Was it QVC that started the unipurpose utensil craze? Shark Tank? (Sorry, Shark Tank.) Maybe cooking tool excess can be blamed on the globalized ‘90s, when Walmarts were popping up faster than overseas manufacturers could fill them with cheap plastic everything.
And by everything, we mean everything. Watermelon slicers. Avocado slicers. Egg slicers. Bagel slicers. If knives could talk, they’d surely wonder if we homo sapiens are regressing in the motor skills department, evolutionarily speaking. Not that we know if knives happen to have an interest in matters of anthropology; we should probably also consult the wheel and fire to find out.
In seriousness, we kind of feel sorry for the average American kitchen cabinet, to say nothing of the drawers. What happened to the very serviceable world when a few excellent pots and pans and a sufficient set of knives did the job? When simplified and simply-the-best went hand in hand? Did we ever even ask our kitchens how they feel about their contributions to the great Pacific garbage patch? (Hey, Marie Kondo talks to the homes she declutters, why can’t we?)
Herewith, OA’s complete list of all the excessive, unnecessary, and just plain wasteful things nobody needs in their kitchen.
Yep. That’s right. We just came right out and said it.
Blasphemy! Off with their digital heads!
Look, we get it. The Instapot has gone from craze to cooking essential in the last year, and whether you’re busy managing both work and family, or you’ve simply been stewing through Covid (get it?)...we get it. As passionate home cooks, though, we can’t help but yearn for the days of a good Dutch oven and the old family crockpot. Probably a losing battle. And yet. We won’t go down with this pot.
We Also Have Things to Say About Slicers
We are So. Over. Slicers. The slicer list up yonder is but a sliver of the world of silly gadgets that claim to cut better than, um, a knife. On behalf of the late great allium slayer, Julia Child, and (obviously) our knives, onion choppers make us cry.
Slicers, dicers, and choppers aren't just overrated – they also clutter up your kitchen drawers, and make a mess. And let’s be honest: you’re lucky if you even remember to look for those tools, much less use them.
One Pan Wonders
There’s no such thing as one pan that should do it all (note: we didn’t say “can”). Every kitchen at least needs one workhorse cast iron piece, a Dutch oven, a stock pot, a sauté pan, and an all-purpose nontoxic, clean nonstick pan. But that's it – most of us don’t need dozens of different sized pots and pans forming towering Pisa-like stacks in the cupboards. We’ve found that a few hardworking pieces suit even the most adventurous cooks.
A Garlic Press
OA founder and trained cook Laura Klein will be the first to share that most professional kitchens don't have a garlic press.
In the category of things you didn’t know you needed to know: Depending on how you cut, chop or smash garlic, the flavor will change. Pressed garlic makes the allium taste sharp and astringent, and it can overpower a dish easily. And pressed garlic isn't just more astringent; the press is annoying to clean.
It’s just not an item you need. Trust.
If you smash garlic with the back of your favorite chef’s knife, remove the skin and chop, you now have a mellower, and in our opinion, more delicious garlic.
A Paper Towel Holder
How did this become so ubiquitous? Paper towels can go under the sink. Plus, they already come with their own holder: the recyclable, cardboard, eco-friendly kind known as the insert that paper towel roll came in on.
And let’s be honest, should we really be using single use towels multiple times a day? Probably not. It may be better to just get rid of paper towels altogether. Yes, that takes courage... but hold onto your hat! We're not done yet.
The Pop Up Toaster
...Hear us out. The toaster oven toasts bread, and it bakes and broils to boot. The pop up toaster just...well, toasts.
Still with us? No? Bueller?
Don't worry – we’re going to move back into less controversial territory now. (Maybe we’re just not over the childhood trauma of Pop Tarts.)
An Egg Timer
Hooray for smartphone timers! Also worth trying: Clocks. ‘Nuff said.
A Giant Knife Block or Three
One of our staffers has an acquaintance who really does have three knife blocks chockablock with, well, knives. Ask most professionals, and they’ll tell you that all you really need is one great chef’s knife that fits your hand, as well as a paring knife and a bread knife. It’s great to have a fuller set if you like (especially worth investing in: steak knives that will last a lifetime). But don’t feel like you need too many specialized knives to succeed at any recipe you want to try.
The Yolk Separator
Nothing the eggshell itself can’t handle, or even your hand. Yes, your hand. How? Crack open the egg, open the palm of one hand keeping your fingers closed, and simply pour the egg through your fingers. Watch the white of the egg slide through your fingers, and you are left with the yolk in your hand.
Specialized Grill Devices
Panini presses, clamshell pans for pancakes, and other single-purpose cooking implements take a heavy toll on the environment and crowd your kitchen. For most pressing purposes, a regular hand press will do – or if you want to keep it really simple, get yourself a plain old brick.
Bricks are used by many a lauded restaurant for delicious sandwiches, brick chicken, and more. How many people do you know who pull out a brick to take a sando to the next level?
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