Thanks for all those great comments on using or not using scales.  It’s a hopeful trend.  It got me thinking about useful kitchen tools, just as Ed Charles, Australian journalist and blogger, has been inspired by The Elements of Cooking to consider his own kitchen and not what is useful but what isn’t and asks people to name their least useful kitchen tool.Piemakerwpm118_2

I’m not the first to suggest that a tool that has only a single use is just as useful in the garbage as it is in your drawer.  A mango slicer, please.  An egg separater—Jesus, an egg separator!  We are born with the perfect egg separators, right at the end of our arms!  Why would anyone be moved to invent one? Sarah on Ed’s blog said her “pie maker” was the most useless thing in her kitchen.  Another commented that they love their pie maker.  What is a pie maker?!  I’ve never heard of a pie maker.  I use my egg separators to make pies! (Google search: sunbeam pie maker, at right.)

I was sure I had some useless crap stored in a box in the basement but no—I don’t have a single useless gadget any more.  I even threw out those ridiculous corn cob shaped corn holders my mother puts in my Christmas stocking every year.  I only have practical gadgets, so I took a picture of them.  Were I forbidden to use any one of them, I would be cranky indeed.  Were I to go stage in a kitchen, I’d feel pretty confident that if I had these items, I could get just about anything I needed done.

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                                                                                                                        Photo NOT by Donna
My favorite kitchen gadgets:
From right to left, big knife and little knife, rubber spatula, wood spoon with flat edge, fish spatula, microplane, instant read thermometer, Sharpie, sauce whip, string, fine mesh strainer, two spoons, measuring spoons, peeler, heavy side towel for grabbing hot things, and, the most important tool in the kitchen, kosher salt.

Comments welcome: be brief: single most valuable and single least valuable kitchen gadget.

post script 4/30: many people have noted their affection for tongs and wondered how this tool could not be pictured here. I have one good sturdy set of tongs that hang from the bar to the left of the hood and i use them all the time. But i don’t think they should be considered an essential kitchen tool. I know most cooks will disagree and I understand why.

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208 Wonderful responses to “My Favorite Kitchen “Gadgets””

  • cory barrett

    What no offset spatula?!?! i couldn’t live a day with out mine, by far the most important to me.

    Least important… I hate measuring cups of differnt sizes 1/2 cup, 1 cup, 1/4 cup, 1/3 cup…. scale it.

  • Tyler

    The most important is a great chef’s knife, but a close second is a good pair of tongs.

    And I would say the apple slicer thing (that circle with the wire that usually cuts half the core off doesn’t ever work) is very useless.

  • Sharon

    I’m surprised tongs are not on your list! I suppose I could do without them but why would I want to 😉

    I use:
    Blender (I make my kids smoothies, gazpacho in summer etc.)

    KitchenAid Mixer ( I could do without but it makes such short work of creaming butter, certain very sticky dough’s like pizza dough ) If mine were to disappear, I would live but I would miss it.

    Salad Spinner: hmmm, I’m sure I’ll get a lot of slack for this but…
    I wash my lettuce by submerging in the bowl part, pour the lettuce into the strainer part… my kids take turns with the spinning then I’m left with nice dry salad.

    I use to put the lettuce in a bowl, pull it out and drain in a colander, than use copious amounts of paper towels to drain and pat dry and it still wouldn’t be as dry as the spinner.

    Bottom line, it saves my time, I have the space for it, and its an easy way to get my kids involved in making the meal.

  • Kitt

    Tough question! Most valuable: My cleaver. But if you’re discounting knives as “gadgets,” then silicone spatulas top my list. How many spatulas did I accidentally melt before these came along?

    Least valuable: avocado slicer. But I still use it.

  • Sonya

    I couldn’t live without my immersion blender. I tend to use them a little rougher than recommended, so I end up replacing them every year or two, but they are always replaced within 24 hours of death.

    Useless: butter slicers

    Question for the masses: Anybody know of a good egg/mushroom/strawberry slicer that has blades instead of wires?

  • Lucas

    A large nonstick skillet and a knife are the most important (I can’t decide between them). Most useless: a juicer my girlfriend bought at a yard sale. Never used once in our home, and covered in dust. I would love to throw it away, but she has nostalgia for fresh-squeezed carrot juice.

  • ruhlman

    I think tongs are over used and when used thoughtlessly damage food. They’re great for pulling hot pans out of ovens.

  • Denise

    Most useful: tongs
    Least useful: salad spinner

    when I read the part in “Elements” about not having any tools that only have one use, I felt guilty, because I too have a drawer and box full of toys (I’m a junkie) that I don’t ever use (I blame those evil geniuses at The Pampered Chef). I can’t bear to part with them though.

  • nancy

    most valuable..leaver, salad spinner, Vitamixer, tongs, birds beak knife and grater. Useless a box thing intended to mince an onion that if done gives you something awful to clean…wres pushers etc..

  • Dot

    least valuable: round metal thingy that makes your fried egg perfectly round

    Most valuable: thermometer and silicone pastry brush

  • Lisa

    First, your omissions: I often use a grater with large sized holes on a handle. It’s great for getting cheese quickly all over a pizza. I notice that you don’t show a large-holed grater, not even a knuckle-buster box grater in your picture. I see that little grater, and it’s fine for zest or hard cheese, but what about soft cheeses? Yes, you can buy pre-grated cheese, and commercial kitchens have heavy machinery to process ten-pound loaves in a couple of seconds, but the home cook needs a soft-cheese grater. I consider a grater for mozzarella to be an absolute basic that I’d never consider parting with.

    Aside from your glaring omission of a grater for soft cheeses, I would say I also need a wood-handled spider for pulling food out of boiling oil (we don’t all have deep fry machines), a bamboo rice spatula and a flexible plastic bowl scraper. The bowl scraper is another invaluable pastry tool -especially when dealing with a mixer bowl full of product.

    The gadget I love, the one that jumped to mind first, is my Norpro egg. It’s a solid plastic egg that you toss into the (cold) water when you boil eggs and it changes color over time. It is silent, and has no moving parts. It’s easy to clean and store. I get absolutely perfect boiled eggs with it every time. It doesn’t matter how many or few eggs are in the pot, it doesn’t matter how large they are. I don’t hard boil eggs that often, but when I do, I always have perfectly cooked eggs.

    Least favorite gadget is probably my mandoline. I almost never pull it out because I can usually julienne that carrot and be done in the time it takes to set the thing up. I also hate that you waste a chunk of everything; that last bit of food stuck in the handle annoys me -it’s a large percentage if you are just processing something small. I will say that I just cook at home for myself and my husband. We rarely have company, and have no children, so I cook in modest amounts. Overall, when thinking about hauling the mandoline out and then cleaning it, usually I just use a knife.

  • HelenaH

    I defy you to use a Christmas tree shaped cookie cutter more than once a year. Yet what would the (Christian) holiday be without shaped sugar cookies?

  • krq

    Most useless: Spoon rests. Oh, and that orange peeler (plastic thing with a hook) that my mom once bought at a Tupperware party.

    Most useful: Silicon spatula.

  • Shannon

    Most valuable: Big knife, immersion blender, mid-sized plastic cutting board

    Least valuable: blender, super sized aluminum mixing bowl, electric can opener.

  • lux

    First off: Sharpie? Really? What do you use it for?

    Most valuable: 6″ knife, wooden spoon, melt-proof spatula.

    Least valuable: An adjustable measuring spoon.

    I’ve got at least a drawer full of crap that I should probably get rid of, but I dislike throwing things away that aren’t outright broken.

  • Adele

    Most useful: chef’s knife and KitchenAid stand mixer. Least useful: the little faucet thingie, my mother gave me for juicing lemons (she may have gotten it a a Tupperware party) and my mandoline — I just can’t get the hang of it.

  • *susan*

    To your useful gadgets, I would add my spider and colander (which doubles as a steamer)

    Least useful, or “why is it taking up too much room in the drawer”:

    three ladles with portions for pancakes, waffles and crepes

    garlic peeler

  • Mission: Cochon

    Mustn’t forget (in the must haves) the furi tech edge knife sharpener… Keeps ’em sharp and safe!

    Least used item – probably my potato ricer

  • bob

    Most useful-A good chefs knife, and a good steel. Also food mill, but I guess thats more than a gadget. oh, and hard plastic bench scraper.
    most useless- Why is it that when you cook for a living, everybody gives you all these “convenience” gadgets, I’ve literally got three junk drawers in my kitchen…garage sale season.

  • Jennifer

    I don’t think any of those things qualify as “gadgets”… they’re tools.

    Gadgets are inherently something invented fairly recently and to steal from Alton Brown… are usually uni-taskers.

    A knife is not a gadget. A TaterMitt is. http://www.tatermitts.com/

  • French Laundry at Home

    Least valuable: some stupid f-ing silicone cylinder in which you are supposed to put garlic to peel it, and in the same gift bag a terra cotta garlic roaster in the shape of…. wait for it….. garlic! (all from my then-boyfriend’s parents; I threw that shit away as their car backed out of the driveway)

    Most valuable: It’s a tie between salt (you’re so right) and my chef’s knife.

    p.s. “Photo NOT by Donna” — hee!

  • Rory Berger

    Most useful: tongs, I use them for everything
    //ruhlman: what do you use to flip steaks and chops? The fish spatula?

    Least useful: I was having trouble with this until nancy mentioned the birds beak knife. I have not one but two fancy birds beak knives (a global and a shun) because I went through a brief phase of wanting to tournée all of my vegetables. I don’t think I’ve used either one in over a year.

  • Catherine

    Most useful: My santoku knife, my pestle and mortar, though my immersion blender comes a close second, because the attachments cope with grinding and chopping just about anything.

    Most useless? Yes, someone put an egg separator in my Christmas stocking one year – I’ve never used it.

  • Frances Davey

    The tool I can’t be without is a Danish dough whisk. I don’t understand why people use machines to mix stuff.

    The most useless thing in my kitchen is an onion blossom maker someone gave us 10 years ago that is still in the shrink wrap, so worthless and fogotten that I’ve not even bothered to find it a new home.

  • Elayne Riggs

    I love to collect “least favorite”-type gadgets because I think they’re so funny. My favorite is a Cheese Button. I saw a demo once in a supermarket and thought it was hysterical — a plastic thing that you stick in the cheese so you don’t get finger prints on it when you slice it. I had to have it! It was too goofy not to! My most recent acquisition in this ilk was a free Black and Tan beer pourer thingie that I got for free from Bass Ale’s website. I don’t pay actual money for most of these things, but I love to get them for the pure amusement value.

    My personal favorite gadgets for the level of amateur cooking that I’m at now are my santoku knife and my digital oven thermometer. Now if I only had a digital oven…

  • grocer

    Uh Hum, I believe you refer to my comments on Ed’s blog re the pie maker. I don’t love it. What I said was:

    funnily enough we have a pie maker – bought as a first christmas present to the beloved – a UK PIE adorer, and it is still being used!
    We had a festival of the pie last weekend in fact…

    The purchase was a light hearted gift the first Christmas I shared with my now husband of six and a half years as he loves meat pies. Whilst it’s completely frivolous, the funny thing is that it gets used from time to time.

  • Lisa

    Retractable Sharpies are better on the fly, because you can use them with just one hand. -Although the printing on them rubs off easily, making the sleeve pocket of a chef coat a mess.

  • Nick

    I’m ignoring things like knives, pan, whisks, etc. because, like Jennifer, those aren’t gadgets by my definition.

    Most useful: Toss up between my immersion blender and my salad spinner (I can’t think of another way to get greens that dry that quickly).

    Least useful: Garlic press. Takes longer to get the thing clean than it does to simply mince the garlic finely with a sharp knife.

    Also, I too am perplexed by the sharpie.

  • Bob delGrosso

    My list looks just like yours except I don’t need a microplane grater much and I use my Global veg knife much more than my Euro-Chef’s knife. I also add a four-ounce ladle and for professional work and big honking scimitar for meat cutting. Oh, and I use a larger sharpie bec. the larger line is more legible in a crowded reach-in.

  • alexander

    people who own avocado slicers should be dipped in honey and thrown in a pit of fire ants

  • alexander

    people who own avocado slicers should be dipped in honey and thrown in a pit of fire ants

  • ride&cook

    Most useful: my 7″ Santoku, I use it for everything including paring and peeling; bamboo cutting board and tongs

    Least useful: a rice cooker — why waste the money and the space?

  • Scotty

    Non-Electronic: Vollrath Heavy Duty Tongs. Sorry, but they work for me in and out of restaurant kitchens.

    Electronic: my laptop, because it gets Pandora Internet Radio – I don’t have to think about having interesting music while I cook.

    Just a note. As gently as possible I’d like to mention something that I have also mentioned at delGrosso’s site and as a note the the food editor of the Buffalo News. There are some kitchen gadgets that may seem silly — until you marry one of the last reported cases of polio in the US. For people with disabilities (and she’d spank me for referring to her that way) things like a battery operated pepper grinder and an egg separator are the difference between an enjoyable cooking experience and an exercise in frustration.

    Just food for thought.

  • joelfinkle

    Least useful: garlic press — not the first to say so, won’t be the last.
    Most useful: Shun offset chef’s knife (“Alton’s Angle”)

    Prepping seder plates for 20, my mother and aunt were astounded I didn’t have an egg slicer. Uh… it’s called a knife.

  • scottish cow

    I’m going to skip the knife, like others, since it’s probably a given. If salt is allowed to cross the line into tool/gadget category, then I’m going to have to go with some form of controllable fire for the most valuable tool.

    Least? Man, the list goes on, but I saw one of these recently, and am fairly offended that it exists: The $10 cucumber deseeder

  • Connor

    Most valuable tools: Wusthof chef’s knife, rubber spatula, parchment paper (Pepin’s instructions in Complete Techniques on how to properly cut parchment paper to fit your pans are a godsend.)

    Most useless tool: flour sifter with crank handle

  • jsw wiles

    Most useful: My 10″ Shun.
    (I’m starting to wonder how I ever lived without one for so long. Oddly enough, I saw the Alton thing on them after I bought it. Which is good, because I probably wouldn’t have gotten one if I had. Just a I-hate-to-follow-the-pack mental hang-up I have.)

    Least useful: My silpat. Haven’t used the thing once yet. I don’t bake.

    As for the sharpie questions: you’d have to be a professional cook to have the sharpie. Every cook I know or ever have known are never without one. Lots of labeling to be done on items in the walk-in fridge in a restaurant kitchen. For the home cook, not so much.

  • Phil

    Most useful: Cast iron skillet, pallet knife, and stainless steel tongs.

  • Tyler

    I just love tongs because they are an extension of your hand. In a bind, they can replace a fish spat (with dexterity) or metal spoons, work on the grill, grab hot stuff out of the oven like you said and are just a general all-purpose tool that i probably use every day for one thing or another…

  • Tags

    people who own fire ants should be dipped in honey and thrown in a pit of avocado slicers

  • surly

    Most useful, Sabatier 30cm, or table spoon?
    useless: fish kettle no question

  • Graeme

    Any one that’s worked in a professional kitchen instantly knows the value of a sharpie (label everything), and has probably spent a fair portion of their lives involved in discussions about the relative merits of various styles, designs colours, form factors, etc.

    Tools I love: Immersion blender, KitchenAid (I’m thinking about getting the pasta extruder for mine, any comments about it?), and food mill.

    Things I like professionally, but hate at home: Egg slicer (after 300 spinach salads garnished with hard boiled eggs, you’ll come around too.)

    Things I hate: Anything you can’t figure out what it is without the packaging (and generally have instructions that weigh more than the actual product). Anything designed to make a specific task easier, usually just makes it more complicated.

  • DanaMc

    Most useful:
    chef’s knife and honing steel
    Silpat
    probe thermometer
    citrus juicer (2 handled type)

    Least useful:
    1″ mini spatula
    poorly made peelers
    flexible silicon muffin sheets
    rusty tin cookie cutters

  • joanie

    Best “gadgets”: immersion blender, salad spinner (but a chef told me not to pour greens into the strainer – lift them, as pouring them also transfers all the dirt into the strainer too), my 35 year old Sabatier chef’s knife

    Love my garbage bowl (and so would you if you had a compactor and did not want to pull that heavy thing out all the time! Love my compactor too….feel that my garbage takes up less room on the planet)

    Never use tongs…awkward.

    Must get one of those Norpro eggs

  • NancyH

    Haven’t seen this one mentioned yet, but I can’t live without it: infared thermometer.

    Least useful – tomato slicer (which is still in the drawer and I don’t know why).

  • Kirk

    I’ve done a good job of casting out the chaff. I like Ruhlman’s list. Whisk looked a little small to be very useful.
    I love my high-heat no-scratch tongs but they will mess up food if used for the wrong things.
    I also have some Oxo metal cake testers that are useful for inserting into meat to check temperature.
    Most useless gadgets are any given to me as gifts because people know I love to cook. They include:
    -off size measuring cups and spoons (3/4 cup, 1 1/2 cups, pinch, smidgeon, dash) – please!
    -anything for peeling, pressing, slicing, roasting garlic
    -hand blender with 25 attachments that is a lousy hand blender
    -novelty cookbooks
    I saw a recent article on Bobby Flay in a men’s magazine and he cited the mango pitter as one of his favorite tools. For what it’s worth.

  • Kevin

    It used to be a mortar and pestle until the Health Department said we can’t use one in our restaurant. How did we survive so many years using one?

  • CookingMamaPDX

    Useless items taking up room in my small kitchen: rice cooker (is it that hard to cook rice??), magic bullet blender (from a white elephant party — should have known better), juicer (the mr had grand ideas) and a drawer full of junk I hardly use but can’t bear to get rid of and if I do the mr says it won’t be replaced later.

    Most useful has already been covered.

  • Freya

    The thing I’ve seen used that you’d swear had only one use was one of those auto-cut-out pancake-maker thingies – like the pie maker except for pancakes. Christmas breakfast (basically a pre-madness gathering of friends) two of them are used not only for small pancakes but for frying eggs. You wouldn’t do it all the time, but for gatherings like that, it’s priceless.

  • David

    Don’t think I could exist long without my long serrated knife for slicing….or my Le Crueset dutch oven :-)

  • Claudia (cook eat FRET)

    i have that mango cutter thing you speak of… not proud. i could definitely live without it.

    but i’d fight you over my knife sharpener and my wooden spatula/spoons…

    this is like asking what my favorite song is… it just depends. my vegetable peeler is pretty awesome too… i couldn’t peel that well with just a paring knife.

  • jabbett

    Best: Chef’s Choice Model 130 electric knife sharpener. Don’t know how I got along without it.

  • Rebecca

    I’d have to add a good ladle to this list, meaning one with a long handle and about a cup capacity.
    As for useless, my mom got me a mushroom cleaner with a brush on one end and a weird short curved blade on the other. Never used it. Can’t find it. Must have thrown it in the last goodwill bag.

  • Kate in the NW

    MOST: Cast-iron skillet with 20 years of seasoning on it. Anyone approaching it with dish soap is subject to termination with EXTREME prejudice. I hide it when house guests who use the kitchen come to stay.

    And I totally get the sharpie thing. All frozen lumps of aluminum foil look the same.

    LEAST: A quesadilla-maker someone gave us for our anniversary. I sh*t you not. It went immediately into the donation pile. See above.

  • Sharon

    I have a well seasoned cast iron skillet but I DO wash it with soap. I wash it with soap, then before putting it away, I rub a little oil on it.

    I can fry an egg in it without sticking, in fact, it’s completely non-stick with any food I can throw at it. It’s my favorite pan. When I use to just wipe it or rinse with water because I was told that’s the way to care for it, I hardly used it because I can’t stand the smell of old oil.

  • Charlotte

    Most useful: tamis or any sieve-like apparatus

    Least useful: butter slicer/measurer, I just use my beloved scale.

  • MissV

    Most useful: I am lazy. The Cuisinart. If people spent the money on a Cuisinart rather than an equal price in “meals in 30 minutes” cookbooks, they’d get better results in reducing prep time in their kitchen.

    Least useful: The Milkshake mixer my now-husband “had” to put on the registry. Never been used. Wish I’d have saved the box.

  • mike regan

    I love my cast iron grill plate. it straddles two burners and gives me great burgers, dogs, chicken, and the very best grilled veggies in the world. And the grilled pineappe and cantaloupe are beyond compare.
    I also think my cutting board is a great asset.

    Mike regan

  • Cameron S

    1) Large Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
    2) Vidalia Sweet Onion Chopper (very good for salsa’s, soups, dips and more) I know, its an infomercial product :) Given to me by a texas customer.
    3) My grandfather’s tortilla press he made in the 60’s out of some exotic NASA material.
    4) My huge Calphalon stock pot / pasta pot
    5) Large Le Creuset orange enameled cast iron pot (paid $80 for it at a close out sale, regular price $330)

  • Ryan

    Most Valuable: Side towel – keeps your station clean and your hands burn free.

    Least Valuable: Avacado Slicer – is a knife really that hard to navigate through such a soft fruit?

  • Cali

    Most useful gadget: Tie- German mandolin and immersion blender.

    Least useful gadget: Kitchen Aid pasta maker. The Atlas pasta maker is FAR superior.

  • Scott

    Most useful: Stainless steel pastry scraper (I scoop up chopped food with it, scrape with it, slide and organize things on my cutting board with it, overuse it).

    Lease useful: Garlic press.

  • Ted

    Best:
    1.Old Hickory Carbon steel cooking knives (Chef & paring)..

    2.Griswolds (cast iron dutch oven/skillets)

    Worst: “mezzaluna” chopping knife.. you can’t get an edge on it.. it’s more of a masher, not a chopper.

  • Victoria

    Most: 8-inch chef’s knife. I use it every day.

    Least: A pan called an egg poacher. (I would have thought no one would use this, but I looked at a cooking site, and there’s one with 143 five-star reviews.)

  • barbara

    I moved house recently from New Zealand to Australia and took the opportunity to throw out all useless kitchen gadgets so I’m pleased to say nothing useless in my kitchen. My most used and favourite item is my bread board.

    Until our furniture arrived we lived comfortably for a month with an 8 inch chef’s knife, 1 wooden spoon, one fry pan, 1 flameproof casserole dish, 2 dinner plates, 2 cereal bowls, 2 knife, fork, spoons and a set of 6 wine glasses.

  • rockandroller

    Useful: I would say tongs (food doesn’t need to be pretty in my home) or the silicone/mesh looking hot gloves we have, which are SUCH an improvement over any other kind of mitt or glove or towel I can’t believe I ever lived without them.

    Least useful: bread machine. Takes up SO much space when being used, bread comes out weirdly shaped and doesn’t fit in the toaster.

  • luis

    What can I tell you guys?… I love gadgets but I love usefull gadgets. Every once in a while there is a need to re-evaluate having something like a french loaf bread baking thing. Makes two loaves very nicelly. But it’s kitchen clutter…never the less. I like usefull gadgets like that. I can stack my gadget collection against your puny stash any day of the week Ruhlman. I have a cuisinart but most of the time I use the stickblender with the million attachments. Even more often than that I just use the knives to chop everything. The latest gadgets I just had to have were a filet knife for my upcoming adventure. Then there was a knock at the door and someone left me a package this morning. Bet it’s that new shiny digital scale we have been talking about.

  • chadzilla

    I vote for tongs… like anything else, they can be mis-used or properly used.
    Kosher salt is an ingredient. Once you open that door, you have to allow a peppermill.
    Other items that always adorn my work area…
    santoku chef’s knife
    other assorted knives (serrated, pairing, sashimi, utility fillet)
    a steel (can’t use knives without this)
    rubber spat
    flat spat
    fish spat
    offset spat
    whisk (I use the same good grips one above, good choice)
    microplane
    tongs (I use the OXO detailed model… if not, a pair of chopsticks in my pocket has never let me down while cooking)
    scissors
    digital scale (small version– one tenth gram accuracy)
    digital scale (larger version)
    calculator
    sea salt
    peppermill
    immersion blender
    electric coffee grinder
    chinois mousseline
    smoke gun
    pen
    sharpie
    highlighter
    paper, napkins, eraser board (to write notes and amounts for calulating percentages)

    These are within arms reach everyday.

  • CaptainK

    Most used: 10 inch Shun chef knife

    Favorites: immersion blender and mandoline

    Least used: Y peeler (seemed like a good idea at the time.

    Most coveted, but I can’t find in any store: a spider (is it the same as an Asian strainer?)

  • patrick

    surprised not to see tongs on michael’s list. i’d have to put them at the top of mine. most useless? immersion blender.

  • Darcie

    I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to pare down the gadget collection for years. My problem is that I feel I NEED 6 whisks – so I don’t have to try to wash one in a hurry. Perhaps the difference is I bake a lot and tend to dirty up many utensils at a time.

    If I had to choose:
    Most useful: Thermapen, santoku
    Lease useful: Garnishing tool that makes ribbons

  • Rafael

    Mostuseful kitchen gadjets for me? My Knife, A pair of good tongs and Kosher salt. (Ziptop bags come in handy as well.)

  • sailing chef

    Most Useful: My global chefs knife
    Least: Zyliss Pineapple Core(er) BUT it does make a killer drink glass when frozen!

  • hollerhither

    Useful:
    *Pastry scraper w/ruler on side — scoops stuff off cutting board w/out ruining knife, measures stuff, and oh yeah, cuts pastry
    *Tongs for sure
    *Box grater which I had stopped using for microplane but picked back up again for soft cheese…
    *Oxo silicone oven mits — padded, flexible, don’t slip, stick to my fan hood with magnets. No hot spots, no flaming dishtowels.

    Not useful:
    Gravy/fat separator
    Turkey baster
    Silicone “ties” to truss roasts; twine is better

  • Joan

    How can you possibly narrow it down to one item? This is tough. I gotta say an eplucheur and an emincer…wait and a pairing knife. And a chinois ! Arghhh… this is too hard.

  • Culinary Sherpa

    Everything on your list and tongs. Gotta have them, otherwise there is too much-“just touched raw chicken, must wash hands.” “have to season the raw chicken, flip, must wash hands to touch pepper mill.” etc, etc.
    I also need two fish spatulas. They’re just so damn useful.
    Most useless= anything plastic

  • Russ

    Culinary Sherpa: If you don’t like washing your hands each time you touch the chicken because of contamination…what do you do with the tongs to prevent contamination from them? Just wondering.

  • DQKennard

    Most/least useful is cooking-type dependent. Never cooking meat, for example, I’ve never used twine in cooking, and have different needs for things like spatulas, spoons and tongs than some. A lot of things are scale-dependent: if one does a lot of larger-scale cooking, then mandolines, food processors, stand mixers and such get used enough to justify a front-and-center, easy-access spot in the kitchen, otherwise they never get used because it’s a hassle to get them out.

  • Jaxie Waxie Woo

    MOST USEFUL: Sadly, I broke the most useful gadget I ever owned and have not been able to replace it. It was designed as a nonstick rice paddle but, since it had a wide surface and GREAT flexibility (well, to a point as I learned the hard way — SNAP!), I used it as a scraper-meets-spoon-meets-spatula every time I ventured to make something. I think the maker (Pedrini) went out of business, so it looks like I’m out of luck!

    LEAST USEFUL: The quesadilla maker I got as a bridal shower gift. We used it once when we were a tad drunk to make super-squished grill cheese sandwiches!

  • kristin

    My MAC chef and paring knives, tongs,scale are all so important and I cannot live without my spice grinder. I buy allspice, cumin and corriander in bulk because I use them alot, and it is useful for my fresh cayenne peppers and fennel seed that I grow.

    I am not sure I have many kitchen tools that I don’t use. I keep what I have to what I really need.

  • Conor

    I have to defend my egg slicer–useful for mushrooms, as well, so it’s not a unitasker (though I’d live to find one that doesn’t break). But even just for eggs, I can’t get my slices that thin and uniform with a knife–I always end up squishing out the yolk. Not pretty. And it’s not like the thing takes up much space.

    It’s not the MOST useful thing I own, but it’s certainly not the least, either (hello, random enormous non-stick paella pan that just takes up valuable space and doesn’t distribute heat well enough to cook anything near the edges).

    I’ve been doing a lot of roasting of late, and so my probe thermometer has proved invaluable.

  • Katie

    Most Useful: OXO Peeler, because every time I peel root vegetables with my chef’s knife I manage to either miss spots, take off too much, or cut myself, and my rice cooker. I was born without the ability to make rice, and this has made it so I don’t need therapy about it. I understand the “How hard is it to boil water and rice in a pot?” aspect of things, but clearly you’ve never seen me cook rice. I feel like everyone has one issue they just can’t manage to break past, and that’s mine.

    I don’t own enough kitchen gadgets to have a truly useless one – all of mine are carefully chosen by order of necessity and how much money I can afford to spend – but I have to agree that avocado slicers seem pretty pointless. I spend a decent amount of time slicing avocados, and I feel like it’s just faster to use a knife.

  • rachael

    most valuable (other than your basics, which are spot on): garlic press. garlic goes in probably 75% of what I make for dinner and it cuts prep time by at least that same percentage.

    least useful: tart pan. who makes tarts, honestly?

  • luis

    Most useful… chef’s knife.

    Least useful.. pizza peel

    :}

    Absolutelly must have… 14.5 inch diameter pizza stone.

  • Kristi

    Do waffle makers count as gadgets? They’re definitely single-use, but there’s no substitute. Not sure it’s my personal favorite, but my 3-year old would be heartbroken if it disappeared (that, and the large griddle I use to make her pancakes).

    My least favorite gadget (of the ones that actually get used in our house, I don’t count the boxes of junk ones hiding in the basement): the sandwich maker. Actually, it’s an alternate set of plates to the waffle maker, and functions a lot like that pie maker, but bread-shaped. My husband loves it, and I don’t understand why a simple frying pan isn’t sufficient for making a grilled cheese sandwich. Then again, hearing about the pie-maker, maybe the sandwich maker could be put to use for oven-free individual pies. Hmmm…

  • kristi

    What’s not to like about a pizza peel? Do you never bake more than one pizza in a night? How else do you get the darned things out of the oven?

    Our pizza’s are assembled on a sheet of parchment, and the peel slides the whole pizza, parchment and all, onto the stone, and then back out. It then becomes a cutting board/serving platter for the last pizza out of the oven.

  • Claudia

    Most useless? Salad shooters (and spinners),and egg slicers. Useful? Chef’s knife, absolutely, but I’m fond of my food processor. And my microplane zester.

  • carl

    i miss my garlic press after i was shamed out of it.

    most useful: 5″ utility knife.
    most useless: stainless steel bar for getting odors off your hands.
    most coveted: a better blender.

  • Ryan

    Knives and pans/pots aren’t really gadgets. We can sort of assume everyone is using them more often than anything else. (A note on cast iron though, I’ve got a couple skillets with about 60 years season on them assuming great grandma bout them in the late 40’s)

    Usefully: Immersion blender, the attachments make it especially gadety.

    Useless: Any sharpening device besides a quality stone. Even those rod based angle controlled systems don’t get things as sharp as the old fashioned way. Also bar zester, it doesn’t so much zest as make lemons ugly.