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.

  • 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
    Commented Jul 9, 2010 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
    Commented Jul 9, 2010 at 22:48
  • 7
    While this is a bit subjective, I think it has value. I'd like to see this stay open.
    – user73
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 15:07
  • 1
    While this is fun and potentially useful information, it's not an answerable question - it's explicitly a poll - so it must be closed.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 21:54

9 Answers 9


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

  • 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
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 12:20
  • @tom: I doubt Goodwill takes this kind of stuff. You're right, though, I suppose it's worth a try.
    – Aaronut
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 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
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 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
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 13:26

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.

  • 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
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 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
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 12:26
  • 6
    Yes, but Vince's pitch is irresistible! "Watch this... you're gonna love my nuts".
    – user73
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 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.) Commented Sep 7, 2010 at 13:43
  • 2
    That video is hilarious! Commented May 10, 2011 at 6:19

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?)

  • I have one, I'll give it away for nothing Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 14:05
  • 3
    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
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 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
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 18:45

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.

  • 2
    But be careful where you're operating it! I set off the smoke alarms after Thanksgiving dinner two years ago!
    – Ryan Olson
    Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 15:49
  • Incidentally, they're great for lighting fireworks.
    – SQB
    Commented Mar 22, 2018 at 11:31

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.

  • nice results and better than an Electric "grill" built into oven.
    – itj
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 18:47

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!

  • 1
    +1, but why did you make this a community wiki? Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 10:00
  • Thanks. I'm not the initiator of this community wiki, just a contributor. Commented Sep 29, 2012 at 12:36
  • @BaffledCook : when the question's marked as wiki, all of the responses (at least any new responses) are too.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 12:58

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).

  • And actually a good way to ruin an expensive, crucial tool... Commented Jul 10, 2010 at 20:54
  • 1
    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
    Commented Jul 11, 2010 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
    Commented Jul 16, 2010 at 14:39
  • @Harlan - I'm thinking mostly of the electric, dumbed down knife sharpeners.
    – user73
    Commented Jul 16, 2010 at 23:02
  • 2
    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 Commented Jul 28, 2010 at 15:43

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.

  • It is pretty much impossible to break the cork with one of those (while it is possible with the others)
    – nico
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 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
    Commented Oct 1, 2012 at 13:04

Herb Scissors

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

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