/ Home & Energy

Unusual ways to use the usual home appliances

Home appliances usually have just one core function, leaving other appliances to do their own specific jobs. But sometimes, just sometimes, you find an appliance that can do so much more…

When you buy a waffle maker for your home, you’re probably expecting one thing: waffles! So when Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman used his wife’s waffle iron in 1971 to experiment with rubber soles for footwear, he probably wasn’t expecting to start one of the biggest sporting brands on the planet. But that’s exactly what happened.

While most of our humble household appliances are not going to help us earn millions of pounds, I’m sure we’ve all had our moments of glory when our appliances have become legends in their own right. So, we’d love to hear how you’ve found creative (and safe) uses for your home appliances.

Unusual uses

A quick email sent around the Which? office asking ‘which appliances do you use unusually?’ led to quite an astounding response. There were some brilliant ideas, some strange ideas, and some ideas that come with a warning: don’t try this at home!

So, for some ideas that you may not have considered (and probably don’t want to), here’s how we’ve broken the mold by using:

  • a steamer to make a Victoria sponge cake
  • a George Foreman grill for toasting raised focaccias
  • an ice cream maker to make a frozen cocktail
  • a hand blender for scrambling eggs
  • a slow cooker for making rice pudding
  • a freezer as a cocktail cabinet
  • a breadmaker to make jam, pasta and pizza dough
  • a kettle to cook frankfurters (in water)

Dust off your appliances

Now, if you’re used to packing an appliance away in the cupboard for months at a time, I hope I’ve inspired you to bring it out a little sooner to solve some wider domestic issues.

And now it’s time to share your own ‘out of the box’ moments. Have you found any unusual uses for your common household appliances? And if you’ve found an unusual use be sure to only share safe and practical examples here.


I use my microwave oven to dry silica gel, which is quicker than putting it in the oven. A bag of dry silica gel helps to keep things dry if they are stored in a plastic bag. That is ideal if you have a small house but a big loft, or if you use the garage for storage.

Electronic goods often come with a bag of silica gel to absorb moisture during transport and storage. Usually the bags are small but some are much larger.

Joeh says:
7 June 2012

Whilst on holiday in Budapest I was particulary hungary and the only food I could get hold of where super noodles. After pouring hot water over them I wasn’t impressed so decided to cook them in the kettle by emptying the packet into the water. It worked great apart from the staining to the inside. Would highly recommend

David Edwards says:
8 June 2012

Particulary hungary in Budapest?

Very occasionally, I press the wrong button on my television remote control and end up watching BBC.

I don’t quite understand, Alistair. Do your mean that you are accidentally using your TV to watch a worthwhile programme? 🙂

par ailleurs says:
7 June 2012

Alistair. May I recommend you to the comments pages of the Daily Telegraph website? You’d feel very much at home their with such silly, unnecessary statements. Here at Which it’s normally very civilised and intelligent and I for one would like to keep it that way.

par ailleurs says:
7 June 2012

Please excuse the incorrect spelling in my reply to Alistair-probably caused by irritation!

Not quite wavechange,
It means that my hard earned money is routinely extracted in order for the state broadcaster to fritter it away on 4 days of Jubilee coverage, extensive Glastonbury coverage, and nigh on daily misery of ‘Eastenders’.
Pay per view is entirely technically feasible, and much more preferable to me.
You can keep your licence if you like, and give people choice of licence or pay per view.

I completely agree, Alistair. Pay-per-view is the only sensible solution. I watch very little TV apart from news, wildlife programmes and the sort of documentaries that attract poor ratings. Thanks to the adverts I only look at commercial TV if I’m told there is something worth watching, mainly because of the mindless and annoying adverts.

It helps me to think of my licence fee as supporting Radio 4 and some Radio 3 broadcasts.

With you on that Wavechange. I am happy to support Radio 4, World Service on DAB, and 6 Music.

Yes, the good thing about the BBC is that people like wavechange and me can spend an evening watching a three-part documentary on the history of the national grid on BBC 4. And when that’s over there might be a programme about lightbulbs or early washing machines.

Absolutely, John. I enjoy the sort of programmes that attract low ratings.

Let’s hope a BBC producer is following this discussion and we might see a programme on odd ways to use domestic appliances. 🙂

Several years ago I cooked a whole Scottish Salmon in a dishwasher. I know people think this is an urban legend but it can be done! If you want to try it out, wrap your salmon in foil (adding herbs, oils, spices as required!) and then place it on the highest rack in your dishwasher. Select the hottest wash and set it running (Don’t add dishes/dishwasher tablets just in case!). The result – beautifully cooked whole salmon!

And a friend of mine, whilst at University conducted an experiment to see if you could cook a full English breakfast on an iron. Mixed results but very entertaining!

Speaking of uni experiments, a physics lecturer demonstrated how to use a sheet of A4 and a coat hanger could be used to fry an egg over a Bunsen burner (without setting fire to the place). I wouldn’t recommend trying it at home, but due to the thermal transfer he did pull it off.

A dishwasher is also handy for quickly making flavoured Vodka’s. For example if you put a vanilla pod into the bottle of Vodka and put it through a wash cycle hey presto job done.

Sue says:
8 June 2012

My dishwasher actually has a cycle called ‘fruitwash’!

Michael Open says:
9 June 2012

‘hungary in Budapest…’ – bravo!!! ROFL!!!

You need to tell us more about the freezer used as a cocktail cabinet, Simon. The other things that Which? staff get up to seem much more logical.

It would also be very interesting to know why Scott decided to cook salmon in a dishwasher.

Hi Wavechange! I used a dishwasher as I didn’t have a fish kettle large enough to fit the entire salmon. I’d heard the story about being able to use a dishwasher and thought I’d give it a go! You could try it yourself and let us know how it goes for you?

I’m disappointed by your logical explanation, Scott. Here was me thinking you were a true eccentric. 🙂

Unfortunately I don’t have a dishwasher. Maybe when I move house.

A college friend used to serve ironed cheese sandwiches.

par ailleurs says:
7 June 2012

I remember my old Austin Maxi had an exhaust manifold which formed a natural holder for a pie or slice of quiche if you were feeling posh. Wrapped in foil and deposited under the bonnet when leaving the house, it was lovely and warm later for my lunch stop. It was the best thing about the car!

IrvSwerve says:
9 June 2012

Then that must have been the only thing that
car did well. The Maxi was the worst car ever.
British Leyland RIP!

par ailleurs says:
7 June 2012

I’m forever popping back today. Sorry, I know that a car isn’t a kitchen appliance but it seemed somehow appropriate! The car as substitute kitchen appliance.

Ohhhh, I was keen on buying an ice cream maker before, but now that I know I can also make frozen cocktails with one, I will definitely be heading down the shops…!

I have heard of people cooking potato waffles in a toaster, from frozen, and it works. You just turn the heat right up, but do remember to turn it back to the original setting, to avoid the next round of toast getting burnt!

As for “unusual” ways of cooking, I try to cook almost everything in my pressure cooker because it saves so much time and fuel. I found this video showing someone cooking a turkey in the pressure cooker: http://youtu.be/mLGieMgEtEg

I’ve not tried it myself, but the meat does need enough space all round to let the steam circulate and you let the pressure drop naturally, rather than releasing it quickly. I would time it for 5 minutes longer than in the video.

Does anyone else have “unusual” uses for a pressure cooker?

Neville Marlow says:
8 June 2012

I was repairing a broken window using putty. The putty was rather hard and needed ‘working-up’.
I placed a large lump in the micro wave for 20 secs, and it was lovely and soft and almost ready for use.

I know that ordinary putty is lead-free and probably non-toxic, but putting the putty container in hot water works well and is less likely to upset family members. 🙂

I use a lighter as a bottle-opener

Ron says:
8 June 2012

I was looking for ways to roast green coffee beans and came accross the idea of using a popcorn maker. I tried it and it worked brilliantly. But be careful as a few seconds too much and they start to burn. A few too many beans and they wont rotate in the airstream.

On a university ski trp we used our dishwasher to make flavoured vodkas! Highly recommend it – Mars bars, Jellybabies and Fox’s Glacier Mints all work excellently.

Simon says:
8 June 2012

Instructions, please!

Simply place desired ingredient in a 3/4 full bottle of vodka, place in the dishwasher and activate a high temperature cycle. Take your bottle out the dishwasher, give it a shake and then put it in the freezer (or drink warm).

in winter time your two part epoxy in those syringe type dispensors is almost inpossible to get to flow,a short blast in the microwave has it flowing like water.

I mended a coffee cup with epoxy by putting the mended cup in a warm oven . The glue cured in seconds, giving the repair less chance to “creep”.

Will says:
8 June 2012

I used an electric drill and a coat hanger to whisk egg whites for a chocolate mouse

Blimey – that sounds a bit risky. (Quite pleased that I managed to avoid the temptation to turn ‘risky’ into ‘whisky’)

Anthony Wood says:
8 June 2012

I have used the salmon in the dishwasher idea & it works well. Concerning the other items I am amazed by your ingenuity.
I do know of an elderly lady who, when her toaster broke, tried to make toast on the hotplate of her electric cooker. It didn’t work but the smoke alarm did.

We once fried a pizza. We had assumed the place we were renting would have an oven, but it only had a microwave and hotplate, but by then we had already stocked up on grub on the way from the airport, so fried pizza it was. Wasn’t too bad, but wouldn’t be repeated it.

Mike says:
8 June 2012

After an early morning start on a friends boat, when it got to breakfast time we found that we had everything except the frying pan. My wife came up with, and executed, the idea of cooking the bacon in the kettle – well it was that or no bacon sandwiches so the choice was simple. I should point out that it wasn’t an electric kettle, just a basic flat-bottomed-sits-on-a-gas-ring job. It worked, although it took a lot of boiling to get the kettle clean afterwards and the tea tasted a bit funny for a while.

G8YTZ says:
8 June 2012

After all these years and technological advances with TV sets and endless promises from the long gone Raymond Baxter of Tomorrows World fame, nobody but nobody has come up with a TV that mkes a cup of tea when the adverts come on, surely an enterprising firm could come up with a wi-fi network connection from a teasmaid to a smart TV and complete the loop and deliver the dream of a smart cuppa? 😉 Justin.