panini-schamini: do you have a kitchen gadget that always lets you down?

The other day, I got a wild hair and decided to make myself a grilled PB&J for lunch. Sure, I could have just opted for a regular old frying pan, but I thought I’d go for gold. So, I unearthed my Le Creuset panini pan from the nether regions of my kitchen cabinet (no doubt banished there for good reason), got it smoking hot, popped my sandwich inside, and ended up with this:


Not exactly the delicious, satisfying lunch I had in mind. If anything, it conjured more of a gag reflex than hunger pains. As I scraped the sorry remnants out of the pan, a series of flashbacks of prior mishaps appeared before my eyes. In reality, this panini pan has plagued me since the day it arrived. I didn’t return it after the first stick-tastic catastrophe, thinking it was just a fluke, or I was doing something wrong. A year later, I’ve determined there’s just no amount of grease sufficient to prevent this pan from destroying everything it touches. And, as you might expect, clean-up is – well, not a breeze. But I spent so much money on it…you know how it goes.

We all have them. Those appliances, gadgets or tools in the kitchen that we absolutely despise. Something we probably shelled out a good chunk of change to buy, with hopes of it transforming our culinary lives. Only to discover, once we put it to use, that it’s an utter horror to have around. Yet for some reason, you just can’t bear to throw it out.

As for me, I’m finally ready to admit defeat. I’m sending this pan off to my local Goodwill, complete with the residual PB&J crud I couldn’t free from its clutches, where some poor sap will undoubtedly discover it and think they’ve hit the thrift store jackpot. That is, until they get it home.

Please…tell me I’m not alone. Do you have any gadget wreckage cluttering up your kitchen? –Becki S.

From our partners

Yes, a juicer. Biggest waste of my money ever.

As for the pan, I have the same one and haven’t had any problems. I usually use thick bread (like artisianal bread) and butter the outside of both sides, just like a grilled cheese. Also, I let it sit for at least three minutes before I take the lid off and flip. If it doesn’t have time to develope a crust, it will totally stick. I also wipe the top lid with oil right before I put it on my sandwich.


I have a large Le Cruset skillet that seems to have “sticking” issues as well. The inner cooking surface is satin black enamel. It seems no matter how much oil/butter I use the food always sticks. Do I need to somehow season the pan?


I have had the same thing happen to my Mario Batali grill pan. Thought it would be the best ever…NOT. But with the comment by Lynn I will try it again and see if that changes anything. I loved your comment about the thriftstore jackpot…”Ahhh, now I know why they got rid of it”


i always thought that you had to use foil with those, just so there’s not goo-y mess to clean up.

Every garlic press I’ve purchased (and I’ve bought a few) has been a complete failure. Takes longer to clean the things than it does to chop the garlic by hand.


My bf’s parents just love the As Seen on TV Store so he has received (and donated to Goodwill) a number of appliances. The last one was some kind of food chopper–and its still sitting in the box it came in. He was really worried that this past Christmas he’d get a cake pop maker or a mini doughnut fryer but so far so good. At my house we have a fish broiler–it works great but clean up is a bitch and if you fry a lot of fish the smoke alarm in the back of the house inevitably gets involved.


Vegetable Oil Sprayer, the kind you fill, pump up, and spray. My first one cracked in half (due to the pressure?) and spilled oil all over the counter. Someone gave me another one and it clogged up after a short time. I finally threw it out this past weekend when its presence on the counter was too annoying and I decided it wasn’t worth my time to try and fix.

I am *loving* these stories…and it’s making me feel better about my panini saga!


As for the sticking, let it cook longer at a lower temp. Too much butter or oil ends up burning and then it makes your food stick to the pan. Same theory as putting oil on your food and not the grill. Thank you Alton Brown and Americas Test Kitchen!


Like Martha said above– an oil sprayer. It seemed like a good idea but it was more of a mister and I would end up with just as much oil sprayed around the pan as in the pan.


I also nominate the oil sprayer, mine’s from Crate & Barrel and it’s marginally ok and impossible to clean. I use it for water and misting bread in the oven for a crispy crust.

I also have a love hate with my le Creuset with the black enamel. The grill pan is ok (too small though) and the 10″ skillet I have is terrible. I also have a Staub pan with the same type of black enamel interior and it is WONDERFUL. I think my LC pan is a dud and I’m going to return it to them and see what they say.

My new Microplane Cheese grater (The funny conical shaped one that is black and white) was the biggest waste of money ever. The paddle versions are so much better.

The 4 cup mini prep bowl that goes inside my 12 cup KitchenAid food processor is useless because the sides slope too much.

Plastic OX measuring cups- I hate them and use my glass pyrex whenever possible. Oil is so hard to clean off plastic and those things just don’t stay clean.

Complaints aside, I have loads of gadgets that I do love.

Mary T

Joan, years ago I did some work at a culinary school and one of the chefs told me never to use a garlic press — it takes away the flavor of the garlic! Hand chopping is the winner there, unfortunately.

And if you want to know the secret to super-easy panini, here it is: George Foreman Grill! You’re welcome!


In a Foundary impulse buy, I got a S’Mores maker. It is a rotisserie type thing for marshmallows, which seemed awesome for my lack of fire in my place. It’s awful. And smokes, and will reek of burning plastic.

I got one of those mini-pie maker things for Christmas. The first batch did not come close to cooking evenly, but it got better. Still on the fence whether it will be used much at all.