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The Kitchen Essentials Deathmatch, explained

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Did you know that there are more than 475 trillion different kinds of kitchen items? These are 64 of the most common. Some are good, some are bad. Fill out the bracket.

These are our non-exhaustive feelings on the candidates of this bracket.

HAND TOOLS

Knife, chef's

Jon: This is the only kind of knife I own. If they made an action figure out of me and I were allowed one accessory, it would be a chef's knife. If I were allowed a second accessory, I'd probably want one of those action figures of myself, the ones that come with a chef's knife. This would initiate an infinite loop and create a wormhole that would swallow every establishment that sold them as a kid's meal toy. Dine at Chevron while you are still able.

Knife, paring

Spencer: I'll be honest, I've got a phobia of using one of these because I have nightmares about shearing my whole arm off in one clean swipe of the blade. Kitchen tools shouldn't look like they're already implicated in a double stabbing. Also let's be honest, paring is like writing in cursive for cooking. I'm not doing it, ever.

Knife, bread

S: Bread knives are dope, use them for everything. I've cut a steak with one and it was fine and all the other knives were dirty. Call the food cops on me if you dare.

J: Speaking as someone who owns no knife but a chef's knife, I feel entirely qualified to weigh in, because I have cut dozens of baguettes with a chef's knife. I may as well try to cut it with a jagged rock. I feel like Cain slaying Abel every time.

Spatula (metal)

S: I call it THE DICTATOR'S SPOON.

Spatula (wooden)

S: This is made-up hobbit cookery, GTFO here with it, no one has a wooden spatula.

Tongs

S: Tongs are great for not getting burned and also for biting people with them when they come in the kitchen. P.S. if you have children they will disappear from your kitchen in 15 minutes, because DADDY WE PLAY ALLIGATOR. It is impossible not to play with tongs.

J: Great for steak and a lot of other things, and yes, I also anthropomorphize my tongs. The little safety catch thing that keeps them closed broke off long ago. It has sat in the darkness of a kitchen drawer, jaws open, shrieking, for years. Just a silent shriek in dark oblivion that will never cease until nature learns how to consume steel. It will be dug out of bedrock eons from now, still screaming, soundless, eyeless. Really handy when you're braising, too.

Grater

J: I don't like cheese in the way most people do, so I only use this sucker once a month or so. The last thing I spiked on the floor out of anger, years ago, was a cheese grater. There's just no way to keep a stupid person from grating the crud out of his hands. I didn't use the shaved-off part of my hand skin for any kind of cooking, I just threw it away.

Slotted spoon

S: This is a broken spoon or the world's worst designed colander. Pass.

J: I'll take it if you're giving it away. I need it for eggs Benedict and literally nothing else.

Ladle

S: Ladles are fine, even if their basic design ensures that a one nanometer wobble of the whole thing will eject the liquid eight feet in all directions. Harness the power of a ladle's instability and we solve the world's energy crisis tomorrow.

J: You can live your life without a ladle, and all's good until the day you try to serve chili and resort to skimming it out with a beer glass like a sad ape.

S: Or a coffee cup. [shudders]

Garlic press

J: Useless.

S: Crap, utter crap.

Whisk

J: Of extant, but limited, utility. Almost everything can be accomplished just as well with a fork. Stir something thick with it and you'll have to drop it off at the municipal depot where you drop off car batteries to clean it. You will get it back in six to eight months, and it will count as your vote.

S: Essential but I like whipping like, one egg into a three inch high souffle for no reason whatsoever.

Peeler

S: I like these better when they're called "knives."

J: But wait, you can use them to peel off orange zest-- oh yeah, knives can do that too. Yeah peelers are stupid.

Potato masher

S: Not necessary as long as you have a fork. I use the bottom of a wine bottle to mash mine because it's the kitchen utensil you can drink.

Meat tenderizer

S: Initially skeptical but now in favor because hammering at a steak until it's paper thin is very, very satisfying. Could you use a real hammer for this? Can I tell you not to? Do I want to see you film this, and potentially miss and destroy a granite countertop on video? Yes? Yes.

J: This is some DOOM-weapon business and I really wish it were useful. It's most often called for to make chicken breast taste more like something you'd want to eat. "Oh Lord, this cut of meat is completely dry and flavorless. Maybe if I beat the shit out of it, it will become literally anything else."

Rolling pin

J: I don't know. Pizza is the only baking I concern myself with, and I don't use a rolling pin for pizza dough. Apart from that I don't know anything about baking. I think that cookies are dug out of the ground.

S: Rolling pins are used in olde-timey cartoon beatdowns of negligent husbands. I am by default in favor of them.

APPLIANCES

Slow cooker

S: Everything cooked in a slow cooker tastes the same and turns into some form of unseasoned mongrel chili.

J: Hi, this is Jon from New York City, here to explain Crock-Pot collards to Spencer.

Kettle, electric

S: Boils water for tea, which is crap. If only there were some other way of boiling water in a kettle. If only.

J: Tea is mostly crap, but French press coffee is great, and you need hot water for that. I have a gas range and would rather not ignite a pyre of flame every morning.

Microwave

S: Microwaves are incredible and not just because they can make a marshmallow swell to nine times its normal size.

J: In high school I had a friend who found an old microwave left out on a curb with the door missing. He brought it home and found out it still worked. He turned it on and stuck his head in it and everything. I just checked Facebook and he is still alive. Microwaves are fine.

Coffee grinder, electric

J: Get this, don't get the hand-crank one.

Coffee grinder, hand-crank

J: Get the electric one, don't get this one. Coffee people will tell you some shit about how the burrs make a better grind. I would have to live for 600 years before I got around to caring about some shit like that.

S: wait are these real

J: Hand to God.

Food processor

J: I respect these, because they only understand two things: POWER OFF and DESTROY.

S: A kitchen necessity AND role model.

French press

S: The best if only because the coffee that comes out of them can burn a hole in time.

J: These are great. Their coffee tastes really good, and having one on my desk makes me feel like a T.J. Maxx Aladdin.

Rice cooker

J: I cannot properly stress how much easier one of these will make your life. You know how much of a culinary nerd-god Alton Brown can be? You know how he's always talking about titrating Sunny Delight and making toast with a centrifuge and all that? Even he admits to messing up rice every fourth or fifth time he cooks it. We're all stupid and we need rice cookers.

Toaster

J: You have a skillet, right?

Toaster oven

S: You're an adult, why are you toaster ovening. The first toaster oven was clearly a mislabeled toy oven no one had the courage to admit was a mislabeled toy oven. Never admit a mistake and you will be in charge of things eventually.

Blender, standard

S: They're fine but all the speeds are a lie. Also dies in a week if you use it at all, making it the mayfly of the kitchen. Their lives are short, but they try to live them well unlike SOME devices they know.

[/eyes slow cooker suspiciously]

Blender, immersion

J: One day I'll buy one of these, and that's when I'll know my evolution as a spiritual being has ceased and the long, protracted sentence of accumulating things and eventually dying has begun.

S: I have one. Dying rules.

Deep fryer

S: Don't have this in the house for the same reason I don't have a keg in my bedroom. There's paths that end with a forklift busting me out of a house. This is one.

George Foreman Grill

S: I dunno, this always feels like Guitar Hero for cooking. JUST HIT THE BUTTONS AND SHRED.

Coffee maker, drip-pot

S: True fact: Not one has ever been made that does not dribble half of a pot of coffee onto the floor every time you pour it.

Waffle press

S: My mom makes biscuits in hers. This is not a judgement on the waffle iron, but rather me mombragging so very hard here.

COOKWARE

Dutch oven

J: This is one of my favorite things I own, full stop.

S: Dutch ovens are superb. I want one that weighs 700 pounds and takes seven days to heat up to the temperature of the surface of the sun.

Skillet, non-stick

S: I am a negligent person so the shorter way to process a relationship between me and a non-stick pan is to just spray my throat with non-stick coating and then hand me a ruined, scoured pan I can't give away.

Skillet, steel

S: In the same vein, just sell me a pan with paella rice pre-scorched onto the bottom forever and call it a day.

Paella pan

S: BIG-ASS PAN WITH TWO HANDLES. THIS IS JUST A BIG-ASS PAN. STOP UPMARKETING, I'M NOT AN NPR LISTENER WHO NEEDS A DISTANT BRAND REFERENT FOR EVERY ITEM IN MY KITCHEN. I DO NOT FIND TUSCAN THINGS INTRINSICALLY MORE TRUSTWORTHY OR BEAUTIFUL. THESE ALMONDS NEED NOT BE MARCONA. IT'S A BIG-ASS PAN AND SOMETIMES YOU NEED THOSE. FIN.

Wok

S: Just get the aforementioned big-ass pan, most non-kitchen grade American gas burners can't get hot enough to merit the use of a wok. If you do want that kind of heat, chef Andy Ricker of Pok Pok recommends putting a fan at full blast pointed right at a wood-burning tao, a traditional Thai stove. If you do this, you are completely insane, and now have a neat hole in your ceiling. Put a fireman's pole through it for the kids!

Pizza stone

J: I have no time or space for this nonsense. I'll build my own car sooner than I'll try to bake a large pizza at home. I'll just bake a small one on an upside-down cast-iron skillet, which will not crack under high heat. A pizza stone will be just fine until it cracks in half and turns your oven into the Book of Exodus. And it will crack if it has even a drop of water on it, or if you or anyone you have ever known has drank a glass of water or been fishing.

S: Making your own pizza? Sure, okay Survivorman, you should GoPro that shit.

Baking sheet

J: Just use a baking dish.

S: Cookies, dude. Cookies.

J: Like, from the ground?

Baking dish

J: Cool.

S: Eh.

Fry basket

J: Everyone else thinks that you should just reach into hot oil yourself and burn yourself alive, but I think that having a fry basket is a good idea.

S: Japanese tempura chefs reportedly test the oil with their bare hands. I think the Japanese culinary community does some pretty awesome lying about weird stuff.

Stock pot

J: Typing this before Spencer gets to it: soup is really good.

S: Soup is crap.

Kettle

S: I didn't get drafted to be American in this life just to drink tea.

Wave, egg

S: Laziest garbage I have ever seen

Wave, bacon

S: COMPLETELY BRILLIANT

MISCELLANEOUS

Thermometer

J: no

S: For grilling it's good because I am dumb, and assume all meat is done the minute it takes on color.

Measuring cups/spoons

J: Not really necessary unless you're baking, in which case they are your mother and father and God. Just make sure you pay an extra buck or two for cups and spoons with labels that are actually embossed into them, rather than printed on. I have a 1/4 measuring cup that might be a 1/3 measuring cup. I have no idea, and have not for years. In another dimension there's a ghost version of myself who has had proper measuring cups all along. He is the President.

Butcher's twine

J: For years, me and twine were like Pee-Wee and the snakes in the burning pet shop. I just didn't want to deal with some dumbass butcher's twine. But if you want to roast an actually-good chicken, you have to buy the weird grocery store string.

Cocktail shaker

J: I call it Daddy's Thermos. I'm not a dad. I say "heh, check it out, it's Daddy's Thermos" in my apartment, where nobody else lives, to nobody. I have hardwood, so it echoes off the floor and bounces back, like a shadow of sound.

S: Be honest with yourself and admit that on most nights you're going to skip all steps between opening the bottle and putting the liquor in your mouth.

Wine key

J: I don't need to explain the importance of this one. Nothing will make you feel like more of a forest creature than the experience of trying to take the cork off a bottle of wine without a corkscrew. I once used the tip of a knife to stab away at a cork until it finally gave up and disintegrated. The upside of this was that there was finally a flavor in my wine I could describe. It was "cork."

S: There are a thousand online tutorials about opening wine bottles with something other than a corkscrew, and all of them end up with purple wine stains on the ceiling and shards of broken green glass hiding in your carpet for months afterwards. Essential.

Can opener

J: i don't know, can you

S: jon

Lemon press

S: Just a bigger and more useless garlic press. Lemons are worthless dropout limes, fwiw.

Pepper mill

S: Oooh, it's like I'm doing Carrabba's cosplay in the comfort of my own house!

Cutting board, plastic

J: These are such unusable crap, all of them, and they don't even incubate any fun diseases.

Cutting board, wood

J: I've had the same bamboo cutting board for five years, and I love it. I'm positive that every human ill is lodged within its cracks by this point. Even non-bacterial stuff and other stuff you can't catch is in there. Broken legs and ulcers are in there just chillin'.

Pot holder

J: Pot hold just doesn't cut it, and pot holdest is more than I can handle.

Knife sharpener

S: Jacques Pepin says you can just use the back of a porcelain plate, so you should just use the back of a plate because Jacques Pepin could make delicious pancakes out of sawdust and motor oil.