Save your dollars for the items that are really worth the dough—zesters, we’re looking at you.

Kimberly Holland
April 17, 2019
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A trip to Sur la Table, Williams Sonoma, or Bed Bath and Beyond can be, in a word, overwhelming. The rows upon rows of gadgets leave a cook to wonder if their food is doomed because they don’t have a garlic press (is a knife OK?) or if their baked goods will tank because they don’t have an angled silicone spatula (surely a straight spatula will work?)

The truth is, kitchen gadget makers earn a good living creating things that, although quite handy, just aren’t entirely necessary.

Yes, a cherry tomato slicer is clever. But you know what also works? A paring knife. And, absolutely, a microwave potato chip tray might really make incredibly crisp chips. But you could also just arrange them in layers on parchment paper.

I won’t try to talk you out of a Microplane; you can’t zest with just anything. I also won’t be telling you to step away from the bench scraper; a large chef’s knife isn’t adequate.

A large chef’s knife won’t work for everyone, either, so by all means keep the tools that allow for accessibility. But if you have gadget fatigue or worry that you’re missing out on some amazing tool that will make your cooking life incredibly easy, there are other tools you can use just as easily in most cases. 

Watch: We Test Out the OXO Corn Stripper

Garlic peeler

We’ve all dropped a few colorful one-liners as we stood impatiently in the kitchen trying to pry the feathery garlic skin off clove after clove. It’s no wonder then that garlic peelers—the kind you roll and the kind you shake—have flooded the gadget market. But there’s another trick that can get those skins off quickly: gently press each clove with the flat side of a large chef’s knife. As the garlic breaks, the skins release, and they’re easy to peel. You can also trim the root end of the garlic off, and peel from there.

Panini press

Unless you’ve developed a fondness for eating warmed, pressed sandwiches several times a week, you can get the same crispy crust by cooking sandwiches on a hot grill pan or in a hot skillet. Get the signature panini compression by putting a weighty pan, such as a cast-iron skillet, on top of the sandwich while it cooks.

Also, please tell me you don’t still have that quesadilla maker your grandmother ordered from a television commercial for you. Gammy meant well, we know, but that single-use appliance is taking up precious kitchen real estate. A large skillet is the perfect quesadilla cooker. Thanks anyway, Gams.

Apple slicer

I hear you—an apple slicer makes perfectly shaped wedges as quickly as you can say, “Who wants a snack?” But this single-use tool can and should be replaced by a knife. (If you’re physically unable to use a knife, then by all means keep the slicer.) The same goes for other one-food tools: mango pitter, avocado knife, grape slicer. Your knife and you can do all of those things. You’re a dream team.

Egg separator

Unless you’re baking multiple cakes a week—and some of you are, of course—an egg separator isn’t necessary. Sure, it’s small and takes up little space, but you can use your (clean) hands to easily divide whites from yolks.

Also, some of these separators are just plain weird. 

Pizza scissors

The pizza wheel is impossibly easy—a few swipes across the fresh-from-the-oven pie, and you’re ready to eat. So why make slicing a pizza even harder with the invention of special pizza scissors? Who knows. Besides, anything thicker than a thin and crispy crust and your hands may be covered in hot cheese and tomato sauce. No thank you!

Grape cutter

It’s easy to understand why a grape cutter—that is a device that holds a few grapes in a cylindrical chamber and slices them with a retractable knife—would be appealing to parents. You can’t feed your toddlers whole grapes (they’re a choking hazard), and a grape cutter makes quick work of slicing them in half. But so does a knife.

Here’s another trick. You can cut several grapes at once by placing the sweet orbs between two stiff cutting boards (or a plate) and slicing through the fruits with a long chef’s knife.

Avocado slicer

Here again, a knife is the best tool for the job. An avocado slicer, a one-task tool, just won’t save you much effort in the grand scheme of things. (Also, sometimes they’re entirely too big for small fruits.) If you’re letting younger cooks help you with dinner, you can give them a less-than-sharp butter knife. If the avocado is ripe and soft, it’ll slice right through.

Banana slicer

And while we’re on the topic of slicing food yourself, go ahead and get rid of that banana slicer. Maybe you bought it as a joke. Maybe you got it thinking your toddler might slice their snack themselves. Whatever the reason, now is the time to go ahead and put that in the donation bin.

Asparagus peeler

You only need one peeler to peel them all—potatoes, asparagus, carrots, and more. The blade of an asparagus peeler is no different than the blade of other peelers. Asparagus peelers usually have a built-in knife or blade to help you trim woody ends off each spear. But, as you’ve probably guessed by now, a knife will do that task just as easily.

Asparagus steamer

Speaking of the green stalks, you don’t need a specialty pot and steamer basket to cook asparagus. The average asparagus eater can get the plant shoots plenty tender with a normal steam basket or by sauteing, roasting, or grilling.

Meat claws

They sound quite awesome, but unless you’re smoking, shredding, and serving dozens of pounds of meat on the weekends or spinning a whole hog on the spit after work once a week (and hey, maybe you are!), you can tear apart beef, chicken, and pork with two normal-sized forks.

Electric egg cooker

This suggestion may ruffle some (chicken) feathers, but hard-boiling eggs is among the easiest cooking tasks. You do not need a specialty cooker for this. If you like a more hands-off approach, you can even cook eggs in the oven.

Burger press

The desire to have uniform beef, chicken, or turkey patties for your backyard barbecue is admirable, but a special gadget isn’t necessary. You can use your hands to shape each patty—they’re free after all. To keep the patties from shrinking and shape-shifting when they’re being cooked, make an indention with your thumb in the center of each patty.

Veggie chopper

They may invite you to take out some aggression—Slap! Chop!—but veggie choppers aren’t much of a time saver. They’re certainly not any easier than using a mini chop or food processor. Put large pieces of whatever vegetables you need to break down into the bowl. Pulse a few times, and the work of a knife is done in just seconds.