The most overrated kitchen gadgets of all time: Take a bow

Garlic crusher: Essential tool or useless gadget?
Garlic crusher: Essential tool or useless gadget? Photo: Shutterstock

There comes a moment in any home cook's food journey, when you cast your eye across the kitchen bench and take stock of the great inventory of gadgets arranged like icons.

Is this really helping me to grow, you might ask? Have I become a slave to the very technology that was meant to free me? How does a combination oven and an $800 mixer support my food truck dream?

There is no denying it. In our quest to turn our meals into Instagram brags and perfect examples of plating up, we have filled our cupboards and countertop space with a landfill equivalent of gadgetry.

"All this gadgetry is supposed to make our life easier, but it often just complicates it," says head chef at the Victoria Hotel in Footscray, James Cornwall.

"These gadgets are de-skilling people in the techniques of home cooking."

The tech that matters

Foodie and food business consultant Megna Murali agrees that less is more when it comes to kitchen gadgets.

"We have so many gadgets on the market nowadays and every brand is promising to be the only gadget you will ever need," says Murali, who also used to run a spice business.

At home, Murali still uses a mortar and pestle rather than a food processor to create her pastes, especially if she is not making it in commercial quantities.


"It's quite enjoyable to use the mortar and pestle, too, as you can smell the spices and the smell is one of the ways you can tell when it's ready," she says.

"I come from an Indian background so that has been taught to me."

Murali lists two must-haves - a good mixer and a slow cooker - but everything else is negotiable.

"They both free up your hands and allow you to do other things in the kitchen," she says.

"There are some gadgets that seem convenient, but are actually a pain because you need to clean them and they don't actually save that much time."

Murali puts garlic crushers and salad spinners on the top of that list.

"A lot of people prefer to cut up garlic anyway because they're quite tactile people," she says.

"They enjoy the process of preparing food with their hands."

The chef blowback

Another objector to the garlic crusher is head chef at Fitzroy restaurant Hell of the North, Simon Martensz.

"You see TV chefs using them on cooking shows and half the garlic remains in the actual garlic presser," he says.

"The garlic crusher stands out to me as one of the most unnecessary gadgets."

And Martensz knows unnecessary gadgets. His venue's kitchen has all the necessary gadgets to ensure diners are fed quickly - ice-cream makers, a Thermomix, the combi oven - but his personal kitchen is a much more spare affair.

"I have two gadgets at home: a toaster and a kettle," Martensz.

"If I have a day off and I am cooking, I want to take my time and cook over a few hours."

In fact, there are only a handful of kitchen implements Martensz is steadfastly loyal towards.

"I have had my boning knife for about 12 years and I won't use anything else," he says.

"It has a good weight and is the perfect size for use on poultry. I also tuck a couple of slotted and standard spoons into my apron for tasting food, but that is about it."

Martensz's boning knife is so loved that it's worn down to a sliver of steel. The problem is it was given to him as a gift and he has no idea where to get another.

"I don't know what I'm going to do when my knife is completely unusable," he says. 

The dying art of tasting?

Like Martensz, Cornwall prefers the simple tools of the trade, like a really great crockpot.

"My main problem with those all-in-one cooking gadgets is that you just put all the ingredients in and it cooks it for you," Cornwall says.

"There is a reason you make sauces in layers, there is a reason you add the onion and the garlic and the thyme in a pasta sauce at a certain point.

"You can't get that same depth of flavour in something like a Thermomix because tasting food as you go is the most important part of cooking."

It's not that Cornwall hasn't been exposed to gadgets either. He was given a $400 juicer as a present but was unimpressed by what came out the other end.

"I think I would have gotten more out of one of those old-fashioned plastic manual lemon juicers that cost about $1."

Microplane graters, Cornwall says, are a lot cheaper than most kitchen tech, but extremely handy.

"It allows you to finely grate truffle and not use as much - you can finish dishes off with a touch of lemon zest or some freshly grated parmesan," Cornwall says.

"I also can't go past a basic serrated tomato knife. It looks like something you will take camping, but it stays sharp."

The moral of the story? Cheap and simple wins the race.

"I think no matter what industry you're in, there will always be expensive tech and gadgetry that will promise to do the job for you," Cornwall says.

"But if the professionals working in the industry aren't using it at home then, well, you have to ask yourself why."