It’s 2020: the year of the unprecedented global pandemic. One that has left us isolated and socially distant for more than 60 days (and counting). The good news is, we’ve learned a lot during our time at home. Specifically, how to be more efficient in the kitchen. We’re no longer at liberty to have someone else do the cooking now that restaurants are closed. Fast food or curbside pickup is the only option these days, and even that is limited.
Enter…the kitchen gadget! It seems we’ve all been experimenting more in the kitchen during quarantine. We’re expanding upon our cooking skills and learning to use new tools. I’ve been getting many questions about different kitchen gadgets, so I thought I’d give you a review of some of my favorites and not-so-favorites.
Slow cooker: probably my all-time favorite small appliance. There’s not much you can’t do with this one. I particularly like making winter dishes, such as soups and casseroles, but honestly…it’s great any time of year. Not only is it a big time saver in the kitchen (just dump your ingredients in raw, turn it on and let it go all day) but it saves energy too. Since I live in Texas, turning on the oven in the summer is NOT an option. The slow cooker can do everything my oven can do without heating up the house. Con: must plan ahead since it is a “slow” cooker.
High speed blender: OK, OK…this one might actually be my favorite. After years of burned up blender motors and countless dollars spent on replacements, I finally invested (yes, these beauties can be pricey) in a high-speed blender. The best investment I’ve made for my kitchen! This gadget is the best option for frozen fruit, blending up a great tasting smoothie in seconds without the struggle of its lesser counterparts. It’s perfect for blending sauces, soups, batters, or anything that requires a smooth and creamy finish. Con: can be difficult to get all food out from underneath blade if not removable.
Toaster oven: see slow cooker review. Just kidding. Again, I live in Texas where it’s HOT in the summer. The toaster oven heats up much faster and contains the heat to the immediate area versus dispersing to the entire house. While the capacity is smaller, there are plenty of sizes to choose from. I have one that fits a small casserole dish, pizza stone, and 6 cup muffin tin with ease. Plenty of room to create any baked dish. Con: interior capacity is fairly small.
Food processor: I’ve been through several of these over the years, but I can’t remember a time I didn’t have one. I have both a mini version and full-size model. I like them both, although two are not necessary. This all-purpose gadget comes in handy for chopping vegetables and nuts, shredding cabbage and cheese, blending dough, and preparing dishes like salsa or soups. I especially like the variety of attachments for various tasks, as well as the pulse feature for light blending. Con: full-size models take up a bit of counter space.
Stand mixer: not a necessity but definitely a time saver in the kitchen. It is particularly handy for baked goods and highly recommended for anyone who likes to make bread from scratch (unless you enjoy kneading by hand). Attachments are available for grinding meat and making pasta. I’ve used both but would not base my purchasing decision on those additions, as the mixing capability is the best function. After all, the name is “mixer”. Con: takes up a lot of counter space.
Air Fryer: OK, yes, this one is definitely a gadget! Necessary? Probably not, but it is fun. I did a lot of research before buying one of these because I didn’t really understand the hype. I’ve never been one to eat or make fried foods (remember, I am a dietitian), but I ran across a good deal and decided to get one. My first couple of dishes required the fire department! Just kidding, but seriously…cook time requires some finesse. It’s basically a small convection oven which cooks the food in a fraction of the time of a standard oven. It’s good for fries or foods that are typically served fried as the name implies (air fryer). Worth mentioning: this appliance does not make foods healthier. Most packaged foods that offer a “fried like” texture have already been flash fried and/or come with the addition of breading. Baking these foods in an air fryer does not make them healthier. Secondly, if you’re expecting super crispy fried chicken, you’re likely to be disappointed. While there is element of crunch, I have yet to achieve the super crispy exterior of my grandmother’s 1970’s fried chicken. I could certainly do without this gadget, but I will admit it has been a time saver on many occasions. Con: interior capacity is small, takes up a lot of space, puts out a fair amount of heat from convection which must be accounted for while in use, tends to trip the electrical breaker when used in conjunction with other small kitchen appliances on the same circuit.
Instant pot: I’ll try to be positive on this one since so many people love it. The last thing I needed was another kitchen appliance, but I encountered a great deal online and decided to jump on the bandwagon. My first two dishes were total flops. They took WAY TOO LONG (hello? I thought it was an INSTANT pot??) and made a big mess from the steam release process. I’m not giving up on it totally, but not convinced it’s worth the hype. Con: it is not an instant pot, despite the name. I could not see any savings in time compared to other small appliances I use.
There you have it. A round up of my most used small kitchen appliances. I hope this provides you with some inspiration to try new things in your own kitchen. Happy cooking!