A toaster only toasts, so technically it’s a single-use gadget. But that’s not the point. Sometimes you just need a contraption that will quickly turn limp pieces of bread into crunchy, warm slices of perfection. And that’s the spirit of one-purpose items: They do a single thing really well.
If the person you’re buying gifts for has a small kitchen, then yeah, they should primarily own gadgets that do more than one thing. This list, however, is for the person who has enough space to store a few extra items and spends a fair bit of time experimenting with different recipes. Snobs will tell you these gizmos are a waste of time, space, and money—but who wants to be a snob? Instead, revel in the beauty of these objects designed perfectly to do one thing, and one thing only.
Cook rice perfectly
Zojirushi 3-Cup Rice Cooker ($53)
A very affordable rice cooker Amazon
Rice goes with everything. When you’re trying to get a quick dinner on the table, a side of rice can add that crucial carb that ties the whole meal together. “But I could just make rice on the stovetop!” Will you, though? Rice is simple to make, and yet somehow you never feel like doing it. You’ve got to wait for the water to boil, then put the rice in, then come back to turn the stove off. A rice cooker, on the other hand, can serve as a set-it-and-forget-it part of every meal, which means you’ll use it pretty often. Buy a cheap rice cooker and thank us later.
Pit a million cherries
OXO Good Grips Cherry and Olive Pitter ($13)
You can also pit olives! Amazon
“How many times am I really going to pit cherries?” you might ask. Not a lot. But guess what? When you do want to pick up a whole bag of the stone fruits—say, mid-summer when the cherries at the market just look so luscious and you want to bake them into pie—you’ll be glad for a pitter. Otherwise you’re going to have to slice a million cherries in half and delicately remove the pit, which will take the joy out of eating them in the first place. A cherry pitter is a cheap little tool that you will only pull out once or twice a year—but you’ll be grateful each and every time you use it.
Remove strawberry tops
Chef’n Original Stem Gem Strawberry Huller ($7)
It even looks like a lil’ strawberry. Amazon
For all the same reasons you should get a cherry pitter, you should get a strawberry huller. You’re never going to use it to just snack on some berries, but you’ll be thankful when it’s strawberry season and you want to cook with your haul. Chopping off the top with a paring knife wastes precious fruity flesh, and digging out the stems is a pain in the butt. These things are cheap and will save you tons of time and labor when you want to make jam or compote in the summer.
Whip up waffles
Cuisinart Round Classic Waffle Maker ($55)
The round waffle maker is the classic. Amazon
Pancakes and waffles are basically the same thing, but let’s be honest, waffles are a lot more fun. You can sit down at the table and pop out fluffy discs of batter right there, rather than having to stand over a griddle flipping piles of pancakes that are going to inevitably end up lukewarm and mushy. That said, unless you really love waffles, it’s probably not worth owning this if you’re single and/or have a small kitchen. But if you live with folks who eat Sunday breakfast together, here’s your way to make weekends a lot more festive.
Make garlic paste
OXO Good Grips Soft-Handled Garlic Press ($17)
A solid garlic press. Amazon
Garlic is the most annoying, yet most essential ingredient of most every cuisine. By now you’re probably used to dealing with the pungent, sticky mess—but that doesn’t mean you can’t improve the user experience. A good garlic press would enable you to reduce a whole, unpeeled clove into a perfectly cook-able paste, saving you a ton of hassle and keeping your fingers free from smelly goop.
Quickly peel garlic
Maxracy Silicone Garlic Peeler Easy Roller Peeling Tube ($7)
They may look silly, but they’re brilliant. Amazon
Yes, it’s another garlic thing, but a peeler will be useful in different circumstances than a press. Sometimes you want to slice garlic, not mash it—or you may need to keep the cloves whole. So next time you have to peel eight cloves of garlic for some homemade marinara, you’ll be grateful to have this little tube. You just roll the cloves inside, then tip them out all peeled. Boom. There’s nothing more to say because it’s such a simple, ingenious little item.
Easily scoop a grapefruit
Chef Craft Serrated Grapefruit Spoons ($4)
A set of two, one for each grapefruit half. Amazon
Not that many people eat grapefruit regularly, but digging into one of these juicy pink orbs sprinkled with sugar is among life’s simplest pleasures. A small serrated spoon makes quick work of separating out the individual segments as you eat. You’ll never ever use these implements for anything else, but they take up so little room that it’s worth it to buy a few if you’re a grapefruit lover.
Pull toast from a toaster
IronBuddy toast Tongs ($6)
Bamboo tongs are your friend. Amazon
The worst thing about using a toaster is that the bread usually doesn’t come up far enough for you to grab it, or that it’s always too hot to handle. Enter the toast tongs. They’re wooden, so you can shove ‘em in and not worry about getting electrocuted. You also probably don’t even really need to wash them after using, so just leave them by the toaster for next time. As a bonus, toast tongs make excellent egg scramblers—the wood won’t scratch your nonstick pan. Whoops! We broke the single-use item rule.
Know your oven’s actual temperature
Rubbermaid Stainless Steel Instant Read Oven Thermometer ($7)
You can also use this on your grill or in a smoker. Amazon
Most ovens are off by about 25 to 50°F, which is enough to consistently have your goods come out too dry or slightly raw. But here’s the problem: Your oven won’t tell you that it’s wrong. A thermometer, on the other hand, will make it easier for you to adjust your roast, bake, and reheat far more efficiently. If the thermometer reads 375°F every time you set your oven to 325°F, you’ll know to always turn the setting down by 50°F to get the proper temperature. Literally everything you cook in your oven will be better.