Celebrity chef Alton Brown contends that a kitchen tool that does only one job is mostly useless. He calls anything like a garlic press, strawberry stem remover or hot dog steamer a “unitasker.”
His advice? Don’t waste your time and money on any kitchen tool if it is only good for one thing.
It sounds a bit like Alton spent time with my grandma who was big on buying a sack of flour to bake bread, then sewing the sack into a dress, and when the dress wore out she would cut it into rags for a rug. Or pieces for a quilt.
Grandma Schwartz, an elegant woman of means, would save bread wrappers and crochet them into kitchen rugs. When one of Grandpa’s shirts would begin to show wear, she would meticulously take the collar and cuffs off, turn them and re-sew them in place. Viola! The worn sides would now be on the inside where they didn’t show, offering that shirt a whole a new lease on life. Oh, wouldn’t Alton be proud?
It does just one thing, and not so well according to more than a few professional chefs. Alton doesn’t think you need one. Well, actually he said, “There is absolutely no reason for a garlic press to exist. It is utterly, completely, magnificently useless.”
Mincing the garlic with a sharp knife is quick and easy and you won’t lose all of the oils and garlicky goodness that gets left behind in a press. Besides, who wants to spend the time cleaning one of those things?
Easy to use, for sure, and kinda’ cute, too. But this tool does only one thing: remove the hull of a strawberry. Alton sees no reason anyone should waste the money on this gizmo. I have to agree since I’ve learned to do the exact same thing but so much better–with a plastic drinking straw. Just hold the strawberry in one hand, push the plastic drinking straw up through the bottom of the strawberry and the entire hull and stem will pop right through the top.
Electric knife sharpener
Just one word from our pro regarding a kitchen dehydrator: Useless. There are myriad ways to dry herbs, fruits, and jerky. Alton uses a box fan, bungee cords, and cellulose furnace filers form the hardware store. Me? I find my oven, set to the lowest possible heat setting (150 F.) with the door slightly ajar to allow for air circulation, does an amazing job.
Sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? And it’s a good-looking piece of kitchen machinery. But it also takes up a lot of space. And truth be told, a margarita machine is pretty much just a blender with stickers on it. As for Alton’s take on the situation, “I suspect people who would buy a margarita machine have already been drinking heavily.” Nicely put, Sir.
Stainless steel avocado pit remover
It’s classy looking but so is an Andy Warhol print. Doesn’t mean you need either one in your kitchen. And here again, that pit remover has only one function. If you are really worried about how on earth you will ever get that pit out of the avocado, a spoon and knife (both of which do have many other uses in the kitchen) will do a great job.
I’m pretty sure Alton Brown would highly approve of my Instant Pot, which is a rice cooker, slow cooker, pressure cooker, baker, yogurt maker, and sautéing pan … all in one. It really is just the coolest thing ever, and anything but a unitasker.
Original 10-6-14; Updated 5-9-19
Question: Got any unitaskers lurking in your kitchen drawers and cupboards? Come on, ‘fess up!
We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon affiliated sites.