Not so long ago a vegetable steamer was considered the height of sophistication and a gadget only the most skilled of cooks would consider owning.
Yet today, as a nation we spend £1.45 billion on kitchen implements and fill our homes with the latest Lakeland catalogue must-haves such as toastie bags and microwavable chicken buckets. No wonder stores are now full of more mindboggling gadgets than ever before.
But what do half of them even do? We challenged mother-of-three Sarah Chalmers, 46, and her husband, Jem, 47, a children’s author, to identify some of the wackier new kitchen inventions – and can you spot what they’re for?
This 3in-long, orange-coloured silicone fish is the YolkFish egg seperator from Peleg Design
A LITTLE BIT FISHY
IT LOOKS LIKE…A 3in-long, orange-coloured silicone fish (main picture).
SARAH SAYS: Playing with this I notice it has some suction and wonder if it could remove pips from fruit. Then I realise it’s one of those vents you put in a pie to let some air out.
JEM SAYS: This looks like most of the bath toys our children had when they were younger. It’s either a novelty ice cube maker or some sort of dispenser. Do you squeeze something out through the fish’s mouth?
IT IS IN FACT…An egg separator – the YolkFish from Peleg Design, available from several online stores for £7-£10. Crack an egg into a bowl, squeeze the fish gently, then put its ‘lips’ on the egg yolk. When you slacken your grip, the yolk is sucked up inside the fish and can be dropped into a different bowl.
SARAH’S VERDICT: Yuk. I understand the suction principle, but just reading the instructions to ‘squeeze the fish then gently bring its lips to the yolk’ makes me feel queasy. Doesn’t an upturned egg cup perform the same task, without the fish connotations?
This green plastic leaf, about 4in long with different-sized holes is a kale and greens stripper
IT LOOKS LIKE…A green plastic leaf, about 4in long with different-sized holes. The inside of the holes are sharp.
SARAH SAYS: Is it a tiny noodle measurer for baby food? It’s similar to a wooden spatula we have with different-sized holes to measure spaghetti.
JEM SAYS: The edges are very sharp. I think it’s for slicing cheese.
IT IS IN FACT…A looseleaf kale and greens stripper from U.S. manufacturer Chef’n, available at Lakeland stores or Amazon for £7.25. You push the stalk of kale or greens through the hole closest in size, pull, and watch as the vegetable leaves fall off, leaving the chewy stalk behind.
SARAH’S VERDICT: I love it. As an impatient cook I can never be bothered to strip the leaves from herbs like tarragon, but I hate stalks in my food! A must-have.
GRAB A PRIZE
This grasp-and-drop arcade games style tool is a teabag squeezer from Avensis International
IT LOOKS LIKE…A mini black plastic hand-held whisk. The top is a plunger, so when you press down on it, the whisk opens up and a lever comes down to press on whatever is held in the arms.
SARAH SAYS: This reminds me of those grasp-and-drop arcade games that children love because they think they’re going to win a cuddly toy . . . and parents loathe because they never do. I think it’s used to squeeze the juice from a slice of lemon or lime and you can release the plunger to drop it into your drink. Just thinking about it makes me crave a refreshing gin and tonic.
JEM SAYS: So obvious. If it’s not a carbuncle remover it must be an ice-cube-picker-upper.
IT IS IN FACT…A Teatool teabag squeezer from Avensis International (£9.99 from Tesco and other stores), to grab, dunk, squeeze and bin your teabag. You place the teabag inside, put it in a cup and pour over boiling water. Let it steep to your desired strength, lift it up and press the plunger down to squeeze the last tea in the bag into your mug. Then open the arms to throw it away.
SARAH’S VERDICT: We both love tea and our kitchen is splattered with those tell-tale brown splodges from dripping teabags. I can’t imagine how we’ve survived this long without one.
This bright red plastic wheel with 16 mini triangular cut-outs around the rim is a croissant maker
IT LOOKS LIKE...A bright red plastic wheel with 16 mini triangular cut-outs around the rim. Virtually flat on one side, the under-side has 16 plastic spokes which divide it into 16 triangles.
SARAH SAYS: This reminds me of something I hang the laundry smalls on, but I guess it’s a pizza plate for the microwave. Maybe the holes are to catch the grease?
JEM SAYS: This is folded in half when I pick it up and I think it might be a fan. It can get hot in the kitchen! Or maybe it’s for decorating cakes. Do you place the disc on top of the sponge and squeeze icing through the holes?
IT IS IN FACT…A croissant maker costing £6.49, reduced from £20.49, from Lakeland. You place the disc (which is a cutter), spoke side down on top of rolled-out pastry dough. Place the filling in the holes, remove the cutter to reveal 16 triangles of dough which you then roll up from the wide end and bake in the oven.
SARAH’S VERDICT: I laughed at Jem’s cake-icing idea, but he wasn’t far off. Our kids would love this and if the pastry is easy to make, we might give it a whirl.
This silver pear with an extremely sharp cutter at the top is actually a fruit peeler by Alessi
IT LOOKS LIKE…A silver pear with an extremely sharp cutter at the top.
SARAH SAYS: Is it some kind of paperweight? For holding down the page of your cookbook, by hooking over the top?
JEM SAYS: The end is sharp. Is it for picking bones out of a fish?
IT IS IN FACT…A fruit peeler by Alessi, available from John Lewis and House of Fraser for £15.50. The sharp end digs into fruit skin so you can peel it in pretty patterns.
SARAH’S VERDICT: It looks beautiful, but a bit pricey for something you can do by hand for free.
LET US SPRAY
This looks like a green plastic wine bottle stopper but is actually a citrus spray from Lekue, available at Ocado
IT LOOKS LIKE…A green plastic wine bottle stopper. At one end is a spray nozzle, the other end is a cylinder with a sharp spiral down the shaft and a pointed tip.
SARAH SAYS: Do you squeeze the pointed end into half a lemon or lime, then press the nozzle to spray out the juice?
JEM SAYS: I’ve heard of these, that windy, spiral thing – it’s a spiralizer. Sarah is always banging on about this, it’s something to do with vegetables.
IT IS IN FACT…A citrus spray from Lekue, available at Ocado, Selfridges and other stores for around £13. You slice the end off a lemon or lime, twist the pointy end into the fruit and squeeze the nozzle giving you instant fresh juice.
SARAH’s VERDICT: I got it right! I love the idea of fresh juice to spray on salads or for marinades, instead of those cloudy bottles of shop-bought juice, fermenting in the fridge. Looks like it could be fiddly to clean, though, and might leave a lot of wasted lemon.
This circular mould with a hole in the centre is a corn kerneler, for removing kernels from a corn-on-the-cob
IT LOOKS LIKE…A 3-D plastic circular mould with a hole in the centre, the shape and size of a doughnut, and a spout on the edge. Inside it splits in two – one half is a hollow shell, the other contains four serrated metal blades and a sharp-edged inner circle like an opened tin-can.
SARAH SAYS: This must be a doughnut or bagel-maker. I think you squeeze the dough in through the spout then let it rise, before taking it out and baking.
JEM SAYS: The four blades would neatly quarter your bagel. It’s how our youngest son likes to eat a bagel, but I never imagined there would be a lot of a market for it.
IT IS IN FACT...A corn kerneler, for removing kernels from a corn-on-the-cob, by Amco, available from Amazon for around £3. You place the ‘doughnut’ hole over the top of a raw cob and push down. The serrated blades inside strip the corn and collect it inside..
SARAH’s VERDICT: I love corn on the cob but if I want sweetcorn I’ll buy a tin and not risk lacerating my fingers on the deadly blades.
These herb scissors looks like kitchen scissors, but with five pairs all stuck on top of each other
IT LOOKS LIKE…Typical kitchen scissors, but with five pairs all stuck on top of each other instead of one. With a tiny plastic comb-like attachment.
SARAH SAYS: The comb-like device looks like a pastry brush so I think this must be a fancy pastry cutter – perhaps to make ribbons or for splicing through dough to create a Paul Hollywood Bake Off-style plaited loaf?
JEM SAYS: The green colour makes me think of lettuce. Is it for cutting up salad?
IT IS IN FACT…Herb scissors (£7.98 from Lakeland) – the comb is for cleaning in between the blades. The five blades make it quicker to cut through bunches of herbs without bruising the leaves.
SARAH’S VERDICT: Jem was so close. I’m tempted but I know they’d be blunt within a week, as our kids wouldn’t be able to resist trying to cut paper with them.