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

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

Part of being a food writer is writing about things that are popular, because popularity drives clicks and clicks are what keeps the lights on, so to speak. It’s also just good service journalism. Positioning yourself as too cool or smart for the appliance that’s trendy with the masses doesn’t help anyone, not to mention it comes off as elitist. An air fryer might “just be a convection oven,” but it’s an accessible way for people who live in apartments or can’t afford to buy a new oven to get convection oven results by paying a mere $100.

Anyway. This can translate into me using an appliance more often than I would if I was just cooking to eat, but sometimes that results in finding new and exciting ways to use the appliance that I wouldn’t have arrived at “naturally.” It also leads to saturation, and moving on to whatever new and shiny appliance is trending that year, for the clicks, but also to alleviate appliance burnout.

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

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

“Throw it out if you haven’t used it in the last year” is a common decluttering maxim, but I’m not of the mind that you have to get rid of anything you haven’t used in the past 12 months. If I believed that, I’d have to get rid of my McDonald’s varsity jacket, and that’s not something I’m willing to do. I’m an obsessive person who goes through phases, latching onto things (including appliances) only to then set them down and forget about them for months at a time. Instead of a time-sensitive metric, I get a little Kondo with it: 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 appliance or method that does the same thing, only better?

A lot of people bought immersion circulators on the promise of steaks that were perfectly cooked from end to end, with no dreaded grey band and no chance of overcooking. That wasn’t an empty promise, but a lot of people are perfectly capable of accomplishing this, or something very close to this, in pan (or, in the case of thick steaks, an oven and a pan).

If I only used my immersion circulator for steaks, I would have gotten rid of it by now, but that thing cooks a beef tongue like nobody’s business, and I’m extremely partial to my sous-vide egg bites, which leads us to our next question…

Is there something it does better than anything else?

I may never again use my immersion circulator to cook a ribeye (or shrimp, or lobster, or a lot off 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 around, and it is the easiest method for cooking a lot of “poached” eggs (and an equal amount of hollandaise sauce) at once. I’m also a big fan of what it does with gator. I may not make any of these exact dishes that much, but I’d hate to make them without my Anova (or Joule). If mere memories can’t help you make your decision, try making a dish you remember fondly with the appliance, then reevaluating if you want to keep it around.

Do you resent the thing?

Does Supertramp’s “Goodbye Stranger” start playing in your head the moment your gaze meets the appliance? Do you feel guilty for avoiding it? Do you change the subject when someone mentions its name? If you answered “yes” to any or all of these, it’s probably time to move on.

Similarly, just because other people resent their Instant Pot (or whatever) does not mean you have to turn on yours, or feel uncool for using it. Popularity ebbs and flows and, despite what the hyper-perfectionists that dominated the food writing scene for the past decade may have told you, there is no “best” way to cook a food. The right way to cook something is the way that fits into your schedule and produces something you want to eat. If the appliance in question helps you do that, you should probably hold onto it a little while longer.


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