KITCHEN GADGETS – BY 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 sous vide machine and a 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 ensure 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 fudgy 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 about 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.

14 thoughts on “KITCHEN GADGETS – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

  1. I have to admit, I bought a little chopper and the quality of my chopped veggies has drastically improved. I have been making Manhattan shrimp chowder and New England clam chowder … and all those neatly chopped vegetable are a big contribution. But it’s not electric and you can’t use Alexa to set it, I fear.

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    1. We are getting a lot of use out of the air fryer that David convinced us to get. They make amazing fried chicken wings with absolutely no fat!

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  2. A couple of friends of mine have air fryers and swear by them and I have a foodie friend who loves gadgets, well actually he loves all gadgets and if they link to an iPhone or Apple smart watch so much the better as a far as he is concerned. I’m not a foodie myself, I find it quite amusing when lunching with a group of friends that the men are often discussing recipes and cooking shows while we women are talking about news and current affairs. The air fryer and the multi cooking devices like Thermomix sound very handy but I don’t really need them. I would like a food processor though as I absolutely loath chopping things and if a recipe calls for anything to be grated I am not making it.

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    1. I think that connecting your kitchen appliances to your phone or the internet is going a bit far. I just need something to help me chop, puree, grate and mix. And the air fryer is wonderful. You get the effect of frying with no oil. No mess, no heart attack! I think that the advent of better kitchen technology has gotten more men into the kitchen. I also think that the competition shows on the food network draw as many men as women. I share many of my cooking shows with my son, who just got into them recently and has become a huge fan.

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    1. Air fryers are a total luxury. Noone actually needs them – except maybe people in the south who are drowning themselves in cooking oil every day!

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  3. This is both funny and fascinating at the same time. Put a guy with the right mindset next to an appliance that Measures, or Times, or Adjusts, make it computer friendly at some level, and he’s on the way to becoming a sous chef. Just be thankful his new passion is cooking, and not motorsports or tag team wrestling…
    My husband is just now coming to terms with the microwave. This is a man who can put together a computer, but panics at the idea of 10 buttons on a microwave panel.

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    1. It’s funny that someone who is tech savvy, like your husband, has problems with the microwave. Maybe men have been brain washed into thinking that they can’t handle anything kitchen or food related. A throwback to the 1950’s when only mom wore an apron and entered the kitchen. I’m very pleased that my son has developed an interest in cooking. He needs to watch his weight and being involved in everyday food choices really helps. He is thinking about what he eats and how it’s made and how he can eat healthier.

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    1. My husband does all the grilling – a typical ‘male’ job. I have just never mastered the grill. I’m great in the kitchen, but not so great on the patio. But Tom also will cook in the kitchen, for which I am very grateful.We often divide up the evening meal and we each tackle a portion of it. David and his fiancee often take turns cooking dinner, which is another good way to divide the labor in the kitchen.

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          1. Sounds like he may need a few lessons. My brother is really up the creek since his wife died. Our two sons are planning to go over and give him some cooking lessons.

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