Ode to My Favorite Kitchen Gadget

blue cartoonish crock pot gadget

I have a self-professed love for kitchen gadgets, the more ridiculous the better (hot dog + bun toaster anyone?). I’ve even set up an entire Instagram account dedicated to discovering and sharing these crazy finds (@stupidkitchengadgets). This quirky fixation probably stems from early childhood indoctrination via the high energy tv ads of my youth courtesy of Ron Popeil (“Set it and forget it!”) and others.

I gotta admit, I have a fair number of these gadgets on hand, but only the truly useful ones get to stick around, no matter how narrow the use (ahem, egg slicer). I run a tight ship and I can’t deal with overflowing kitchen drawers and countertops. Everything in my kitchen must be used at minimum once per year (example: turkey roasting pan) or it is out. I wish I could be this disciplined in my closet. What can I say? I am a work in progress.

Gateway Gadgets


Foghorn Leghorn Branded Egg Cooker Gadget
The gadget that started it all

The gateway gadget for me though was the Foghorn Leghorn branded egg cooker my mom bought me when I was in college (if you don’t recognize that cartoon reference then you grew up in different generation; I’m sad for you). It was a bright yellow and white ovoid shaped pod that took raw eggs to perfectly hard boiled with a splash of water and a touch of the single function button. No complicated user manuals or settings to figure out, just load it up and turn it on. No need to time or calculate, the thing just magically shut itself off with a cute little chirp when the eggs were done. I think it also had the option to make poached eggs too, but I didn’t bother with that.

Gadgets Galore

Dazzled by the quirkiness and utility of my egg cooker, I began collecting all manner of kitchen gadgets. Some were winners (rice cooker, still a work horse in my kitchen) and some were definitely losers that did not earn a permanent place in my home (cherry pitter, what was I thinking? I don’t even really like cherries). I can boldly state that I use kitchen gadgets every day. It is 630 am and I have already used my electric hot water kettle, rice cooker and egg slicer!

But there is one unassuming, maybe even a bit dowdy machine that gets no respect — the slow cooker. I am here to rectify that with a celebration of the magic of the “Crock Pot” (like Kleenex, the brand name has become synonymous with the gadget itself).

Don’t Dismiss the Crock Pot

I remember growing up in the glorious 1970s when every household had one. Usually in some unfortunate earth toned hue, sometimes with cute mushrooms or other designs. Curiously, I rarely saw them in use. I know we had an orange and brown version taking up valuable cupboard space at home, but I have no recollection of any meals coming out of it. It just gathered dust wedged in between the fondue pot and the plug-in electric wok (hmmm maybe my love of kitchen gadgets has a genetic component…). I honestly suspect it’s weight may have made it less attractive to my mom — hauling that thing out of the cabinet would have required significant upper body strength. A quick aside — I found that when I relocated my stand mixer to the counter top, I starting using it more than when I had it stored elsewhere and had to muscle it out each time. That thing is a monster!

Gorgeous dark red Kitchen Aid stand mixer against a blue tiled backsplash
Not a Crock Pot

But I love it. My point is, if it is too hard to even get it out, it’s probably not gonna be used much, if at all. I suspect this explains the dearth of Crock Pot cooking in my childhood home.

But anyway, today, my Crock Pot is a star in my kitchen. It is wayyyyyy lighter than those older, cuter versions. The ceramic insert still has some mass, but the external housing is super light. Still (thankfully) just one knob that is easy to understand. No need for precision timing, it is highly forgiving (hard to overcook stuff) and is conducive to kitchen ad-libbing. I mean look at what this thing can do; it can transform humble ingredients into magical meals like the soup below.

This is probably my death row meal: Navy bean and ham soup courtesy of my Crock Pot

I cook everything in those babies. Oh sure, the predictable soups, stews and braises are a given. But I also love to cook up dried beans to have around, avoiding all the added salt and waste that comes with buying canned. It takes a little forethought, but is worth it. They taste better and are way cheaper. Just start them in the morning and have fresh beans by dinner time. If you make too many, store them in the fridge or freeze them for later. It is also a great vehicle for slow simmering my homemade marinara sauce and saves my stove from splatter. I love that it can slow cook all day and I get to bask in the aromas without having to tend to it. There is something peaceful about cooking slowly and lazily like this. I even bought a second one (in pink!) for smaller jobs, like when I’m home alone and want to cook something just for me.

Crock Pot Versatility

Another lesser-known Crock Pot feature is that you can use it quite effectively as an oven. I do this often in the hot summer months when I want to avoid adding any extra heat to the house. I’ve done ribs and jerk chicken and even baked potatoes. It has been a life saver during the holidays when oven space is at a premium. I’ve made whole turkeys and even stuffing in that crazy thing.

Little pink number still gets the job done

It may not have 50 different functions with a code to learn for each, but it is more versatile than you might think. And guess what I sent my daughter when she was sick while away at college? A petite size for making simple soups in smaller quantities without much effort. She was thrilled. Genetic gadget love successfully passed down to the next generation.