Best Kitchen Tools 2021: Essential Cooking Gadgets For Beginners - Rolling Stone
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The 12 Essential Gadgets You Should Be Using in Your Kitchen

Whether you’re an aspiring top chef or just a casual cook, these tools deliver the sizzle

best sous vide

Amazon

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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.

1. KitchenAid 6-Qt. Professional 600 Series

KitchenAid 6-Qt. Professional 600 Series

KitchenAid

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 600 Series 6 Quart mixer because it’ll handle any baking task you throw at it, from light cookie dough to dense bread dough. Three features separate KitchenAid’s mixers from the rest: power, control, and attachments.

The 575W (watt) mixer has six 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.

Buy: KitchenAid 6-Qt. Professional 600… at $499.00

2. Instant Pot Pro

Instant Pot Evo Duo

Amazon

No kitchen gadget has a better space-to-functionality ratio than an Instant Pot. We’re recommending the Ultra, a version of the popular multi-cooker with 10 different functions.

The Pro is a: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, cake maker, egg cooker, sauté pan, steamer, warmer, and sterilizer. You can switch between modes by pushing buttons on the front of the Pro. Each setting as a bunch of presets, which you can cycle between by twisting the knob on the front of the Instant Pot. The Pro’s LCD screen will display your currently selected setting, and show you how much time cook time is left.

The Pro makes sure the inside can get extremely hot, and its sealed lid keeps heat or pressure from escaping. This means you can pressure cook to save time and retain more flavor, or slow cook for traditional recipes.

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.

Buy: Instant Pot Pro at $129.95

3. NutriBullet Smart Touch Blender

NutriBullet Smart Touch Blender

NutriBullet

NutriBullet’s high-powered Smart Touch blender is one of the best performing kitchen gadgets I’ve tested.

The blender gets its name from its touch screen display, but it’s also got a high-performance motor and 1500 watts of power. The blender was powerful enough to crush ice and produce for smoothies in seconds.

You can operate the Smart Touch’s speed by via touchscreen display, but there’s four buttons above it for making smoothies, soups, purées, or frozen drinks. The dedicated settings are a nice touch, but I stuck with manual use because that’s what I’m used to.

The Smart Touch gets fairly loud while you use it, but that’s true of any powered blender. It’s efficient enough that you probably won’t need to use it for several minutes straight, so it won’t get annoying.

You should get this blender because it performs well, but its physical design is also very good. There are measurements (cups and milliliters) on the side of the pitcher, so you can get the consistency of your soups, salsas, or smoothies just right. Its handle is thick and easy to hold, and its base feels solid.

If you’re looking to upgrade from a basic blender to a powered one, I can’t recommend NutriBullet’s Smart Touch highly enough.

Buy: NutriBullet Smart Touch Blender at $129.99

4. Cuisinart Elemental

Cusinart Elemental Food Processor

Cuisinart

Cuisinart’s 13-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 dough. 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 13-cup model is a great kitchen tool if you’re just getting into meal prep.

Buy: Cuisinart Elemental 13-Cup Food… at $199.95

5. PowerXL Smokeless Indoor Grill

PowerXL Smokeless Electric Grill

Amazon

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 PowerXL.

Once you select the type of meat you’re cooking, you can set the up to 450 degree (Fahrenheit) custom heat control, which makes sure veggies are crisp, steak is charred, and that frozen foods grill up evenly.

There’s a large grilling surface for cooking for multiple people, which is pretty solid, though the deep well design is more suited for regular grilling than the griddle pan that comes with it. No matter what you cook, you won’t have to worry about smoking up your kitchen, since PowerXL says their built-in, smoke-extracting fan is said to remove virtually all excess smoke.

Cleaning the grill after use is also pretty simple. The bottom holder is used as a drip pan, which is dishwasher safe and can lift out easily for cleaning and storage. It can’t fully recreate the experience of cooking over a hot flame or charcoal, but PowerXL’s Indoor Grill can prevent you from setting off the fire alarm.

Buy: PowerXL Smokeless Indoor Grill at $79.99

6. Breville Barista Express

Best Home Espresso Machines

Breville

If you’re a serious about your cup of joe, Breville’s Barista Express espresso machine is a very worthwhile investment.

The Breville machine has a conical burr grinder that delivers a customizable amount of grinds to the portafilter. Once the portafilter is loaded, tap it on the tamper next to the dispenser, lock it in and start pulling the espresso (we’ve found it works wells with one and two shots).

Water pressure is controlled and even throughout the pull, and a PID unit keeps water at the optimal temperature. Everything is controlled via an analog interface where you can also view the water pressure.

After you’ve pulled the espresso, a powerful steam wand is ready for making cappuccinos or lattes (yes, you can also use it to make latte art). If you’re into Americanos or tea, there’s also a dedicated hot water dispenser as well.

Breville’s espresso machine is one of the few kitchen tools that feels luxurious, but offers enough flexibility to satisfy anyone’s taste.

Buy: Breville Barista Express at $699.95

7. Joule Sous Vide

Joule Sous Vide

Amazon

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.

Buy: Joule Sous Vide at $199.95

8. Cuisinart TOA-60

Cuisinart TOA-60

Cuisenart

Cuisenart’s TOA-60 is a convection toaster oven and air fryer, and one of the few multi-use kitchen tools I can recommend without reservation.

I’ve used it to make anything from plain toast to French fries, and the results have been remarkably consistent. You can set the time, temperature, and function by turning knobs located at the top of the machine.

The oven is large enough to toast four slices of bread at the same time, and has very even heating. The air fryer basket can hold enough enough fries for multiple people, and can be used to crisp other vegetables, or even chicken wings.

One of the TOA-60’s best features is its crumb tray, which slides out from the bottom of the oven, and makes cleaning it a lot easier. If counter space isn’t an issue — the oven is pretty big — Cuisenart’s TOA-60 deserves a spot in your kitchen.

Buy: Cuisinart TOA-60 at $189.95

9. MEATER+

MEATER+

Amazon

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.

Buy: Meater+ Bluetooth Meat Thermometer at $95.00

10. Balmuda Electric Kettle

balmuda kettle

Amazon

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.

Buy: Balmuda Electric Kettle at $179.00

11. Tovala’s Gen 2 Smart Steam Oven

Tovala Oven

Tovala

Tovala’s Gen 2 Smart Steam Oven is one of the few smart kitchen tools we’ve tested and liked. The tabletop convection oven can be used to cook anything, but it’s designed to work with the company’s weekly meal service.

The company will send you between three and 16 pre-packaged meals each week depending on your subscription. The menu rotates each week, and you can choose which meals you’d like to try out. The meals come mostly finished — you’ll need to spread marinade over a meat, or sauce over pasta — so you can get them in the oven very quickly.

Each meal comes with a card, which you can scan using the Tovala’s QR code scanner. The oven will automatically set the cook time and temperature for you. It operates in part by using steam, so you’ll need to add water to its tank. Tovala includes a small measuring cup that makes this easy.

In my experience the meals tasted look pretty good takeout from a local restaurant, but with the convenience of making it at home in about 15 minutes. If you don’t have a lot of time to cook, these meals could quickly become your go-to weeknight dinners.

If you’re using Tovala oven to cook your own food, you can set the time, temperature, and setting using buttons on the front of the machine. You can use the oven to toast, bake, boil, reheat, or steam your food, and in my experience it’s reheat and toast settings work pretty well.

Anyone who needs a little extra help getting healthier food on the table each week could benefit from Tovala’s Gen 2 Smart Steam Oven.

Buy: Tovala's Gen 2 Smart Steam Oven at $299.00

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