Cooking can be a way to to bond with loved ones, save money and exercise full control over the flavor and healthfulness of your meals. But the job often has its challenges.
Those of us with limited time, lack of cooking skills, or just a love of having the right tool for every job may find a muse within this batch of kitchen gadgets. These can take the mess and uncertainty out of meal prep.
Baking with precision
Baking is all about precision. For consistent, delicious results, you need to get everything just right, from ingredient ratios and measurements to temperatures and timing. It often seems that the most impressive recipes are also the least forgiving, so there’s no shame in getting help where you can.
Perfect Bake, which pairs a scale with an app, dials in your measurements so you can get baked goods right. You don’t actually measure – just pour in your items until the scale tells you to stop. These tools let you take advantage of the fact that weight is a more accurate measurement than volume.
The kit contains three color-coded ingredient bowls, a digital scale and oven thermometer, as well as a phone/tablet stand. That is good news for those of us who are already using our phones as cookbooks.
The app has a searchable recipe database and robust calculation tools. Scale recipes up or down depending on the ingredients and equipment you have on hand. The kit is $70, http://perfectbakeapp.com/.
Cooking in a water bath
This water oven lets you cook with the touch of a button. SousVide Supreme is available in different sizes, making it suitable for any household or commercial kitchens.
Sous vide cooking calls for sealing food and flavorings in pouches and removing the air from the bag. The pouches get submerged in a gentle, precisely heated water bath. The technique is easy, seals in nutrients and flavors, and makes it nearly impossible to burn your food. Want a steak cooked to a perfect medium-rare? Set the machine to 134 degrees, drop your sealed steak in, set the timer, and the machine does the rest. You can set the machine in 1-degree increments, so you’re more likely to get precise temperatures. Cleanup is also simple. A guide is included with cooking times for common foods.
The sous vide method lets you take care of meal preparation and portion control ahead of time, so you can enjoy your meals on demand, at their peak of flavor. $429 for supreme model; does not include vacuum sealer. www.sousvidesupreme.com
Slow cooker with an app
Electronics company Belkin teamed up with the Crock-Pot brand to release the first slow cooker that can be controlled by your smartphone. Download the app for iOS or Android, sync it to the Crock-Pot Smart Slow Cooker, and you’ll have remote access to the appliance’s functions. Use your phone to make adjustments for recipes that require heat variations. No need to worry if your plans for the day change and your slow cooker is at home continuing its regularly scheduled programming. You’ll avoid overcooked food and take greater advantage of your slow cooker than ever before.
The remote control is made possible by integrated WeMo technology. It’s just one of Belkin’s offerings that uses your Wi-Fi router to give you offsite access to the electronics in your home. The WeMo technology family works together, so if you get more WeMo products, such as a webcam or light switch, you can control them all through one app. And you can still operate your pot the old-fashioned way when you’re at home. $130, www.belkin.com
Pot with perfect temps
Here’s an appliance that can provide hot water at the right temperature whether you’re filling your cup with a delicate white loose-leaf tea or a dark French press coffee.
The range of settings for water temperature is what makes the Bonavita Variable Temperature Gooseneck Kettle the pot for hot beverage enthusiasts. It also comes in handy for temperature-sensitive tasks such as making yeast breads. The 1-liter kettle has a a powerful heating element; an elegant, utilitarian design; digital temperature display; and the ability to hold the desired temperature for up to an hour. It’s made of contemporary brushed stainless steel and BPA-free plastic. While it’s small enough for your home kitchen, it’s also rated for commercial use. $105, http://bonavitaworld.com.
Tips for automating your kitchen
▪ Many modern gadgets, such as the Crock-Pot we’ve featured here, require a strong Wi-Fi signal. To make sure your signal will reach your devices, bring your smartphone or laptop to the area where the appliance will be used. Check the Wi-Fi signal indicator on your phone.
▪ Be sure that you need the additional features on any new kitchen appliance or gadget. Devices that have new technologies built in come at a premium and you might be able to save cash by going old school if the enhanced features won’t improve your life much.
▪ Many kitchen gadgets promise to simplify your life, but think carefully about each one before you decide to add them to your mix. Do you really want your oven sending alerts to your phone when it’s done cooking your roast?
▪ Sometimes when the high-tech component of a smart device like a refrigerator fails, you could be in for more headaches than if you had chosen a classic model instead.