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””

  • NYCook

    Most usefull: Imersion Blender, Japanese Mandoline, Spice grinder, Sharpie and my favorite saucing spoons.

    Least usefull: Squirt bottles, measuring spoons

    Ruhlman you still have your CIA issued side towls? You actually like those things?

  • NYCook

    Most usefull: Imersion Blender, Japanese Mandoline, Spice grinder, Sharpie and my favorite saucing spoons.

    Least usefull: Squirt bottles, measuring spoons

    Ruhlman you still have your CIA issued side towls? You actually like those things?

  • Michelle

    Useful: All of Ruhlman’s list plus tongs, and my Cuisanart – a necessity when making large amounts of shredded anything. As someone with nerve damage in my hand, an egg separator makes my life easier and much less messy as does my electric can opener.

    Useless – Bullet mixer and one of those onion slicers things with a plunger. Both gifts from a well-meaning relative. I’d throw them out, but she expects me to be using them when she visits.

    I’m a home cook who uses a sharpie to check off items on my prep list thats taped to a wall when cooking for a large group of people. Its easily visible from across the kitchen

  • luis

    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?}}

    I use twelve inch pizza pans or the deep dish heavy gage 9″ pans. Gourmaid toppings from scratch, never store bought.

  • Tim

    Least useful would have to be this plastic gadget that cooks two eggs in the microwave. A gift from mom, bless her heart. Most useful would maybe be my heavy, large cutting board. Ahh, space.

  • Ms. Glaze

    Most important (excluding a sharp chef’s knife): vegetable peeler, japanese mandolin, and handheld professional blender. They take up minimal space and make preparation fast, precise, and beautiful.

    Least important: egg poachers. I just hate these things. Who wants a rubber egg on top of anything?

  • amber

    fun reading everyone’s lists.

    i also agree everyone that i don’t think a knife really counts as a gadet.

    most useful: tongs, silicone spatula, veggie peeler
    least useful: adjustable measuring cup. the thing takes forever and a day to open and clean. blah!

    also, i’d like to defend my little garlic genius. sure, it’s a silly gadget, but i love it. my hands stay clean while the garlic gets minced.

  • violetfox

    most useful: Wusthof 8″ chef’s knife

    least useful: hand-crank flour sifter

  • Darcie

    Rachael, honestly, I make a lot of tarts. Tart pans are very useful because the bottoms remove easily and edges flute nicely. Of course I could make them freeform but they wouldn’t be as pretty.

  • Patrick Austin

    “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.”

    Respectfully disagree. I can’t think of a single reason why a stone would be superior, other than the aesthetics of doing it the old way.

    The most important thing is holding a constant angle while you sharpen. Freehand sharpening is NOT as good as something like an edge pro or even a spyderco sharpmaker unless you’re a robot who can repeat exactly the same motion at exactly the same angle every time. Even if you WERE a robot, at best you’d equal the edge pro or lansky systems, but never exceed ’em.

  • Adam

    Most useful: My grandmother’s old-school stand-up juicer — the kind made of metal, with a big old lever handle, a removable pulp catcher and a spout underneath. Couldn’t live without it.

    Other useful tools: My mortar and pestle — ain’t nothing like the pesto I make in that bad boy. I roast a lot of my own spices as well, and it’s great for bashing them up for curry.

    My electric skillet – big enough to sear a whole tenderloin roast, even heat and easily controlled.

    Least useful — my egg poacher I inherited from my mother who never used it. Used it once, a bitch to clean and the eggs were over cooked.

  • jim

    most useful: toss-up between 10″ steel saute pan and 8″ blade.

    most usefuller: creativity in a pinch; for example, I recently discovered one can adequately truss a roasting chicken with about a dozen paper-wrapped wire twisty-ties. 450-F for 60 minutes later, and some burned fingers, dinner was served.

    most fun: glow-in-the-dark human skeleton print apron.

    least useful: toss-up between silicone cylinder garlic peeler and a cookie cutter shaped like Washington State.

  • Lola

    I don’t care what people say, salad spinner is needed…people who say no always have overly wet lettuce

  • olivia

    I can’t live without my tongs. They are extensions of my hand in a lot of cases.

    8″ chefs knife is a must.

    least useful: garlic peeler and garlic press.

  • milo

    So Michael, without tongs what do you use to turn things? Spatula is OK for flipping, but not for turning things like sausages.

    I love my pineapple corer, works fantastic. I’d honestly say we wouldn’t eat nearly as much without it.

    I got horrible results from the pizza stone, we ended up getting rid of it and we’re just back to pans. Although we tend to make most of our pizzas outdoors on the grill, can’t beat that for crispy thin crust.

    And for pizza cheese, we always go with the fresh mozzarella, which seems to respond best to stringing out by hand. I don’t know if we’ve even tried grating it.

    I’m torn on the garlic press, I’ve switched to slicing recently but I don’t know that I’m getting as much garlic flavor.

    I just got a butter curler for my birthday, how’s that for useless.

    Or my nomination for the most useless of all – anything you already have…without a gift receipt.

  • Kansas City rube

    Best: Mandoline – it makes closer, cleaner cuts than I ever could and is a million times faster.

    Worst: Folding, cheap-ass omelet pan that was a present from my ex-girlfriend.

  • Christine in the 'Nati

    Most Useful: Chef knife–whatever size you like

    Least Useful: Egg Cuber–a small, polycarbonate box that you put freshly hard-boiled eggs in. screw down lid, and after only a few short minutes, you have cube shaped hard boiled eggs. I have one…I don’t know why. I think I got it at a garage sale. I’ve also never used it…

  • Mike

    I echo most of the comments on this board. I have gotten a new gadget that I’ve found useful, but it is a unitasker.

    For making sushi I’ve been using the standard mats with plastic wrap on them. I’ve recently gotten a silicon one.

    Otherwise, I love my classic wusthofs, my 130 Knife sharpener, my magnum pepper and salt mills, tongs, emsa beaker, and silicon pinch cups to replace my custard cups.

    And I respectfully disagree on the knife sharpener haters.

  • Bourdain for President

    Most useful: My wooden spoons — I have a crock full of them beside my stove in all shapes, size and ages. Been collecting them for years — lots of them belonged to my late mom. One I DON’T have is my mom’s big old long-handled wooden canning spoon … the one she used to whack us on the back of the legs with when we were bad. I made sure my niece got that one — the memories were too traumatic :)

    Least useful: Those Tupperware hamburger press thingies that everyone has cluttering the back of their cupboard — you know, the ones you hate to throw away because you are determined to use them some day. Let’s see, I have been determined for about 15 years now …

  • Piper

    Most useful: My wife (being as I tend to get the entire kitchen and half the dishes dirty cooking, well, anything), my wisk.

    Least useful: I, uh, um, I actually own a Rotato….

  • mean lawyer

    I can’t believe that I’m about to take the great Michael Ruhlman to task but – really, Michael, are you crazy? Salt is a “gadget”? A towel is a “gadget”? No. I don’t believe that ANYTHING in that photo (Hi, Not Donna!) qualifies as a “gadget”. Tools, yes (except for the salt).

    Useful: 10″ chef’s knife, microwave oven, slow cooker with 2 heating elements

    Not even close: cutesy corn on the cob holders (unfortunate gift)

  • danielle

    For the mushroom/strawberry/ egg slicer question: Yes, it’s called a chef’s knife or a mandolin. Stop using stupid gadgets like fruit slicers. If someone asked me to slice something, I would ask in return how thick, and proceed to cut with my favorite kitchen gadget, the chef’s knife. To soften my comment, having good knife skills is important.

  • Maura

    Would “kitchen stuff” suffice, in order to avoid the silly semantics argument?

    Most loved/used: my 35 year old wooden spoon, digital thermometer, salad spinner, chef’s knife, tongs, huge heavy plastic bowl, microplane, whisks, the corkscrew my father gave me, immersion blender. The immersion blender is a good, if imperfect, replacement for a food processor, which bit the dust over a year ago.

    I don’t have anything useless in my kitchen anymore. I got rid of all the crap about a year ago. I have things I don’t use often, but they’re very useful when I need them. My standing mixer fits into that category.

  • Camille

    Most useless: wine bottle stopper! Runner up: pickle grabber (although they can double as tongs in a pinch)

    Most useful: Chef’s knife, paring knife, wooden spoon. It is rare that I cook a meal without using these three.

  • milo

    Speaking of gadgets, anyone have opinions either way on those vacuum pack bag thingys?

    I’d really like to grow a ton of veggies this summer and freeze some, and I suspect that they’d do better with minimal air in the bags. Would a vacuum sealer be a good idea, or could anyone recommend a good source of info with tips on freezing veggies?

  • luis

    New gadget heading for the barn….a “Kitchen Calc”. As long as we are getting weight consious this one is sure to get a lot of attention. Makes childs play of scaling recipes to any number of servings and makes unit conversions. How useful is that gona be?

  • Alisa Joy

    Most useful – Chef’s Knife

    Least useful – Mushroom slicer, Quesadilla Maker, and the Vidalia Onion Dicer

  • Wilmita

    Absolute Best: Tongs

    Seasonal Most Useful: Máquina Guayadora

    : A heavy duty electric food grinder for grinding things such as yuca, plantains, taro root etc. to make “masa” for “pasteles.” (Not found in stores, but usually homemade and available on the underground Puerto Rican Economy.)

    vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&VideoID=16449330 – 33k –

    Useless: Silicone High-Tech oven Gloves and Mitts. A good kitchen towel can’t be beaten.

  • Debbie

    I love my mango slicer. It’s a unitasker, but it works, and it has probably saved one or more of my fingers from my poor knife skills.

    Most useless is probably the tomato slicer, which doesn’t work.

  • Sean

    Most useful: As others have mentioned, immersion Blender with attachments, the norpro egg, and cast iron pans

    I also have a lemon juicer where you place half a lemon in one part and then crush it to extract all the juice. It gets more juice out of lemons and limes than any other method I have tried.

    Least useful: Potato Ricer, Rice Cooker, avocado slicer.

  • Maddux

    Oooh As an industrial designer and a home chef I love this post, especially since I’ve designed some of this crap in my career. Ok so the most useful: kitchen scissors, lemon juicer (mostly because we have a meyer lemon tree in our backyard that just won’t stop), a cheepo-bleepo marble mortar & pestle from Chinatown. The least useful gadget in our kitchen would have to go to a ‘sushi roll maker’ for kids that we got in Japantown.

  • mirinblue

    Most beloved (aside from my knives)-my kitchen timer! Love that little bell tone when time is up! Saved me more times than I can count.

    Least favorite-upside down egg flipper pan thingy.

  • Dean Estes

    I threw out all useless gadgets some time ago, a space-saving relief. One item that has turned out to be far more useful than I’d ever imagined is a molcajete (volcanic stone mortar and pestle) from Tlaquepaque, Mexico. It’s a powerful grinder (I actually prefer it for grinding peppercorns) and because it’s fashioned to look like a pig, has a charming rustic presence on its shelf. It may not be my most essential item, but it’s my favorite.

  • JustaTech

    What about a really reliable timer? And a good set of thermometers, one for the oven and at least one probe for everything else. I defy you to make candy without a thermometer.

  • beeswing

    sine qua non: digital thermometer/timer–you know, the kind with an extension for figuring out when meat, loaves, etc., are “ready.” Cheating, maybe, but very reliable.

    could lose it and live: rings used for forming English muffins. A guilty pleasure.

  • Maya

    Having been struck by bizarre cravings for merangue cookies in the dead of night, trying to whip the mix with a fork, I’d say the whisk is my favorite.

    Most useless, beer can openers. That’s what nature gave us teeth for.

  • HappyHoarfrost

    Indispensible in every room, every profession: The special-formual Slick-surface Sharpie. Will not rub off metal, plastics–sigh: smells even “better” than the original.
    Most frustrating/useless tool: Retractable Sharpie. Love the idea, but the tip gets matted, fuzzy and too fat, FAST.

  • jbdc

    Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the stupidest kitchen gadget ever made,one that makes the egg separator look like a chef’s knife.

    [Drum roll, please.]

    The Professional Electric Martini Maker:

    http://tinyurl.com/6zbsxh

  • Christine in the 'Nati

    Seriously with the martini maker? How lazy can a person be? Things like this make my soul hurt. Who can’t shake or stir????

    My husband tried to get a cutesy hot-dog roller cart on our wedding registry when we got married. You know what I’m talking about…

    http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?order_num=-1&SKU=13786283

    He had a friend who almost got it for him, but I think the look in my eye scared him off. 😉

  • A.C. Doyle

    So- yeah, being a professional patissiere type, I loosely interpret your rules and say a chef’s ingenuity and adaptiveness his/her most valuable tool- you may not know if you have it but once you’ve seen it in action you will definitely know if you don’t. The most useless tool under these circumstances is- micro-management. That is THE sure-fire way to frustrate those who work under or around you and will drive your -business- into oblivion.

    most useful gadget – utility knife or :blink: a scale.
    most useless – a Foreman-style grill (cook it right and you should not have un-desirable characteristics)

  • Wilmita

    In defence of Rulhman, at least he does have tongs as part of his web site banner AND a “CLANG”,(er, uh), properly seasoned Black Cast Iron Skillet.

    That skillet is great for cooking AND best for letting teenage son’s know who’s boss when they first try to stay out all night.

    Even better for the fathers of teenage daughter’s who might be out with them.

  • Christine in the 'Nati

    Wow…if it were up to my husband, we’d have all this crap!

    The Egg & English Muffin thing was also one of his brilliant “we NEED this!!” ideas. Thank goodness he responds well to “Honey, shut up.”

  • Steve O.

    The microplane could be switched out for a basic box grater. Personally, to zest citrus, I use a peeler and mince it with a knife. Nutmeg, parm, and other microplaneable items can be processed with the grater rather quickly and easily.

    Most useless? A rice cooker. It heats water and rice. If you have a range and a pot, you’re good to go.

    One useful item beyond the basics, surprisingly, is a funnel.

  • allie

    most useful: definitely my flat-sided wooden spoon. I reach for it basically every time I’m cooking anything on the stove, and if it’s not there, I’m not happy. sometimes I get it out of the dishwasher and wash it instead of using one of the other, inferior wooden spoons. I would also list my immersion blender, rubber spatula, and measuring cup with measurements you can read from the top.

    least useful: my mom got me this set of measuring spoons that say things like “pinch”, “smidgen” and “dash”. they were good for a chuckle, but that’s about it.

  • nancy

    most useful: silpat
    least useful: stand mixer (i have no counter space, so it’s been collecting dust in the back corner of the pantry for YEARS)

    i thought this was pretty relevent to the post:
    http://www.ciacook.com/main.taf?p=11,3,1,1

    to have a gourmet kitchen, apparently you need to spend 5-grand and get 80 “essential” culinary tools :-p

  • Maura

    steve o., I must disagree with you about the microplane v. the box grater. A box grater takes up too much room, whereas you can easily store a microplane and several more graters (4 more, in my case) just about anywhere. I also think the microplane does a better job of zesting, and grating hard cheese. Parmagiano comes out like fine lace.

  • Amy

    My Knife. Hands down.

    Following that a towel/glove, a pan (or some sort), metal spatula…..

    Everything else can be figured out and manipulated in some way to make it work! : P

  • Amy

    My Knife. Hands down.

    Following that a towel/glove, a pan (or some sort), metal spatula…..

    Everything else can be figured out and manipulated in some way to make it work! : P

  • bob

    I use a fork for everything… whisk, scramble, retrieve from boiling… etc…

    Though it may not be the most crucial to my cooking, the fine mesh (chinois in my case) gets used more than you’d think. Similarly used is a 30 year old Tupperware collander.

  • Messy

    In the category of things I thought I’d never use but I do, the OXO mango pitter and four different sizes of microplane graters. I wouldn’t be without my 8″ chef’s knife (I have small hands) and my 3″ Bowie tipped paring knife.

    Also a necessity are three or four good cutting boards that fit in the diswasher and enameled cast iron casseroles for braising.

  • Dave

    Most useful: My silicone-tipped tongs, followed closely by the rice cooker. I don’t really think tongs are a gadget but I use them all the time, and the rice cooker is the bomb–set it and forget it.

    Least useful: Any syringe-like object allegedly designed to insert “flavorings” into meat or other foods. My cookie press with all the weird attachments is pretty useless too, although when I want to get really fancy with the presentations, it does make for some interesting ways to display mashed root vegetables.

  • Shelley

    A few people have mentioned their cutting board… I must agree, I love my big fat maple Boos that makes prep almost zen-like. It’s in “not-Donna’s” photo, but Ruhlman doesn’t acknowledge it. What gives?

    I have lots of stupid gadgets that I haven’t thrown away because — who’d have thunk it? — they make EXCELLENT sand sculpting tools. Melon carvers, shrimp deveiners, oddly shaped cookie cutters, pizza slicers….

  • luis

    Kitchen Calc is in and folks this is the new toy in the kitchen. Scales recipes servings(x) to servings (y). This is my next go to gadget. If it works as advertised and from what I have gathered it does… I will give up my chef’s knife hallowed spot to this gadget. I am one to cook for one and then for 1 x Xnumber of servings.. come holidays… My one serving recipe needs to feed 20 or 30 folks…. and pot luck parties… This is hot!!!!!

  • kristin

    Hand held juicers (like the ones that bartenders use). I always use lemon juice while cooking and there is nothing like fresh juice to make the dish wonderful.

  • Dana

    You know, Michael… using a Sharpie to get perfect looking grill marks might be frowned upon in some quarters…. :-)

  • Rick Schwartz

    When you’ve been married to an Asian lady for 34 years you’ll find that a rice cooker is the ABSOLUTE most important item in the kitcher, overriding even the stove and fridge.

    :-)

  • kanani

    “Were I forbidden to use any one of them, I would be cranky indeed.”
    Looking through my kitchen and using the Ruhlman Cranky Scale (RCS):

    I would be very cranky if I didn’t have a gravy whisk.

    Most useless:
    Pancake molds

    As to the rice cooker: Having grown up in a house where rice was eaten 2 – 3 times per day, and after seeing many a pot of rice burnt or otherwise ruined because my teenage sisters were yapping on the phone, or fighting, I truly appreciate my rice cooker. It is 20-odd years old, was a wedding gift –way back then, with one handle missing. It has made rice for children and friends. It isn’t programmable, only has a warming button and a little bell when the rice is done. I like that little bell.
    I would probably become melancholy if I didn’t have it.

    As per the Sharpie marker: I’m pretty sure he uses it for graffiti whenever he’s out with Bourdain.

  • kanani

    And as for the “George Foreman type grill,” my kids use something like it to make sandwiches and such.
    In many ways it’s USEFUL because it gets the pre-teen and teenage ruffians off my case when it comes to fulfilling their endless quest for meals.

    Anything that brings me peace of mind, gives them some independence and keeps them away from fast-food joints has about six zillion stars next to it.

    Useless would be the teen who leaves dirty plates around the house. Not very handy at all!

  • cybercita

    my tool drawer looks very similar, minus the string {i don’t truss}. i also love my flat wooden spoon, my two knives, my microplane, my fish spatula, my whisk {i also have a baby one for making vinaigrettes} and my peeler.

    i also love my electric kettle, a housewarming gift from a friend. and i just splurged on a really big villeroy and boch bowl with a spout, which i am looking forward to using when i make stock. i’m tired of pouring strained stock all over the counter.

  • kfchico

    Most valuable…a SHARP knife, doesn’t have to be expensive.

    Least valuable…a cast iron pan shaped like ears of corn (thanks mom).

  • john

    i have a couple of essential/favorites-
    about 10 years ago i bought a global veg cleaver, like a santoku, and have had no use for any other knife since (occasional need for paring knife or cleaver but that is about it!). it is an excellent knife and i have been very happy with it!
    i also like my wok- it is hand pounded, bought in nyc’s chinatown in 1975 or so. still works great!
    and i am a big fan of my tongs.

    what i tend to not use are my measuring spoons but on rare occasion. i guess this might seem blasphemous but i just don’t feel like using them since i tend to measure by feel and sense of flavor desire. i don’t really bake things, so i don’t see them as necessary for what i like to cook.

    i do need a better meat thermometer, though. cheap meat thermometers are more or less useless in my book.

    oh, and another thing i like, as i am sure others do as well- small ramekin (spelling?)-like ceramic dishes so i can sort out my spice blends ahead of time. i am a fan of dry rubs. my fiancee is a ceramic/potter, and i have found that her small wares have become essential, and they also make killer salt boxes when a nice lid is added!

    have fun
    john

  • matt_the_webguy

    Great post. I used to be a gadget-junkie, but have since seen the light…

    Most useful: 8″ polypro-handled “commercial” chef knife, OXO paring knife, a cheap $5 spider, instant read thermometer, 14″ pizza stone, and my 8-cup Pyrex measuring cup.

    Least useful: garlic press and lemon reamer.

    It IS possible to find good, reliable and inexpensive tools out there… go where pros go, and you’ll be amazed.

  • luis

    Got a meat grinder attachement to the Kitchen Aid. Why not!. Probably go out and get the sausage tip to meat grinder attachement next.
    This opens up a big world of charcuterie and won-tons, potstickers and dumplings to my kitchen. I look at it as a one time thing that will give me added flexibility and knowledge in the kitchen. But it definitelly adds to kitchen clutter. The vast amount of dishes I can now make and meat mixes including chorizos, croquets, sausages etc… I mean this is what it is all about.

  • Cygnetos

    I scanned to the bottom of the replies and seen, must
    be my eyes, no mention of the spool of twine enshrined…….
    dead center at the top of your cutting board.
    My favorite string for many things except for maybe kites when I was young.
    My uncle and father allowed me to take as much as I
    might want for whatever use I might come up with.
    Along with all the used butcher paper I wanted to
    draw on.

    Jose

  • Chuck Platter

    Best non-obvious tool: apple corer

    Most worthless: silicon pot holders (equivalent to picking up pans with closed fists)

    Towels do catch on fire but can almost always be extinguished

  • Nicholas Paredes

    My son and I are going to make carbonara on Sunday, so I came across your site. He’s 21, so I’m happy that he is cooking with his roommates! I gave him an enormous carbon knife for the new place…

    But, whittling this down is hard, because I would really miss a food mill, and a mortar and pestle. Could I get by without most things? Yes. But, now I roll pasta and have a 32″ pin. I need that! I have two big knives; one a baker’s for bread. And, the graters of various sizes are pretty handy, as is the Rosle mandolin! Dear, that is a nice product.

    A steel crepe pan would be missed as well…

  • Line cook

    Trying not to repeat others, so for your consideration:

    parchment paper and cheesecloth I have found very useful, both at work and at home.

    Scotty made a great point earlier that some people may actually need some of these gadgets we’re making fun of. Everybody is going to have different needs. However, you can’t tell me there is a legitimate use for grill pans or panini presses. There just isn’t. And, unless you have an 80,000 btu burner, and maybe a fire ring, somebody will have to explain to me why a large skillet/saute/sautoir isn’t just as good as a wok, and more versitile.

  • Harry

    Most Used:
    – knives: 10″ chef’s, 4″ parer
    – cutting boards: end-cut wood, soft plastic, the thin flexible sheets intended as cutting boards but that I use on top of my real ones
    – silicone spatulae (can’t have enough)
    – wooden spatulae
    – colanders & strainers (can’t have enough)
    – Polander thermometer/timer with remote cord
    – garlic press (for me, much faster than a knife)

    Least Used (when I had them):
    – pie weights (dry beans are so much cheaper)
    – pie bird (what was I thinking?!?)
    – double boiler
    – sifter (stir the flour or use a fine-mesh strainer)

    One Use Items (if you want these foods, you have to have these items)
    – waffle iron
    – ice cream maker

    I share the above bemusement about rice cookers but we use ours 3-5 times a week, year after year. I got it for my non-cooking spouse because we had credit at Sur La Table but I make great rice on a (gas) stove thankyouverymuchIdon’tneedthis. Turns out that having a gadget that turns itself on and off is Really Useful. We also make heavy use of the following functions: white rice, sushi rice, brown rice, and the timer. Of the (few) meals my spouse cooks, 90% are in the rice cooker.

    I recently got a vacuum sealer and so far, very good. No more freezer burn on the tons of meat I buy at a time. I haven’t used it on produce yet. The FoodSaver brand consistently gets the best reviews online and is easy to use. The included DVD is a nice touch.

    Finally: while a knife is a fine strawberry & mushroom slicer, I find my metal-bladed slicer is much, much faster and yields more even slices than my knife – especially that last little bit of ‘shroom. With it I buy whole mushrooms, without it I end up buying pre-sliced.

  • Rick Schwartz

    “somebody will have to explain to me why a large skillet/saute/sautoir isn’t just as good as a wok, and more versitile.”

    Depends upon what you’re used to, I guess. My girls have grown up helping me cook with the traditional pots and pans, and helping their mother cook with the wok.

    Now that they are grown and on their own when it comes time to grab a pot to cook with they usually go for the wok first.

    Just remember, in many Asian homes a wok is the only cooking utensil avaiable, but in our homes we have a number of differing pots for our needs. The Asians must find that it meets their needs sufficiently with just one type.

  • ruhlman

    i prefer a really heavy pan to a wok because it stays hotter when the cool meat goes in.

    arguably you can do more in a wok, though.

  • Line cook

    It’s my contention that, if you have a typical assortment of pots and pans, a wok is pretty redundant. For most tasks I think a wok would be the second or third best option.

  • Stephanie Struble

    Though certainly not the most essential tool in my kitchen, I don’t like to be without a citrus reamer, and usually pack one when I go on vacation (to make margaritas, of course!).

  • Rick Schwartz

    “It’s my contention that, if you have a typical assortment of pots and pans, a wok is pretty redundant. For most tasks I think a wok would be the second or third best option.”

    Like much else, it’s a cultural preferance. It took me 20 years to get used to having rotten fish in every meal that I ate.

    :-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bagoong

  • Bert

    But, you can open a beer with tongs! I’m suprised to see you still have the standard issue side towels. Mine got pretty rank and were ceremoniously immolated my last day in the E-room kitchen.

  • Mindy

    Must have gadget: Salad Shooter
    I have endured much abuse defending this thing, but it makes lots of perfect thin potato slices for Pommes Anna, au gratin, etc, in record time. That’s all I use it for, because I have a knife and I am not afraid to use it. And I gave up trying to use my mandolin for this purpose, because I am left-handed and it isn’t.
    Other essentials: rice cooker, Mom’s perfectly seasoned cast iron pans, a thin textured rubber square to open tight lids, instant read digital thermometer

    Worst: a small round metal disc that you put in a pot of water – it bangs around on the bottom of the pot to alert you when the water is boiling. One of the nicest gifts ever received from mother-in-law, grrrr.
    Strawberry stem remover – a very small tong-like thing that chunks out the top of the berry. Like I said, I have a knife.

  • Beth

    10″ Chef’s knife followed by my favorite cherry hand-carved wood mixing spoon. There’s something about the feel of the smooth-grained, hard wood that’s hard to describe. The patina it’s developed is lovely. Must be the artist in me that appreciates something so simple yet so loved

  • Selkie

    I really love my kitchen scissors, though I will admit it is partially because my knife skills maybe aren’t what they could be. I like to use them for chopping fine herbs, and quite number of other things.

    Most useless gadget? Non heat-safe rubber spatulas. They always even up melted!

    Underrated gadget- Cherry pitter. I know it sounds silly, but it takes 2-3 times as long to pit the things with a paring knife, and they wind up a bit mangled- even though I have done lots of them (I like cherry pies, and fresh cherries in summer blender drinks).

  • Melinda

    Wow, what a fun comment section to read. I love that after a month there are still wonderful entries. I’m a gadget whore, I’ll be honest but I really prefer basic, old school tools.

    Most Important: Flat Wood Spatula, Mesh Strainer, Plastic and Wood cutting boards, basic old school peeler, kitchen scissors, my variety of pyrex measuring cups (the larger ones are excellent as mixing bowls), and Bourdain be damned I love my garlic press. I too am a fan of the salad spinner, it does save on paper towel.

    Least Useful: Apple corer, much faster with a knife and a peeler.The rubber spatula is also voted off the island, silicon is the way to go.

    Most Fun: My Cocomotion and a citrus reamer is great for stress relief.

  • laura

    most useful: vintage pressed glass lemon juicer and microplane grater

    least useful: my GIANT Le Cruset dutch oven (too big unless cooking for 10+ people)

  • Wardah (SA)

    Jus wanted to say thanks for all your comments – its really making my Kitchen Tea registry a joy to list!

  • Susan

    Chiming in very late with the comment that useless gadgets (I inherited quite a few from my mom, the gadget queen) are great for distracting culinarily-challenged guests who insist on helping in the kitchen. Especially gadgets without sharp edges.

  • Emily

    I use a Sharpie every day in the kitchen for labelling and dating soups, sauces, leftovers and baby bottles.

    Most useful- Wusthof chef’s knife
    Least used- potato ricer

  • RosieHawthorne

    Most useful –
    1) My chef’s knife
    2) My pastry scraper blades, which I use for much more than pastry.
    3) My tiny, thin metal spatulas for getting cookies off my baking sheets.
    4) My offset knife, for icing and whatever.
    5) My mini-whisks – for mini-jobs.
    6) My knife sharpener. V-sharp Warthog.
    See the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xUZGBiR7Zs
    Just wish they could have gotten someone less hirsute to demonstrate.
    7) My numerous, multiple-sized wooden chopping boards.
    8) Good quality baking pans.

    Crap:
    1) Salad shooters. I was all angsty during the Christmas season when this item was the rage in advertising.
    2) Stainless steel garlic odor remover. Just why? I have soap. I have lemon juice. I actually have stainless steel.
    3) Wine bottle thingies that vacuum the air out. Who the hell has leftover wine?
    4) Ditto on the egg separators. I have hands.
    5) Hamburger pattie-ers. I still have hands.
    6) I’m sure I can think of something else.