I love cooking. The problem is … time. With two kids, work, the house and yard to manage, travel, and even the occasional jog or bike ride, when it’s my night to cook, I’m usually scrambling to get meals on the table. But even when I’m cooking fast, I still want to make food that tastes good, at least for the two members of my family whose teeth have fully grown in.
To do that, I’ve enlisted the help of some fine kitchen gear and gadgets that help save time and remove guesswork and allow me to still enjoy the culinary process, even when I only have 15 minutes to cook.
If I had a nickel for every minute I’ve wasted waiting for an oven to preheat, I could buy a countertop steam oven many times over. (I would also have the ability to sit on Amazon clicking “order oven” over and over because I’d have saved so much time.) This amazing device heats up in seconds, and because the oven uses both radiant heat and superheated steam (like the name suggests), the food tastes great both on first cook and reheating.
The oven has five cooking modes: Toast, broil/grill, bake/reheat, keep warm, and pizza. A large LED display shows the mode and temperature info, and with a top heat setting at 485 degrees, it gets hot enough for just about anything you’ll want to cook.
I use ours as a primary oven all the time because of how quickly it heats up and cooks, but it’s also priceless when you need a second oven during a party or when you’re making a large, fancy meal. With all that free time, right?
Let me start by saying that this and all other so-called “meat thermometers” sell themselves way short. I use my Meater thermometer to measure the temperature of everything from a batch of home-brew beer boiling on the stove to hot chocolate that I’m about to give my son to, of course, lots of different types of meat. While the Meater Wireless Smart Meat Thermometer might look simple, appearing rather like a large steel nail with a black collar at one end, it’s actually rather brilliant once paired with its smartphone app.
The Meater gives you almost instant information about a food into which you insert the pointed end of the probe, reading temperatures up to 212 degrees, while an ambient sensor near the black-collar section can read temperatures as high as 527 degrees, and I’m not sure why your oven would ever need to be hotter than that.
Using the app to check ideal internal cooking temps for various meats and to keep real-time track of the cooking process is cool and all, but here’s the feature that makes the Meater a game changer, especially when time is tight: The app uses an algorithm that factors in both internal food temperature and the ambient heat in the oven (or on a closed grill) and estimates when your food will be finished.
The Fitlosophy Digital Food Scale was designed with portion control in mind, and, in fact, the company offers guides that can assist you in planning out healthy meals that are satisfying yet will help you lose weight and hit fitness goals. But to be honest, that’s not how I use it. I simply take advantage of the fact that it’s a supersensitive scale with a rather large surface area. I cook with spices and seasonings often, so I used to spend a lot of time carefully measuring out half-teaspoons of this or tablespoons of that. Now, if a recipe calls for, say, a teaspoon each of nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice, I just measure the first, dump it on the scale, and then add enough of the next spice until the weight doubles, then the next until the weight goes up a third more.
The scale can read weights in ounces, grams, pounds, or milliliters, so it also helps you to follow various recipes written with different measurements without a lot of calculation work. And frankly, the thing looks cool, too, so I don’t mind having it around on the island or countertops, even when I’m not actively measuring out portions.
Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up in the morning, roll over, and call out for someone to start making your morning coffee for you? You know, without enraging your spouse? Well, you can, as long as your “someone” is Alexa … and you have the Behmor Connected Brewer. (No Alexa? No problem. Just control the coffee maker using a smartphone app.)
Depending on how nerdy you are about your coffee, you can set the brewing temperature anywhere from 195 degrees to 205 degrees, extracting your ideal flavor profile for a given roast and bean. A presoak feature ensures that the grounds are saturated for full extraction while the double-walled steel carafe maintains heat for hours.
And if you happen to be brewing at a high altitude, just plug that in there, too, and the Behmor will adjust its brewing temperature to accommodate.
I love making food that exists in the broad category of “mush”: soups, purées, basically anything that requires blending. This means endlessly pouring food back and forth from bowl to blender, and the occasional horrid mess as hot half-blended soups spray forth from the top of my countertop unit — until I bought a hand blender. These days, I’d say I genuinely use the thing at least weekly. Grabbing a hand blender, plunging it into a stew pot, and whirling foodstuffs into a perfect purée takes about a tenth of the time as transferring foods to a regular stand blender, and it’s a much cleaner process, too. Trust me on this: If you cook at all frequently, spend a few bucks and get a good hand blender. You will be pleasantly surprised by how much you use it.
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