Good afternoon, friends and neighbors!
Staying home for an extended period has gotten a pretty wide assortment of interests out of people. Some folks are getting VERY into home exercise, home improvement projects, shaving their heads, or falling down conspiracy theory rabbit holes that Junji Ito would pass on as too twisted.
Most beautiful of all of them, I think, is “I’ve got all this time at home now, I’m gonna learn to cook and bake better!”
Obviously, I’ve got some great entries on this blog to help out the beginning baker and cook. You can click through the categories on the right, or here’s a list of some of my faves:
- Want to make some pie? Start here, a closer look here then look at some recipes here!
- Wanna bake bread? Here’s some helpful info about flour, yeast, and the baking process!
- Trying to cook healthy at home, but wanna shop (quickly) and on the cheap? Here’s my interview with personal trainer Ken McCullough, and my tips on shopping smart!
- Want to get healthier, exercise at home, and eat right? Consider buying my book!
While you guys are taking advantage of your home kitchens, I do need to warn you about your itchy online shopping fingers. There’s plenty of crap out there aimed at “solving” non-existent problems and taking your money to do so. Here’s my Top 5 Pointless Kitchen Tools:
1. The “Prep Deck”
My sister sent me the link to this thing and asked if it was worth it. It is NOT.
Here’s the concept: a single box, roughly the size of a bread box, that folds out to expose a cutting board, little drawers and shelves for mise, a bin for scraps, and it comes in patterns and colors. Cost: about $70. It is VERY cute… but it’s only worth it as long as you don’t intend to cook seriously. Or a lot. Or at ALL.
The cutting board doesn’t detach from the box to be moved around more easily (how do you want to dump chopped veg into a pot?) and the little drawers for prep are ridiculous. Too small, too easily broken, too easily lost, NOT easily replaceable.
What to get instead? Go down to your supermarket and get a set of small Pyrex bowls (they come in packs of three, in two different sizes, and are microwave safe for melting butter or chocolate) Then go to Dollar General and get yourself an okay cutting board/ mat. Finally, get a small compost can for your scraps if you don’t already have a trash can or you don’t want to save them for stock.
All of this will add up to maybe half of the cost of that stupid deck. No, it won’t look cute on your counter- because you’ll put it all away and it won’t take up space on your counter.
2. Bread Machines
Back when I worked at the cafe, someone left one of these by our back door. No one on staff owned up to it, so I don’t know if it was just abandoned there, left by a local wacko who thought “a bakery could use a bread machine,” or if there’s some secret yeasty mafia we pissed off and this was a warning. Beware the Floured Hand…
Either way, I don’t really see the point in these. What you gain in convenience (Dump in mixed ingredients, set program, come back for your bread,) you lose in freedom. You can only make whatever size loaf the machine allows, in whatever shape the machine allows, and it really just kinda robs you of the fun of baking bread.
What to do instead? Get a couple mixing bowls, some spray and plastic wrap, and stop being afraid of your oven. Don’t have an oven? A toaster oven will work too- trust me. And after you’re done baking, you can make toast.
3. Electric Knife Sharpeners
Emily and I got one of these as a wedding gift. I came up in the Boy Scouts and was proud of the fact that I sharpened my own knives, but I’ll admit the idea of having an electric sharpener sounded cool.
If there’s a hell, and I’m somehow condemned to it, and they have a soundtrack, the sound of this thing will haunt me forever. It’s like a bandsaw mated with a dying cat, and the child of their hideous union dealt with the frustration by joining a screamo band.
The crappy edge it put on my carving knife was NOT worth it.
What to do instead? Buy some sharpening stones, watch some YouTube videos, and learn how to sharpen your own knives. Failing that, take them to a sharpening service regularly.
4. Color-coded Portion Control Containers
If my rantings on this blog or in my book didn’t make it clear, I DESPISE DIETS. All most of them do is sell crappy food, take your money, and make you feel like crap about yourself and about enjoying food.
FOOD IS FOOD. IT IS NOT AN ENEMY, IT IS SUSTENANCE.
This is another one brought up to me by my sister. The different sized containers indicate how much of a color-coded food you can have each day. The container for “sweets” is about the size of a shot glass.
What to do instead? Buy yourself a kitchen scale, get some decent storage containers, learn what a serving size is, and eat the food you like. Eat well, move your body, and stop hating food and/or yourself for enjoying it. You’re not some lab animal on a food rationing experiment.
5. ANY Kind of Specialized Storage Device
No. I don’t need a banana saver, an avocado saver, an apple saver, a… whatever saver clogging up my kitchen drawers and fridge.
What to do instead? Look online, find out how your produce is best stored, and DO THAT. Avoid anything that says you need to buy anything more than plastic wrap, rubber bands, paper bags, or a BOWL.
Anymore weird kitchen tools that leave you scratching your head? Drop them (and your work-arounds) in the comments!