Property
Subscriber Only

Kitchen clearout: The gadgets your home doesn’t need

There’s an endless stream of faddy food tools promising to make life easier. Avoid

From the pressure cookers and fizzy drink makers of the 1970s to the spiralisers and juicers of the times we live in, the stream of faddy foody tools that have promised to make our lives easier is almost endless.

But despite their bold claims to life enhancement and the allure of the new, the gadgets and gizmos are inevitably a disappointment and destined for that place in the kitchen or attic where hope goes to die of shame.

1. In the pantheon of stupid kitchen gadgets, the avocado slicer is among the worst of them. While not as expensive as some things that have conned their way into our lives or as bulky as others, it is as pointless as any of them. It promises to remove stones while artfully scooping out flesh and simultaneously slicing halves perfectly. It does absolutely nothing that a spoon, a knife and a couple of fingers cannot do in the same amount of time.

2. Peeling and crushing or slicing garlic is a chore beyond many, so they buy a garlic press instead. It is a tool that promises much when in the shop, but becomes useless and infuriatingly irregular-shaped clutter once in your home. You might use it for a while, driven by shame, but eventually you will accept that it is clunky and cumbersome, and almost impossible to clean. In fact, in the time it takes you to find it, peel the garlic, crush the garlic, scoop out the mush and then clean the thing, you will not only have crushed the garlic using nothing more elaborate than a knife, you'll have it fried too.

3. Who doesn't love a waffle? The sweet ones are delicious when doused in maple syrup and served with crispy bacon, while the potato ones are – as the jingle catchily reminded us – awfully versatile. But they're only good when someone else is doing the work. If you have to make them yourself in a machine found in the middle aisle of a popular German discounter, and then clean up after yourself, they quickly lose all their appeal and end up on the bold step in your cupboard.

4. There are people who are happy to dwell on their hearty evening meals even before they have their morning porridge. They might throw a bunch of vegetables, some stock and a cheap cut of meat into the slow cooker before heading off to work – or to the couch in coronavirus times – as the machine does its thing and makes melt-in-the-mouth meals at its own pace. But then there are those of us who buy a slow cooker with the best intentions, before remembering that mornings are for running around like a headless chicken trying to get children and adults ready for the day in a timely fashion and not for making dinner.

5. Toasted sandwich makers are compact and easy to clean and can turn two slices of bread and a lump of cheese in an amazingly comforting mini-feast, bringing joy to the world. It is a mystery why we buy them, use them for a short time and then forget all about them – but as the cobwebbed toasted sandwich makers around the country show, that is exactly what happens to them.

6. It is easy to see the allure of the ice-cream maker found in the middle aisle of your local Aldi or Lidl. They hold the promise of pure fresh ice-cream made with the best of vanilla pods shipped from Madagascar, double cream from happy Irish cows and fruit picked from sun-kissed groves across the land. But after one go you realise you have to wait at least a day before your ice-cream is ready and your freezer can't really accommodate the contraption. And all the while the ready-made ice-cream in the shop is calling to you – which is why you never use the machine again.

7. Like so many pieces of kitchen kit, pasta makers are great in theory. And if you are prepared to put the work in, freshly made pasta can be something of a showstopper. And, of course, it will come with extra bragging rights. But lordy is there a lot of work to put in for those bragging rights? And that work is made to seem all the more futile when you can just as handily buy a box of dried spaghetti, boil it for 10 minutes and hey presto - or should that be hey pesto - you're good to go.

8. Juicers and smoothie makers come with a promise of a better you and in truth they can be a wonder, transforming a few bits of fruit and some yoghurt into a wholesome breakfast in less time than it takes to boil an egg. But it is such a palaver. First you have to get the massive juicing machine down from the hard to reach shelf, assemble it, make the smoothie, look guiltily at all the pulp left behind and then clean the machine before almost doing your back in while storing it away again.

9. There is no earthly need to have a scissors dedicated to cutting herbs, no matter how many extra blades they come with. All you need is a knife and a board and you are good to go.

10. Electric egg boilers and poachers were invented to solve a problem that doesn't exist. If you want to poach or boil an egg use a pot.

11. It is a wonder electric can openers can still be bought. There was a time they made at least some sense, but in a era when virtually all cans come with a ring pull, these are destined to be used almost never – if at all – and by any measure are a waste of both money and space.

12. If you have just come down off a snow-covered mountain in the Alps and are in need of warming sustenance, then a cheese or chocolate fondue can be just the ticket. But if you have to melt the cheese or chocolate yourself, and then clean up afterwards after doing nothing more strenuous then staring at a computer screen all day, then you might find yourself wondering what's the point.

13. We all went mad for home-made bread in the early days of the pandemic, and there were no doubt many people who thought their new-found obsession would endure and splurged on a bread maker. For people who have specific dietary requirements and struggle to find bread to match them, such machines are a good idea. For everyone else, they will never be used once the initial flush of enthusiasm wears off.

14. Toasted sandwich, bread, ice-cream, waffle – any kitchen kit that comes with the word "maker" appended to it, is probably cumbersome and unnecessary. If more proof is needed, just point to the soup maker. Like so many of the things we have bought and regretted, it has promised to make life easier but does nothing more than a pot and – if you like your soup a certain way – a hand blender.

15. Of all the food fads that have come and gone in recent times, the notion that we should be carefully converting our vegetables into artful spirals using a dedicated piece of equipment is surely up there with the most ridiculous. The fad was at its peak about five years ago when people tried to convince themselves thin strips of courgette could serve as a replacement for spaghetti. It couldn't. That is why there are spiralisers lying idle in drawers all over the country with little signs draped around their neck, simply asking: "why?"

Read More

Recommended