12 April, 2011

Stupid Small Appliances

Right next door to the Island of Misfit Toys is the Island of Misfit Appliances.  It's filled with all of those stupid single-use appliances that seem so cool and so must-haveable at first glance, but which eventually get pushed aside to clutter cabinets and countertops before finally being abandoned to rummage sales and landfills.  Join me on a tour of local thrift shops as we find and mock some of these ridiculous items...

...Like this toaster oven, for example.  It's not really a toaster oven. It's a hot dog cooker.  Using the rollers at the top, up to four hot dogs can be cooked while warming up four hot dog rolls underneath.

Although I'm sure that there will be wiener-eaters out there rushing to it's defense, this is ultimately one of the dumbest of the  single-use appliances I've seen.  It takes up over 1½ square feet of counter space for the sole purpose of cooking four hot dogs - something you can easily do with a small skillet or, if you prefer steamed dogs, with the steamer basket you've probably already got in your cupboard. And it goes without saying that if you've got a family, there's no way this thing is going to be big enough to make dogs for all.

On the other hand, maybe the wiener oven isn't quite the dumbest appliance after all, when compared to this one.  The Pancake Factory is a clamshell waffle-iron type of device with only one function: to make a matching pair of pancakes. Yes, I'm sure you'd much rather have a Pancake Factory than a skillet and a spatula.

Here is one of the most derided small appliances ever made: The Presto Salad Shooter.  I bought one of these at a tag sale for a dollar a few years ago, thinking it might make it easier to slice vast amounts of cucumbers for making pickles, but it didn't really save any time or effort.  Many of the items you might want to slice or grate with the Salad Shooter aren't the right size to fit effortlessly through the feed chute, and some sliceable stuff shouldn't be run through it at all (it makes a mess of bananas, tomatoes and onions for example.) Additionally, stuff tends to get cockeyed in the feed tube, making the slices unevenly oblong as they hit the rotating slicer drums.  After farting around with it for several sessions (I was trying to give it an honest trial) I pitched the damn thing into a donation box and went back to slicing veggies by hand.  Seriously, if you have a cutting board and a knife there's no reason to own a Salad Shooter.  (If you do decide that you need one, be patient and haunt rummage and tag sales in your area.  I see them all the time for five bucks or less there, and they usually aren't more than $10 at thrift stores like Saver's, Goodwill, or Salvation Army.  Still not too bad considering that they run $35 and up new.

Electric skillets are wonderfully versatile in the kitchen. They're great for pot roasts and other long-simmering dishes when you don't want to tie up a burner on the stove.  And because they can hold a constant, steady temperature they can be used for deep frying too. When I was a kid, my mom always packed the electric skillet and brought it along on vacation, because she could use it in the motel room to make pancakes or eggs for breakfast.

And then there's the Toastmaster Brunch Pan, a 9-inch electric saute pan big enough to cook a single omelet or grilled cheese sandwich.  I see them occasionally at thrift store, but apparently, most people realized that they had an actual cooktop and 9-inch skillet in their kitchen already, because the Brunch Pan is no longer being made.

Photo by Amazon
I have a confession to make.  I own a Presto Tater Twister.  It's only good for one thing: spiral cutting potatoes into either ribbon fries, curly fries, or thin potato straws.  Most of the time it sits quietly in the kitchen closet, but every now and then we bring it out and make a batch of curly fries.

So, tell me - do you have a ridiculous single use appliance lurking in your cupboards? 


Michelle_Randy said...

When we first got married and I started getting into cooking, I thought it'd be cool to have all sorts of these things. I tend towards the baking gadgets more since I like to bake. After about 10 years, I did a whirlwind clean of the kitchen after we moved to a house with a MUCH smaller kitchen. Got rid of all the junk I hadn't used in at least a year.

What do I REALLY need? As in gadgets I'd actually replace if they broke? My bread machine. I use that thing all the freaking time - getting a cookbook for it really made a difference. I have The Bread Lovers' Bread Machine Cookbook and it's awesome.

Other than that, maybe the ice cream maker. We actually do use that. I'm fussy about ice cream and there's nothing like homemade.

Christina said...

I have two donut makers and a pizzelle iron...I do drag them out once ina great while, but it's usually just easier to make muffins.

I chuckle at those two pancake makers or the sandwich makers...with a large family such as mine, we'd be making stuff all morning..as it is, I have to use two waffle makers at a time when I do waffles...

C. said...

I was at Macy's and saw a donut maker (same concept as the pancake maker, I thought "Oh that's neat", until I saw right next to it it's a cupcake maker and a brownie maker, they all look identical except with different inner heating plates. So they are telling you that you need three separate waffle-maker sized appliances each baking one kind of dessert.

Leeanne said...

I've blogged about the Belgian waffle maker and the deep fryer that make sporadic appearances at our house. There's an espresso machine in the closet somewhere, too. Our bread maker gets regular use, mostly to mix dough. I would totally use one of those Tater Twisters.

Dave said...

I can't rant too hard about single-use appliances for which there are no good alternatives. The Tater Twister, for example; you can get a commercial spiral potato cutter if you want, but it will cost you $175+ and the only thing it will ever do is spiral cut potatoes. Or you can get an affordable Tater Twister.

Same thing with waffle irons. they're single use, but nothing else in the kitchen will make waffles.

The ones that I find stupid are the ones that perform work that can as easily be done by the things a reasonably-well-equipped kitchen will already have on hand. If you already have a basic set of baking tins, you don't need a Brownie Maker, or a Donut Maker, or a Pie Maker, or most any of those dumbass culinary gonkulators that Presto is so famous for.

Ice cream makers, waffle irons, bread machines, and pizzelle irons etc. - I gotta make an exception for stuff like that.

Michelle said...

The Tato Twister must be a cousin of the "Rotato" device that has been sitting on my aunt's back porch for many years.

Anonymous said...

I lkove my salad shooter for carrits and cheese.. but the other stuff, are you serious? A maker that makes 2 pancakes? I would be cooking for hours to feed my family!! LOL!!!

TomW said...

I used to rarely boil eggs in part because I couldn't seem to remember the simple guidelines of how to cook them without the yolks turning green.

One year I received a standalone egg cooker, and I will never part with it - It makes perfect boiled eggs every time without me agitating over the burner or timer.

Any time I need boiled eggs, I count on the Krups Egg Express to do the job for me.