‘I know you’re not a big gadget person’, my editor emails me, ‘but perhaps that means you can sort the wheat from the chaff.’ I laugh hollowly and look guiltily at my bulging utensils drawer in my kitchen, one that is so stuffed to the gills with peculiarly-shaped kitchen bits and bobs that it frequently fails to fully open.
Each year, I promise myself that this is the year: no more nonsense gadgets, nothing that only has one use or purpose, or is gimmicky. But each year, I can’t quite resist it.
Because here’s the thing: even single-purpose gadgets can be incredibly useful if they do their job properly. My microplane isn’t much good for anything other than fine grating; my whizzy bottle opener has limited uses; and my lemon squeezer only, well, squeezes lemons. But they’re among my most-used kitchen items.
But, I confess, it’s not just that: gadgets are fun! And even those items which are brought out more infrequently have a place in my heart. Ok, I probably haven’t used the sausage dog-shaped hot dog cutter as much as I thought I would, and I distinctly remember telling my housemate that she didn’t need a giant doughnut-shaped cake mould, but even silly gadgets can be joyful, and can open up whole new worlds of kitchen experimentation and novelty. We’ve put together a list of some of the new gadgets out there to bring you ease, comfort or sheer enjoyment in your kitchen.
This is a very simple gadget. It’s literally just a piece of stainless steel shaped like a bar of soap. You rub wet hands on it after handling raw garlic or onions, and it’s supposed to remove the smell from your hands. But here’s the thing: it actually works, completely. It’s quite remarkable. Alas it’s no wizardry: stainless steel is deodorising, so technically, you could wipe a knife blade across your hands, and it would do the same job, but I wouldn’t recommend it. This is small, and a low price point, and I use it all the time.
The Alfillé butter dish promises you perfect, spreadable butter every time. If your kitchen is as cold as mine in the winter months, this will stop your butter being virtually frozen for half the year. Its temperature control means you’re in charge of how soft or hard you like your butter, without having to rely on room temperature or the fridge. Its butter tray is detachable and machine-washable, and the exterior comes in a variety of designs ranging from classic black to cowprint.
With autumn here and winter just round the corner, hot chocolate season is looming. Engineered by Dualit, it makes silky hot chocolate from real chocolate without you ever having to step near a hob or wield a whisk. And it’s surprisingly chic looking, coming in three finishes, copper, charcoal and white. If you’re missing the ski season this year, this is the machine for you – although act fast: there’s currently £15 off!
This is great if, like me, you find yourself constantly buying bunches of cut herbs and then never using them all before they go bad. With space for three different potted herbs, once you’ve added the hydro-pad, it will effectively self water, meaning that you don’t under- or over-water your herbs. It will sit on your kitchen windowsill and ensure that you have fresh herbs that last longer and taste better.
I’ll admit it, this one’s silly, but it’s also cool and fun: the spheriphicator takes liquids and liquidised foods and turns them into caviar-style orbs through a chemical reaction. It has its roots in molecular gastronomy, and if you’ve ever tried to do it yourself, you’ll know that done by hand it is fiddly, slow, and imprecise. Not so here, where the machine makes an impressive 700 pearls per minute. You might not find yourself using it every day, but when you do, it’ll allow you to feel like Ferran Adrià and wow your family and friends with your molecular gastronomic drinks and dishes without all the faff of pipetting droplets into vegetable oil.
Ok, it’s not cheap for a nutcracker, but for the person who has everything, this is a cool little gadget. The cracker works like this: you place a walnut or hazelnut into the wooden tube, and then drop the 10oz cast iron weight onto it: deeply satisfying. The Swedish company who makes these crackers have been doing so since 1906, and cast the weights in sand moulds, which can only be used once – making each one unique.
Another one for those missing the Alps: with this piece of kit from Lakeland, you’ll feel like you’re in a chalet wherever you are. The heat lamp in this piece of kit allows you to serve a traditional Swiss-style feast, melting just the top of your cheese so it can be scraped off onto little boiled potatoes, bread, meats or other vegetables. Forget fondue, this is the new cheese gadget in town.