MEN AND THEIR KITCHEN GADGETS – ELLIN CURLEY

My adult son has always been cooking averse. Kitchen challenged. He would grill when weather permitted, but otherwise he ate food that came in packages. His culinary interest ranged from heating something in the microwave to heating something in the oven. When he discovered that frozen vegetables come in microwaveable steamer bags, his stove top became obsolete.

Then he discovered modern kitchen technology. He is now the proud owner of a sous vide machine and vacuum sealer (explanation coming), an air fryer (self-explanatory) and a pressure cooker (see “Top Chef” and other Food Network shows). Each contraption comes with its own recipes, manuals and propaganda.

Every day now I hear about the wonders of these amazing machines. I also hear about the equally amazing culinary wonders they create. Each gadget has its own strengths and weaknesses and you have to learn what works well in each one.

For example, the sous vide machine is a device that cooks vacuum sealed food in a water bath. You can bring food to precisely controlled temperatures and the water is circulated to insure consistent temperatures throughout. The benefit of this technique is that the food is very slowly steamed, which seals in the moisture and enhances the flavors.

sous-vide-machineMeat comes out particularly well this way, cooked in marinades, sauces or just plain. In conventional ovens and grills, meat shrinks quite a bit in the cooking process because it loses liquid, and therefore flavor. This doesn’t happen with the sous vide (or with the pressure cooker). Oddly enough, the sous vide also excels at making puddings (including crème brûlée) and cakes (including cheesecakes).

My son’s next big boy toy, the pressure cooker, cooks food in liquid, under pressure, in a sealed container. This results in very rapid cooking, similar to braising. The pot roast that would take four hours on the stove or in an oven, would take just one hour in the pressure cooker. The process also locks in flavor and moisture, as does the sous vide. The pressure cooker also bakes and makes other unexpected dishes. My son said that the brownies he made in it were moist and fudgey and awesome!

The air fryer sounds amazing to me. It cooks by circulating hot air around the food. So you can use a small amount of oil to create wonderfully crispy foods like fries and chips. Apparently you use 80% less fat and get 95% of the flavor and crispness of regular frying. You can bake in this device as well.

air-fryer

If all this isn’t techie enough for you, these gadgets can also be connected to your iPhone or iPad. You can set temperatures and times on your phone and the phone will tell you when your food is done. This level of technology excites my son and terrifies me.

Anyway, now my son calls me several times a day to discuss the night’s meal. First I hear about the menu and techniques planned for dinner. Later I get a progress report or a call for help. Finally I get the review of the finished meal. We talk about any shortcomings or failures and try to figure out how to make it turn out better the next time. Sometimes this involves referencing a cookbook or an appliance manual.

I am thrilled that my son has discovered the joy of cooking. He has branched out and is now looking at cookbooks and recipes online. He has actually used the stove. He’s learning the proper way to sear meat and sauté onions. He’s thrilled that he’s eating healthy (he’s on a diet). He’s even more thrilled that he’s saving money. He rarely eats out when he used to go out several times a week. He’s also saving money because buying raw ingredients is cheaper than buying prepared foods. He can’t believe how much money he used to waste!

I’m happy to be able to talk food and cooking with my son. I love cooking and have been a foodie since before that was an actual word. But it was not a subject I could share with my son. Now we share recipes

So, if you want to share your love of cooking with your non-cooking son, son-in-law or husband, go out and get them a cool kitchen appliance and sit back and enjoy the show.

33 thoughts on “MEN AND THEIR KITCHEN GADGETS – ELLIN CURLEY

    • I actually can’t imagine cleaning those old stoves. Actually, I didn’t clean them. I hated cleaning the stove and only did it if it looked like it was about to explode or catch on fire. Ah, but the smooth top. And the one we got about 4 years ago is hard ceramic and doesn’t scratch as easily as the first one. BIG improvement. Huge.

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      • It’s an electric range with a glass/ceramic top. We’ve had smooth top stoves for the past 15 years and I don’t know how I cooked before that. BUT they are electric. I think they now make them as induction cooktops. Mine isn’t. It’s just regular.

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      • Just saw this, and Marilyn has answered it nicely. They come with black or white tops — mine is white. I clean it after each use — if anything sticks, you simply scrape it off with a razor blade, and clean it with soap and water or one of the special cleaners. No taking it apart or lining pans with tinfoil, etc.

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          • It is a regular free-standing electric range, except that the burners are covered with a smooth glass or ceramic top that covers the entire range. You cook in the regular way (saucepans, skillets, etc.) . The advantage is that they are much easier to clean than the old ranges that you have to take the burners and pans off — you simply clean a flat surface.

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          • They do make separate, one, two, and four burner units. These mostly use induction, which I am told is great, but I haven’t used it. If I were putting a kitchen together now, I wouldn’t even get a big unit. I’d get an induction stovetop and separate (two) ovens with convection. Kitchen technology has come a very long way in a really short time.

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      • Ellin, I too vividly recall the old flat top stove, cast iron frying pans, Crisco and grease flying all over the kitchen wall. As the oldest of three sons, I always was the cleanup person. I also helped Mom with preparation and cooking. And cleanup.

        I recall one evening when Mom and Pop were engaged in war of words. Suddenly, a pot flew across the room and sauce was everywhere. Guess who did the cleanup?

        I know I should be more engaged in cooking. Marilyn does it all and isn’t a happy camper.

        But…..

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  1. That would NOT work with Garry. Not only does he not cook, he doesn’t do gadgets. But he is a very appreciative eater and a top notch cleaner upper … and shopper. Sometimes you get the gift, just without the wrapping paper and ribbons.

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    • So, I’m a klutz with gadgets. I try. I try and sometimes break stuff. Shoot me!

      I am a very good clean up person. Very efficient and I don’t brag about it. I earned my stripes as the eldest Armstrong son and a wise ass Marine Private who logged lots of KP, courtesy of exasperated drill instructors.

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  2. I could have written this. My son, being disabled, equipped his kitchen with every possible gadget to allow hm to cook for himself. It became s o cluttered that you couldn’t cook around them…and he had a clear-out, replaceing every under-used gadget with one, single, infallible meal-producing machine. Me. 🙂

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    • I know! My son is very single minded. If he gets interested in something he goes in whole hog. He becomes an expert. He has now branched out into cooking with actual kitchen appliances and using regular cookbooks, not just ones for specific gadgets. Very proud of him. And his food is good!

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  3. Now those are some neat gadgets that I didn’t know about. The catch phase is – it’s faster and it seals in the flavour. I’ll have to look into them further. Thanks Ellin.
    Leslie

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    • I had heard of them on Foodnetwork cooking shows. But I never thought of getting one for myself. But my kitchen counter is already full of ‘ordinary’ gadgets like coffee maker, mixer, cuisinart, toaster oven, etc. So I don’t know where I’d put any more.

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      • One of the benefits of that smooth topped range is that when it’s off, it’s a countertop. I have almost no counter space. But you have almost as little as I do, even though your kitchen is much bigger. I think we never imagined the number and variety of appliances we would have and how much counter and cupboard space we’d need.

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  4. This is wonderful, Ellin. If I had the counter top space, I’d probably have one of those. Cheesecakes, eh…
    and gain three hundred pounds in the process. But bless him, he’s not just content to use the machines, he’s branching out into real cooking. I am in awe.

    My husband has a limited palette, coming from old time parents who believed the only safe can was one you boiled first (really) and fish never entered their house, chinese food was verboten because “they” always put something in it (even if it said “manufactured in Peoria”) and I was considered a gourmet cook because, as my mother in law told someone, I used Or-a-GAN-o. He is perfectly content with his choices, and since I have reached the age of consent, I consent to let him be happy with that.

    That sous vide does look interesting, though.

    I’ve seen ads for those phone apps that let you control your cooking appliances remotely. Yeah, terrifying.

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    • Counter space is a real problem these days. But I hope you get to make food that you like despite your husband’s limited tastes. Have you ever gotten him to a chinese restaurant?

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  5. I live in an apartment with very limited counter space and an apartment style fridge. Our landlord will soon be kicking us all out so he can upgrade and up price the building. A good kitchen with room for gadgets etc., is high on my list of apartment features.

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    • My son says that you don’t need a lot of counter space for his gadgets. The sous vide device goes into any pot and the slow cooker he has does what several other devices do, like making rice. You only need that one instead of many different ones.

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  6. Yes. David has indeed discovered the joys of high tech cooking. One important detail….. his machine is actually an instapot NOT a pressure cooker. It does pressure cook, but it has capabilities other than that as well. Unlike a traditional pressure cooker that is a “one trick pony”, an instapot steams, cooks rice, makes yogurt and is also a slow cooker depending on what setting you use.

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    • Hello. I am the son, David.

      Yes, I have an instant pot, not a straight pressure cooker. It can bake/steam as well do all the things Furgie1218 says. The one I have works with a smartphone, and is bluetooth enabled, much like my Anova Sous Vide. The Instant Pot’s are not much more expensive than electric pressure cookers, but do much more. I highly recommend. Additionally, it can be used as a crock pot and therefore one device can do basically everything you need, in case counter space is an issue.

      The Anova Sous Vide is not a whole cooking apparatus like the Instant Pot. Rather, it locks onto any pot and circulates the water and controls the heat! Again, making space much less of an issue. I have a special Tupperware container and lid I use that has a cutout for the Anova. It’s cheap and keeps the water from evaporating. If making chicken for an hour, not a big deal, but if making brisket over 24-72 hours – big deal. You can cook without a vacuum sealer, however, I highly recommend one if you are going to use the Sous Vide. Much better when vacuum sealed as the food tends not to float in the water and cooks more evenly. Also, the flavor is better.

      The Anova especially is excellent at making single serve dessert items. Creme Brûlée and cheesecake are made in mason jars. This limits the temptation to eat the whole cheesecake and also makes sharing easy!

      The air fryer is great as well. However, it does require some kitchen/cooking know how. Recipes often have to be adjusted on the fly as, unlike a Sous Vide or an Instant Pot, cooking times vary greatly depending on both the amount of food and the size of the item(s) being cooked. The food is delicious and healthy and it’s fast and dishwasher safe! So cleanup is a breeze – unlike a traditional oil fryer.

      I am sticking with this because I enjoy it, it’s easy, inexpensive, and I can make great food. My girlfriend loves that I cook for her regularly. It also helps my diet (I had a kidney transplant and take steroids to avoid rejection – so weight is an issue). I know what’s going into my meals! Just stay away from the delicious fudge brownies and Banana Bourbon Cake!

      As my mom said, it also has brought us closer to together and given us more common ground.

      All in all, a win-win.

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      • I had a rice maker that actually did everything except act as a pressure cooker (I have an actual pressure cooker, but rarely use it). I have moved in another direction which is specialized kitchen equipment that does one job brilliantly. I have a rice maker that makes the best rice ever — and it helped that I learned a bit more about the various kinds of rice. The sous vide looks interesting … a bit pricey for me and I don’t think I’d use it enough to justify it, but it sounds interesting.

        I’ve owned — I don’t know HOW many — kitchen tools and devices and in the end, most of them were rehomed. But you’re still in the experimental stage of cooking, trying new things and discovering what you like cooking and eating, so have a ball 🙂 That you are actually cooking is great. It’s a life skill that will serve you well.

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      • Thank you, David for giving more specific information that I couldn’t give. You make the point that the Sous Vide and the Instapot do multiple things so they make many other space consuming devices obsolete. And the Sous Vide doesn’t take up space because it doesn’t come with it’s own pot – you put the device into any pot you already have. And the Instapot does so many things, you can eliminate ricers and steamers, etc. Thank you also for reigniting my passion for cooking!

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    • Thanks for the clarification. People seem to be concerned with counter space so that makes a big difference. You need only that one device instead of several separate ones.

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  7. My partner came home the other day with a set of scales that you could hook up to your phone. You pick a recipe off the app and it will tell you exactly what measurements you need to make that pud… So basically it’s the same as a cook-book! She wasn’t impressed by that comment but it’s like you said, if that’s what helps her to get in the spirit of cooking and find real enjoyment from it then it’s money well spent. I’ll just stick to books!

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