There comes a time in every person’s life at which gifting season means creating more space in the pantry, because there will inevitably be additional kitchen gadgets.
A lady never discloses her age (or the cost of her horse[s]), but we’ll admit that we’ve definitely reached the kitchen gadget phase of our lives, and this holiday season was no exception. Over the past few years, as the respective OR vegetable gardens have expanded and we’ve become more educated and concerned about what we put in our bodies, our culinary conversations have transitioned from our favorite new restaurants below Houston Street to our favorite recipes for things like crockpot Carolina venison. We know that if we cook it, we control what goes in it, but with work, family, cloven children, and keeping tabs on seventeen presidential candidates, who has time to hover over a range for an hour every evening?
The respective OR kitchens were enhanced with an Instant Pot and a Purifry Air Fryer over the holidays, which inspired us to chat about all the ways they’ve been used to make our lives easier and meals healthier in just one week. And 2020 has arrived, y’all, so if you’ve been considering embracing a bit more tech in your culinary toolkit, we’re here to encourage it. What follows is a no-cooktop-necessary list of our favorite gadgetry for creating healthy, homemade, and generally fuss-free suppers.
One of us has been fully embracing this kitchen contraption since the 2010s. One of us just received one as a gift from a wise friend. Both of us vote the Instant Pot a must-have piece of equipment (right up there with forks and spoons).
Basically a pumped up pressure-cooker with multiple functions (i.e. rice cooker, bone broth maker, etc.), the Instant Pot can take beans from bone-dry to perfectly plump in less time that it takes to watch an episode of Schitt’s Creek, but the real glory behind this machine is its ability to turn a bunch of random foodstuff into a soup even Grandma would be proud of in just fifteen minutes (and zero stirring required!). It’s as easy as a crockpot, but with no need to plan ahead. “Refrigerator Clean-out Stew” (an OR staple) has never been more simple!
Admittedly, sous vide (pronounced “soo-veed”) seems a little extravagant when compared to Refrigerator Clean-Out Stew, but bear with us because it’s a game changer, takes up very little cabinet space, and couldn’t be easier. The technique involves a small machine that is inserted into a pot of water to heat it to a certain temperature. Food (usually protein plus a marinade) is then sealed in a bag and immersed in the water bath, allowing it to be infused with maximum flavor and cooked to precisely the right doneness. This means no more dry chicken, blue beef, oil-spattered kitchen, or standing over a grill or stove wondering when to flip while your guests have all the fun. We recommend a pork loin for dinner parties, as it’s cost effective and feels pretty fancy when cooked to a perfect 140-degrees.
Pro-tip: We use these silicon sous-vide pouches rather than Ziploc or vacuum sealed bags. They’re eco-friendly and BPA-free.
We enjoy cooking, but frying never ranked high in our repertoire until we were exposed to this apparatus. The notion that frying can be healthier aroused our curiosity.
The CliffNotes for those new to the air-fry concept: Similar to a convection oven, hot air circulates around food to produce a crunchy exterior and moist interior, but does it exponentially faster. Air fryers require substantially less (or zero) oil than deep fryers, dramatically reducing fat content, calories, and harmful compounds formed during the high-heat process. Baking, roasting, and steaming are additional features, and multiple foods can be cooked at once.
We still abide by the less-is-more rule when it comes to a diet with fried foods, but the air fryer is a handy alternative when one has a hankering for fish & chips, steak frites, country fries, or chicken wings. Ours came with instructions for pizza rolls, potato skins, onion rings, kale chips (!), and sliders. Super Bowl Sunday, anyone?
If you’re a smoothie, gazpacho, butternut squash soup, tahini, margarita, or crepe lover, you need this in your life. The BlendTec has like 450 horsepower*, which makes it more than a blender: It will grind nuts into nut butter; heavy cream into regular butter; flour and eggs into the perfect crepe batter; and any frozen fruit, raw vegetable, or protein-packed nut into the smoothie du jour.
Pro-tip: Juice is delicious, but contains a ludicrous amount of sugar, making it a bit of a health-food imposter. Fiber helps the body digest sugar more effectively, which is why fruit juice is best consumed with the fiber from whence it came. Skip the $8 cold-press and let Blendtec be your solution for nutrition on-the-go.
*Actual horsepower is 2.09. Close enough.
We’re not talking about your grandma’s crockpot. There are countless versions of slow-cookers on the market, but when a family member recommended the kind with the metal insert for sautéing, we jumped on the bandwagon. Much of the flavor in cooked meats comes from the crusty browned bits on the outside, and a quality sear is what keeps the juices on the inside. Adding a quick sear to a protein before cooking in the slow-cooker makes it that much more flavorful, and a metal insert means this can be achieved in the crockpot insert itself. It’s our belief that anything that minimizes dirty dishes is genius!