One of the greatest joys of air travel used to be getting the SkyMall catalog and skimming through the pages to see the editors’ thoughts on useless and excessive home gadgets. Start a search today to find unique kitchen gadgets.
While SkyMall was legendary, they’re not alone in trying to market inventive gadgets to Americans that are so specialized, finicky, and unhelpful that they border on ridiculous. Kitchenware manufacturers have created a glut of failed gadgets.
Although it seems like an April Fool’s joke, the Microwave Bank was actually a real thing — in 1988, it astounded consumers, who were in awe of a microwave that could cook food all while accessing the Internet. Manufacturer NCR announced their magnificent machine at the European Technology Roundtable Exhibition, and promised that the Microwave Bank would soon have an iris and fingerprint scanner for added security. Needless to say, this product never made it to market.
Sometimes you’re at a fancy dinner party and are astounded by the number of forks required for a single meal — however, we’re not here to knock specialized forks. Things like dessert forks and fish forks are best used in combination for a single meal, so you don’t have to use a dirty fork to eat your next course. However, single-use utensils like the pickle fork or pickle pincher (we’re not giggling, you’re giggling!) are completely superfluous for a normal kitchen. If you’re afraid to use a regular fork—or Heaven forbid, your fingers—to get a pickle out of the jar, you probably don’t really want to eat that pickle.
If your sole occupation is slicing onions, we can totally understand purchasing gadgets designed to mitigate onion tears. However, if you’re a casual home cook, a pair of onion goggles is probably a gadget that you just don’t need — in the time that it took to find them and put them on, you could have probably just finished slicing your onion and gotten it over with. This gadget is just a mediocre version of swimming goggles.
Tomato Slicing Knife
There are some culinary minds out there who insist that even the most advanced restaurant chef can get by with four knives — a chef’s knife, paring knife, serrated knife, and a boning knife. A tomato knife, which is just a serrated paring knife, was designed to easily cut through the delicate skin of a tomato, but is pretty much only useful for tomatoes. If you’re that concerned about the skin of your tomatoes, use your serrated knife, or an extremely sharp paring knife.
Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popper
The biggest falsehood that the microwave popcorn industry has told the American people is that it’s easier to make popcorn in the microwave than on the stovetop. This is completely false. The Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popper is a device that tries to encourage American home chefs to use their stove for popcorn but goes about it in the wrong way. You don’t need a dedicated device that costs $25 and comes with a useless oversize crank. All you need to make amazing popcorn is a pot with a lid, some kernels, and a bit of oil. To agitate the kernels and make sure they don’t burn, just shake the pot. No specialized device required.
A great pair of kitchen shears can do a lot — they can chop delicate salad greens and herbs, and help you separate meat from the bones of a variety of animals. No matter how much companies like OXO and the Pampered Chef may try and convince you, there’s no need to buy special Salad Scissors to use on your salad leaves. A knife or a pair of scissors can do this job just as well, so there’s no need to shell out $15 for another pair that can only cut one thing.
Chef’n GarlicZoom Garlic Chopper
Another gadget that falls under the category of ‘too little, too late’ is the Chef’n GarlicZoom Garlic Chopper — a little device that chops garlic for you after you insert the clove into the hopper, and roll it around. Unfortunately, Chef’n must not have realized that the garlic press is a device that’s almost ubiquitous, and has been for decades—and, it does the job much better than this delicate-looking plastic gadget.
Creative Kitchenware Egg Yolk Separator
It’s pretty bold for a kitchenware manufacturer to ‘invent’ a device that takes on a task that could otherwise be done with your hands. The Creative Kitchenware Egg Yolk Separator looks like a wide, squat turkey baster, and is designed so you can crack an egg into a bowl, then slurp up the yolk with the tool. However, you can save yourself the $4.84 plus shipping and just follow a quick tutorial on how to separate eggs. That way, you can use your fingers or the cracked egg shells to separate your eggs without shelling out any extra cash.
Chef’n Peel’n Onion Peeler
Another terrible device from kitchenware company Chef’n is their horribly named Chef’n Peel’n Onion Peeler, which you’re supposed to use to take the slippery skin off of onions, without the added trouble of getting your hands smelly. The device, which looks like a diamond-shaped paddle, is confusing to use, and it’s easy to imagine that you’ll still need a knife to separate the skin from the onion at the very end.
Ateco Portion Cake Maker
It’s easy to see why using a bulky plastic cake slicer may make equal slices, but it’s unlikely that they’ll be as neat as you were hoping for. Ateco, a popular bakeware manufacturer, advertises their Portion Cake Maker as an easy way to ensure equal slices, but it only works on one very specific size of cake. If you’re really that desperate for slices that are both neat and perfectly equal, one easy kitchen hack is using a long piece of unflavored floss to quickly slice up your cake. The floss can slice through even the toughest of cakes and squishiest of fillings.
Chef’n Bananza Banana Slicer
Another gadget that comes to us from the creative people at Chef’n is their Bananza Banana Slicer. While we do appreciate a good name pun, a banana slicer is completely useless device- not only does it do the work that literally any knife can do, it also looks pretty difficult to clean. If all you care about in life is uniform banana slices, you can pay $9.99 for this gadget, but then you’ll have watch a video on their website to teach you how to use it.
Chef’n Strawberry Slicester Hand-Held Slicer
Chef’n touts this gadget as ‘safer and easier to use than a knife’— sure, this may be true if you’re five-years-old and no one has ever taught you anything about knife skills. The infuriatingly-named Strawberry Slicester Hand-Held Slicer is made so that you can put a strawberry into the holder, and press down on the lever to slice it into perfect, even slices. It’s dishwasher safe, and it’ll only cost you $14.99—and your dignity, whenever you bring it out in front of other people.
This Egg-and-Muffin Toaster is exactly the kind of device that made the late, great SkyMall so fantastic — an expensive, single-use device that’s clunky, awkward, and does its job worse than most average kitchen equipment. It looks just like a regular toaster, except the slots are extra-wide to accommodate bagels and English muffins, and there’s a bonus egg cooker/meat warmer on the side that allows you to poach, boil, or fry eggs to sit on top of your newly toasted bun.
Bear Paws Shredder Claws
We get it — you had to get your dad something for Father’s Day. However, these cutesy Bear Paws Shredder Claws will probably only get used once or twice a year — and for the rest of the time, they’ll sit in your cutlery drawer taking up space. Plus, you can easily use a fork to shred pulled meat. If it’s too tough to do with a fork, it probably isn’t cooked enough anyway.