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Confessions of a gadget junkie

Fiona Beckett Fiona Beckett | 11:14 UK time, Monday, 10 September 2012

The other day I was given a bean slicer by a kind friend who couldn’t believe I still sliced my runner beans by hand. I bought some and eagerly set to work only to find that most of the beans were too big to fit into it. Which left me with a gadget that will slice thin beans which don’t really need slicing anyway.

It’s not the only gadget I’ve got that doesn’t earn its keep. There’s an egg separator, a hard-boiled egg slicer and a musical egg-timer you pop in the boiling water which plays 'Killing me softly' when the eggs are soft-boiled. My husband inexplicably loves that.

Slow cooker beef

Gadget proof? Would your slow cooker come out of the cupboard for this beef brisket ?

I have a gravy de-greaser and a cherry and olive stoner that I use once a year, if that. A lemon zester (what’s wrong with the small holes on the grater?) and a gadget for stamping out ravioli that I bought on an Italian trip when I went mad in a local hardware store. And this I haven’t ever used - along with a gnocchi roller.

At least they don’t take up much room. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you about the larger gadgets that clutter my cupboards and unit tops.

The breadmaker I haven’t used for five years. The juicer I used every day until I got fed up with carrot juice - and with cleaning the filter. The ice cream maker whose bowl I always forget to freeze so I end up using a plastic box. Two, yes, two pressure cookers neither of which I use but which thrifty friends tell me will slash my fuel bills if I can overcome my terror of them.

The slow cooker which does, yes, do a very good poached chicken but to be honest I prefer them roasted. And even my flashy and very beautiful mixer rarely gets a workout. I’m more likely to use the rather battered food processor I bought for a song at Woolies. Or my 15 year old hand-held electric beaters.

Maybe I’m in a minority because some companies seem to base whole businesses on selling gadgets to the gadget-obsessed. Avocado slicers, pasta timers, egg toppers (for taking the tops of your eggs, believe it or not), hot and cold mousse/sauce dispensers and giant cupcake pans (er, isn’t that called a cake tin?)  Obviously I haven’t even scratched the surface of kitchen gadgetry.

Sometimes I think I should get rid of the lot and start again, seeing how long it took me to really, really miss a machine or a gadget and how difficult it was to do the task without it.

So what about you? Which kitchen gadgets do you find indispensable and which could you live without?


  • Comment number 1.

    I'm with your husband. The Killing Me Softly egg timer sounds fabulous!

    I do use some gadgets more than others.

    The slow cooker does poach a whole chicken wonderfully, yes. But in our house, it's most common use is after every roast chicken dinner, once I've stripped the leftover meat off the carcass, the remains of bones, tendons and skin go in with water overnight, for a simple stock that we use regularly for risottos and soups.

    I was the same as you with my freeze-first ice cream machine, but was lucky enough to be given one of the all-in-one units that take up loads of space but are ready to go within 5 minutes of being plugged in. It's huge and heavy but is used much more regularly than it's cheaper, more inconvenient cousin.

    The bread machine and juicer were given away a long time ago. But a food processor, jug blender and stand mixer are used regularly.

    I zest citrus with regular graters or a small sharp knife. I confess to never having stoned a cherry in my life. Vegetables tend to get chopped using a knife and chopping board, or maybe the food processor if there's a big volume of onions to chop or similar.

    We tend to shy away from much of the smaller gadgets, though still manage to acquire them over time. We had a recent sort though, and another load went off to the local charity shop!

  • Comment number 2.

    Can't agree on the lemon zester - I love mine! I have to admit to quite a few rarely used gadgets but one I use nearly every day is a little tool for removing the cores from tomatoes. It also good for hulling strawberries.

  • Comment number 3.

    I love my garlic press, and my electric lemon juice squeezer is great if you have lots to do. Bread maker and slow cooker are great but I should try and use them more often. Recently bought a low fat grill thing - loving that.

  • Comment number 4.

    The first thing I can't live without is my juicer. Actually my husband has cancer. He is going through Gerson cancer therapy. Gerson Therapy is a natural treatment that activates the body's extraordinary ability to heal itself through an organic, vegetarian diet. In this therapy large amount of green juices are consumed.So I can't live without my super angel juicer.

    My microwave is another appliance that I don't think I would like to live without.

    Another is my coffee maker. I have to have my cup of coffee in the morning. I even turn it on most morning before I do anything else.

    The fourth and final appliance I can't seem to get by without is my food processor. A lot of people only use their food processors on occasion but I use my for a lot of things.

    I can live without toaster.I love toast But the oven does the job just fine. I don't need an electric can opener. I don't use my Bread Maker. I bought it but Now I prefer to purchase from the local bakery.
    Shama for Best Juicer

  • Comment number 5.

    My most used gadget is my bread maker, every other day. Least used is the sandwich toaster, actually it's my third sandwich toaster. I buy them, use them once, and then they sit in the cupboard until I give them away. A year or two later it somehow seems like a good idea to buy a sandwich toaster, use it once ..... etc.

    Not used daily but a definite 'must have' is my Zyliss garlic press which doesn't require the cloves to be peeled first.

    I'm not sure whether they classify as gadgets but I've always got a wooden pointed skewer on the work top to test whether vegetables, meat, cakes etc are cooked. I couldn't cook without them. Similarly I love my thermometer with probe. Perfect rare roast beef every time and getting jam to setting point without all the trial and error of chilled saucers etc.

  • Comment number 6.

    Gadgets need to make a difference to me and if they can be replaced by "common sense" items (like a knife or my hands) then I won't buy them.
    Nevertheless, I spent 30 Euro on a lemon zester and I've not regretted it even though I winced when I saw the price.

    I hardly ever use my garlic press and I confess I have yet to use my melon baller, my cheese knife, my apple scorer and then I have some other metal thingy that looks like you can cut a perfect slice out of an apple? Not sure why you can't just use a knife? I have had these items for over 20 years and they have travelled around the world with me. I don't know why I still have them, they are constantly in my way.

    I can totally live without the ice cream maker. I think I might have used it twice?

    I have a slow cooker but since I bought my Dutch oven I hardly ever use it.

    I cannot live without my pressure cooker and I use my gravy/fat separator at least once a week.

    And lastly, I have a kitchen machine that whisks, chops, juices, blends and who knows what else it does. I only use it for baking. I've not figured out yet what all the different attachments do and how to attach them onto the machine.

  • Comment number 7.

    I'm on my second breadmaker having worn the first one out after 7 years. My son uses the new toastie maker regularly after years without one. We seldom use the pressure cooker and are starting to use the slow cooker more often (after 20+ years of very infrequent use). Gadgets, they need to be really useful to turn my head.

  • Comment number 8.

    I love gadgets too but some just don't make sense to me. There are some things I don't even consider to be gadgets anymore i.e blender. All sorts of choppers are great but would rather spend the equivalent on a good knife. After years and years of disappointing can openers, an electric can opener is something every kitchen deserves - it's just not the same. Something I can't quite grasp the concept of is the teasmade and probably will never. The reason I probably haven't ended up with several gadgets that is unusable is simply because I'm a greater moneysaver and gadgets just don't come cheap.

  • Comment number 9.

    Hi to all fellow Gadgetarians! For me I tend to find that my gadgets help to stimulate some ideas and get me back into the kitchen. Many gadgets have been purchased in order to help my wife also. I think this is just sometimes an excuse to buy the product. My wife who has purchased very small amounts of gadgets, always seems to use them regularly and then replaces them when the dishwasher seems to deteriorate the handles or plastic structures and causes the rubbery/silicone structures to become sticky and slimy. We have particularly found the the hand held graters, diamond knife sharpeners and now ceramic knives of a benefit.

    I remember, my first Ice-cream maker actually struggled and cracked on the lid on the very first use due to the blade not being able to push through the hard iced cream! Never used it since, but I have recently purchased another for a bargain price of £18.00!

    As I write this, my son reminds me of our 'Hot Dog' machine to toast the baguette and slowly rotate the frankfurters. He said it is useless and a faff. He says, "what is wrong with frying the sausages in a pan and toasting the bread?, It was a waste of money, like a lot of gadgets YOU buy!" .....suddenly I remembered, it was him who really persuaded me to buy this product!.......I did not challenge him on this. He is 16 and strong minded.

  • Comment number 10.

    These posts reminded me of a tortilla press I once bought on holiday, I had it for years and never used it even once, I eventually gave it away when I moved house, I too have a lemon zester I used a couple times but mostly I just use the grater.

    I got rid of the micrcrowave, it takes up loads of space. I only ever used it to make porridge, now I do that in a pan.

    My pasta machine I love, have had for years and use it every week.

    I make cakes for a living, so use my mixer all the time, although its dough hook only occasionally. My food processer also gets lots of use for blending and grating parmesan.

    Guess the gadgets you use depends on the kind of cook you are.

  • Comment number 11.

    Great article.

    I think the usage of gadgets depends on who does the washing up! Those that do their own washing up don't use many gadgets as they are simply awful to clean.

    There is not much worse than a garlic crush - so much easier to use a sharp knife!
    A lemon zester is far easier to clean than many graters.
    A bread maker is actually very easy to keep clean.
    I no longer have a microwave as I only ever used it as a bread bin!
    I have a rice cooker I will be giving away as I have never used it as, having read the instructions, I know how to cook rice on the hob to perfection every time - you simply need to turn the gas off after it has boiled for about 2 minutes!

    AND - the best non stick pan has to be my a properly conditioned iron wok - a quick rinse and its back on the hob ready to use in a few seconds.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think the least thing we use is the bread maker, at first my parents used it to try and make bread but it is very tricky, it never ever turns out the way you want it even when you put in the right ingredients and it still ends up turning out too thick, and i agree with Gino, the greater has 4 sides to it, one for zesting so why would you need a lemon zester? lol i am currently studying catering here in Bolton and we zest lemons with the greater and it does a good enough job already if not faster, all you need is like 1 or 2 quick rubs on the greater on each side and you got a pile of zest especially with those full silver ones, really sharp. I really love the song killing me softy too haha what a great song it is and i can't imagine how many times of the week it gets stuck in Gino's head haha, i just had to put it on when i read this article and now i keep singing it, why did i do it? lol.

  • Comment number 13.

    And i didn't know this wasn't Gino who said it :\ sorry lol he is rather good looking isn't he? lol i just clicked this on his page and haven't had my coffee yet, hypnotized by Gino hehe.

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    All you really need is:

    Five pans, one about pressure cooker size, one saucepan size and one in between. A wok and a frying pan.

    A cleaver.

    A bread knife.

    A grater.

    A sieve.

    A wooden spoon.

    A fish slice.

    One roasting tray and one baking tray.

    Scales and a measuring jug.

    Anything else is just frippery.

  • Comment number 16.

    I have an apple peeler and corer which is a Victorian design that works very well and is used a lot at this time of the year as I have an apple tree. I have all the other gadgets mentioned but never use any of them.

  • Comment number 17.

    Where can i buy torta dolcelatte? James Martin mentioned it this mornings Saturday Kitchen best bites. I used to be able to get it at Sainsburys. The cheese is fantastic.

  • Comment number 18.

    Not sure if this makes me smug or boring, but I'm still using my breadmaking machine 3 or 4 years on! Although I have to confess I always thought it would last 3 months aand then gather dust. Might have something to do with the excellent flour we can get locally


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