By Hilary Sheinbaum
I love hosting dinner parties, cooking meals and whipping up dessert, but hear me out: my relationship with the kitchen has changed drastically over the past two decades — and more specifically, since March 2020.
As a child, I loved baking cookies and brownies. In college, DIY taco nights with friends was a staple in my week. Fast forward to living on my own and working in the real world: my job, events, responsibilities and plans on the social calendar made it hard to find time to, you know, grocery shop and cook stuff. And, to be honest, I missed it! (OK, maybe I didn’t totally miss carrying heavy bags of veggies. But, ordering food on apps and spending money at restaurants were adding up, and my bank account was less-than-pleased.)
So, a couple years ago, I started cooking again. I mean, actually putting effort into cooking — not just throwing together a quick wrap, or salad, or boiling water for gluten free pasta. During my new found appreciation for food prep at home, I also realized that making meals didn’t have to be hard, or overwhelming, or require my full attention or an elaborate cookware set. In full transparency, though, I enlisted the help of innovative kitchen appliances.
During the pandemic, I wasn’t just cooking more, I was also focused on streamlining my life. So, through trial and error, online research, and a lot of very yummy meals, I found the best kitchen appliances that make mornings, afternoons, evenings and all the snacking in between, so much more efficient and enjoyable.
If you’re a smoothie fanatic (and don’t want to leave the comfort of your home to get a fruity shake), a must-have appliance that you simply can’t live without is a blender. That said, the Vitamix A2500 is far from a one-trick pony. It has three program settings (smoothies, hot soups and frozen desserts) that create consistent recipe results while built-in wireless connectivity allows for future updates (because what’s worse than buying tech that is outdated within a few months, right?).
Speed controls help you achieve specific textures so you can make the slushiest smoothies, smoothest soups and creamiest ice cream without thinking twice.
Bid your favorite barista farewell. Enter: the Breville Bambino Plus Espresso Machine, a speedy, fun-to-use appliance that is exceptionally easy to navigate. Named the best espresso machine for beginners, (for under $1,000) you can explore three heat and milk texture settings without a machine taking up half of your kitchen counter (no offense to those larger, bulkier espresso hunks of stainless steel).
You may want to warn your friends about your new hobby, as a number of Instagram photos featuring latte art are likely going to be uploaded to your personal feed very soon.
Full disclosure: I don’t have patience for chopping vegetables with a knife, nor do I have the confidence that I won’t accidentally slice my own hand (yikes!). Maybe that’s TMI, but for me: minimum effort = best. With the Cuisinart 11 Cup Food Processor, you can shred cheese, slice tomatoes and chop nuts. The removable parts of the machine can be safely cleaned in the dishwasher (another major win for efficiency). And FYI: this device isn’t just for chopping produce — you can make hummus, pesto, sauces and so much more.
Air Fryers were (and still are) a big hit in kitchens across America. If you haven’t jumped on the figurative bandwagon, now is the time with Uber Appliance Air fryer XL Premium – 5QT SS. Not to brag or anything, but this best-selling appliance can air fry a whole chicken. Temperatures range from 150 to 400 degrees F, if you want to play around with recipes.
If you don’t have time for research (or thumbing through the free recipe book that comes with the device), there are pre-set cooking times and temps for foods ranging from fries to wings to steak (to aforementioned chicken) and more. (PS: Our favorite thing to do is air fry cookie dough. Trust us. You won’t regret it.)
While coffee machines are common and espresso machines have become more popular within households over the past few years: making matcha usually requires a bit of manual labor. Now, instead of carefully whisking a green tea leaf powder yourself, the Cuzen Matcha Maker Starter Kit does it for you perfectly — without messy clean up.
You can enjoy a hot or iced shot of matcha, add water, mix it with milk for a latte, or consume it in a variety of other creative ways. Are we surprised it made TIME Magazine’s List of Best Inventions 2020? (No, not shocked at all.)
If you’re consuming copious amounts of caffeine (like yours truly) or aiming to have a more hydrated year in general: sparkling water can make it easier (or more fun) to consume H2O. Unfortunately, drinking more seltzer water often results in a plethora of recycling to take care of (i.e. cans, water bottles, and the like), not to mention less storage room in your fridge and/or pantry. Thankfully though, there’s a sustainable, space friendly and stylish solution. AARKE Carbonator III includes a chic machine and a PET bottle for home carbonation. This way, you use one appliance to produce all of your bubbly water — without multiple trips to the grocery store or monthly orders online.
If you’re craving rice, stew, risotto or chili, and want to remain stress-free, the ChefWave Chefe Multicooker with Steam and Heating Technology is going to be your BFF. Four cooking functions — slow cook, steam, reheat and bake — facilitate delicious meals. Simultaneously, smart voice alerts keep you aware of the item’s cooking status (you know, instead of checking on it yourself 100-plue times when you’re hangry). To boot: Chefe has a fridge-friendly inner pot which is great for leftovers. Oh — and it’s all BPA-free.