How to Use Your Newly Gifted Kitchen Gadget
In the world of kitchen tools, one-trick ponies are plentiful. We’ve found these versatile, trendy options are worth their wrapping.
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These Gadgets Make the Best Gifts — Really!
We all know what it's like to receive a holiday gift and immediately wonder exactly what you're going to do with it. And we bet you've unwrapped a few perplexing kitchen gadgets over the years. At first glance, the latest crop of small-appliance innovations might feel too specific or too quirky. But before you rush to return, we’ve got seven items that are worth working into your cooking routine. Find out how your new gadget works and what to do with it.
How it Works: Part pressure cooker, part slow cooker, this one promises to do a lot. It can stand in as a rice cooker and makes child’s play of your weekend yogurt project. Much less scary than a manually controlled stovetop pressure cooker, the Instant Pot is electric and has safety mechanisms to control pressure and temperature — so there's no risk of exploding chili all over your kitchen walls.
Tip: Take advantage of the Instant Pot's multi-featured glory: Sear meats on the high saute setting, gently simmer sauce on low saute. And, of course, you can make dinner in a fraction of the time with the pressure cook cycle.
How it Works: Blenders like the Vitamix and the Ninja boast pure power. You would be hard pressed to find any cook who doesn’t value the quick work a high-powered blender can make of turning cauliflower, potatoes and the like into creamy purees or sweet berries into a refreshing morning smoothie.
Try This: Now that you’ve tackled the basics, revel in the ease of a practically instant pizza dough that comes together when you combine instant yeast, water, flour, salt and just a dash of olive in the blender’s carafe.
Tip: Friction creates heat, and in the case of these high-powered machines that means you can blend your way to a steaming hot bowl of pureed soup in less than 10 minutes.
How it Works: This butane-powered beauty has replaceable cartridges so you can caramelize sugar on top of a creme brulee and a lot more. Simple torch safety includes never torching on parchment paper, keeping the explosive butane away from direct heat like stovetops and always pointing the flame away from you and others nearby.
Try This: Use a kitchen torch to brown meringues, char peppers and melt cheese.
Tip: Get a steakhouse char on the outside of your meat by quickly torching before serving.
How it Works: Hot, constantly circulated air (plus just a little bit of oil) produces crispy, perfectly cooked food in minutes. We aren’t quite ready to say farewell to our tabletop fryer, but there is no denying that this spaceship-like gadget produces a similar-to-deep-fried crunch without a splatter pattern of grease left in its wake.
Try This: Crisp up chicken and frozen French fries in minutes without all the grease. Stay away from wet battered foods — forcefully circulated air plus batter equals one big mess.
Tip: There’s more to this gadget than its name implies. Really, your air fryer is a very efficient convection oven that will roast pork chops and vegetables and bake a petite lasagna (with a special baking pan) in no time. Experimentation is half the fun.
How it Works: Professional knife skills are not required to turn just about any firm vegetable into long curly noodles. Spiralizers come in all different looks and sizes, but the general idea is the same: The vegetable is secured in the apparatus and then cranked like a pencil sharpener to produce long curly strands.
Try This: Replace the pasta in your grandmother’s spaghetti and meatballs with the healthier zucchini or sweet potato noodles. Or if you’re feeling indulgent, whip up some curly fries.
Tip: Noodles aren’t the only thing this gadget makes. Impress at parties with lacy cucumber garnishes for cocktails. You can also skip the chopping and spiralize apples to use in a sweet apple crumble.
How it Works: Barely heated water circulates around vacuum-sealed food, gently cooking your steak, chicken breasts, eggs or vegetables until it's internal temperature is the same as the water bath’s. It takes time, but chefs love the results and control it offers — meaning, to get an even medium-rare steak from end-to-end, you just set the machine to 130 degrees F. And it can transform tough cuts of meat that require long braises, like short ribs, pork shoulder, into a tender bite without losing the original texture. Translation: You end up with a short rib you can slice.
Try This: Your sous video machine is a meal prep dream. Cook a week’s worth of chicken, eggs or veggies while you go about your day. When you’re ready for dinner, simply sear the meat or saute the veg in a hot pan, or drop warm eggs in a hot water bath for a meal on the table in 10 minutes or less.
Tip: “Sous vide” means under vacuum, but don’t feel pressured to spend money on a vacuum sealer. You can also use resealable freezer bags. Place your meat or vegetables, plus any seasonings or marinade, in the bag, carefully submerge it in the water bath until you reach the top, seal the bag and start cooking
How it Works: Brewing a strong cup of coffee doesn’t get much easier. Add coffee grounds, then boiling water. Steep and press. French press loyalists swear by its superior taste — because it doesn’t require a filter, like drip coffee, the grounds’ natural oils aren’t filtered out. And your French press uses a coarsely ground coffee, which means a less bitter cup. If you're a slow sipper, transfer your second cup from the carafe to an insulated cup to enjoy later. Even after pressing, the coffee grounds are in contact with the water and will produce bitter coffee if left for too long.
Try This: Your French press isn’t the single-use kitchen gadget you think it is. Plunge milk until frothy for lattes, add loose leaves to brew the perfect cup of tea or use it to rinse or strain just about anything, from quinoa to cooked spinach.
Tip: Brewing is brewing. And what is broth if not a brew? You can make a quick broth for poaching fish or reinforcing the flavors of your soup by adding your aromatics first, pouring over boiling water next, and steeping for about 10 minutes before pressing. Remember to thoroughly wash your carafe and plunger between coffee and broth projects so your soup doesn’t taste like coffee and your coffee like soup.