There are some gadgets that I can't wait to try, and there are others that I think are absolutely silly. The Stem Gem by Chef'n fits in the second category. Never in a million years would I have taken this item seriously. It's designed for removing the leaves and core from strawberries. This is exactly the type of gadget I would scoff if I saw it at a store because, of course, I can do that with a knife. So why do I need another device?
Okay, I'll admit it. The Stem Gem is cute. It's a cheerful-looking tool. Surprisingly, it also works really well. Not only does it work perfectly on strawberries, but it also removes the core from tomatoes. Maybe it is something that I needed all along, but I simply didn't realize it.
Well, "need" is probably too strong of a word. But this cute little gadget makes strawberry cleaning a lot easier. Less messy. Sort of fun. Neater. Faster. Amusing, even.
Although a paring knife is a fine tool for cleaning strawberries, when I use a knife I tend to end up with a ragged hole in the berry. I was giddy with delight that this silly device gave me perfectly neat holes. Seriously, my husband came into the kitchen to see what I was giggling about, and there I was, tormenting innocent strawberries.
And then I bought more strawberries just because it was such a fun tool to use. It's true.
When you press the plunger on the Stem Gem, the jaws open. Press more, the jaws open wider for larger berries. You stab the teeth into the strawberry, release the plunger and twist. The jaws close a bit and the twist neatly cuts the core out of the berry. Remove the tool, open the jaws, and it spits out the core. Ptooey. Done.
Once I got the rhythm down, I was whipping through strawberries in record time, and enjoying the task much more than usual. Cleaning strawberries is one of those chores that annoys me. I usually end up with strawberry seeds under my thumbnail. Don't ask me how I do that, but somehow I manage. And then I get cranky.
Yes, the Stem Gem is a unitasker. No, you don't need one. Yes, you can use a pairing knife. If you're going to slice or chop the strawberries, or if they're starting to go soft and you need to do a lot of trimming, a knife might make more sense. But if you need to whip through a lot of berries and you want them to look neat and pretty when you're done, the Stem Gem does an excellent job. It would also be a great tool for kids to use, if they're not quite ready to handle a knife.
Since it also works for tomatoes, it's not entirely a unitasker. I can imagine using this for cherry tomatoes this summer—not because a core needs to be removed, but to create a neat hole that I can stuff. This gadget is going to get a lot more use in my kitchen than I imagined, and that makes me happy.
About the author: Resident yeast whisperer and bread baking columnist Donna Currie also has a serious gadget habit. When her father-in-law heard about this column, he upgraded the nickname for her kitchen from "gadget world" to "gadget heaven." You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie.
Disclaimer: Testing samples were provided to Serious Eats.