Confessions of a Kitchen Gadget Obsessive
You want thingamabobs? I've got twenty!
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“We need to address the situation in the gadget closet.”
My wife is a master of casual understatement.
It’s Saturday afternoon, and we’re struggling to get the house in order. The looming end of summer and beginning of a new school year for our children finds us looking to reintroduce some structure and order to our household. After three months of relative mayhem, that’s a bit of a tall task: reorganizing our closets, cleaning out the fridge, putting away all of the beach and garden gear, and—it brings me no pleasure to report this—finally taking a good, hard look at the gadget closet.
Well, “gadget closet” is a bit of a misnomer. It’s actually our front coat closet, but over the five years we’ve lived in this house, it’s slowly but surely taken on a second life, one that’s begun to squeeze out the coats, both figuratively and physically.
It’s become the repository for my kitchen gadgets.
Some people are avowed collectors. They collect sneakers or baseball cards or vinyl records or Funko Pops, amassing huge collections that, in some extreme cases, can come to dominate their lives and their living spaces.
I’m not one of those people, I’d scoff. I’m not a collector.
One peek into the erstwhile coat closet would prove me wrong, though.
Indeed, I must reluctantly confess: I am a kitchen gadget collector.
I love cooking.
That part shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering that I run a popular subscription newsletter that regularly publishes original recipes. I find cooking to be a calming and satisfying creative outlet, a pastime far away from my workday responsibilities, one that gives me ample space to experiment, innovate, iterate, and—from time to time—even fuck up in the kitchen.
I love trying new things, and I’m a sucker for gadgets in general. So, it’s only natural that I’d start accumulating gadgets to help me do more in the kitchen.
It’s just gotten a little out of hand, is all.
Here, take a look.
Right up front in the closet, there’s the big ones, the ones you’re bound to find in lots of normal people’s kitchens these days: the air-fryer, the pressure cooker, the slow-cooker. Regular, everyday conveniences. Nothing strange so far.
Just behind those, we start to get into the slightly-more-esoteric-but-still-quite-common ones, like the sous-vide circulator or the fancy Japanese-made rice cooker. (It makes perfect rice every time, and it also sings a cute little song when it finishes. Nothing like the egg cooker next to it, which emits a disproportionately loud and terrifying shriek to signal its delivery of a half-dozen hard-boiled eggs.)
Slide those aside, and we’ll find the meat grinder and the ice cream maker, both of which get used a couple times a year. (Usually not at the same time.)
(Although, hmm. Note to self?)
Two waffle makers? Listen, I can explain: there are two different kinds of waffles. There’s Belgian, and, uh, y’know… not Belgian. Actually, there’s probably more than that, so you should really be applauding me for my restraint in only having two. No, the aebelskiver pan doesn’t count against my waffle-maker total. That’s an entirely different kind of batter-based breakfast construction, and you know it.
The bamboo steamer, sure, I definitely still use that.
What’s that? When’s the last time I used it? Well, it was probably when I made those soup dumplings a few years ago. No, they didn’t turn out great, but I’m not sure what you’re getting at by pointing that out. What if I want to try again someday, in a long-overdue bid for redemption? I’ll obviously need the bamboo steamer.
You want me to have redemption, don’t you?
(Don’t answer that.)
I can’t really make a great argument for why I got the kitchen blowtorch. I don’t even like crème brûlée. It is exhilaratingly terrifying to use, though, even though I’m usually just using it as a lazy, excessive way to start a fire in my charcoal grill.
(I have three grills, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about today.)
Gosh, what else is in here? I really haven’t dug all the way to the back in a while. Oh, yeah, the gnocchi board. Forgot about that. Oof, the pasta roller. I remember that.
Hmm, that’s a lot of springform pans, but, well, you never know when you’re going to need to make five cheesecakes of varying sizes all at once. I’m clearly ready for any cheesecake emergency you can throw at me, and if there’s one thing the Boy Scouts taught me, it’s to always be prepared.
(I was only in the Boy Scouts for a week, but it’s pretty much the first thing they teach you. I wonder if they teach you how to make cheesecake the second week? No way for me to know. If they don’t, they should, though.)
Oh, there’s the spiralizer. I bought that back when zucchini noodles first started becoming a thing. I was an early-adopter of zoodle-making technology—I’m sorta avant-garde like that. Half the prongs on it are broken off by now, but the second I throw that thing out, I’m going to have a craving for a worse version of spaghetti.
Better hang onto it.
At this point in our journey, I assume Marie Kondo would’ve found her joy by giving up on me and getting the heck out of my house. Alton Brown always claimed that the only uni-tasker in his kitchen was the fire extinguisher, but I’ve never really understood that. If your kitchen doesn’t have a full-size paella pan, what are you even trying to save in the fire, pal? And yeah, I remember reading an interview with Mario Batali once where he claimed he could make everything on his restaurants’ menus with little more than two pans, a knife and a hot plate, but then, Mario Batali turned out to be an abusive asshole, so, who needs his opinions anyways?
No, I’m not going to feel bad about the culinary BatCave I’ve turned our coat closet into.
Sure, some of it’s ridiculous. I may have only used the musubi press once, but it makes me smile when I stumble across it, usually when I’m looking through my bins for the immersion blender. It’s a reminder of trying something different and enjoying doing it. Everything in the gadget closet represents that kind of opportunity—the promise of making something I couldn’t make exactly the same way without it.
To the casual observer, it’s a messy, overstuffed coat closet. To me, it’s a doorway to a thousand new dishes.
[shoving aside bins] Now, where’s that blowtorch? I just had an idea.
—Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)
What are your favorite kitchen tools? Whether it’s an elaborate, esoteric device or a simple, beloved utensil, please share!
BONUS QUESTION: Can you guess what this is? Right or wrong answers accepted.