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Don’t leave your kitchen gadgets to gather dust

Lisa using a mini chopper

Kitchen gadgets like slow cookers and coffee machines make popular Christmas gifts – did you find any of these under the tree? Have you used them yet, or are they already gathering dust?

It’s the end of January and Christmas is a distant memory, even if the excess pounds are still being eliminated at the gym!

But what about those Christmas presents? Did you get a coffee machine or a food processor, or maybe you got the slow cooker you always wanted?

As I work with small kitchen appliances, there aren’t many that I don’t own, but I never had a coffee machine before. Now I do – it’s excellent, easy to use and makes great coffee.

So how can you make the most of your latest gadget rather than give it a home at the back of the cupboard? Here are my tips…

From coffee machines to ice-cream makers

If you got a coffee machine, and are wondering what on earth to do with it, then our video guide on how to make the perfect espresso and cappuccino could come in handy. It’ll guide you through exactly what to do to get a great cup.

And if the sheer amount of accessories with your food processor leaves you scratching your head, then take a look at our food processor features explained page which may shed some light on the different weird and wonderful attachments.

How about some weekend inspiration? Did you know you can make your own peanut butter in a mini chopper (it’s really easy, too) and for those struggling for recipe ideas on what to make in their new slow cooker, take a read of our previous conversation to find some unusual slow cooker recipe ideas – it’s not all stews and casseroles! You’ll even find our favourite ice cream recipes, too.

Are you making the most of your kitchen gadgets?

For those of you fully utilising your new kitchen gadgets, now may be a good time to review your products and leave a customer view for others to see.

So, are you putting your Christmas presents to good use or are you unsure about how to make the most of them? Are you a whirl of inspiration, creating culinary delights in the kitchen à la Masterchef? Or are the boxes still sealed and edging their way towards the garage?


I do love a good kitchen gadget, but because I’ve got quite a small kitchen it means I invariably pack something away for storage – and then promptly forget all about it.

For example, I was recently in a department store looking intently for a griddle pan in the January sales, before it suddenly occurred to me that I had a perfectly functioning, boxed George Foreman grill sat in a cupboard that could pretty much do the same job. Saved myself a few quid anyway – and my George is now back in business! 🙂

I was going to comment and say that I got a George Foreman grill for Christmas. Yes, it’s been sat in the cupboard ever since! Lisa has advised me that they make brilliant toasted sandwiches, which I’m very excited about as I love a good toastie, but any other tips on what to do with them greatly taken!…

I *love* my george foreman grill. It err…grills everything.

I use it to make sausages, toast sandwiches, paninis etc etc and it’s immensely satisfying to see all of that fat leave my food!

I’ve used mine mainly for grilling steaks or chicken. Ooh, might have to give a Foreman toastie a try though – sounds good! 🙂

Both Breville toasted sandwich maker and slow cooker never been used
and neither an automatic rice cooker bought as a backup in case my
existing National one bought in 1979 shd pack up: it hasn’t.

Talking of griddle pan, I have a Le Creuset that I use much of the

I think the most likely gadgets to get put away and gather dust are the trendy ones that quickly go out of fashion and / or require over-priced (often branded) renewables to use them.

I have a Kenwood Chef – don’t use it daily but use it very intensively when baking vast numbers of cakes for when I open the garden under the NGS and also when I make 400+ Xmas Puds to sell for charity each year. Otherwise generally use the liquidiser on it for soups quite often but that’s about it.

I have a Kenwood food processor too – had it longer than the chef – and use for making Peppermint Creme mixture and for making crumble toppings and pastry.

Also a Russel Hobbs coffee percolator (had that over 25 years) which is used almost daily and makes far better coffee than any filter machine I’ve tried.

I have a Tower Slow Cooker from 1979 – was a relative’s – use that about once a week on average.

I DON’T have:
Electric knives; espresso / cappuccino maker; electric can opener; mini-blender; knife sharpener; george forman type grilly things; electric steamer; electric rice cooker; etc; etc. I don’t even have a microwave.

The main reasons I don’t have any of the above are:
1) I don’t need them: I have significant range of saucepans, oven-ware, griddles, etc., all inherited from grandparents and many dating to before 1930, which are as good as the day they were bought.
2) I don’t have space or money to justify them when I’d not use them very often.
3) Judging by Which? reports, with the exception of Microwaves, they are not especially good at their jobs, don’t offer especially good value and are not especially reliable.

The above probably sounds a bit prudish and maybe judgemental but that’s not my intention: I’m aiming to make the point that if you have the gadgets and appliances that you need and want you will use them regularly, enjoy the results and get good value out of them; but of you have gadgets to keep up with the Jones’, or which are given to you but are not what you’d have chosen yourself, they’ll not get used and will be clutter.

Don’t think I’ve made my point very well but hope at least some readers understand.

Dave – I normally agree with you about domestic appliances but I am rather glad that the coffee percolator is no longer popular. Fine if the coffee is fresh but the percolator encouraged many to keep their coffee hot for too long and the result was horrible. Coffee filter machines created the same problem but many produced tepid coffee that remained drinkable for longer. I use a late 80s Rowenta filter coffee maker (a Which? Best Buy) and switch it off as soon as possible, so that the coffee is fresh. For a second cup, I warm it in the microwave. That is better than keeping it warm.

I am surprised that you have no use for a microwave oven. I would not consider using anything else for cooking certain vegetables, though I don’t use it for much else except re-heating. One of the problems with microwave ovens is that most people use them on full power all the time, which can leave the inside poorly cooked and overcook the outside, and splatter food everywhere. I have a miserly 500 watt model and only use it at full power for the time needed to start cooking. Incidentally, it is a Philips model dating from the late 80s or early 90s and the inside is cleaner than some microwave ovens are after use for a few weeks.


I agree that Percolators badly used are a terrible way to ruin good coffee, but I have to say that I used to use a stove-top one that was pre-war and found it pretty good except when I mis-judged the gas flame and basically burned the coffee, so in 1985 I bought a Salton Filter Gold coffee maker. It was pretty good and in many ways I wish I had not got rid of it, but it’s one drawback, as you say, was the lack of warmth to the coffee. It also had a very dribbly jug, but that was a very minor issue. Hence I bought the electric percolator in 1986 and I’ve been very happy with it. In my case, though, I only make the amount of coffee I want, so there is never any left to keep warm (and spoil). It’s also marginally faster than the filter machine was so when I am giving a dinner party I can pour one lot into the Coffee pot for use at table and pop it back on for a next one and have it ready before anyone has been waiting long for their next cup.

As for a microwave, I’ve never desired one. I’m a pretty decent cook (even if I do say it as shouldn’t) and I’m do a great deal of baking. I cannot imagine cooking anything in a microwave (because I’ve hardly ever tried) but when I have seen them in use or attempted to use one myself I have been very disappointed with the results. Couple this with the fact that in my tiny kitchen I simply don’t have room for one (it would have to go in the pantry – which is already full to bursting and houses the freezer) or in the utility room – neither of them convenient places – and there has just never been anything to encourage me to try one at home. I must admit the state many people get theirs into doesn’t inspire me either, but if I did have one I would certainly be forever cleaning it. My late neighbour bought a Sharp microwave in the late 1980’s and went to a course of evening classes to learn how to cook well with it. She did use it quite a bit at first and enjoyed the results, but by the mid 1990’s the only thing she ever used it for was to make her Horlicks at bed time and this remained the case until she died in 2008. She told me many times that after the first few years she decided that it was easier to cook on the gas cooker than to use the Microwave. She did keep it absolutely impeccably clean though – when she died one of her grandchildren had it and it was in showroom condition still.

As for vegetables – I steam all of mine in a stove-top multi-layer steamer. I can boil potatoes or other very hard root vegetables in the pan at the bottom and steam up to 3 other veg in the baskets above, all over the smallest gas ring. Even when I am cooking a meal for 10 I can do all the veg we need over the one gas ring, which is very economical and leaves me plenty of stove-space for other parts of the meal.

I admit that much of my gadget-less cooking stems from having such a small kitchen but in general I do find that most gadgets that I like the look of and have tried have lost their novelty value quite quickly.

Impeccable logic as always, and we can certainly agree on the importance of coffee being fresh.

One gadget I will never buy is a bean-to-cup coffee maker. They make great coffee and make a simple job even simpler but you would not be impressed by the build quality and (lack of) reliability. There’s little chance of handing one on to the next generation.

I’d definitely recommend the slow cooker as a way to boil up the carcase of the Christmas roast turkey and Sunday roasts throughout the rest of the year. You can sit round the table talking last thing at night, stripping the carcase and then put it on and go to bed leaving it to slowly cook overnight or watch television without worrying that you’ll fall asleep and it will have boiled dry (after all the effort).

Just make sure you position your slow cooker sensibly, put the lid on properly and have enough liquid in it to start off with. (Steam condensing on the underside of the lid keeps running down inside to maintain the cooking liquid.)

GillyGloucs says:
22 February 2012

Oh, the shame! I have a Panasonic breadmaker (Which? recommended, of course) taking up space in on eof the kitchen cupboards. Along with, it has to be said, a fish kettle, a mixer thingy that is my partner’s but which he is loath to use because it was bought by his ex, and a smoothie maker (which makes nice drinks but I can’t use while following a Slimming World diet!).

We do, however, make lots of use of our slow cooker.

Quick tip for those of us with a filter coffee machine – try this: three pennies on the hotplate in a triangle formation (like a trivet), this lifts the jug a millimetre off the often too fierce hotplate, and prevents the coffee liquor from spoiling longer. This works on my Prestige brand ‘Deco’ filtermachine (I’m upgrading to a Technivorm machine at some point, probably the best filter machine in the world – yes!), but may not work on others if the fit is too tight (Russell Hobbs Caffe Torino).

Suck it and see and tell me how you find this little tweak.

One kitchen “gadget” I use a lot is my pressure cooker. I could not be without it. Easy to use when you know how and it requires a lot less water or liquid, compared to having several saucepans on the boil.

My pressure cooker is one of the few that cooks at the “proper” 15 psi pressure – many modern ones work at lower pressure, probably as a result of cheaper quality, but lower pressure means a few minutes longer cooking for everything. If you’re considering buying one, check for 15 psi pressure (or in the absence of a “psi” rating, look for at least 1 bar or 100 kPa – not less).

Let’s not forget that food which normally takes hours to cook, e.g. stew, can be done in minutes with a pressure cooker. Potatoes can be cooked in 6 minutes if you let the pressure drop on its own, rather than releasing it.

Don’t worry, modern ones cannot explode. 🙂

Magpie says:
29 June 2012

I use my George Foreman grill for salmon fillets – delicious!

Margaret says:
11 January 2013

I cannot imagine life without my Kenwood Chef. Had one since 1972 and now on my 2nd. Great for making a sponge pudding in 2 minutes and cooked in the microwave in 4 minutes. What better way to round off Sunday lunch with the family.

Leftover veg are turned into soup using the Liquidiser attachment so all in all many economical meals and no waste.