It’s kinda hard to resist the appeal of anything advertised on late-night TV. They make the stuff look so darned useful. Is it? Well, some things are. I’m completely in love with my ShamWow, for instance. And word on the street is that there are some very handy things hawked on infomercials.

Ginsu Knives: In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife. But not with a tomato! Surely a product with a commercial this cheesy cannot be good. But wait! Fans of these ever-sharp steak knives are legion, with stories about knives bought decades ago still slicing briskly today common on the Chowhound boards. “Got the Ginsu set as a wedding gift in 1988,” goes a typical post by hamboney. “Late wife and I thought it was a hoot at the time. Fastforward 24 years; I use the steak knives daily and still have the whole set in a drawer somewhere, just can’t let them go.”

FoodSaver Vacuum Sealing System: Keep strawberries, fish, and cheese fresher longer. What’s not to love? Well, one downside is that the bags the machine uses are expensive. Hounds recommend using off-brand bags, as well as buying and using a Mason jar attachment and freezer jars instead of bags.

George Foreman Grill: It’s handy having a grill that clamps, say fans. “We use it all the time for a quick grilled chicken breast, sausage, or burgers,” says viperlush. “Easy to clean and store.” In a 2002 appliance test on Slate, writer Sara Dickerman (a former CHOW contributor) advised that the grill “does excel at pressing and toasting bready things.” Some unusual items hounds have cooked on their grills? Calzone. Hash browns. And french fries.

Onion Goggles: Yes! These exist! And they’re apparently very handy, though they look ridiculous. “They would not look as silly, as one of my customers told me, as he was delightedly purchasing them, as he did when wearing a diving mask and snorkel to chop onions,” says Candy.

And now for the losers:

Snack Master Grill: This early version of the George Foreman Grill was basically a sandwich press (and is not connected with the Snackmaster food dehydrator now on the market), but kids who saw the infomercials got excited by host Cathy Mitchell making “apple pie” from two pieces of bread and pie filling. “My sister and I were so excited to make the apple pies,” sighs ShakenNotStirred. “We were pretty bummed when we realized that it tasted like toast with canned apple pie filling. Which is exactly what it was. But boy did they make it look exciting on TV!”

Microwave Egg Poacher: As RShea78 puts it ever so pungently, “It doesn’t poach eggs worth a darn, but it will make, Microwave Splattered Eggs Interior, ever so beautifully. “

Any suggestions for either side of the “useful” divide?

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