If you shop at William Sonoma or Sur la Table, you’ll run into a variety of kitchen gadgets that can help make mealtime and meal prep more fun. The same is true of your local Target or other big box retailers who feature housewares sections.
But which kitchen gadgets offer the most for your money? Sometimes it’s not about how often you use a kitchen gadget, but who you use it with. Other times, you might need the specific utility of a high-end stand mixer or blender.
Choosing the best kitchen gadgets means finding that balance between utility and fun.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, many Youtube cooking channels became incredibly popular. So did many of their recommendations. For example, the Binging With Babish channel frequently touts the benefits of a high-end stand mixer for baking and cooking. What’s the difference between a stand mixer and a hand mixer?
Volume, for one. A stand mixer’s bowl may feature a higher capacity than the one you can use with a hand mixer. And then there’s the duration of the mixing time–a stand mixer is ideal for recipes that call for longer kneading or mixing.
That hand mixer will get tiresome after the first three minutes or so. If you make heavier doughs requiring as much as 10 minutes of mixing, the stand mixer could be your new best friend.
Tips for buying: Don’t skimp. If price is an object, save up for a quality stand mixer and do not buy a cheap one. You’ll be glad you waited, the quality is worth it.
Here is a kitchen gadget you won’t use very much, but when you do it becomes fun for the entire family. The genius of some of those cheap motels is their free continental breakfast when they prominently feature a waffle maker. Kids seem to love this process, as messy as it can be at times.
The fun of a family brunch complete with homemade waffles is appealing all by itself, but the safety of a waffle maker (just don’t touch the hot surface inside and don’t cook the waffles unattended) makes the cleanup a fair trade-off.
Tips for buying: A larger family should get a larger waffle maker. Depending on how many seats you have to fill around the breakfast table, one that can make at least one waffle for everyone at the same time may be a better bet than a smaller model.
Fun is the name of the game with this kitchen gadget, and paying a little more to enhance that fun may be worth a look.
A blender is a standard kitchen feature. But a high-powered blender like a Ninja, which offers models with soup heating and self-cleaning features, might be a far better bet for your kitchen.
Breakfast smoothies and homemade yogurt are possible with some versions of these blenders and you’ll want to compare multiple brands and models to find the right features for you. A high-end blender is ideal for people into juicing, homemade probiotics, smoothies, and even cocktails.
But it’s not such a great option for those who need fast and easy cleanup as even with self-cleaning mode some personal maintenance and sterilization may be needed. If you have the time to clean up after an elaborate juice or cocktail session, these gadgets may be for you.
Tips for buying: A features list seems impressive in the store or when shopping online. But if you don’t have plans to use the soup heating feature or the yogurt-making feature, you may want to find a less aspirational model that has fewer bells and whistles and more features you can actually use.
That heating element that warms the yogurt culture in your blender may drive the price up higher than you think. How much is a model without it?
No, a can opener isn’t something that would make your typical gadget-lover excited. But how many times have you struggled with an old, inefficient manual can opener that gets 1/4 of the way around the can before giving out and forcing you to roll back the opener to try to start again?
A good quality electric can opener can help. It speeds the prep and cooking process and eliminates all the bad language coming from the kitchen when the stubborn can refuses to cooperate with the manual opener.
Tips for buying: Look for a can opener with features such as these:
- Cuts with no sharp lid edges
- Opens pop tops in addition to regular cans
- Easy touch opening lever when the can is cut open
There is one reason to buy an electric rice cooker as a kitchen gadget. The ability to set and forget. No matter what grains you wind up cooking, a rice cooker is a simple and efficient way to prep for curries, Mexican rice, do-it-yourself-sushi rolls, and much more. There isn’t a lot to say about electric rice cookers except that for some the more elaborate the features, the better. Some buyers want a cooker that can adjust for having added too much water, those which feature an automatic warming function, and even auto-shutoff.
The key to buying a good rice cooker is a lot like getting the right kind of blender–avoid the features you don’t need and buy a model that has features you know you will use.
Tips for buying: Decide which type of container you want in the rice cooker ahead of time. Yes, some cookers come with non-stick containers while others may come with ceramic or stainless steel. Non-stick coatings tend to degrade over time, which leads some to gravitate toward the other options, even though they may require a bit of extra effort to clean.
Kitchen gadgets are meant to be efficient, or fun. Sometimes they are both. An electric espresso maker fits that bill nicely. You might not want to try using one when you’re in a hurry to get out the door to beat rush hour, but as a weekend in-your-pajamas activity, making espresso drinks can be a fun and affordable brunch-type indulgence you don’t even have to put on shoes for.
Electric espresso makers come in a variety of price points but the more expensive models tend to be those with built-in frothers and steam wands. If you want a less pricey option, get one that makes the coffee only and buy a hand-tool type milk frother to make your cappuccino as light or dark as you need.
Tips for buying: If you are an on-the-go person, it may be better to invest in a French press and make espresso drinks with some good old-fashioned boiling water from the stovetop.
The eclectic brewing and steaming process can take a bit of time, and those who buy espresso makers with steam wands must clean the milk off of them and re-sterilize the wand to avoid food-borne illnesses related to dairy.
Some of the best kitchen gadgets only barely meet the definition of the term. For example, a standalone milk frother mentioned above for espresso does have moving parts, unlike a good quality food thermometer you will need to make Thanksgiving turkey, big pot roasts, or other long-cooking-time dishes.
But there are also some non-mechanical options you should consider adding to your kitchen collection. A high-quality carbon-steel chef’s knife is one, and a couple of good specialty pans such as those needed to make a Spanish paella or a South Korea Dak Galbi.
Bakers should consider investing in high-quality pans, but the price is not always an indication of the level of quality. You’ll want to read plenty of consumer reviews at varying price points.
Not everyone is an aspiring cook, so your experience with these options may vary. But if you find yourself spending as much time in the kitchen as you do in front of your screens, you might want to consider adding some of these to your arsenal.
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