Equipping your kitchen with the right gadgets can open the doors to experimenting with new techniques, and save you time on prepping your meals. Counter and cabinet space are premium real estate, so getting the right tools means thinking strategically. You’ll want gadgets that can do double duty if possible but also want something that looks decent in your space.
I’ve been an avid home cook for several years, and learned the hard way which appliances are worth your time, and which will end up gathering dust. Learn from my failures, and build out your dream kitchen piece by piece with the tools below.
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1. Vitamix 5200
If you want a high-powered blender that can do more than just make a quick smoothie, make the investment in the Vitamix 5200.
Its high-performance motor and stainless steel blades spin so quickly the company says it can bring cool mixtures up to steaming hot temperatures in about six minutes. That power, combined with its 64oz (ounce) container (that’s four pints or two quarts), means you can use the Vitamix 5200 to make enough soup for a family of four (or a week’s worth of meal prep.)
The blender doesn’t need to run at full speed all the time, though, and you can control its power by turning a dial on its base. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with its different power levels, you can use the Vitamix 5200 to make smoothies, a wide assortment of sauces, salsa, and soup.
Vitamix designed the 5200 with easy cleaning in mind; The company says to fill the container with warm water, add dish soap, and run for about a minute to totally clean the blades.
The Vitamix 5200 is definitely an investment, but if you start making smoothies and soups at home instead of going out to lunch, it will start to pay for itself.
2. KitchenAid Classic Series Mixer
No electric kitchen tool has earned higher recognition than KitchenAid’s stand mixers. I’ve used one regularly for the past three years, and can personally attest that their reputation is well earned.
We’re recommending the 4.5 Quart entry-level mixer because it’ll handle most home baker’s needs for life. Three features separate KitchenAid’s mixers from the rest: power, control, and attachments.
The 275W (watt) mixer has 10 speed settings, which you can adjust by moving a lever on the left side of the mixer. A lever on the right side allows you to lock the mixer into place while in use, and unlock it to lift the attachment out of its bowl.
KitchenAid includes three attachments with this mixer: a flat beater, wire whip, and dough hook. These essentials allow you to make everything from pizza dough to cake batter to whipped cream in a matter of minutes. KitchenAid says its bowl can hold three loaves worth of bread, enough dough for six dozen cookies, and six pounds of mashed potatoes. Yes, this mixer can be used for sweet and savory foods.
These features alone would make KitchenAid’s mixer an essential kitchen tool, but what puts it over the top is its compatibility with a wide range of attachments. By unscrewing the mixer’s “power hub” (located on its front side) you can attach everything from pasta rollers to a meat grinder, greatly expanding what this kitchen tool can do.
I’ve used my KitchenAid mixer to make hundreds of cookies, dozens of loaves of banana bread, pounds of pasta, and homemade pizza dough. The mixer basically does all of the work for me, and has cut my active cooking time to nearly nothing.
3. Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus
No kitchen gadget has a better space-to-functionality ratio than an Instant Pot. We’re recommending the Duo Evo, a version of the popular multi-cooker with nine different functions.
The Duo Evo is a: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, grain maker, steamer, yogurt maker, sous vide, oven, and sauté pan. You can switch between modes by pushing buttons on the front of the Evo Duo. Each setting as a bunch of presets, which you can cycle between by twisting the knob on the front of the Instant Pot. The Evo Duo’s LCD screen will display your currently selected setting, and show you how much time cook time is left.
The 1200w (watt) heating element located at the bottom of the Evo Duo makes sure the inside can get extremely hot, and its sealed lid keeps heat or pressure from escaping. The heating element creates the environment necessary for the Evo Duo’s different functions.
I’ve used an earlier version of the Instant Pot, and can confirm that this gadget lives up to the hype. Its pressure cooking settings are particularly useful if you want to cook time consuming meals (think ribs or pulled pork) on a weeknight. If you live in an apartment, or don’t have a lot of room for cooking gadgets in your full-sized kitchen, this is the one tool (or nine), you should keep around.
4. Cuisinart Food Processor
Cuisinart’s 14-cup food processor is one of the most-used gadgets in my kitchen, and one of the first recommendations I make to people in my life.
The difference between a food processor and blender is all in the speed of the blades. Food processors are slower, and their blades are larger, so they’re best used for chopping hard things like nuts and incorporating them into basil and olive oil to make pesto. Food processors can also combine butter and flour into a rough dough because the blades can cut the butter finely without heating it up so much that it melts.
Cuisinart includes four “discs” which feature different types of blades, so you can use this food processor for chopping, shredding, grating, and mixing. The company includes a recipe book to help familiarize you with the best way to use each one. I use this food processor to cut vegetables for sauces, make rough dough, and expedite the chopping process if I’m making big batches of pesto.
Above all else a food processor is a time saver, and Cuisinart’s 14-cup model is a great kitchen tool if you’re just getting into meal prep.
5. Krups Precision Grill
Grilling outside may not be feasible if the weather isn’t cooperating, but using a cast iron skillet indoors can create a lot of smoke. The best compromise is an indoor grill, and we’re recommending this one from KRUPS.
Once you select the type of meat you’re cooking, and whether or not it’s frozen, the grill will automatically select a cooking time based on its size. It’ll send you an alert each time your meat has reached a different stage of doneness, so you won’t end up with over or undercooked meat.
If you’re cooking something other than meat, or prefer to cook manually, you can set the temperature for yourself by using the “custom temp” button on the right-hand side. The grill gets between 220 to 525 degrees, which is a pretty wide range.
Cleaning the grill after use is also pretty simple. Fat drips down its sloped grates, and gets collected in a juice tray. The tray and both grates are removable and dishwasher safe. It can’t fully recreate the experience of cooking over a hot flame or charcoal, but KRUPS’ Indoor Grill can prevent you from setting off the fire alarm.
6. Joule Sous Vide
Sous Vide is a French cooking technique that used to require huge, expensive equipment only available to high-end restaurants. Joule, a startup recently purchased by Breville, made a smart, home-friendly version.
The Joule has one job: Circulate water in a pot to keep it at a constant temperature. By keeping it at a specific temperature, the food you put inside the pot cannot become over or undercooked. Instead, you’ll end up with steak that’s totally evenly cooked instead of burnt on the top and bottom and raw in the middle.
The difference between boiling and sous vide is that your food needs to be kept in a sealed bag that has all the air taken out. The water never actually touches the food itself, it just warms it to your desired temperature. The water never gets hot enough to melt the plastic, so your food won’t become a health risk.
I’ve used the Joule for the past three years, and it’s the only way I cook expensive cuts of meat. I can select the level of doneness I like (medium rare), put the Joule in a pot of water, and wait for it to come to temperature. Then I drop the meat inside, and wait for the Joule to send my phone a notification that it’s ready. Sous vide is a hands-off way of cooking that produces identical results, and the Joule makes it really easy to do.
A one minute difference can be the difference between perfect and overdone when cooking meat on the grill, but it can be hard to get the timing just right.
MEATER is a startup that developed a Bluetooth thermometer you can use in an oven and on grill. Stick the thermometer inside your meat, and you’ll receive a notification from the MEATER app (iOS and Android) when it’s reached your desired temperature. I’ve used an earlier version of MEATER’s thermometer before, and it worked very well.
The MEATER+’s main strength is its extended range. The thermometer can keep a Bluetooth connection with your phone from up to 165 feet away. Another benefit over using a traditional thermometer is that the MEATER+ factors in the fact that meat continues to cook after it’s been taken off the stove or grill.
Using it is a little like an insurance policy against over and underdone meat; and it can save you from the guesswork of deciding when your dinner is actually done.
8. BALMUDA Electric Kettle
An electric kettle is a kitchen appliance you may not think you need, but will appreciate once you have it. And we like this sleek and stylish kettle from BALMUDA.
Using it is simple: pour water into its 0.6L (liter) container, set it on top of its electric heating element, and wait for the water to boil. Water boils more quickly in an electric kettle than on a stovetop and doesn’t create a hot surface of flame, which makes it a lot safer to use around kids.
The fast speed can cut cooking time when you’re making pasta or rice, especially if your recipe calls for a specific grain-to-water ratio. It can also be used for recipes that require steaming for the same reasons. Naturally, BALMUDA’s electric kettle can also be used when making tea, hot chocolate, or instant coffee.
I like the modern, matte black design of this kettle, which is a great alternative to traditional stainless steel. With looks like these, you won’t be mad about leaving this kettle on the stove top.
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