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Unitaskers you don't want to do without

I bet even Alton Brown has more than he'll admit to. Here are a few of mine-

I use the heck out of my cherry pitter during cherry season. I had a funky one and then I saw one that was heftier and more ergonomic-looking so I got it. Now I have two, because I don't want to just throw the old one away- I'll yard-sale it eventually or something.

Vinturi- because it turns cheap wine into drinkable wine a lot of the time (I'm not a connoisseur of wine in general, obviously- just a fan)

Octodog- I've never used it but it cracks me up every time I see it in the cupboard
www.octodog.net/

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  1. +1 on the cherry pitter -- I pitted a few by hand yesterday and it was so annoying I don't know why I bothered. I also have two, one new fangled ergo one and the other from the 50s, looks like the Eiffel Tower.

    1. Totally agree on the Vinturi. It's amazing the difference it can make especially if you then decant the wine as well.

      1. Corkscrew. I have no idea what else you can use it for, but I can't think of a viable replacement for it either.

        1. Agreed. My OXO cherry pitter.

          1. My french presses- not exactly sure what I could make with them besides coffee.
            Cherry Pitter-duh!
            The grease screen for over the frying pan- I hate cleaning grease off my entire kitchen

            11 Replies
              1. re: iluvcookies

                Thought of another one -- chocolate "pick" for chipping hunks of choc off a block. Nothing works as well that I've found.

                  1. re: toodie jane

                    Would a splatter screen make a difference when I'm sauteeing filets of fish? It seems like such a small amount of time, yet I sometimes set the fire alarm off when I'm sauteeing. Would a screen keep enough of the fat, or the heat, in the pan?

                1. re: MamaCrunch

                  I'm with you on the french press... Darn thing has spoiled me! Drip coffee is nothing, nothing I tell you compared to a good french pressed cup. I also use it to strain my cold-brewed coffee.... I guess it's still coffee though, so I don't know if I can count that as another use lol!

                  1. re: MamaCrunch

                    I hadn't really thought to get a grease screen. I don't care much about the immediate area over the stove (it's tile and easy to clean), but I'm constantly getting grease on my glasses, and it's horrible to clean off.

                    1. re: Mestralle

                      Dishwashing soap will do the trick on the glasses.

                      1. re: Mestralle

                        I have three grease screens.... in a drawer! I find the problem with them is that they ONLY work when they're on the pan. Take them off for just a minute to turn the bacon over and VOILA! The whole area is spattered! Am I the only one this happens to???

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          I tend to take my pan off the heat for a minute before removing the screen. It slows things down slightly, and in some recipes it might cause a problem, but most of the time it's worth it. Definitely so for bacon or sausages in the morning.

                          1. re: elsiecat

                            Yeah, that works to a greater or lesser degree. For me, it depends on my mood and the timing for whatever I'm cooking. Sometimes I just grit my teeth and come to terms with the fact that whatever I do, I'm going to have to get out the Windex and use up a few paper towels to get the kitchen back to normal. Now, if someone would just invent spatter free fats, I'm there! '-)

                            1. re: elsiecat

                              If memory serves me right, Alton used a splatter screen in a curry episode.

                      2. - Aeropress
                        - yogurt maker

                        those are the two that come to mind right now.

                        1. I wonder what is the definition of unitask. I only use my cutting board to be cut on, is that unitask? Yet, I am pretty sure most people don't consider it is a wasteful unitask object.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            i think we're talking more about specialized gadgets than necessities.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              You can cut all sorts of things on a cutting board. If you have a knife and cutting board, it slices, it dices, it does everything the gadgets on infomercials do, and it's a lot easier to clean up. An example of a unitasker version of a cutting board is one of those things that holds a bagel so it can easily be cut vertically. The only real use for it is slicing bagels in half.

                              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                yeah but that bagel cutter is good to have when you've got pre-teens cutting their own bagels, at least in our household!

                                1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                                  I see. It is not just about the functions, but also the objects. Although a knife is used for only cutting, it can cut many things, whereas a bagel cutter can only cut one thing. Is that what you mean?

                                2. cherry pitters also pit olives

                                  french press is good for any sort of infusion

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: thew

                                    Cherry season is so short for me that our cherry pitter gets more use as an oliver pitter -- handy when making tapenade.

                                    1. re: thew

                                      Wow, that never occurred to me.... I don't own a cherry pitter, but I'm always looking for good pitted olives, and with a cherry pitter you don't need to!

                                    2. Ditto the olive/cherry pitter, and also (though I very, very rarely need it these days) a cool widget I picked up 30 odd years ago that can extract a cork (or piece of a cork) that's accidentally gotten pushed into a wine bottle.

                                      1. Zyliss jar opener (for unscrewing obstinate jar lids). I only need it once every couple of years, but it has never failed to perform its single function successfully.

                                        Spaghetti serving spoon (the kind with the long, rounded "fingers" to hold onto the spaghetti)

                                        Ceramic ginger grater

                                        Bottle brush

                                        1. Cherry pitter
                                          Jar-O-Mat
                                          Can-O-Mat
                                          Corkscrew
                                          Tagine
                                          Biggin - it belonged to my grandmother and I can still see her making our coffee in it.
                                          Cotton candy machine
                                          Inside the Egg Egg Scrambler - a gag gift that I have kept and used whenever we need blown eggshells to decorate for Easter.
                                          Hot air popcorn popper

                                          There are others. Probably lots of others. Although I really like Alton, I am an inveterate gadget collector. LOL.

                                          4 Replies
                                          1. re: decolady

                                            Tell me more about the "Inside the Egg Scrambler" and how it helps with egg decoration. I am also curious why anyone would consider it necessary to scramble the egg inside its shell, but I'll assume this was a gag item and not really intended as a working kitchen gadget.

                                            1. re: RGC1982

                                              I don't have one but the device has a pin that pierces the shell and then a curved wire goes inside the shell and it is turned to 'scramble' the egg inside the shell. It is usefull for when you need to blow the contents of the egg out of the shell because a scrambled egg is easier to blow out of the little hole than an intact egg. the last time I tried to empty an egg shell of its contents I think I almost blew out an eardrum.

                                              1. re: RGC1982

                                                LOL. It was a Ronco product by Ron Popeil. It's electric. And it was seriously supposed to be used in the kitchen. I don't know why??? It was given to me as a gag gift.

                                                There is a needle like thing in the centre of the top section. You insert the needle in the end of the egg and press down on the egg. This makes the needle whirl inside the egg and mixes the yolk and white together. Then you would hardcook the egg, still in the shell. Definitely a unitasker. I have never tried cooking the egg in the shell once it has been prepped like this.

                                                When you need to blow raw eggs out of eggshells, they are much easier to blow out if the yolk has been scrambled inside the egg. I was quite surprised, actually, but I did keep it because every few years we make new decorated empty eggshells for an Easter egg tree.

                                                 
                                                1. re: decolady

                                                  I remember seeing the informercial now that you provide the photo. Ron Popeil has made and lost many fortunes selling junk like that. He has a gimmick and it looks appealing on the TV and people actually buy the stuff. I would love to have a 'Pocket Fisherman', maybe I'll check e-Bay.

                                            2. An egg pricker to make a tiny hole in an egg before hard boiling it. My old one finally broke after 20 years and I searched high and low for a new one. Finally found it in a great cookware store in Portland Maine.
                                              An OXO mango cutter. Does a nice job separating the sides from the pit.
                                              A wooden lemon reamer. I guess that's not a unitasker since it can ream a lime, too.
                                              An apple peeler/corer/slicer. Wonderful to have when you're making a pie or anything with lots of apples.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: AmyH

                                                I use a thumbtack with a big shiny head (easy to find in the drawer) as an egg pricker. Does an official one do something different? I prefer my lemon squeezer to the reamer. Really fast. Now I have to look for the mango cutter!

                                                1. re: DGresh

                                                  Because of the spring action, the egg pricker doesn't stick in your finger when you're digging around in your unitasker gadget drawer. That's really the only difference. I don't know how to paste images to my replies, but here's a link to photos of one:
                                                  http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/ga...

                                                  I'd like to get one of those lemon squeezers, but it's hard to justify when I already have a reamer and the squeezers are so much bigger.

                                                  Here's a link to the mango splitter:
                                                  http://www.amazon.com/Oxo-Good-Grips-...

                                                2. re: AmyH

                                                  I was going to say egg pricker too! I love mine; use it all the time.

                                                  I also am always glad I have a hardboiled egg slicer although I suppose you could also use it for mushrooms.

                                                  French press, of course.

                                                  1. Oh, I almost forgot...
                                                    my mango splitter!

                                                      1. re: Zeldog

                                                        Corkscrew is a top choice for deburring a knife.

                                                      2. Octodog? I L O V E this thing! You've never used it?!!! Good excuse for me to get out my paring knife and grill a few dogs, and experiment....All are welcome to help me eat the prototypes

                                                        17 Replies
                                                        1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                                          B-Boy, we want pics (hey, what else is new?)! ;)

                                                          My unitasker I don't wanna do without--my lemon squeezer:
                                                          http://www.amazon.com/Amco-Enameled-A...

                                                          I bought it after my hand nearly fell off a couple of years ago, having juiced an entire bag of key limes with a reamer. OUCH!

                                                          AmyH, I say make room in your drawer. I had a wooden reamer for years and this is so much easier--not to mention, it catches the seeds.

                                                          While we're talkin' about lemon squeezing(!)...
                                                          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLzVGl...

                                                          I love my crinkle cutter, too...not only for carrots, even though our family joke/tradition is carrots taste better when crinkle-cut (they really do, try it). :) It's kinda cool to use to fancy up potatoes in stews or chowders.

                                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                              No, no--thank you, ghg, but gotcha covered...I wanna see what BiscuitBoy carves up. Maybe a scungilli? :)

                                                              1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                ahh, sorry. i thought you wanted a photo of the gadget :)

                                                            2. re: kattyeyes

                                                              Here's what I use for larger juicing tasks. It was my mother's.

                                                              http://cgi.ebay.com/Vintage-WEAREVER-...

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                This is the one we had. I'd actually like to have one like it now.

                                                                http://www.countryliving.com/antiques...

                                                                1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                  Hey Zen, we have the modern version of that little puppy -- very efficient when making fresh squeezed OJ.

                                                                  1. re: grayelf

                                                                    Really? Where did you get it? I've not seen anything like it for years. Not manual anyway. Of course there are the $100+ electric juicers, but just a simple citrus juicer like that I've not seen in over 40 years.

                                                                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                      We got it as a wedding present ten years ago -- I believe it came from Cookworks, a local cookware store in Vancouver. Coincidentally, I came across the box for it this morning as I was searching for some packing material (!). It is called "Mighty OJ" and is made by a New York company called Metrokane. It is pretty skookum, so I doubt I'll ever need to use the lifetime warranty on all moving parts it comes with.

                                                                      1. re: grayelf

                                                                        I've attached a couple of pix of ours. And if you look closely you can see me and my house reflected in it :-).

                                                                        Here's a link to a pic of the beasty in action on amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Metrokane-Might...

                                                                        Looks like the price has come down but it is still $50

                                                                         
                                                                         
                                                                        1. re: grayelf

                                                                          Hey, I have seen this in many stores, including Bed Bath and Beyond. It looks nice and solid. I thought about buying one. However, I read horrible reviews about it at Amazon.

                                                                          http://www.amazon.com/Metrokane-Might...

                                                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                            Well dang. It's not exactly high tech. The one we had didn't have any of those problems - big oranges, small oranges, it was all the same. And it was easy to use - I know because I was using it at 6 or 8 years old.

                                                                            If my tiny little 6 (or 8) year old hands could squish all the juice out, grownups were certainly not having any trouble.

                                                                            A grapefruit might have been largish, but any orange I've ever seen was handled just fine by our original style juicer.

                                                                            1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                              I have one and drag it out whenver I need to juice a lot of fruit. Works for nearly everything except a large grapefruit. Cheap and easy to use.

                                                                              1. re: RGC1982

                                                                                We always use one of the electric reamer type juicers when we need to juice a lot of oranges or grapefruit. The one that compresses the 1/2 of an orange or grapefruit just takes too long. (I'm talking about bushels of fruit).

                                                                  2. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                    None of those things are particularly hard to find and don't usually cost terribly much.

                                                                    1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                      I got one similar to that. not as old or quite as heavy but it works fine. I got it for $2.

                                                                      1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                        My grandmother had one like that. The juice collected in a red plastic container. I use one made by Black & Decker that was the latest version of Ina's citrus juicer.

                                                                2. A Revolation II chocolate tempering machine. It is pretty much a unitasker but the easiest way to dip truffles, bonbons and nuts in chocolate and have the chocolate keep that snap. The other advantage is the chocolate doesn't melt in your hands as fast.

                                                                  Biggest disadvantage was the cost...about $400. The only way I was able to justify it and to keep the cost of the chocolate down was to sell several dozen 2 - 4 times a year to me and my wife's coworkers.

                                                                  1. Does anyone have any chopping tools they love? I see the choppers in stores and think always put them back in favour of my best pairing knife or 4" santoku knife.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: Kooper

                                                                      We have a couple of these- a KA and a Pampered Chef. I call them "robo choppers." Mostly, I'm offended by them. My wife is hyper sensitive to onions and tends to chop them with this. But it typically does an awful job. Chimichurri a few weeks ago had big hunks of garlic where it wasn't minced evenly.

                                                                      I vote for a a sharp Japanese knife any day of the week.

                                                                    2. A pie crust crimper/venter.
                                                                      Apple corer/slicer.
                                                                      The wife won't part with her cappuccino frother.
                                                                      Tortilla press.
                                                                      Not sure if a dough scraper qualifies if I also use it to scoop up chopped things.
                                                                      French press (although sadly, I broke the glass last month).
                                                                      Potato ricer.
                                                                      Ooh, and I forgot about my pierogie form.

                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                      1. re: ThreeGigs

                                                                        Although I haven't tried it yet, Sam Fujisaka recommended the tortilla press for making Asian dumpling wrappers.

                                                                        1. re: c oliver

                                                                          I used mine (tortilla press) for making puri and chappati (Indian breads).

                                                                          But I made the mistake of trying to wash it in the dishwasher and it turned out it was made out of something that dissolved and had been painted over with silver paint to make it LOOK like metal.

                                                                          It wasn't cheap either.

                                                                          1. re: ZenSojourner

                                                                            I've used my press to make dough rounds for pocket pies. In fact, that's almost all I use it for lol

                                                                        2. re: ThreeGigs

                                                                          I also use my potato ricer to squeeze the excess liquid out of spinach when the recipe directions call for it.

                                                                          1. re: decolady

                                                                            Totally stealing that idea -- hate squeezing water out of spinach :-).

                                                                            1. re: grayelf

                                                                              I love how great the ricer works for that. Makes the task so much easier!

                                                                          2. re: ThreeGigs

                                                                            can't believe i forgot my apple corer...essential when i'm making apple desserts.

                                                                            1. re: ThreeGigs

                                                                              Cappucino frother is also just the thing for insta-whisking matcha green tea (which comes in powder form and is annoying to prepare) or instantly blending your cocoa instead of spending five minutes with a spoon grinding the lumps out!

                                                                            2. A waffle iron (though Alton does say you can make roesti's in one as well)..

                                                                              1. If this isn't a unitasker, it has to be close. I really love mine... an insulated thermal sauce/gravy carafe.

                                                                                http://www.amazon.com/Progressive-Int...

                                                                                I use mine to keep gravy hot throughout the meal. I am thinking of getting a second one before Thanksgiving, one for each end of the table. It costs $10-12.

                                                                                1. a well seasoned blue steel omelet pan...totally unitask but, my, it is good at what it does! echo the sentiment for cherry/olive pitters

                                                                                  1. Alton Brown and I both know that the Weber Charcoal Chimney http://www.amazon.com/Weber-7416-Rapi... is the best way to light charcoal.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: rich in stl

                                                                                      HAH--my dad used to make these in the 50's out of a #10 can and a church key. Worked just as good, with pair of pliers for the handle. He probably saw it in Popular Mechanics.

                                                                                    2. My instant reaction was my loathing of unitasking devices, but on reflection I went out of my way to find a new apple corer recently as I lost my old one. I also keep a zester handy, it has been invaluable when I needed it. I have no idea why my husband has a milkshake maker, I just cannot see the point of it, especially with the addition of thermomix into the family. I cannot wait to throw it away when he lets me, it wastes valuable cupboard space that could be filled with other equally useless, but shiner gadgets.

                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: TheHuntress

                                                                                        I used to think my zester was a unitasker until I started "zesting" garlic cloves on it. So fast, cleanup is a snap, and you get really fine shreds of garlic. Perfect for certain applications, in my kitchen at any rate.

                                                                                        1. re: grayelf

                                                                                          ever use a microplane for grating garlic...or ginger? it's fantastic when you want tiny bits instead of the longer strands you get from a zester.

                                                                                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                                            A microplane is the only truly excellent ginger grater i've ever used. The traditional ones just don't measure up to the microplane.

                                                                                            1. re: EWSflash

                                                                                              Am I the only person in the world who doesn't like the Microplane? I use it mainly for parmigiano-reggiano or lemon, and find it balky and clumsy, as compared to the way cheese glides easily over the smallest set of teeth (? what are they called?) of my box grater.

                                                                                              I've cut my knuckles more than once on it, and wonder every time I use it why so many people like these things. And I get nothing when I google "I hate my Microplane."

                                                                                              1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                Yes, you are the only person in the world who feels that way :) Different strokes - oops!

                                                                                                ETA: I read your post to my husband who said that even HE can use the microplane. I don't "allow" him to use the box grater cause I don't want a trip to the ER before dinner.

                                                                                                1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                  Perhaps yours is one of the earlier versions without a handle? I did find those difficult, but now I have one with a handle and I have no problems....

                                                                                                  1. re: DMW

                                                                                                    No, it has a handle. It's the one in the center in the picture on the right (click on pic to see the whole thing).

                                                                                                    I did something different with it today, though, and it was easier. I'm used to moving the food, in this case, a chunk of p-r, across the grater. Today, I moved the grater across the cheese, and it wasn't as stressful as usual. I'm still not sure I like it better than my box grater, but just for today, I was able to grate cheese without grating me.

                                                                                                     
                                                                                                    1. re: Jay F

                                                                                                      Oh no! DO NOT TELL MY HUSBAND!!!!!!!!!!!!! I point and laugh at him everytime he does your "new" technique.

                                                                                        2. Off the top of my head, some of my unitaskers are:

                                                                                          Egg cooker. Add water to the lid to the desired doneness, pierce the eggs and set 'em inside, put the lid on and press the lever down. It pops up when the eggs are perfectly cooked. Won't cook anything (that I know of) except eggs.

                                                                                          My electric juice reamer. Cut an orange, press it down on the reamer and collect the juice! ALWAYS ready to go!

                                                                                          Egg slicer.

                                                                                          Egg cuber -- turns a hard boiled egg into a cube.

                                                                                          Garlic press -- well, okay. Maybe not exactly a unitasker. I can squeeze ginger with it too.

                                                                                          Wok ring. Not good for anything but holding my wok!

                                                                                          Garbage disposer

                                                                                          Electric can opener

                                                                                          Salt box -- okay. okay. I COULD store corn starch in it but I don't.

                                                                                          And my ultimate favorite unitasker:

                                                                                          My super automatic espresso machine. It *ONLY* makes great coffee.

                                                                                          EDIT...!

                                                                                          How could I forget my escargot tongues! '-)

                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                            Just how small is a snail's tongue?

                                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                                              LOL! About ---> || <-- that big! I think I added two too many letters. Tongs! '-)

                                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                                You kindly walked me through preparing escargots in ramekins since post-stroke MIL wouldn't be able to handle "tongues" :) Unfortunately she passed away before I ever fixed them. I need to do them for us. At least I store the tongs and other accoutrements on a high shelf in the cabinet. Thanks again.

                                                                                            2. re: Caroline1

                                                                                              Egg slicers are good for mushrooms, too.

                                                                                              1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                I know, but I'm a Sabatier addict. '-)

                                                                                                1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                  Although I have and use an egg slicer, I slice mushrooms with a knife. Seems easier somehow. Or maybe I just like my 'srooms thicker.

                                                                                                  1. re: Sharuf

                                                                                                    they're also good for strawberries

                                                                                                2. Ice cream maker (obviously also used for sorbet and frozen yogurt, but otherwise just sits there).

                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: kattyeyes

                                                                                                      I meant it sits there when not in use making those frozen treats - hence, a unitasker, but one I wouldn't want to do without!

                                                                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                        No, absolutely...just mean I was busy making lotsa gelato this summer. ;) Mmmmm!

                                                                                                  1. Re the thing that pierces egg shells: Using a clean lancet, the gizmo that pokes skin for diabetic testing will also work for that.

                                                                                                    1 Reply