Elaborate Vegetable Chopping Mechanisms
It’s rumored that one of these mechanisms was used to chop the carrots for the Last Supper. If only that’s where it ended…
The Sell: With many strange inserts and attachments, these products offer a consistent cut, time and time again, for any vegetable your recipe might require.
Why it’s Unnecessary: In all the time spent changing inserts and attachments for each individual cut, you could simply take your knife and cut the vegetables as desired.
Solution: Sure, it might take a little practice to get the various cuts down, but if you care about your cooking a few minutes spent working on knife skills—instead of shopping for elaborate choppers—is all it would take to set you on the path to righteousness. Tip: A good chef’s knife will be something like 8 to 12 inches long, have some weight to it, and be easy to sharpen. High carbon is preferable, and the tang should be the full length of the handle.
Exception: If one is physically incapable of safely using a knife.
Light-bottom (CHEAP) Pots & Pans
Okay, so this one’s more of a “shouldn’t buy” than a “don’t need” but it’s certainly a staple in millions of kitchens so we’re going to include it. Buying these products is a very common mistake, and it’s easily understandable. After all, who wants to spend more money if they don’t have to? Unfortunately, if it seems too good to be true…
The Sell: They’re cheap, and they look just like those more expensive ones down the aisle. They must be the same thing.
Why it’s Unnecessary: It’s not the same thing. The main problem with light-bottom pans is uneven heat. This makes temperature control nearly impossible and leads to scorched sauces, half-burnt proteins, and—more often than not—a hell of a tough clean up job.
Solution: As is often the case with kitchen tools, weight is a sign of quality. According to Anthony Bourdain, a good rule of thumb is to consider which would dent first—the pan or someone’s skull. If the answer is the pan, keep shopping.
Exception: Can be used to effectively boil water.
Your mother, grandmother, great grandmother, etc., had a pair of these things dating back to the early Jurassic period. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Maybe not.
The Sell: Use them or burn.
Why it’s Unnecessary: There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the oven mitt, it’s just something that has come to be seen as a kitchen essential when it’s essentially unnecessary.
Solution: A thick, neatly folded stack of kitchen towels. There’s nothing you can take out of the oven with a mitt that you can’t take out with a dry folded towel. And keeping a stack nearby also comes with the obvious bonus of quick cleanup in case of a spill or spatter, leaving you with less of a mess to contend with after dinner.
Exception: To be hung up by the stove for seasonal decoration.
Salt & Pepper Shakers
Alright, so before you think we're totally nuts, hear me out.
The Sell: Atavistic integrity. Translation – Anyone over the age of 80 who sat down in a restaurant to find no salt or pepper within arms reach would immediately phone the authorities and/or threaten the lives of the wait staff.
Why it’s Unnecessary: Any salt (usually iodized) or pepper small enough to fit through the tiny holes of a shaker has no place anywhere near your food. This type of salt is almost impossible to use with any accuracy of flavor, and pepper that was ground to microscopic pieces some unknown length of time ago, has long since lost its original taste and aroma.
Solution: A ready supply of kosher or sea salt, and a whole-corn pepper grinder.
Exception: If Grandpa refuses to listen to reason, and you suspect he may be concealing a firearm.
There are many useless utensils in the kitchen but perhaps none so widely revered—and in some circles worshipped—as the pizza cutter.
The Sell: This is what you use to cut pizza. Don’t ask questions.
Why it’s Unnecessary: So many reasons.
Solution: Virtually anything in your kitchen that has an edge will slice up a pizza just as easily and efficiently as a pizza cutter—particularly that quality chef’s knife I encouraged you to buy.
Exception: If you happen to be an aspiring pastry chef, a rolling blade like this is often used in the precision trimming of delicate pastry dough.