"useless kitchen gadgets" that are actually useful?

Every so often, I hear someone mention this great as-seen-on-tv-style gadget they thought was a sham/waste of money/useless dust gatherer until they got one and discovered it’s actually unbelievably handy to have around. Of course, I don’t remember what any of them are, so I turn to you, benevolent Dopers. What’s your favorite kitchen gadget that one wouldn’t necessarily expect to be useful? Out of the hundreds of little things they have in the stores, what’s actually worth paying for?

A good, high-quality garlic press. A lemon zester.

A lettuce keeper. http://www.bonanzle.com/booths/tonianne/items/VINTAGE_TUPPERWARE_GREEN_STRAINER___3PC_LETTUCE_KEEPER

Knife sharpener.
http://www.everythingkitchens.com/chefs_choice_knife_sharpener_120.html

Aero-garden.
http://www.aerogrow.com/
fresh herbs

Any kind of garlic peeler, they’re all equally effective. The garlic press has been very useful to me as well.

The magic bullet makes amazing margaritas.

Egg-rite Egg Timer. I can’t live without it. I WON’T live without one in the house. I give one to every new bride at their shower.

I’ve got one of these and have never got it to work properly.

My favourites include a pastry blender (a bunch of wire hoops attached to a handle - rubs fat into flour to breadcrumb texture in a few seconds, much more convenient than doing it by fingertips.

And not really a gadget - it’s a Victorinox paring knife (non-serrated blade, about 10cm). I’ve got three of them*
They’re amazing - brilliantly slender and flexible, and the steel holds a really good edge. I use them for just about everything.
(*I had only one and lost it, so I bought two spares, beside myself in panic, then I found the original)

If you eat a lot of sliced apples, these are pretty handy. I don’t know if I’d call it a gadget, but it works.

A Microplane grater.

Useless? Everyone should have a knife sharpener. Keeping knives sharp is extremely important.

I have to admit, I probably screwed up using it, but I had one of those and managed to royally mess up a knife. I was given one as a present and though I was suspicious of my ability, I read the instructions very carefully, then used a “steak knife” that I’d never used and gotten as part of a knife set (these days I only have the chef knife from it), and followed the steps as given. It didn’t look good at all, like I had roughly shaved down the faces of the blade or something.

Because I apparently suck at this, I stick with a steel, and for regular sharpening, I have two guys who do my sharpening work. In bad weather, there’s a guy in town who owns a dry-cleaners/tailors, and sharpens blades. On weekends in good weather, there’s a man who has a push cart with a bell that rings when he pushes it down the sidewalk; built into the cart is a sharpening “wheel” driven by a foot-pedaled belt. He has some kind of strop as well. Charges a couple bucks a knife, and people come out of their houses with their hands full of knives to be worked on.

Another vote for the Microplane products and a garlic press. I gave a Microplane grater to my sister for Christmas several years ago, as she makes tens of dozens of cookies every year and used to zest her fruit with an old-fashioned zester. When she opened the package, she gently mocked my gift, having never seen one before. A year later she called me and thanked me profusely for saving her a HUGE amount of effort.

I have the original multi-tool, straight out of Blondie and Dagwood, which was left to me by my Grandmother. It opens any kind of container (including wine bottles), pokes holes in stuff, cuts things nothing else will cut, and makes all kinds of pretty stuff out of vegetables.

To look at it, you’d think it was completely useless. It just a red stripey wooden handle with lots of strange metal bits sticking out at the end. One of my most prized possessions!

Another vote for the magic bullet. I bought it for making baby food, but still use it constantly.

And the NuWave oven. It was a panic purchase when my regular oven died right before Thanksgiving. I use it at least three times per week.

That SlapChop thing that you see on TV. Years ago (before the SlapChop made it to tv) Pampered Chef sold something similar - I love it. I have heard the Slap Chop brand is shoddy crap (YMMV) but the pampered chef version was well made and very handy.

Also, an olive oil sprayer. It is so nice to be able to add a little olive oil without having it concentrated in drizzles or puddles.

Microplane graters, definitely.

A V-Slicer (that’s the original and the best. I’ve had other ones that really sucked). I don’t use it every day, but it’s absolutely amazing. If you need to slice up a bunch of vegetables, this thing makes it go so quick. I like baking sweet potato ‘chips’ or making gratins (or slicing stuff up for stir fries) and this is way easier and faster than with a knife; the slices are a lot more even, too.

We used the Salad Shooter with great success for many years. Didn’t work with some veggies but for mass quantities at a picnic - it was ideal.

I have to agree… the Microplane zester is my number one choice. Mine gets used more regularly than all my other kitchen gadgets combined.

Other than that, a good-quality silicone spoonula is a godsend. I got a Williams-Sonoma one as a gift a few years ago and I used it so much I decided I need a couple of more… yes, it’s pricey for what it is, but it’s not as floppy as the el cheapo imitators and it’s a million times more durable.

A lot of people mention garlic presses (and peelers), but why? You can just use the broad side of a knife or the heel of your hand to smash the garlic. Then it’s pealed and “pressed”.

I’ll second otternell’s SlapChop nomination. I have a knockoff (can’t remember the exact brand) and it works great.

I love my lemon squeezer!

I dunno about you, but when I smash garlic the way you describe, it still needs to be minced. The pieces from smashing are pretty big, I typically want a very fine mince to my garlic. A garlic press gives you that.

I usually smash to peel, then throw it in the garlic press to mince.