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Most kitchen gadgets clutter your cupboards, clog drawers and are not that useful. Essentially, buying them is like throwing away money. I suspect many who do are trying to compensate for poor to average cooking skills — or worse, laziness.

Many will tell you — and I believe it to be true — that decent chefs need little more than a sharp set of knives, good pots and pans and imagination. The only place to keep a spiralizer is the bin.

But just because something isn’t essential, does that mean you shouldn’t get one? I write this, in the first flush of a love affair that I’m having with the £450 ice cream maker I bought as a present for my other half.  

Many top-end kitchen gadgets serve as presents for those who have everything — which explains the pasta rolling device I once gave my parents. It never left the box. However, some gadgets are worth the money. And some deserve to be on public display. Which are worth the investment? With 30 years of purchasing experience since that acquisition disaster, I’ve learnt a few things along the way.

I often find that products that pertain to multi-function are a compromise. I’ve no idea which of the multitude of machines is technically best, but I do know that if you want a food mixer for the cake you’ll make once a year or the bread you’ll bake because you bought some fancy flour in a farm shop, buy a Kenwood or Kitchen Aid. They’re design classics. Others don’t look right and must live out of sight. Don’t bother with the more high-spec variants, unless you’ve done your homework and think the add-ons necessary. As for the £1,199 Kenwood Cooking Chef with an induction cooking element. What’s the point? Better show-off products are available.

Food processors are essential. Not because you’ll use them much, but for any guests who pop around for a glass of fizz: you can pretend that you’ll attempt a Nigella Lawson recipe should a dinner party situation arise. Don’t muck about, buy the Magimix 5200XL premium. It’s £490 well spent. It’s pretty and dishwasher safe. Food processors were made for the lazy, so washing up by hand is not an option. Most models are ugly so will have to live in a cupboard, which means they’ll never get used.

Currently, there’s a trend for high-end brands to collaborate with fashion designers, justifying outrageous prices. Smeg’s collaboration with Dolce & Gabbana personifies this trend. Their kettle will set you back £599. Bonkers. Get a Quooker instant boiling water tap instead. The gunmetal version costs £1,860 but you won’t have to buy separate taps and instant boiling water is far more useful than a kettle cluttering the worktop. Be warned, however, a boiling water tap is not a good present.

Things get silly when you move into the realms of coffee makers. When I had my kitchen remodelled, I held my nose and bought Gaggenau. I’m aware that the innards are made by Bosch. Why spend £7,000 on an oven when the Bosch version is £399? Simple, it looks nicer. In the same way that you’ll spend £30,000 on an Audi A5 or about £186,000 on a Bentley Continental. Same parent company, similar job. But you can’t show off in an Audi A5. Unless you’re 17 and it’s your first car. 

At the time, I purchased two ovens, and a microwave, all built in units. Someone thought it would be a good idea to get a plate warmer. Stupid idea. That’s £2,000 I’ll never see again.

Back to the coffee machine. It looks amazing. But for £3,000 it should. It has major drawbacks, however. It’s built-in and you have to pull it out to fill it with water manually. For frothed milk, there’s a fiddly container that needs washing every time it’s used and don’t get me started should you have to change the beans. With no removable container, a stepladder and a Henry vacuum is the only way I’ve found that works. What a palaver. I’d have been better off with the £295 Grind, stainless steel, Nespresso compatible pod machine. 

No column on kitchen gadgets would be complete without an air fryer debate. You’d probably expect me to select the Ninja Double Stack XL. It’s £269. But it’s hideous. I didn’t spend thousands on Gaggenau kit to sully the look with a fad item. So I bought a Daewoo for £19.99, and it sits in the pantry. Never to be seen by guests. And it’s fabulous. 

When it comes to items that require display, like a toaster, that’s when spending money is worthwhile. There are plenty available, but most are awful. Unless you live on your own, why would you own a toaster that can only make two slices at once? Who eats just one slice of toast? It has to be a four-slice device. And it has to be Dualit. That’s £220 well spent. 

What about the superfluous devices? Popcorn maker? No. Get the microwaveable product. Candyfloss maker? No. Just buy it should you go to a funfair — there’s no excuse for eating that nonsense at home anyway. 

But the ultimate kitchen device? I refer back to my ice cream maker. Manufactured by Magimix, it makes smooth, creamy gelato. Or it makes proper thick stuff and granita too. Don’t bother with the ones that rely on ice or have to go in the deep-freeze to work, they’re suitable for one thing and one thing alone: landfill.

And that’s the point. A kitchen gadget that simply does the job needs to be hidden and makes a terrible present. One with showoffability is worth the money. An ice cream maker isn’t essential. But was it a great and unexpected birthday present that delights every time it’s used? And do we love it? Absolutely. 

James Max is a broadcaster on TV and radio and a property expert. The views expressed are personal. X, Instagram & Threads @thejamesmax

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