Ridiculous kitchen tools and saner alternatives

Stop the insanity!

click to enlarge SHARP: Who needs knife skills when you can hack your food to bits with the Slap Chop? - vxla via Flickr Creative Commons
vxla via Flickr Creative Commons
SHARP: Who needs knife skills when you can hack your food to bits with the Slap Chop?

Single-use kitchen tools, or “unitaskers,” are one of my biggest pet peeves as a cook and culinary instructor. Why waste money on multiple gadgets that only do one thing when you really only need a few (including your own pair of hands) to do a multitude of tasks?

I expected to find a good amount of stupid kitchen tools when doing research for this piece, but even I was surprised at the volume of crap that’s out there. And you know what perplexes me the most? That people buy these things!

Without further ado, I give you my top picks for the most inane, least useful kitchen gizmos and simpler, more sane alternatives to them:

Asparagus peeler ($3-15; various retailers): Since when are you supposed to peel asparagus?! Saner alternative: A standard vegetable peeler (duh). Or just don’t peel your asparagus.

Avocado Slicer and the Avocado Cuber (both $15 each; williams-sonoma.com): The slicer looks like a stiff metal lacrosse net and the cuber resembles a mini Hannibal Lecter mask, and at around 10 bucks a pop, these are both ridiculous and a waste of your hard-earned dollars. Saner alternative: A paring knife. Cut the avocado in half lengthwise and slice the avocado flesh inside the skin, then scoop out the flesh with a spoon.

Banana peeler ($5; design-3000.de) and the Banana slicer (hutzlerco.com): If you buy either of these products it means only one thing — you are one lazy S.O.B. This particular version of the banana slicer is shaped like a banana, but it has me wondering: What if the banana you’re trying to slice isn’t shaped that way? Did the designers ever take that into consideration? Saner alternative: Your hands and — you guessed it — a knife!

Happy Hot Dog Man ($10; frankformers.com): As ridiculous as the now-discontinued OctoDog tool, this one is a hot dog mold/cutter that, “turns your favorite hot dog into a ‘Happy Hot Dog Man’ that comes to life before your eyes” — before you eat him. Saner alternative: This is America — whatever happened to just putting it in a bun and slathering it in condiments?

The Herb Wand ($15; williams-sonoma.com): A Williams-Sonoma exclusive item, no less, where the user shoves a bunch of herbs into the end of a plastic stick to use them as a basting brush. Because God forbid you get caught using your hands in place of this tool at your next garden soirée. Saner alternative: Your hands or a basting brush.

Mango pitter ($8-21; various retailers): I’ll let Cracked.com take this one: “$13 for a piece of plastic with two bits of steel that removes the pit from a fruit you peel and cut up anyway? Sounds like a bargain, but do not try using the hole for anything else — if you know what we mean.” Saner alternative: A knife … or your teeth.

The Slap Chop/Vegetable Chopper ($13-45; williams-sonoma.com, etc.): Screw learning any knife skills and just hack the shit out of your food with this easy-to-use tool. Its dome-shaped base contains blades that chop food within the dome when the handle is pressed down. This one really saddens me, as I’ve even seen TV “chefs” using it. Saner alternative: Do I really need to answer this one?

Pizza scissors ($15-22): It’s a pair of scissors attached to a pizza slice-shaped spatula. If your pizza is so tough to cut that you need to use kitchen shears, then you might want to start ordering it from another pizza joint. Saner alternative: Here’s a novel idea — a kitchen knife!

The bottom line: You don’t need to be a trained chef to use basic kitchen tools to do an array of things while cooking. If all else fails and you’re not sure how to perform a certain food prep task, there’s most likely a YouTube video out there that can show you the way. And you won't have to pay for shipping and handling.