Kitchen tools and gadgets hanging on a wall

Stop Wasting Money on Kitchen Tools That Do Only One Thing

Celebrity chef Alton Brown contends that a kitchen tool that does only one job is mostly useless. He calls anything like a pickle fork, 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 will just take up valuable space, eventually becoming clutter.

 

Kitchen tools and gadgets hanging on a wall

 

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?

Garlic press

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?

Strawberry huller

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

Alton contends if he had any knives that he hated, he might use one of these electric things. Instead, he keeps every blade in his home and garage precision-razor sharp with a whetstone sharpener.

Banana slicer

Anyone out there have a problem slicing bananas? Anyone? Anyone? Even though the banana slicer is inexpensive, why bother when this seems like a perfectly fine job for a butter knife.

Jug pourer

I’m torn here because I’m sure if I were infirmed, living alone, and my days filled with the misery of having to lift heavy gallons of milk and fruit, I’d bless the day someone invented this contraption. I’m just wondering how I would manage, in said feeble condition, to get the heavy jug into the pourer in the first place.

Dehydrator

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.

Microwave egg boiler

I’ll be honest, it has never seemed like too much work to heat up a pan of water to boil a couple of eggs. This microwave egg boiler does seem to fit Chef Alton’s description of a useless kitchen tool. That plus the “eggsplosions” reported by reviewers just might prompt you to say no thanks, right along with me.

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.

PB&J spreader

Maybe this dedicated peanut butter and jelly spreader was invented by someone who didn’t feel like washing a knife in the middle of making the most simple of all sandwiches. This silly thing is two knives in one. But seriously, folks, couldn’t you just use two butter knives if the possibility of getting a little jelly mixed in with the peanut butter were more than you could handle? I’m pretty sure it would send dear Alton Brown over the edge.

Margarita maker

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.

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.

Question: Got any unitaskers lurking in your kitchen drawers and cupboards? Come on, ‘fess up!


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11 replies
  1. Colleen Heatwole
    Colleen Heatwole says:

    I would not be without my garlic press, huge dehydrator, or electric knife. I wonder if AB has ever dried bushels of pears and apples from his own fruit trees?

    Reply
  2. Colleen Heatwole
    Colleen Heatwole says:

    I totally disagree with AB on several of these things. I use my garlic press all the time. I’ve tried cutting it up with a sharp knife but when I put in food processor with other ingredients it does not blend well. Likewise for drying bushels of apples and pears from our trees I have a huge dehydrator. Would not be without it. Plus I’m very much a fan of my electric knife for multiple uses.

    Reply
  3. Nichole
    Nichole says:

    I’ve been an AB fan since the very first episode of Good Eats, and while I love his McGyverisms for kitchen tools, I have to say he was wrong about two things, IMHO.

    Yogurt makers and dehydrators. I found both my original ones second hand and figures ‘what the heck’ I adore both, to the point I have them both set up in our basement all the time. They work as well, if not better, as their diy counterparts (which I did try) and since they’re in the basement, they’re not cluttering up the counter or cupboards.

    Making your own dried fruit and veggies when fresh is on sale is MUCH better than buying it, even in bulk.

    Yogurt is easy as heat, pour, stir and walk away. I get milk on markdown for 99 (and sometimes 49!) cents a gallon and use it to make yogurt almost every week. So much yummier than store bought.

    Reply
  4. Pat syblik
    Pat syblik says:

    Don’t worry about gallon jugs and being to old and week to pour from them. You will be buying more than enough if you buy half gallons. They are easier to use and probably enough: if you aren’t strong enough to lift a full gallon of anything you probably won’t be able to drink that much before it spoils.

    Reply
  5. Donna Y
    Donna Y says:

    I have the garlic press which I seldom use, but do use on occasion! And the dehydrator is my friend! I find it very useful. You can do more with it than just dry herbs or make jerky. I use it to dry bread for bread crumbs, crisp up stale crackers. and make my own dried onion for onion flakes or onion powder. All those other contraptions are useless! I will agree to that! 😀

    Reply
  6. Kim Rubin
    Kim Rubin says:

    I love my strawberry huller! It not only hulls strawberries, but it takes the stem out of tomatoes like a dream. It does a better job on the tomato stem (plus the little bottom “stem” area) than a paring knife. It often takes going back over the stem area with the knife to get all the stem out; the strawberry huller gets it in one fell swoop. And when I’m doing a lot of my garden tomatoes for marinara, etc, it is a wonderful time saver. A straw may work on strawberries, but it won’t work on tomatoes, plus it has to be thrown out when done, whereas the huller gets washed and re-used. I also disagree on the knife sharpener and garlic press-I have both and love them both. I easily keep my knives quite sharp with the sharpener recommended by America’s Test Kitchen; and the garlic press they recommend also works well. I have an Excalibur dehydrator and love it. I generally use it in the summer for drying some of my garden veggies, and using my oven, especially open! is not my idea of fun on a hot summer’s day! I use my dehydrator on my patio table in summer, and in the garage in the winter-no heating of the kitchen there. Multi-taskers are great in theory, but sometimes you need a tool for a specific job and that’s perfectly fine in my book. This is like saying instead of a hammer to hammer nails, use the end of a large wrench, so you have tools that multi-task. A hammer has it’s purpose, as does a wrench; in the kitchen your tools have their purpose also; sometimes many purposes, sometimes not, but each person decides which tools they need and which are a waste of money and space. And I love my above mentioned tools, and have no plan to give any of them up.

    Reply
    • Deanna
      Deanna says:

      I agree. Some kitchen appliances are silly (reference margarita machine above.) But I have several “unitaskers” that I love and use all the time.

      Reply
  7. BETTY
    BETTY says:

    Please do NOT encourage folks to use plastic straws for ANYTHING. I am VERY disappointed in your suggestion that they be used to hull strawberries. That would have been a good place to suggest using paper/bamboo/etc. NOT plastic.

    Reply
    • Sally
      Sally says:

      I agree with you and Alton 100%! I do not have room in my kitchen drawers/cabinets for “one-hit wonders”. Most cooking ‘chores’ can be completed with a knife, a pot of water, or in the oven/crockpot. I have been lured in to a few ‘objects’ that made promises. But, in due time, realized they were a glorified knife/spoon and have passed them on to folks who like cluttered drawers!

      Reply

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