Between the 1950s and 1980s, there was a boon in unique (and oddly specific) kitchen gadgetry. Although not everything from the past needs to get catapulted into the future (looking at you under-the-seat fuel tanks), these vintage kitchen items need a fast pass to the top of the list.
Presto's Hot Dogger
The perfect way to cook a hotdog is debatable. Some people love that open-flame char, while others are content to nuke one in the microwave and eat it sans bun. However, if you were blessed to eat a hotdog cooked using Presto’s Hot Dogger you know that no other ‘dog compares.
What makes this 70s gadget legendary is the spokes you’d skewer 6 hotdogs onto and, with the press of a button, electrocute to the perfect cooked crispness. This thing can turn even the cheapest hot dogs into ballpark delicacies. Who needs to nurse a flame on a cool afternoon when you can get delicious hot dogs in just 60 seconds?
You couldn’t remodel a kitchen in the 1970s without designating a spot on your counters for the mandatory bread box. Why, oh, why did bread boxes go out of fashion? From quirky MCM designs to elaborate wood carvings, these bread boxes kept all of your bread fresh, unsquished, and far away from any critters.
Today, you’ll be lucky if your loaf hasn’t been pummeled, between slinging it to and from the car and into whatever corner of the pantry you’ve slotted as the ‘bread’ section. But with bread boxes, you always had slices at the ready.
Tupperware Egg Separator
Sure, egg separators aren’t a long-lost product. But today's egg-yolk sucking devices and strange ceramics that pour the whites out of a spout are overcomplicated and somewhat ineffective. You’ve just got to travel back to the 1980s when Tupperware was still at its height to get one of the best egg separators in the business.
This thing looks like a stacked measuring cup with the edges cut out, and it’s easier to use than any wire basket. While the modern versions definitely win points for creativity, sometimes the best kitchen tool is the one that gets the job done.
Crumb catchers look like something you’d find in an adorable mini diorama of a 20th century kitchen. What started out as delightfully tiny dustpans and floor brushes developed into proto-roombas. These devices came with a ton of tableware sets and were handy to keep crumbs from falling onto the floor or embedding into your placemats.
Today, we just swipe all the crumbs onto the floor to sweep up later. Which, when you think about it, feels like such a devolution from these cleaning bad boys.
Hamilton Beach Drink Master
There’s nothing quite so emblematic of 1950s culinary culture than Hamilton Beach’s Drink Master. These milkshake mixers with their egg-shaped tops and teal, jadeite, or white color palettes just evoke soda shop culture. And you know the original design is a winning formula when the ones they made 50+ years ago look almost identical to the ones on the market today.
You’ll never have a smoother, better mixed milkshake than one that’s come fresh from a Hamilton Beach device.
Crushed Ice Maker
Crushed ice is the superior ice form. I mean, there’s a reason that Sonic sells their crushed ice by the bag. Yet, every fridge ice maker’s crushed setting seems to take crush a bit too literally, turning it into the perfect powdery snow cone texture that melts the second anything touches it. Who’d have thought the 1950s would’ve handled crushed ice so much better?
Crushed ice makers were super stylish in the 50s, serving up that space-age atomic style with their pointy space shuttle shapes. Just pop a handful of ice from the trays in your freezer, press the button, and WHAM! You’ve got yourself some perfectly crushed ice. Take one look at the cost of crushed ice makers today and how much you can get a working vintage one for, and you’ll jump on my retro bandwagon in a heartbeat.
Mechanical Apple Peeler
Okay, so we might be stretching our timeframe a bit here with this one. But if you’ve got family or friends who live in small rural communities, then you’ve absolutely been on the receiving end of a freshly peeled apple from a table-attachment that looks like it stepped outside of a Saw trap.
Most of these mechanical apple peelers have been passed down since the 1870s/1880s, and with a little WD-40, they’re just as good today as back then. To this day, I’ve never seen an apple more effectively and quickly peeled than by a few cranks of this simple cast-iron gadget. All the knives in our knife blocks just don't compare.
If you think about retro kitchen gadgets, fondue pots probably come to mind. But a far more useful kitchen item from that era is the electric bun warmer. These devices bear a strong resemblance to casserole dish warmers, and they’ll heat a hotdog or hamburger bun under just about any circumstances.
I’ve battled the oven and grill long enough to know that they’ll only ever take the chill off a fresh bun or absolutely char it. But a bun warmer slides right in the middle to heat buns to that fluffy golden perfection.
Handheld Bottle Opener
Ask to see someone with a taste for craft beer’s keychain, and you’ll find an assortment of bottle openers. It can be super fun collecting souvenir bottle openers on your travels, but trying to connect the claw to just the right angle on the top is something of an art form. Well, a few decades ago you didn’t need to know physics and fulcrums to be able to open your bottles at home. Instead, you had a handheld bottle opener.
Take the premise of a can opener and apply it to a smaller device, and you’ve got one of these retro kitchen aids. Simply pop the can between the two rows of ridges on the bottom, twist the handle on the top, and voila!
Sometimes New Is Worse
Don’t listen to what the marketing campaigns tell you — new doesn’t necessarily mean better. After all, these vintage kitchen items should’ve never gone out of style, but here we are, scouring resale sites and DIY’ing our own restoration techniques just to have a taste of their magic. Now, microwaves and pop tabs on cans are where it's at, but we’ll take these retro kitchen gadgets over their modern counterparts any day.