These days, chances are you’re making a lot more of your own meals at home. If you’re anything like me, cooking is a skill you’ve never quite mastered. But since it’s not financially nor physically healthy to order in every single meal, and a personal chef is not in my personal budget (…yet), I’ve had to figure out some more innovative ways to improve my kitchen skills. Thanks to a few helpful tools I’ve discovered along the way, beyond my wine cooler, I’ve upped my game from Kraft Dinner and grilled cheese to grown up pasta and fancier grilled cheese, with a few extras along the way.
A good Espresso Machine
Last year I wrote about how I tried to make my coffee at home exclusively, and truthfully I was pretty successful. I rarely bought coffee outside thanks to my trusty tools: my pod espresso maker and milk frother. This year I decided to up the ante on my home barrista skills by upgrading to a more traditional espresso machine, this one from Hamilton Beach.
Once you’ve got a great machine, using a good quality coffee makes it super easy to make café style drinks at home. I love Melitta coffee, and I start with whole bean and grind before every cup. If you love lattes and cappuccinos, ensure you have a great milk that froths nicely, dairy or otherwise. I love this oat milk from Minor Figures. Coffee expert Dan Pabst suggests warming your coffee cup before pouring in your brew, to keep it warmer longer and to enhance the taste. He also says many people are grinding their beans too finely. A coarser grind means more flavor, making something like this latte recipe all the more enjoyable. With just a few simple tools and some key ingredients, home lattes have never tasted so good.
A good (hand) blender
Blenders come in a couple of different forms when it comes to kitchen tools, each serving their own purpose. I am always pulling out my counter top and hand blenders for various tasks. A good countertop blender means that smoothies, frozen cocktails, milkshakes and other blended drinks can be a part of your daily life. One of my favorite morning ritual is to make a green smoothie: blending frozen fruit like bananas and strawberries with greens like kale and spinach (protip: frozen greens blend better). Add some of that trusty oat milk, hemp hearts and chia seeds for heartiness and maple syrup for sweetness, and you’ve got a delicious, power packed smoothie that tastes like dessert for breakfast.
Hand blenders are handy tools that make meal and snack prep that much easier. From smoother batters, pureed soups right in the pot and easily blended dips for snacks, a handblender makes you feel like a whiz in the kitchen even if you’re actually a dud (#selfie). I love this blender for its versatility, and the bonus chopping bowl for mess free mixing and a whisk that makes blending batter a breeze. My new favorite dish is eggplant parmesan, and I actually make my own breadcrumbs using that attachment.
A great toaster
This may seem super basic, we all have a toaster, but none of us really think about it. But if you actually think about it , your toaster is something you use all the time, especially now that we’re all at home so much more. Investing in a good toaster ensures that it will last you years, so you can go back to not thinking about it. I recently tried out this one from Hamilton Beach. It works like a charm, and the bonus defrost and bagel settings make it all the more useful and convenient. And who cares what the boomers say, embrace your love of avocado toast, because it’s truly a nutritious, quick and easy to make snack, or meal if you’re into it, especially when your toaster is always up to the task.
An air fryer
I know I’m behind the trend; people have been raving about their air fryers for years, and I am both sorry and grateful to be behind the times. I’ve just joined the ranks of happy air fryer owners, and both celebrate and lament how easily daily fries have become a part of my life. People are not kidding when they say you can make delicious fried food with a fraction of the oil, mess and effort, of a deep fryer. I’m obsessed with this combination air fryer and toaster oven; I’ve used it daily since pulling it out of the box.
Instead of heading to the drive through or ordering in whenever I have a crunchy, fried food craving, I can just chop up some potatoes and have myself a far healthier craving killing snack, and feel like a kitchen boss at the same time.
An indoor plug in grill
Remember the George Foreman back in the day? While its fat cutting claims were highly exaggerated, its utility and ease of use were not. I had the OG mini George Foreman in my university days, and now that I’m an “adult” (I use the term very loosely) I’ve upgraded to a far more grown up version, like this one.
This is another device I find myself pulling out a couple of times a week, to grill vegetables, to make crispy vegetarian chicken fingers (yes, they are a thing) or to make one of my favorite snacks, grilled halloumi cheese. Simply cut a few slices, lay on the grill, and in a few minutes you’ve got a hybrid cheese chip situation that is simply divine. Don’t be like me and get distracted though; halloumi cooks very quickly (in 3 minutes according to this recipe) and few food related things are sadder than wasted halloumi.
What’s your handiest kitchen gadget, or your best cooking hack that instantly elevated your skills? Share them with us on Twitter @weraddicted!