Specialty kitchen tools – which do you toss & which do you keep?

Garlic Press

Food Republic recently ran an article dealing with specialty tools, “Spring Cleaning: 5 Outdated Kitchen Tools You Should Toss Right Now.” To some degree, we found the list surprising, since of the 5 tools they mention, we consider 2 of them to be remarkably useful:

  • Egg separator: This makes sense – your fingers do the best job
  • Garlic press: Sorry, but we can’t agree here. We love our garlic press – it’s fast, does a great job, and we found one that’s actually easy to clean (the Rösle garlic press)
  • Mortar and Pestle: This also makes sense – there may be a primal satisfaction in using one of these, but it certainly never does as good a job as a grinder or food processor
  • Balloon Whisk: True – these are large, take up a lot of storage, and can’t get into the corners or crevices of pots
  • Cheap box grater: They recommend substituting a microplane box grater for the usual inexpensive one – it may be better but they cost $35 (at Amazon) –  that’s a lot of money since our cheap box grater works just fine 

Having thought this through, it does seem that these lists are quite personal. There are many kitchen tools that everyone probably agrees on – food processors are almost uniformly useful. But for avid cooks, specialty kitchen tools can provide a lot of satisfaction or a lot of frustration –  one cook’s mango slicer (we love ours) may be someone else’s avocado cutter (useless). 

We’d be curious – what quirky or specialty kitchen tools can you not live without – and which ones did you happily discard?

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  • veronicafrance  on  April 23, 2013

    Completely agree on an egg separator — what a useless gadget. But I would toss out my food processor before my balloon whisks — I use the whisks a lot more, especially the tiny one. To be fair, if I want to whisk egg whites or cream, I use my 25-year old electric handheld whisk. For blending and fine chopping, I use a stick blender. The food processor is just a nuisance — too big to keep on the worktop, and time-consuming to assemble, clean, and put away. I only use it for industrial quantities, e.g. slicing potatoes for 10.

    I've chucked out the garlic press — I use the flat of a chef's knife if I need crushed garlic. I use a mortar and pestle quite frequently for grinding spices and making vinaigrette.

    And I vote for splashing out on the microplane box grater — it's superb. So much better than a standard grater that it's not in the same league.

  • veronicafrance  on  April 23, 2013

    PS why do all my paragraph breaks get thrown away when I post comments and notes on EYB?

  • Annia  on  April 23, 2013

    Sorry, but I'm going to respectfully disagree about the mortar and pestle. You can't make decent Mediterranean food without one. Most Americans don't understand that texture is a crucial factor in how food tastes, which is why we settle for such godawful hummus, pesto, aïoli and gazpacho. When we travel, we're astounded at how much better things taste; there are lots of reasons for that, but one of the main ones is that Mediterranean cooks never threw their mortars and pestles away.

  • Jane  on  April 23, 2013

    That list is definitely personal to the writer. I agree on an egg separator, never used or owned one. But garlic press, balloon whisks (I own 3) and pestle and mortar (I own 2) get used all the time. I will have to do this kitchen clean-out myself as I'm shortly downsizing and my criteria will be – have I used this in the last year? But then, I may not have used my fish kettle in a while but it's so important when I do need it. I just got an Oxo mango slicer at IACP and am finding it surprisingly useful – I thought it would be one of those pointless tools.

  • Queezle_Sister  on  April 23, 2013

    I would toss the steak turner for the grill given to us my my in-laws (single use and so inappropriate for a vegetarian), but my DH would kill me.

  • FJT  on  April 23, 2013

    I couldn't live without: Rösle garlic press, microplane grater, silicon spatulas, mandolin, spice grinder, pasta machine and Global knives.
    I really don't own anything I don't use and love … never even knew you could buy an egg separator; what a waste of money!!

  • ellabee  on  April 23, 2013

    Having no food processor, nor any desire for one, I'd never part with the m&p. A mortar and pestle can easily do a crucial task: produce a smooth paste of garlic and salt (or red pepper and salt, or xxx and salt — the basis for tzatziki, or guacamole, or harissa, or many others. Recently made a cup of curry powder from pan-toasted whole spices without resorting to the coffee/spice grinder. There was a bit of sifting and re-grinding in the mortar, but only a half-teaspoon of ungrindable bits remained at the end — just as it would have if I'd used the electric grinder.

  • sir_ken_g  on  April 23, 2013

    Don't have a m/p and don't want one. But use a Suribachi – which is basically a m/p with a corrugated bottom – all the time. The Japanese use it to make sesame seed paste _ I use it to grind whole spices – much better than a grinder for small amounts.

  • sisterspat  on  April 23, 2013

    I bought this little garlic mincer thing that you roll back and forth on the counter. It has wheels and minces the garlic into a very fine mince. Works very well and is fun to use. I purchased at a local kitchen shop for $10.00. Have used it for the past couple years and it is still going strong. I also love my avocado slicer, same shop for about $7.00. Scoops out and slices at the same time.

  • geoff@kupesoftware.com  on  April 27, 2013

    Linsday, I'm also going to disagree on the food processor; I gave mine away a year ago and haven't missed it. An FP is really a bit of a spork; it's an inadequate combination substitute for several other kitchen tools which each do their jobs better (such as the M&P or the box grater).

    I also have received a few specialty wisks as gifts and regifted them. I like the balloon wisk.

    What would I get rid of? Well, the FP. Also a food mill; never found a use for one. I've never used my ice cream maker because I can't find room in the fridge, and the only reason I keep the mezzaluna is because it's an antique.

  • Hellyloves2cook  on  April 28, 2013

    Egg separator- never had and never want!
    Hand Whisks always good to have. Balloon and a few small ones.
    Pestle and Mortars I have 3 and I love the rustic quality of pastes made in these. They are used in Far Eastern cuisines so I use mine when cooking food from that part of the world. It's much quicker in a FP I agree. I only use my FP if time is not on my side.
    Garlic press- hmm. Never use mine really, always use my chefs knife using flat side of blade to make a paste. Having said that I don't want to part with my press.
    Graters- I love the microplanes and have about 5 of them- all different sizes and coarseness. I still use my box grater for apples, carrots and certain cheeses; I find these tend not to do as well using microplanes.
    I have a drawer with just a few useless gadgets- I don't even know what they are meant to do anymore – they obviously proved to be of no useful purpose.Time to get rid.

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