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Things that are a total waste of money


Fat Guy
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The only kitchen items that are a total waste of money are those that aren't used or those that make the work more difficult.

I would add the category of rarely used stuff that takes up valuable space. I try to weed out items that can be replaced with more useful things. I have no argument with things that really work and do get used. My biggest beef is with the things of no or limited utility.
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I'm very much of the school of thought that it's important to learn from my mistakes. So rather than accuse anyone else of making a mistake, let me focus on a couple of my own. If anybody else would like to chime in with lessons learned, great.

Corian. This was mentioned above. We redid our kitchen around the turn of the century, when Corian was quite trendy, and we were bamboozled into selecting it as our countertop material. Now, I could dig in my heels and defend the choice of Corian, as many Corian owners do, but it sucks. It's ugly. It scratches easily. It feels like plastic. The promise that it could be easily sanded, refinished and shined up turns out to be an empty one: doing so requires so much effort and mess it's not worth it. And it was expensive. I'm still not sure what countertop material I'll choose when I next have that choice to make, but I know it won't be Corian. Does that mean Corian was a waste of money? To me, yes. I guess I could say that it covered my cabinets and provided a surface on which to rest cutting boards, therefore it wasn't a complete waste of money, only a partial one, but I think fundamentally I made the wrong choice and if I had a do-over I'd make a different one.

Calphalon. This was probably an even bigger mistake than All-Clad would have been. Like many people, we found ourselves engaged to be married in the mid-1990s and had essentially two choices at Williams-Sonoma: Calphalon and All-Clad. Ease of use on the registry meant we weren't likely to go out of the Williams-Sonoma universe, and we were young anyway so had a limited frame of reference. We wound up with a huge set of Calphalon and several additional pieces. I still have every piece but one, a very large diameter "grill pan" that warped about 10 years later. I probably could have brought it back to Williams-Sonoma even after all that time, but I didn't bother. A couple of other pieces, I did have replaced at Williams-Sonoma -- one of them twice. There are some things I like about the Calphalon, particularly the flat, wide, low-angle handles and the tempered-glass lids on some vessels. And they do heat pretty evenly. But it's very slow and non-responsive, and time is not kind to the surface. I've learned to cook with it, just as one can learn to cook with most anything, and I've cooked thousands of meals without ill consequence. But if I knew then what I know now I'd have figured out a way to get a set of stainless-lined copper. I think it was even possible at the time to get Mauviel at Williams-Sonoma, and I did get one skillet in that format, but it just wasn't something we seriously considered. It seemed so expensive and esoteric. In retrospect, looking back over 15 years of use, the copper would of course have been worth it. Or even a set of professional stainless like Bourgeat.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The first serious cookware I bought was an 8-piece set of Le Creuset. It included a skillet, a 4.5 dutch oven, a 2.5 quart dutch oven, and two saucepans.

Now, I love Le Creuset dutch ovens; I own several and never had any hesitation recommending them to customers. And the skillet in the set was actually very useful -- it was sort of a combination skillet/saute pan, and since I had neither, I used it all the time.

But the saucepans sucked. I mean, at the time, I didn't realize it, because I didn't have any basis of comparison, but really -- cast iron saucepans? Whoever thought that was a good idea?

So, not a total waste of money, but damn! if I'd known then what I know now, I never would have bought the set.

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But the saucepans sucked. I mean, at the time, I didn't realize it, because I didn't have any basis of comparison, but really -- cast iron saucepans? Whoever thought that was a good idea?

So, not a total waste of money, but damn! if I'd known then what I know now, I never would have bought the set.

Just goes to show how your style of cooking & general repertoire of favorite dishes can make a dramatic difference in your perception of utility: I have a LC handled saucepan that's one of the most-used pots in my kitchen.

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Slow-cookers are a waste for me.  I've had one for 5 years, and have used it twice.  I know they have their place other people's kitchens, but most things that I've seen people make in the them ("Hawaiian chicken" and the like) aren't things I want to cook.

I must stand up for the slow cooker. It's a huge help for the vegetarian cook, and anyone interested in frugal foods.

I use mine primarily to cook dry beans, which is something I do once or twice a week. I also occasionally use it for New Mexico style flat enchiladas, and for root vegetable stews. I especially like using it in the summertime, because it doesn't seem to heat up my kitchen as much as simmering beans on the stovetop does.

I like the fact that it is self-contained and safe to run while we're asleep or not at home -something I would never, ever do with my stove.

I hate beans in anything but small doses (and even then I just tolerate them), so that's still something other people make that I'd never cook.

And I would never leave a slow-cooker on when out of the house. Ever. To me, in terms of safety there's not much difference between leaving a slow-cooker on and leaving the stove on low.

I do have a slow-cooker, and I tried to make slow-cooker caramelized onions. They sucked.

I also did corned beef in it, and it ended up far over-done. That was my fault, I think, because I left it overnight on high rather than low (my intent was to start it on high, then turn it to low, but I forgot).

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Just goes to show how your style of cooking & general repertoire of favorite dishes can make a dramatic difference in your perception of utility:  I have a LC handled saucepan that's one of the most-used pots in my kitchen.

The above quote says quite a lot.

I have disposed of things which I had owned for years, even decades, because they were useless to me, a complete waste of money, etc....then my cooking style changed and where were these so-called useless things? Gone. And I had to go out and buy a new one.

Fortunately, having a Drive Shed on our farm property, a number of things were never quite thrown out and now have been retrieved. Suddenly these discarded waste-of--money items were VERY were very valuable and useful. :wink:

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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But the saucepans sucked. I mean, at the time, I didn't realize it, because I didn't have any basis of comparison, but really -- cast iron saucepans? Whoever thought that was a good idea?

So, not a total waste of money, but damn! if I'd known then what I know now, I never would have bought the set.

Just goes to show how your style of cooking & general repertoire of favorite dishes can make a dramatic difference in your perception of utility: I have a LC handled saucepan that's one of the most-used pots in my kitchen.

I'm curious: What size is the pan? What do you use it for? And what do you think is so good about it for this use?

--

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I have disposed of things which I had owned for years, even decades, because they were useless to me, a complete waste of money, etc....then my cooking style changed and where were these so-called useless things?  Gone.  And I had to go out and buy a new one.

This has happened to me a couple of times, but not enough to justify all the other wastes of money taking up space. I'm willing to gamble wrong on 2 items for the sake of clearing out 100.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This has happened to me a couple of times, but not enough to justify all the other wastes of money taking up space. I'm willing to gamble wrong on 2 items for the sake of clearing out 100.

Excellent point.

We were very lucky this past year to be living in Moab, UT, which has THE MOST INCREDIBLE thrift shops in the world, I am convinced. Not only was I able to pick up some of the stuff I needed which I hadn't brought with me, I was able to buy those 'waste of money' things which I had disposed of: an ice cream maker, a waffle/grill, a bread machine, a Chinese cap, a couple of slow cookers, etc, etc, and all for minimum prices. I mean...like $5. The irony was the many of the appliances were old, made of ...gasp....metal and will last me forever. They were 'a waste of space and money' to their owners. :wink:

(As noted above somewhere, the slow cookers are perfect for candying ginger, etc.)

Edited by Darienne (log)

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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quote]

I'm curious:  What size is the pan?  What do you use it for?  And what do you think is so good about it for this use?

I have a 2.25 quart handled saucepan; I use it all the time for low-and-slow cooking, esp southern style veggies. I can saute seasoning meat (andouille, tasso, bacon, pickled pork) over high heat to render the fat, then brown onions & aromatics deeply, then add the veggies directly to the pot with liquid...the cast iron allows me to achieve an even simmer over very low heat. Yes, you can do these things in an all-metal saucepan, but I find that the fond created in the inital browning is better in the enameled cast iron, and the subsequent simmer requires a much lower flame. Plus, I can make a roux in the saucepan & add baby green limas, or petits pois, and continue to cook over low heat with no scorching or uneven heating. My absolute favorite LC is the low, wide buffet pans (recently renamed "braisers" in the promo literature)...perfect for etouffee, chicken fricasee, etc.

I just thought of another truly useless, relatively expensive kitchen item: the nitrogen powered cream whipper. I can understand using this in a production environment, but in a home kitchen? You pay $100 for the thing, then you have to keep buying cartridges to power it. I'd rather have a good whisk any day.

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One thing I indefinitely sure of however is that there isn't any 25 year old non-stick cookware out there still in use that's in good shape.  If it is the person who owns it isn't a cook.  Wait a minute, real cooks don't use non-stick anyway so it's not an issue!

:huh:

I consider myself a real cook, and I have a couple of non-stick skillets that I use for certain tasks. One of them is the only pan I use for omelets. If I don’t have that pan, I don’t make omelets. Maybe that makes me an unreal cook, but my omelets taste real nonetheless. :rolleyes:

Rhonda

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But the saucepans sucked. I mean, at the time, I didn't realize it, because I didn't have any basis of comparison, but really -- cast iron saucepans? Whoever thought that was a good idea?

So, not a total waste of money, but damn! if I'd known then what I know now, I never would have bought the set.

Just goes to show how your style of cooking & general repertoire of favorite dishes can make a dramatic difference in your perception of utility: I have a LC handled saucepan that's one of the most-used pots in my kitchen.

I'm curious: What size is the pan? What do you use it for? And what do you think is so good about it for this use?

HungryC is a great cook with much experience, and I look forward to hearing what she uses those pots for.

Meanwhile, I bought the LC set in the early 2000's as one of my first investments. I like the little LC pot to make rice. It has a little hole in the top, though, so first I have to cover the top with aluminum foil before making the rice. Guess I should use another pot, but that is my rice pot now and that's what I use it for. I also use it to make roux peas.

Rhonda

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I'm curious:  What size is the pan?  What do you use it for?  And what do you think is so good about it for this use?

I have a 2.25 quart handled saucepan; I use it all the time for low-and-slow cooking, esp southern style veggies. I can saute seasoning meat (andouille, tasso, bacon, pickled pork) over high heat to render the fat, then brown onions & aromatics deeply, then add the veggies directly to the pot with liquid...the cast iron allows me to achieve an even simmer over very low heat. Yes, you can do these things in an all-metal saucepan, but I find that the fond created in the inital browning is better in the enameled cast iron, and the subsequent simmer requires a much lower flame. Plus, I can make a roux in the saucepan & add baby green limas, or petits pois, and continue to cook over low heat with no scorching or uneven heating. My absolute favorite LC is the low, wide buffet pans (recently renamed "braisers" in the promo literature)...perfect for etouffee, chicken fricasee, etc.

Interesting. I have found the opposite to be true for many of these things. For example, I find that enamel cooking surface is significantly worse at browning meats and creating fond compared to a stainless steel surface. I also find that the larger diameters of Le Creuset don't have a thick enough construction to provide truly even heat distribution (my tests show a definite "heat ring") and long-cooking performance is significantly improved in these diameters by the use of a thick aluminum "flame tamer."

On the other hand, your 2.25 quart saucepan is so much smaller than their large casseroles that evenness of heat should be pretty good, as this diameter is within the tolerances of the thickness that they use. And, I absolutely agree that one of the main benefits of this construction is that it can maintain a nice, even, low simmer on the lowest possible heat setting.

All of which goes to show the extent to which cooking style can make a big difference. For someone preparing fairly small amounts of long-cooked Southern-style vegetables, it sounds like a great choice. For making sauces... not so much.

--

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I have disposed of things which I had owned for years, even decades, because they were useless to me, a complete waste of money, etc....then my cooking style changed and where were these so-called useless things?  Gone.  And I had to go out and buy a new one.

This has happened to me a couple of times, but not enough to justify all the other wastes of money taking up space. I'm willing to gamble wrong on 2 items for the sake of clearing out 100.

Before you "dispose" of your unwanted items, please check ebay. I can't even tell you how much money we've made selling vintage kitchen items( picked up for a song at yard sales). If only their owners would have checked ebay first. I've sold more than my share of LC saucepans. Those are still very much wanted items.

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Before you "dispose" of your unwanted items, please check ebay.  I can't even tell you how much money we've made selling vintage kitchen items( picked up for a song at yard sales).  If only their owners would have checked ebay first.  I've sold more than my share of LC saucepans.  Those are still very much wanted items.

Will do. All my disposals predate my eGullet life by years. It's my new eGullet life which has contributed to my secondhand/brand new/ acquisitions! :biggrin: Not to mention a zillion or so cookbooks. You are never too old to learn how to cook!

Darienne

 

learn, learn, learn...

 

Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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Espresso/cappuccino maker.

It's definitely true that these are among the least-used gifts someone is likely to receive. This is because the entry price point for making decent espresso/cappuccino is quite high, and everything below that price point is worthless crap.

--

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For me, it just boils down to what you're going to use, and what you're not.

A granite countertop would be a huge waste of money for me, for a lot of reasons. But for Chris, if he's making pastry, I can see where he wouldn't want to be without it. The same kind of evaluation can be made for nearly everything else mentioned here.

But there's something else I want to discuss. I live in an area of the country where the desire to purchase a specific item is often the start of an adventure, and not always a good one. If I lived in Western Kansas, as many of my family members do, All Clad might be exactly what I need. I might want to make one and only one trip into a large city to purchase my cookware, and I might not know of anywhere other than Williams-Sonoma, WalMart, or JC Penney for purchasing kitchen items. I might not want to drive all over the place looking for that out-of-the-way kitchen place, only to learn they're closed on the day I happen to be there, or that they're out of the piece(s) of some other brand that I wanted to buy.

In such an instance, All Clad might be an excellent purchase. It might represent the best bang for the buck, all things (including gas and time) considered. At least I would know I am getting a good product.

Jenny

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Luckily, even people in Western Kansas can use the interwebs.

It's only been in the past few months that anything faster than dial-up service was available for some, and it's still not available for all. If you don't mind waiting 7 to 12 minutes for each page to load, it's a heckuva deal!

Edited to add: When it comes to something expensive like cookware, I ain't buyin' until I can see it up close and personal, heft it, flick it to hear how it sounds, etc., unless it's a product I'm already very familiar with.

Edited by jgm (log)
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I'm curious:  What size is the pan?  What do you use it for?  And what do you think is so good about it for this use?

I have a 2.25 quart handled saucepan; I use it all the time for low-and-slow cooking, esp southern style veggies. I can saute seasoning meat (andouille, tasso, bacon, pickled pork) over high heat to render the fat, then brown onions & aromatics deeply, then add the veggies directly to the pot with liquid...the cast iron allows me to achieve an even simmer over very low heat. Yes, you can do these things in an all-metal saucepan, but I find that the fond created in the inital browning is better in the enameled cast iron, and the subsequent simmer requires a much lower flame. Plus, I can make a roux in the saucepan & add baby green limas, or petits pois, and continue to cook over low heat with no scorching or uneven heating. My absolute favorite LC is the low, wide buffet pans (recently renamed "braisers" in the promo literature)...perfect for etouffee, chicken fricasee, etc.

Interesting. I have found the opposite to be true for many of these things. For example, I find that enamel cooking surface is significantly worse at browning meats and creating fond compared to a stainless steel surface. I also find that the larger diameters of Le Creuset don't have a thick enough construction to provide truly even heat distribution (my tests show a definite "heat ring") and long-cooking performance is significantly improved in these diameters by the use of a thick aluminum "flame tamer."

On the other hand, your 2.25 quart saucepan is so much smaller than their large casseroles that evenness of heat should be pretty good, as this diameter is within the tolerances of the thickness that they use. And, I absolutely agree that one of the main benefits of this construction is that it can maintain a nice, even, low simmer on the lowest possible heat setting.

All of which goes to show the extent to which cooking style can make a big difference. For someone preparing fairly small amounts of long-cooked Southern-style vegetables, it sounds like a great choice. For making sauces... not so much.

I think Le Creuset (enameled cast iron) can go in the waste of money pile. My mum bought herself a set after wanting one for years, & has spent several years struggling with overly heavy saucepans that due to the thickness of the iron also have a smaller than normal capacity, the material retains heat which is great for a skillet but bad when trying to stop an overboiling pan of veggies, & the enamel can be a pig to clean, not to mention they have pouring spouts that meant you could only pour out liquids without scalding yourself if holding the heavy pan in your left hand. Mum recently gave up with the LC and bought a set of stainless from another manufacturer.

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I'm amazed at how much All-Clad goes for nowadays, and that people are willing to pay for it. I owned A-C back in the day before it became popular - it wasn't available in consumer stores then, and I got mine at a restaurant supply house. There were a few things that irritated me - I don't like rivets inside, and the rims were not made for pouring.

I gave them away and replaced them with Sitram's Catering Line, most of which I also got at a restaurant supply house when it went out of business.

I've never had a problem with warping, but then I never use high heat with AC or Sitram. High heat is reserved for the wok, Bourgeat black steel, and cast iron.

I do have a few non-stick pans, but avoid them when possible. (I now use the a Bourgeat black steel pan for omelettes.)

So, for me All-Clad is waste of money - not because it's not good, but because it's now way overpriced. For less money, I'll take Sitram's Catering line, or Bourgeat's Excellence line anytime.

Edited by mr.baconhead (log)
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Two huge things for us when we were designing our kitchen were the countertops and the range hood. Our island is HUGE and we just couldn't imagine the glare of a big granite slab in the middle of the room - and we didn't want visible seams, either. We went with Corian and we could not be happier! Our range is built into this enormous island, and needed a hood. The thought of some huge stainless blimp thing hanging down was unappealing so our contractor suggested framing it in with wood, something that would also help absorb more sound. WOW. Honestly I don't even notice it sometimes.

My kitchen is warm and inviting, in spite of the big, modern appliances. Because we live in the woods, we wanted to make sure that the materials we chose were not going to clash with our surroundings. We had to work hard to get that feel right, though. Here's a picture ....

006.jpg

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Oh and I wanted to chime in about cookware. I have used every freaking "high end" brand there is and nothing - NOTHING compares to my stainless Cuisinart that I got for a steal from Amazon. OMG nothing but NOTHING sticks or stains. I love it love it love it.

I think that most things in the kitchen are so very individual - depend so much on the cook AND the family they cook for, yk? What is indisposable for one person is a waste to another. I will say that it does irk me to see people put enormous amounts of money into their kitchens for show only - when they don't like to cook and don't do much of it - but that is more a peeve than true waste, because money spent in a kitchen can be a good investment...

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