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There are a lot of advertised tools and electronic gadgets for every field; the kitchen is no exception.

In my experience, there are a lot of useful tools for specific purposes (a garlic press, for example) but there are also a lot of seemingly useless ones.

A useless gadget or tool is defined as one that

  • does not actually help make the task it was designed for easier
  • may cost more than the proper tool or set of tools (or the technique)
  • unnecessarily complicates preparation
  • may incur injury or increase likelihood of injury
  • something that gathers dust and never gets used

So, list any that you have encountered and warn others to steer clear of, and include the reason why. This is a community wiki.

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closed as not constructive by Jefromi Apr 3 '13 at 21:54

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Some otherwise useless kitchen gadgets might have other valid uses. I never use a garlic press (just another thing to clean, when I can crush it with the side of my knife), but they can make play-doh hair (or really small noodles?) –  Joe Jul 9 '10 at 22:45
    
True, a tool that you never use whether because of lack of need or a useful technique (side of knife press) instead, doesn't necessarily make that tool "useless" except just to you. I think I am looking more for items that don't actually perform the function well, and thus are a waste of time and money. –  JYelton Jul 9 '10 at 22:48
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While this is a bit subjective, I think it has value. I'd like to see this stay open. –  user73 Jul 10 '10 at 15:07
    
While this is fun and potentially useful information, it's not an answerable question - it's explicitly a poll - so it must be closed. –  Jefromi Apr 3 '13 at 21:54

9 Answers 9

The most useless gadget I've found is the Slap Chop (food chopper/mincer).

It sounds like it would save time, but it takes longer to clean than it would to just cut things with a knife.

Some garlic presses have this same problem, you have to make sure to get one that has bumps on the back, so you can swing it around and push the garlic chunks out of the tiny holes when you're done.

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I find this device useless too. But my mother-in-law loves it. She uses it all the time. In fact, she uses it so often, that she has to buy a new one every 6 months. –  Fczbkk Jul 10 '10 at 6:51
    
We use my mom's (well, a similar item, not that specific brand) when I go over for the annual christmas cookie baking for nuts and getting chocolate into smaller chunks -- basically, it works well for anything that you have to go through very slowly with a knife so it doesn't go flying all over the place. Of course, she also has a dishwasher, which helps cleanup. –  Joe Jul 10 '10 at 12:26
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Yes, but Vince's pitch is irresistible! "Watch this... you're gonna love my nuts". –  user73 Jul 10 '10 at 15:03
    
I had one for a while, specifically for chopping parsley (for some reason, I find chopping parsley incredibly annoying) and it did reduce my annoyance. I ended up giving it to a roommate who found that using it to chop onions reduced the tear-factor (and preferred it to wearing goggles or lighting a flame nearby.) –  In the Booley House Sep 7 '10 at 13:43
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That video is hilarious! –  Neil Fein May 10 '11 at 6:19

For reasons I have yet to understand, my parents once bought me what I would have to describe as a manual food processor. I am not talking about a hand blender, nor am I talking about a chopper (which is what you'll find if you try to google "manual food processor"). It is literally a crank-operated, plastic-encased device that looks like a very small food processor.

To date, I have never found a use for it. The only reason I even took it out of the box was because the box took up too much space in my cupboard. I have no idea what this... thing... can do that an ordinary food processor or hand blender can't do about a thousand times better. I guess, if I ever really need to purée some tuna in the middle of a nationwide blackout, I'll be prepared.

Because I no longer have the box, I have no idea what the name of this product is. But just so nobody suspects I'm making this up, I brought a photo:

Manual Food Processor?

I received this gift over 5 years ago. As you can see, the guard labels are still on the blades - a testament to just how useless this product turned out to be.

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So why do you still have it? Donate it to Goodwill! –  tomjedrz Jul 10 '10 at 4:26
    
My neighbors have one and occasionally use it. They might even use it more often than I use my "real" food processor. It can't kneed dough or shred cheese, but it works okay to mince down vegetables when making tomato sauce / meatloaf / meatballs, etc. The problem is, sometimes a bit of onion will get stuck to the side and not get chopped well, so you have to give a quick look for large bits to send back through. –  Joe Jul 10 '10 at 12:20
    
@tom: I doubt Goodwill takes this kind of stuff. You're right, though, I suppose it's worth a try. –  Aaronut Jul 10 '10 at 13:04
    
@Joe: Surprising. I think if you add up all the time it takes to chop the vegetables to a small enough size for this mixer thing, crank it to a minced consistency, and clean up afterwards, it would be more time-consuming and more tedious than just mincing them with a decent chef's knife (and of course a decent technique). Do you have any idea why your neighbours prefer this to a regular food processor? –  Aaronut Jul 10 '10 at 13:07
    
the key is a good knife and good skills -- I gave them a decent knife set a few years ago for Christmas, but especially the husband just doesn't have the patience for really fine dicing. Also, they have young kids, so they can load it up, and let the kids crank it ... and they don't have a regular food processor, and I believe the item might've been a gift from one of their parents. –  Joe Jul 10 '10 at 13:26

I'm going to go out on a limb here...

Knife Sharpeners

Not a honing steel, mind you, but a "proper" sharpener.

These are simply not good enough for quality cutlery. Have your knives professionally sharpened instead (and do hone them often).

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And actually a good way to ruin an expensive, crucial tool... –  GalacticCowboy Jul 10 '10 at 20:54
    
I guess it depends on how expensive your knives are. My knives are probably medium quality. I have an electric knife sharpener and I that works perfertly. I use the sharpener very regularly, one of the best investment I have made. Unlike the garlic press or the ice cream maker or the bread maker... –  huynhjl Jul 11 '10 at 0:53
    
You mean one of those electric gadgets that spin canted wheels? Or an old-fashioned sharpening whetstone? I agree that the former isn't very useful, but the pros use a whetstone, so it can hardly be useless! They're a bit tricky to use, and you'll probably shave some steel off of your knives before you get the hang of it, but they do work. –  Harlan Jul 16 '10 at 14:39
    
@Harlan - I'm thinking mostly of the electric, dumbed down knife sharpeners. –  user73 Jul 16 '10 at 23:02
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There are excellent electric knife sharpeners, but they will cost you around $150. The Chefs Choice 130 is one I use, and every chef I've worked for has remarked on how sharp my knives are. It has 3 wheels, one for taking out nicks (I basically never use this), one for routine sharpening (once a month give or take how much cooking I've been doing) and one for the final honing of the edge, which can also be used on serrated blades. I use this last one constantly and it gives a razor edge without thinning your blade significantly. Here's a link to the product: amzn.to/auYKVx –  Michael at Herbivoracious Jul 28 '10 at 15:43

Small butane torches

If you are making crème brûlée, go to the hardware store and buy a proper torch. The tiny ones you get at kitchen stores are barely powerful enough to light a cigar.

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But be careful where you're operating it! I set off the smoke alarms after Thanksgiving dinner two years ago! –  Ryan Olson Jul 10 '10 at 15:49

I've had one "official" sifter in my adult life and it broke within 3 months. I mean the kind that looks like a cup where you have to squeeze the handle repeatedly to sift the contents out.

It also gave me a pain in my hand and wrist. I'm much happier with my medium sized strainer!

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+1, but why did you make this a community wiki? –  BaffledCook Sep 29 '12 at 10:00
    
Thanks. I'm not the initiator of this community wiki, just a contributor. –  Kristina Lopez Sep 29 '12 at 12:36
    
@BaffledCook : when the question's marked as wiki, all of the responses (at least any new responses) are too. –  Joe Oct 1 '12 at 12:58
    
@Joe, I've come to realize that, thanks. –  BaffledCook Oct 1 '12 at 13:00

Not sure that everybody would agree, but: bread maker.

We have one. It's huge, takes up a whole heap of shelf space, and the only thing it does is make bread.

Never mind the fact that bread costs a few pence per loaf in the first place, or that it's perfectly possible to make bread the old-fashioned way. You know, with your hands. I think my real beef with it is that it makes such tiny, tiny loaves, and all with a metal paddle embedded in them. Once you fish that out, the loaf is even tinier.

Sure, throwing some ingredients in a machine and waiting an hour or two is way simpler than the multiple complex cycles of kneeding and rising that manual bread-making requires. But the results are so poor, it hardly seems worth the effort.


PS. Fun fact: First time my mother tried to use her shiny new bread maker, she came back a few hours later to find the bottom of the tin coated in a kind of edible cement. She asked me what went wrong (because, obviously, I would somehow know this?). So I chiselled out a piece of this stuff and tasted it.

"Holy mother of God, how much salt did you put in this?!"

"One tablespoon, like it says."

"No, no - 1 tsp means one teaspoon!"

You do not need a degree in food science to figure out why this might be a problem. ;-)

Funny, you would have thought an extremely old person would know about all the quirky abbreviations in recipies. (E.g., "oz" for ounce? What is that about?)

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I have one, I'll give it away for nothing –  BaffledCook Sep 29 '12 at 14:05
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I have one, but mostly use it for kneading only, if I can't be bothered to do it manually. I would then cook the bread in the oven for the reasons you mention. –  nico Sep 30 '12 at 21:53
    
as per nico, I used one for kneading and oven for cooking off. Since we didn't have a kitchenaid at the time (and yes, I am lazy) it was a good compromise and fairly easy to store. IMO a decent mixer is quicker overall and can make better bread. I did find that newer bread machines are fairly forgiving in terms of ingredients and result was always edible. –  itj Oct 24 '12 at 18:45

I think that this type of bottle opener

bottle opener

is so awkward to use as to make it pointless. They also take up an inordinate amount of space. There are simpler bottle openers (waiter's friend, or a double lever design) which are effective, smaller and easy to use.

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It is pretty much impossible to break the cork with one of those (while it is possible with the others) –  nico Sep 30 '12 at 21:55
    
They're useful for when you have a lot of bottles to open, but they're not useful if you don't have a strong grip -- you have to hold the two ears around the bottle top tightly. We got one so it'd be easier for my grandfather to open wine, but as he got more frail, he couldn't use it. America's Test Kitchen (I think this season) showed one that came out more recently that doesn't have this problem. (and they said it packs up smaller) –  Joe Oct 1 '12 at 13:04
    
+1 for mentioning the enormous amount of space it takes up... –  Highly Irregular Nov 17 '12 at 8:36

Herb Scissors

and all other gadgets that need way more time to clean than they actually save.

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The George Foreman grill has to be up there in the top ten. It does nearly everything a regular oven or grill does but in a hard-to-clean and unwieldy form factor. Useless.

UPDATE: I got a Slap Chop as an ironic Christmas gift last year. It is pure junk, but pleases this guy no end.

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nice results and better than an Electric "grill" built into oven. –  itj Oct 24 '12 at 18:47

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