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If you’re buying me a gift this year, don’t get me an Instant Pot. I’m serious.
I don’t subscribe to the “you can never be too thin or too rich” school of thought, but the “you can never have too much kitchen cabinet space” is dead right in my book. My kitchen space is something I guard vigilantly — every new gadget and doodad requires careful consideration and frequently a jettisoning of something worn or outdated. An Instant Pot would mean I’d have to give my slow cooker or rice cooker the heave-ho, and I’m just not ready to part with either.
The prospective gadgets that get the most scrutiny from me are the single-use items, those tools so specialized they perform just one super-necessary task. I get dozens of press releases for these every year, descriptions that cause such painful eye-rolling that I might have to file a workman’s comp claim.
I’ve relished the way Alton Brown has laid waste to such gadgets as the meat-shredding claws on Amazon, for when Wolverine has folks over for pulled pork. Because, really? You can’t use two forks just as effectively? And now you have these two baseball-mitt-sized metal claws you’ve got to store. Fuggetaboutit.
The 2017 winner for most ludicrous single-task kitchen gadget goes to, drumroll, the slotdog. It’s a bladed tool that makes diamond-shaped cuts in hot dogs before you throw them on the grill. “These cuts create caramelized, crispy edges when they hit the grill. And those nooks are the perfect place for mustard, ketchup, and other condiments to seep down into,” the product description reads. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been inconsolable because my ketchup isn’t sticking effectively to the surface of my hotdog. No wait, that’s what the bun is for. So now you own a big red plastic hotdog-shaped thingie with razor-sharp cutting blades on one side. Throw it in a loose utensil drawer and wait for the shrieking to start.
Behind by a nose is the ButterOnce Corn Butter Knife, the news release for which plaintively whined: “Gliding butter on the corn cob at the Fourth of July cookout can turn into a failed science experiment.” Yep, sometimes on Independence Day I just stand weeping as butter cubes evade my knife along the surface of an ear of corn. In fact, Google reveals dozens of tools for that pesky corn butter. Here’s an idea: Soften your darn butter and no one’s dreams have to die.
Since childhood, I’ve had a morbid fear of the green bean stringer, a tool that looks like something out of Brothers Grimm in which a badly-behaved kid’s finger might be shredded to teach a brutal life lesson. First off, are green beans so fat and unwieldy that we need to make them into skinny strings? Even in a green bean casserole, why the strings? Fancy continental restaurants used to call these “French-cut green beans,” but I’ve been to France and never seen wanton bean shredding.
Another new one this year that made me shake my head was the Taylor Dry Rub Shaker. For a mere $7.99, you can fill a clear plastic container with the dry rub of your choice, which can then be sprinkled and rubbed with a perforated and sea-urchiny red rubber bottle top. The silicone nubs are supposed to help tenderize your protein and the whole setup is supposed to minimize your hands’ contact with raw food. Here’s the deal, though. Your hands are the very best tool for rubbing in a dry rub, and you can wash them. Then you don’t have a two-part meat-juice-covered tool to dishwash.
One final humdinger. It’s not a kitchen tool, per se, but it was a new product debuted at this year’s Fancy Food Show. It’s called New Pop, the world’s first skinless popcorn. Popped under high pressure with no heat, it has no oil, salt, butter or — pregnant pause — skins. Because, you know, the horror of corn skins is bad enough, but it’s magnified when you’re sitting unsuspecting in a darkened theater.
Contact Laura Reiley at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley.