Das Ubergeek
                                                                                  choctastic RE: Das Ubergeek Dec 25, 2006 07:13 AM

                                                                                  and it only slices avocados in a certain way. i just use a knife to cut the avocado in half, whack the seed w/ the very same knife and twist it out.

                                                                            2. r
                                                                              ricepad RE: Pantagruel Aug 8, 2005 03:22 PM

                                                                              A co-worker once bought - in the same store at the same time - both a mushroom brush AND a corn silk brush.

                                                                              Of course, this is the same woman who lived in her house for seven years before she realized there was a a cutting board built into her cabinetry...

                                                                              1. s
                                                                                Shep RE: Pantagruel Aug 8, 2005 07:16 PM

                                                                                This "stove" thing takes up a huge amount of space. Tried to get my ex to take it, but no way. At least it provides a surface for my toaster, George Foreman Griller, blender, and radio, plus a space for mail to accumulate.

                                                                                1. d
                                                                                  Das Ubergeek RE: Pantagruel Aug 8, 2005 08:09 PM

                                                                                  I was going to include the Quick Chop on my list -- you know, you put the garlic or whatever inside a plastic shield and smack a plunger several times to force the target food into submission.

                                                                                  I had my sister-in-law (then 5, now 11) in the kitchen so I could keep an eye on her, and I was making marinara sauce. As I went to go get the "stinky foods" cutting board (garlic, onions, shallots, leeks, lemongrass, etc.) I saw the Quick Chop in the corner.

                                                                                  I put the board on the low table, put some garlic under the Quick Chop, showed her how to use it, and she went to town. After the garlic was pulverised she did the same to the seeded tomatoes. She had a blast, I didn't need to worry about her fingers, and she got to make noise which is always a very good thing to a five-year-old. She got to brag that she'd helped me with dinner, and got the appropriate accolades.

                                                                                  Now I'm starting to show her how to use knives properly (under constant and close supervision, of course!), so the Quick Chop will be once again relegated to the "useless" corner of the drawer, until I have another Chowpup in need of entertainment.

                                                                                  1. Vexorg RE: Pantagruel Nov 16, 2006 06:12 AM

                                                                                    Right now, I'd have to say that the most useless item in my kitchen would be the dish drying rack. It simply takes up way too much counter space (I'm in an apartment kitchen) and isn't big enough to hold most of what I'd be washing by hand anyway. It's sitting on top of a cabinet awaiting the next garage sale after only a couple of uses. Coming in at a close second (in the "it seemed like a good idea at the time" category) is the 1,000 sheet box of sheet parchment I picked up at a wholesale place, and probably still have 975 sheets of nine months later.

                                                                                    1. bunnyr RE: Pantagruel Nov 16, 2006 06:26 AM

                                                                                      The foot long woodens skewers somebody gave us that are the width of a standard toothpick. I have tried using them, they ALWAYS break.

                                                                                      Beat that for uselessness.

                                                                                      1. julietg RE: Pantagruel Dec 7, 2006 05:15 AM

                                                                                        Sitting in my drawer, still in its original packaging is my "green bean frencher." I've had it for many years, and have moved with it several times. But then, I guess I have packrat issues, and have never lived in a place suitable for a garage sale.

                                                                                        Stuff from this string I use with great frequency:
                                                                                        the citrus reamer
                                                                                        the bread machine (time it so you wake up to baking bread smell!)
                                                                                        the spoon rest (are you kidding me? where do you put the wooden spoon after stirring the tomato sauce? on the counter top like my fiance does??)
                                                                                        the dishwasher & garbage disposal (lived in NYC for a long time, where disposals are illegal and no place has a dishwasher. now that i have both in LA my kitchen is a lot cleaner)
                                                                                        the cookbook holder (not every hard cover book stays open nicely like the J of C)

                                                                                        i once owned an oil mister, which worked great for prepping roasted veggies, especially eggplant, which soaks up drizzled oil instantly making it hard to spread. but then it clogged up...

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: julietg
                                                                                          cooknKate RE: julietg Dec 26, 2006 11:38 PM

                                                                                          I don't have a reamer, but I have one of those press type gadgets for citrus where it turns the fruit inside out and squeezes the life out of it. With carpal tunnel, those tools are tops for getting every ounce of juice from citrus

                                                                                          1. re: julietg
                                                                                            Diana RE: julietg Dec 28, 2006 06:49 PM

                                                                                            For the oil mister, you could always go out and buy olive oil Pam. never clogs.

                                                                                            Yeah, sure, it depletes the ozone layer, but still, I find it helpful. Not wonderous olive oil, but I find the misters never put enough oil to impart flavor, anyhow.

                                                                                            1. re: Diana
                                                                                              eLizard RE: Diana Apr 13, 2008 04:48 PM

                                                                                              Why does it deplete the ozone layer? i thought cfs's have been banned for decades....

                                                                                          2. b
                                                                                            bbqme RE: Pantagruel Dec 7, 2006 05:39 PM

                                                                                            Considering it's cost-to-use ratio I'd say a food processor-- at least a large one. I wish I'd just gotten an inexpensive 5-cup one and saved the money.

                                                                                            1. f
                                                                                              freelancer77 RE: Pantagruel Dec 21, 2006 02:14 AM

                                                                                              Oh MAN... the one that I really, truly can't find a use for is the strawberry huller. That has to be the most absurd kitchen gadget I've ever seen. Even if you have arthritis, you can cut the leaves/tops off; if you don't, you can pull them off with your hands. I repeat: absurd.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: freelancer77
                                                                                                amyvc RE: freelancer77 Dec 29, 2006 01:33 PM

                                                                                                I use mine for my special-needs students to improve their fine motor skills. They pick up pom poms with the strawberry huller and put them into a bowl or bucket. Yes, I agree, even though there are many useless gadgets, strawberry huller tops the list. Dishwasher, however, is another story completely. Saves so much time!

                                                                                                1. re: freelancer77
                                                                                                  personalcheffie RE: freelancer77 Dec 29, 2006 02:13 PM

                                                                                                  I love my strawberry huller! I use it for tomatoes, too. I have the kind that is like tweezers with the round ends, not the scoop type.

                                                                                                2. m
                                                                                                  Merrin RE: Pantagruel Dec 25, 2006 05:29 AM

                                                                                                  "We wondered: is it worth paying $15 to $60 for a contraption that saves the effort of pouring our tea from pot to pitcher and sticking it in the fridge?"

                                                                                                  For $5 on an end of aisle sale at Target, my iced tea maker is one of my best gadgets. Load up the brew basket with tea, sugar, lemon peel, whatever flavors you like. Fill the pitcher with ice. Push a button. Voila, perfect iced tea that is already cold and perfectly sweetened and flavored.

                                                                                                  "Coming in at a close second (in the "it seemed like a good idea at the time" category) is the 1,000 sheet box of sheet parchment I picked up at a wholesale place, and probably still have 975 sheets of nine months later."

                                                                                                  Our Costco opened up close to 10 years ago and I'm still on my first box of aluminum foil. Actually, I've never been happier - I used to run out of foil all the time, and the little boxes were expensive and the foil wasn't as strong as this stuff. I think I will be able to pass this box along to the next generation! XD

                                                                                                  Most useless gadget ever? A plastic handheld chopper/whipper/beater that looked like a giant measuring cup with some cheap plastic inserts and a handle that turned like it was held on with rusty bolts, touted to replace expensive food processers and mixers. It's tied in my book with those flimsy egg slicers that you have to replace every few months because the wires break.

                                                                                                  1. m
                                                                                                    ML8000 RE: Pantagruel Dec 25, 2006 07:09 AM

                                                                                                    For my money - the All Clad Asparagus Pot.

                                                                                                    1. choctastic RE: Pantagruel Dec 27, 2006 11:44 PM

                                                                                                      I'm surprised nobody has mentioend the banana holder. Seriously why the hell do you need a gadget to hold up your bananas? they ripen pretty evenly sitting on the counter or in a bowl. I can't think of any other possible reason for the existence of this gadget. also what happens when you are down to 1 banana?

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: choctastic
                                                                                                        HaagenDazs RE: choctastic Dec 28, 2006 08:39 PM

                                                                                                        Stab the damn thing right in the middle with that brass hook ;-)

                                                                                                      2. HaagenDazs RE: Pantagruel Dec 28, 2006 08:38 PM

                                                                                                        ELECTRIC can opener.

                                                                                                        1. Tal RE: Pantagruel Dec 29, 2006 06:06 PM

                                                                                                          i heard once that dishwashers use LESS water than handwashing. Is this true? Or is it dependent on the hands that are doing the washing?
                                                                                                          I live in NYC and am fortunate enough to have just moved into a new apartment with a dishwasher. God, I don't know how I did it before the washer came into my life.

                                                                                                          1. r
                                                                                                            robissogreat RE: Pantagruel Apr 12, 2008 05:15 PM

                                                                                                            The most useless thing in my kitchen if probably my wife.

                                                                                                            1. e
                                                                                                              Eric Bryce RE: Pantagruel Apr 12, 2008 05:50 PM

                                                                                                              The most useless kitchen gadget is the rice cooker. It cooks just as well if not better in a pot on the stove and it only takes twenty minutes.
                                                                                                              My dream kitchen would have a bank of dishwashers and dishwashing drawers large and small. Dishes would never have to be unloaded just used and transfered to another dishwasher continuously.

                                                                                                              1. m
                                                                                                                mistyblue RE: Pantagruel Apr 12, 2008 05:52 PM

                                                                                                                the best thing i ever got was the one touch can opener. i cant live without it if anyone has arthritis in their hands its the best thing they invented.

                                                                                                                1. t
                                                                                                                  thorley RE: Pantagruel Apr 12, 2008 06:10 PM

                                                                                                                  I would never have bought an iced tea maker, but last summer going through my fiance's garage and his mom's things getting ready for a garage sale I found an iced tea maker. I love it. My fiance is a 24/7 coffee addict so the coffee pot is always full with coffee. (I used to make my iced tea in a coffee pot) I'm not a coffee drinker so I like to have iced tea around to drink. So, having an iced tea maker is great for our household.

                                                                                                                  As for the garbage disposals and dish washers. Lived with and without both. The dishwasher, I never minded loading but didn't care for emptying it and the kids wouldn't do it unless asked so the dishes wouldn't get taken out. I found it was just as good to wash as you go and have them done and put away. The garbage disposal isn't such a big deal either. It's easy to live without one.

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