Suggestions for some puzzling kitchen gadgets?
December 10, 2008 9:02 AM   Subscribe

What are some puzzling kitchen gadgets to mystify my mother-in-law with?

My mother-in-law likes to give (and get) stocking stuffers of obscure kitchen items, which the recipient then needs to identify. Past items include those square hard-boiled egg thingies, pineapple corers, garlic-peeling tubes, finger protectors to wear while slicing tomatoes... you get the idea.

She's hard to stump. Any suggestions for what I could get her this year? I'm in the US, and prefer to shop on-line. I'm hoping to not spend more than $10.
posted by The corpse in the library to Food & Drink (38 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Citrus trumpet!

(I have one. It doesn't really get juice out of the poor citrus. But it looks cool!)
posted by moonmilk at 9:09 AM on December 10, 2008

Mango slicer - I have one, it works as long as the mango isn't overripe.

nutmeg grater

curl cutter
posted by JoanArkham at 9:18 AM on December 10, 2008

If you wanted to spend a little bit more, you could get a Thai coconut grating stool (called a kratai), almost guaranteed to perplex.
posted by neroli at 9:19 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cook's Illustrated magazine has this as a semi-regular feature - folks send in pictures of oddball and unknown gadgets for the editors (and readership) to identify...along the lines of "we found this in Grandma's kitchen and have no idea what it's for". The last one, as I recall, was a rotary doughnut cutter (sort of like these, but with only 1 doughnut on it). I don't see a spot on their website for this bit, but a trip to the library (or subscribed friend) might turn up some real out-there gadgets.
posted by jquinby at 9:21 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Avocado slicer?
posted by GuyZero at 9:22 AM on December 10, 2008

A grapefruit segmenter.
posted by essexjan at 9:24 AM on December 10, 2008

I was mystified by my grandmother's pastry wheel. That site's got some other interesting pastry gadgets as well.
posted by magicbus at 9:25 AM on December 10, 2008

Garlic zoom.
posted by mandal at 9:32 AM on December 10, 2008

A pickle picker?
posted by sunshinesky at 9:36 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

An oven rack puller!
posted by 8dot3 at 9:42 AM on December 10, 2008

Tomato peelers have been out for a while now, but still seem to befuddle kitchen visitors. I had no idea there were electric cheese graters out there (and thought it was ridiculous until I remembered making six cups of shaved parmesan for a big carbonara); these lemon squeezer/keepers are fantastic; one doesn't see many round bread pans in the US; and there is sadly not much call for hâtelets these days (same goes for the duck press). Absinthe spoons are shiny, and may be more useful now that it's legal.
posted by mimi at 9:50 AM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

Black & Tan turtle?

Corn stripper.
posted by 8dot3 at 9:52 AM on December 10, 2008

Egg scissors.
posted by rhizome at 10:06 AM on December 10, 2008

How common are strawberry hullers? I've had people mystified by mine. Two models: 1, 2. Bonus: they're small and actually useful.

Also: a corn stripper
posted by Rumple at 10:15 AM on December 10, 2008

Plantain peeler or tostonera smasher.
posted by desuetude at 10:21 AM on December 10, 2008

A hand crank operated apple peeler and corer? They're also handy for the extensive peeling and slicing that goes along with mashed potatoes.
posted by Alison at 10:25 AM on December 10, 2008

egg topper scissors
posted by dithmer at 10:39 AM on December 10, 2008

This orange peeler looks extremely weird, and would not look like it is meant to peel oranges at all. I do not know how you would find it stateside.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:50 AM on December 10, 2008

After seeing peachfuzz' suggestions I thought: just head to an "ethnic" shop? I'm sure there are loads of interesting tools, either specific to a certain dish or item, or things that are shaped differently than you'd imagine, and you'd have the item right now.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:53 AM on December 10, 2008

A Garlic Zoom is $10. Looks like one of those little cars that you pull back and let go.
posted by ml98tu at 10:55 AM on December 10, 2008

Seconding the oven-rack puller! I remember many years ago my mom was proudly showing off the gift she found for my aunt and uncle. I couldn't figure it out.
posted by jgirl at 11:03 AM on December 10, 2008

Lemon zester
posted by toddje at 11:49 AM on December 10, 2008

No suggestions here, but damn, ya'll are good. I like how enthusiastic and helpful everyone gets in threads like this one. Go team!
posted by andromache at 12:31 PM on December 10, 2008

Corn Zipper (as opposed to Strippers above)
posted by joshwa at 12:52 PM on December 10, 2008

I keep my brewing hydrometer in the kitchen. Does that count?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:12 PM on December 10, 2008

Are you sure you won't go over ten bucks? Not even for a genuine, traditional sharkskin wasabi grater? Tangentially, there was an entire gameshow in Japan when I lived there devoted to handing strange items to visiting westerners and getting them to guess what they were.* Many were obscure kitchen items. There was a device for slicing flakes off dried pieces of bonito that was pretty awesome -- it looked like an antique puzzle box with a savage finger guillotine trap hidden in it -- but I can't seem to find one online.

* I didn't get it. My host father explained that the show was hilarious because most of the guests were enormous American marines stationed in Japan who had learned Japanese from their wives or girlfriends and who therefore spoke "women's Japanese". The point was really just to get them to talk.
posted by The Bellman at 1:28 PM on December 10, 2008

I also have a Garlic Zoom and love it. Makes a mundane task fun. Highly suggested.
posted by cior at 1:43 PM on December 10, 2008

Egg molds?
posted by srah at 2:48 PM on December 10, 2008

A lamé / bread slashing blade.
posted by parudox at 2:50 PM on December 10, 2008

Potato Ricer
posted by bobber at 3:10 PM on December 10, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by ouke at 4:41 PM on December 10, 2008

Orange Peeler - I rolled my eyes when someone gave me one of these but they really are a nice thing to have. They keep you from getting your thumb nail pulled away from your skin when you peel an orange. It has a small spur which is designed to score the peel of the orange, along with a broad, flat blade which is used to pull segments of the peel off after they have been scored. You can usually find them at the dollar stores.
Lime Squeezer - You can find these at Mexican grocery stores
posted by BoscosMom at 5:05 PM on December 10, 2008

That egg topper thing Stefan used on Top Chef last week.
posted by AceRock at 8:14 PM on December 10, 2008

Green bean frencher ($5 version). Molinillo (Knuckle Peeler ($2). Meat baller ($6). Actually, a bunch of the stuff in this gadgets category looks suitable.
posted by hades at 12:40 AM on December 11, 2008

I was looking around at when I remembered your question and had to come back and share. Mostly gag gifts like the Octodog or Tic Tac Toast but the Snap Capp would actually be useful at times. I'm thinking of those half cans of coconut milk I always end up with.

posted by BoscosMom at 1:08 PM on December 11, 2008

Wooden salt spoon. It took me ages to figure this one out! As a plus it's nice looking and handy given the rash of fancy sea salt available these days.
posted by rosebengal at 1:44 PM on December 11, 2008

A bit late for a stocking stuffer, but whatever: Visitors to Canada often inquire about the weird magnet found on every refrigerator. It's called a Snippit, and it's for opening plastic milk bags. It's just as handy on bags of chips, frozen food, etc., and for cutting tape on parcels and Christmas presents.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:57 PM on January 5, 2009

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