How to Know It’s Time to Say Goodbye to a Kitchen Appliance

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Part of being a food writer is writing about things that are popular, because popularity drives clicks and clicks keep the lights on, so to speak. It’s also just good service journalism. Positioning yourself as too cool or smart for the mainstream device doesn’t help anyone, let alone appear elitist. An air fryer might be “just a convection oven,” but it’s an accessible option for people who live in apartments or can’t afford to buy a new oven to get convection oven results by paying as little as $100.

However. This can lead me to using a device more often than I would if I just cook for dinner, but sometimes it leads me to find new and exciting ways to use the device that “naturally” wouldn’t have occurred to me. It also leads to saturation and to the new and shiny devices trending this year for the clicks but also to alleviate device burn out.

That’s obviously not a problem most people have, but knowing when to say goodbye to a kitchen gadget. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide if romance can be rekindled with your Instant Pot, air fryer, slow cooker, or sous vide, or if it’s time to say goodbye and Make room for something new (or just enjoy the counter space reclaimed).

Did you enjoy using the appliance the last time you cooked with it?

“Throw it away if you haven’t used it in the last year” is a common housekeeping maxim, but I don’t think you need to get rid of everything you haven’t used in the last 12 months. If I believed that, I’d have to get rid of my McDonald’s college jacket, and I’m not ready for that. I’m an obsessive person who goes through phases of clinging to things (including gadgets) only to then put them down and forget about them for months. Instead of a time-sensitive metric, this gives me a little Kondo: Did I enjoy using the appliance the last time I interacted with it? If the answer is yes, I’ll probably keep it.

Do you have another device or method that does the same thing, only better?

Many people bought immersion heaters with the promise of steaks that were perfectly cooked end-to-end, with no dreaded gray streaks and no possibility of overcooking. That wasn’t an empty promise, but many people are quite capable of cooking this, or something very similar, in the pan (or, in the case of thick steaks, an oven and a pan).

If I was only using my immersion thermostat for steaks I would have gotten rid of it by now, but this thing cooks a beef tongue how nobody’s business, and I’m extremely partisan about it my sous vide egg is bitingwhich leads us to our next question…

Is there anything that makes it better than anything else?

I may never use my immersion heater again to cook a ribeye (or shrimp or lobster or many other things) but the way it cooks large pieces of meat with lots of connective tissue and fat is reason enough for me to keep it, and it is the easiest method to cook lots of “poached” eggs (and the same amount of hollandaise sauce) at once. I’m also a big fan of what it does with it alligator. I may not make any of these exact dishes that often, but I would hate to make them without my Anova (or Joule). If mere memories can’t help you in your decision, try using the appliance to make a dish that you fondly remember and then reconsider whether you want to keep it.

Are you upset about that thing?

Does Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger” start playing in your head as soon as you look at the device? Do you feel guilty for avoiding it? Do you change the subject when someone says their name? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, it’s probably time to move on.

Likewise, just because other people reject their Instant Pot (or whatever) doesn’t mean they will she need to turn yours on or feel uncool to use it. Its popularity is on the rise, and despite what the hyper-perfectionists who have dominated the food writing scene for the last decade may have told you, there is no “best” way to prepare a meal. The right way to cook something is the way that fits into your schedule and results in something you want to eat. If the device in question helps you with that, you might want to keep it for a while.

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