If all kitchen gadgets were purely functional, there would be nothing fun for enthusiastic cooks and eaters to give each other as gifts, and that would be a tragedy. Across the decades, kitchens have evolved from high-pressure work environments to places we want to hang out and socialize in, and they’ve even become a showcase for our quirky personalities. And why not? We’d rather use an egg timer shaped like a pot-bellied pig than one that blends sleekly into the backlash. Life is more fun when you embrace the subtle chaos of kitchen tzotchkes.
Here’s a list of The Takeout staff’s dumbest, most unnecessary kitchen gadgets that never fail to bring us joy. Readers, we expect a thorough rundown from each of you as well.
I should mention upfront that I have a freezer with an automatic ice maker. And for once in my refrigerator-owning life, that ice maker actually works (handymen everywhere are powerless against Big Broken Ice Maker). In theory, I never have to fill an ice cube tray with water again as long as I live—assuming, reasonably, that the refrigerator outlives me, its design superior to my own in every way. But this novelty Bulldog-shaped ice mold from Williams-Sonoma is so dumb, so intricate, and so not something I’d ever spend $21.95 to own that receiving it as a gift was one of the great joys in my culinary life. I’m always happy to fill this little guy with tap water and eagerly await its solid state so I can plop a chunky bulldog into my rocks glass, its vacant eyes peeking over the surface of my cocktail. It always makes me laugh. Maybe I should pay $21.95 for more things that make me this happy. —Marnie Shure
Last fall, my little brother visited me in Chicago for his first ever solo trip. He took one look at my apartment and declared it “Miss Honey vibes.” He was, of course, referring to the endearing teacher played by Embeth Davidtz in the film adaptation of Matilda. Miss Honey wears flattering sweater sets and lives in a stone cottage, where she and Matilda drink tea and read books and, I don’t know, sit on charmingly mismatched stools. I looked around my own pad, noted the handmade felt Halloween decor and the half-finished knitting project in the corner, and decided he was right. Two months later, my sister gave me a life-changing Christmas gift: an old-fashioned soup crock shaped like a dang mushroom.
It’s not something that I would’ve necessarily bought for myself. It’s silly, a tad unwieldy, and doesn’t fit in perfectly with the rest of my dishware. But it makes me smile every time I see it in my dish cabinet, and it’s become my go-to soup vessel. (And I eat a lot of soup.) It’s impossibly cute and adds a bit of charm to even the most ho-hum afternoon. Plus, it’s a limited-edition item that is currently out of stock online. Neener neener neener. —Lillian Stone
I have had this penguin bowl for probably around 15 years now. One day I bought it for myself off eBay on a whim, since it was just a few bucks (shipping cost more than the bowl). I don’t generally make impulse buys of little things for myself, but for some reason, I found myself drawn to it. This thing has seen countless servings of instant ramen, soups, cereal, and more. Why I love this penguin bowl so much, I’m not entirely sure, but I am convinced that anything served in it tastes way better than if I ate it out of some boring mismatched bowl in the cabinet.
It’s hard to pick up, gets too hot too fast, and I’m always convinced I’m going to break it or drop it, but I’m going to love this thing for as long as it’s a part of my life. Plus, as you can see, he’s got a cousin that likes to hang out with him too. —Dennis Lee
Some may argue that champagne was not meant to be chugged. The company Champbong, on the other hand, sees no other way to imbibe. The flutes lead down to a curved, open-ended stem that you put to your lips before tipping the whole thing over, bubbly wine or whatever else you choose to pour in gliding right down your throat. There is no mechanism in place to ever set the glasses down without spilling them. These are meant to be either completely full or completely empty. They are impractical, irrational, and very, very hard to clean—and I love them.
In the midst of the pandemic a friend of mine moved to LA, and before leaving was desperate to get rid of as much excess stuff as possible. I helped her out, walking away with an AC unit, two gold sequin outfits, and the Champbongs, the perfect recipe for a party. So far I’ve only pulled out the party flutes twice, each year on my birthday since 2020, but they’re a crowd-pleaser every time. Just last week my roommate was decluttering our kitchen, wondering if I wanted to put the Champbongs in the donate pile. I just couldn’t say goodbye. Those little glasses may be silly and essentially useless, but they bring me joy, and I want to hold onto all the joy I can. —Brianna Wellen