Unitaskers we love

Each Wednesday, when we make fun of unitaskers, we usually report on the most ridiculous items we can find. Cat wigs! Large, electrical martini shakers! Monogrammed branding irons for your steaks!

We’ve found that there are so many outrageous possibilities for sale that we can avoid writing about the more common unitaskers that grace our homes. It’s safe to assume, however, that anyone with a kitchen has at least one prized unitasker in his or her collection. For example, my friend Ann swears by her egg timer, which does nothing except sit in the water while she hard boils eggs. (Ann may have had an incident once involving eggs shooting out of a pan and exploding because she fell asleep while making them. Maybe. And, if that is the case, I think her egg timer is a perfect unitasker for her and those of us who may get near her kitchen.)

In a fun tribute to less outrageous unitaskers, I thought today would be a good day to sing the praises of the unitaskers we love and make space for in our homes. Here are my additions, and I look forward to reading your unitaskers in the comments:

Fire extinguisher. I have to agree with Alton Brown on this one, and admit that my fire extinguisher serves an important, but solitary purpose in my home. If you don’t have one of these, you should get one (or more) and keep it handy.

Ice cream maker. Much to Matt’s disdain, I love my ice cream maker. I fill it with fresh cream from my farmer’s market and invent sweet creations on a weekly basis. I can’t imagine living without this unitasker.

Lever-style wine opener. It takes up an absurd amount of space in our cabinet, but I can’t get a cork out of a wine bottle any other way. I can pretend to be effective with a fully manual style, but then I have to strain cork out of the wine before I drink it. When we got this contraption for a wedding present, I did a dance of joy.

Tomato knife. I don’t own one of these, but my food-guru friend Kim is in love with hers and insists that I mention it as a cannot-live-without item. In theory, you can use it on tomatoes AND bagels, but Kim won’t support any of that multiple use talk. If you eat tomatoes all summer long, then apparently this is the unitasker to woo your heart.

Are you a fan of the cherry pitter? Are you like Ann and love your hard boiled egg timer or Kim and her tomato knife? Sing the praises of your favorite unitasker in the comments!

90 Comments for “Unitaskers we love”

  1. posted by Deb on

    I am going to add a vote to the cherry pitter since it is a messy and frustrating job withut this device.

    Also, a tomato shark makes my top 10 favorite gadget list. http://www.knifemerchant.com/p.....uctID=3143

    You can core onions with it as well. It is super cheap and very small.

    It could make tiny melon balls, if you decluttered the melon baller. Does anyone know about melon ballers anymore?

  2. posted by Julie on

    Grapefruit Spoons. I don’t own any, but my mom had some when I was a kid. I haven’t been as successful at eating grapefruit since.

  3. posted by Ksenia in Canada on

    I adore my popcorn maker! It gets pretty regular use. And even though we use the fondue pot once a year, it’s a Christmas tradition.

  4. posted by DaveW on

    Wok. Only used it once every couple of months for stir-frys, but now that I have a 6qt professional saute/braising pan, the wok performs best as a dust-gatherer. Garage sale, here I come.

    BTW, I highly recommend buying professional quality pots and pans from restaurant supply companies. They are much higher quality, and often cheaper, than the usual department store stuff, even the good stuff. Plus, they will last *forever*. I find they cook better, too. I picked up an 8″ fry pan a few years ago for $30 from a restaurant supply store after looking at retail cooking stores, where small fry pans were starting at $60. The only drawback is that pro cookware is very heavy.

  5. posted by Artgyrl on

    Also have a “Whirly Pop” popcorn maker (almost the size of a soup pot, and a non-foldable crank handle…!) that I will never give up, no matter the space it takes.

    Makes the BEST popcorn!

  6. posted by ABM on

    I LOVE my electric griddle. I use it to make breakfast occasionally – usually pancakes. it works so very well. I guess it isn’t really a unitasker as I can cook pretty much anything on it, I just use it for pancakes the most.

  7. posted by Tiffany on

    As another commenter mentioned… you can take away my life, but you can’t take away my waffle-maker.

  8. posted by Angie on

    First of all, I agree with Aeon J. Skoble that a tool for a specialized task isn’t quite the same as a unitasker. But I understand how many people would think that rice cookers and bread makers are indeed unitaskers.

    Except that like others who’ve posted, my rice cooker is in use 3 times a week or more as we eat a lot of rice. But we also make some great (rice-based) casseroles in it as well.

    The bread maker gets used 5 – 6 times a week. Of course, I make bread in it, but I also make doughs for pizza, buns and rolls, and cookies; quick breads such as banana loaf; and desserts such as fruit cobblers. It’s a one pan clean-up.

  9. posted by Rachel on

    The egg slicer, definitely. And it’s pretty tiny, so I feel no guilt, even in my wee kitchen. :D

  10. posted by sarah on

    i heart my apple corer/slicer.

    i eat ice cold granny smiths quite often and the apple slicer comes in handy for many reasons:

    1. i can throw out the waste at the beginning of eating the apple. when i’m done, there’s no odd shaped core to dispose of (or balance on the coffee table until i feel like disposing of it)….

    2. i get to eat more of the delicious apple. and waste less. and apples are expensive, these days.

    3. i can quickly make apple/peanutbutter snacks, for those occasions when just an apple won’t do.

    well, that’s mostly it. but, it’s definitely one of those tools that i thought was totally silly and frivolous until i had my very own. now i would never part with it.

  11. posted by Cynthia on

    Reading all the posts makes me want to go purchase a lot of the things, and also makes me think of what I have that I rarely use. The first thing that popped in my mind that I don’t have but have always wanted to get it an orange peeler. My mom had one while I was growing up and it came in handy, but I have never found one in stores, so thanks Tina for posting a link where I can find one. Not that I haven’t eaten an orange in the last 10 years since I’ve been out of my parents house, but every time I peel an orange I think of my mom and her orange peeler and want one.

    I also have that exact wine opener, we keep it on the wine cabinet. I also have the ice cream maker, but haven’t used it in the last few years, time to go search for recipes and make some ice cream, especially since I crave ice cream just about every day.

    I also have an electric juicer that I use to make fresh lemonade, with lemons from our tree.

    But to top my list, I’d say my blow dryer I wouldn’t be able to live without it, or my remote control for the tv (that is considered a unitasker, right??).

  12. posted by Cynthia on

    Oh I agree with the apple slicer!! I have one too and it makes cutting apples for kids so much easier. It is also great for making large fruit salads. I can cut up an entire bag of apples in no time.

  13. posted by Kongjie on

    +1 on the rice cooker. I use it 6-7 days a week every morning for steel cut oats for breakfast, then 1-2 times a week for rice for dinner.

  14. posted by Meg on

    Our cheese slicer, I know I could use a knife but it works great for nice thin slices of cheddar for sandwiches, grilled cheese etc. It takes up a bit of space, but no more than the veg. peeler, or the grater.

    Oh, and my new found love- my electric kettle. It beats stovetop hands down. It’s faster, and uses less electricity. I use it about three times a day!

  15. posted by Oliver Street on

    We got a Salad Spinner as a wedding present, and I returned it on the grounds that it’s a unitasker that takes up too much space. 4 years later, my husband was STILL bemoaning that choice and wishing aloud that we had one. I finally caved, and now we use it all the time- for fresh salads and for fresh chopped herbs. I guess some unitaskers are OK!

  16. posted by STL Mom on

    I’ve never used my ricer for anything but mashed potatoes – but it makes awesome mashed potatoes. Actually I have a set of unitaskers that get pulled out at Thanksgiving: ricer, baster, and oil separator thingy for making gravy.

  17. posted by becoming minimalist on

    my wife bought me a silicone egg ring for my birthday and i use it every morning. one egg, two pieces of toast with butter – and i’m out the door.

  18. posted by Shannon on

    I have this jar opener. I use it almost every day, and it is the most useful kitchen gadget I’ve ever acquired. Yes, I have working hands, but they are arthritic, and I can’t open jars or bottles, even ones that have been previously opened, without a lot of pain and frustration. This little thing makes all the difference in the world.


  19. posted by Alex on

    I use my rice cooker to steam vegetables, make rice, fry onions, and cook curry stew. A unitasker it is not. I do however own a can opener (although I have a swiss army knife which does a perfectly adequate job), a jar opener, a knife sharpener, and a garlic press.

  20. posted by Wesa on

    I adore my tomato shark.

  21. posted by Harris on

    I’ve decluttered big time but I had to keep my grapefruit knife. It’s the best for getting around the little grapefruit sections. If you eat grapefruit….you gotta have one!

  22. posted by Toblerone @ Simple Mom on

    I love my garlic press!

    And I want a Cuisinart ice cream maker, badly.

  23. posted by Anne on

    I never knew a rice cooker could be a multi-tasker…I have been set free and after I hit Submit Comment I am off to research recipes for my rice cooker (Which I love, because it can be done hours before dinner and waits for me).
    I have to admit to a Chai/Hot Chocolate Machine. It heats the milk and the mixture of Hot cocoa or Chai and has a frothing button, so the hot chai tea comes out just scrumtious…it comes out as soon as the heater goes on in the winter and stays til spring….
    I also have a pastry cutter…but I cut my hard boiled eggs with it too! and mash my avacados with it…it is a royal pain to clean, but I like the nifty ergo dynamic handle….

  24. posted by savia on

    I love my tea press for loose tea (can’t use it for coffee or the coffee smell/taste will ruin the tea) and also my garlic press.

  25. posted by Monica Ricci on

    Coincidentally, I also have a blog post scheduled to release at the end of August that I wrote about a unitasker that makes sense to own. How weird. Great minds apparently DO think alike.

    So, I thought I’d share it here too. Melon baller. I know, I know. But it does one job well, dangit, and I like that job, so I own it. I will say though, that I prefer my old school waiter’s wine key to any of the big contraptions. But 20 years in the restaurant business will do that to ya!


  26. posted by Morfydd on

    Rice cooker – I have one that fits in my steamer, but I’ve never learned how to use it because I make perfectly fine rice in a pot. I use the steamer all the time, though.

    Pet bowls – When I had to take the cats on a plane for my last move, the carriers were required to have little hook-on food & water dishes. I took those off the cage when I got here and keep using them as cat food & water dishes. (Though I did just buy a little tray to put them on, to catch the random kibble scatter. *That’s* a unitasker.))

  27. posted by Tim on

    I switched from one of those gigantic lever wine openers to a waiters’ tool about a year ago and I’ll never look back. It takes a very marginal level of effort to open a bottle, and I’ve never broken a cork or the bottle rim itself. In fact, it even comes with a knife to cut the wrapping and a bottle opener! Not to mention my cabinet is much happier…


    As for unitaskers, I refuse to get rid of my coveted espresso machine and burr mill grinder.

  28. posted by caffienejunkie on

    There is no way my coffee maker can be considered a unitasker! It makes coffee (a.k.a. the nectar of life) and keeps me from killing the people around me – especially the morning-inclined types. Also, my wine glasses don’t get used for anything other than wine, but I’m not getting rid of them anytime soon either.

  29. posted by RazzBari on

    Definitely my microwave spatter cover (not exactly like this, but similar)- mine has a hole in it so it hangs on a hook right next to the microwave and it’s used all the time.

    And when my family visits, they drink a *lot* of hot tea and make heavy use of my tea bag squeezer.

  30. posted by Clare on

    OMG, Beth, thank you for posting that peanut butter mixer! I definitely need that! I eat lots of peanut butter but I hate mixing it up because it makes a mess and is hard to do. This looks like the perfect solution.

    Another unitasker I have that hasn’t been mentioned is a bagel holder. It’s a piece of wood with sticks that hold your bagel in place so you can slice it in half easily. It’s great. Much easier than trying to hold the bagel up and slice it at the same time.

  31. posted by Melanie A. on

    My Sonicare electronic toothbrush. Nothing’s proved better against receding gums.

  32. posted by C. Raybourn on

    My Yogourmet yogurt maker. I eat yogurt every day and love to cook with it as well. I can make two quarts at a time for a fraction of the cost of store bought. I recently lost my bread machine to a husband-with-good-intentions accident, so I have a Zojirushi on the way. BTW, I’ve got you all beat on the fire extinguishers- garage, kitchen, family room, and master bedroom. Our neighborhood was built in the early ’80s and we still don’t have fire hydrants.

  33. posted by Catherine on

    Our breadmaker. And with healthful bread currently over $4 a loaf at the supermarket, I contend that its one use is becoming EXTREMELY important.

  34. posted by Kat on

    My favourite unitaskers: jar opener, apple corer, coffee maker (I’ve had to get a French press instead, after decimating two Bialettis by forgetting to put water in the base!), cordless kettle, and the ice cream scoop.

  35. posted by Sandy on


    I love to make a dinner of lentils, rice, and chopped onion in my rice cooker! Definitely not a unitasker

  36. posted by arynetrek on

    Brita pitchers are NOT unitaskers! Take the filter unit out, you can use it as a pitcher for iced tea, etc. Just make sure you use clean water :)

    Favorite unitaskers –
    – Garlic press & tea ball/tea strainer. Daily use items in my kitchen.
    – Wine stopper. Because I can never get the corks back in properly…
    – Exercise ball. Don’t know if this counst as a unitasker because you can use it for a huge range of exercises, but all it’s used for is working out and it takes up a *lot* of space (and I have a crappy pump so I don’t deflate it after each use like some people do).
    – Dishwasher. Enough said.
    – Toothbrush. Another one that doesn’t need justification!

    Medical devices (glasses) and safety equipment (fire extinguishers) should not count as unitaskers.

  37. posted by gypsypacker on

    Hey, that blowdryer is not a unitasker. You can put it on low heat and blow dust out of your keyboard.
    Old toothbrushes clean tiny nasty spots, new ones de-silk corn on the cob.

    I love the dishwasher, have a treadmill, and keep two coffee grinders. The electric is for convenience. The antique hand-crank model is the one I used post-foreclosure when I lived in a pickup truck and brewed coffee on a Coleman stove, and is kept for sentimental reasons.
    We’ll save that for another discussion on extreme minimalism.

  38. posted by Urban Life–The Negative View « CONTRARY CANARY on

    [...] July 8, 2009 At 6 a.m. this morning, I woke up to the sound of banging outside my window. I suppose I wasn’t fully awake because I thought someone was punching holes into the ground with what looked like a giant cherry pitter. Last night I pitted sour cherries. I guess it left an impression on me, that neat-o little unitasker. [...]

  39. posted by Clutterbomb on

    In the middle of moving and will now be getting rid of my quesadilla maker, waffle maker and brita water filter pitcher. Good riddance!

  40. posted by simplyfree on

    Most may disagree, but we love our waffle maker. Of course, we make waffles from scratch at least once a week!

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