When it comes to Presto's Salad Shooter ($31.13 at amazon.com), there's so much the name doesn't tell you. Sure, it's helpful for salad prep, but that's only the beginning. Spanning from quick-lunch quesadillas to homemade peppermint bark, I've found countless applications that have given this little toy a coveted space in the most accessible shelf of my most accessible kitchen cabinet.
I'm truly not sure which name would have better drawn me towards my purchase: the healthy bad-ass name in big letters on the box, or the actual functional name in small italics below it (electric slicer/shredder). Regardless of semantics, the thing is surprisingly handy and easy to use. Two cones are included with the base and mount, and pieces twist and slide in and out of place very intuitively. A guide helps shove ingredients down the food chamber and through the machine; depending on which blade is in place, your food comes out the other end evenly sliced or grated. It's the very literal point-and-shoot of kitchen gadgets: Not only does it operate with the touch of a button, but it's easy to aim and yields consistent results. And for those who're looking for something a little more advanced, extra cones are available for $4.99 apiece, ranging from ripple slice to fine shred.
So why choose the electric slicer/shredder over a mandolin, for instance? Aside from the fact that it's dishwasher safe and I can't hurt myself using it, I particularly like the versatility the shooter offers. I'm not limited to veggies in the slightest—I've been shredding lots of cheese, which means I can stop buying pre-shredded bags of cheese in favor of cheaper (and often better quality) bricks. I can also shred chocolate for faster melting, smash up walnuts for brownies, or prep potatoes for hash browns. Candy canes, which are always hard to smash without pulverizing, go straight through and yield perfect little chunks for peppermint bark, while softer fruits like bananas and strawberries hold up just fine for fruit salad.
The only things it doesn't deal well with are tomatoes and dried meats, like pepperoni or salami, which I'm easily able to forgive. It's also good to note that the motor has proved fairly resilient so far—though I've accidentally gotten it wet a few times, it hasn't yet failed me. From a design standpoint, it looks a little dated, but it just goes to show that gadgets, like books, can't always be judged by looks or title.
About the author: Nikki Goldstein Nikki Goldstein is a freelance food and nutrition writer living in New York City. Aside from her Gadgets and Brunch columns here at Serious Eats, you can find her writing in SELF and the New York Post's new iPad edition, The Daily. Even in her 500-square-foot studio, she devotes an entire walk-in-closet to all things gadget-related..