Technology. It can simultaneously be both a blessing and a curse. While there’s no denying that smartphones with social media and better cameras have irrevocably altered our daily lives, to what extent have new gadgets impacted meal prep? We asked a number of foodies to weigh in and vote for their favorite “I can’t cook without it anymore” item and are pleased to share our suggestions for the latest gear to take your kitchen into 2018 and beyond.
1. Instant Pot ULTRA, 6-quart, 10-in-1, $149.95
Not in the loop yet on the IP frenzy? There’s a reason why the Instant Pot has created such a cultish following, and that’s because it super, super handy. Billed as a programmable pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, yogurt maker, cake maker, egg cooker, sauté platform, steamer, warmer and sterilizer, the 6-quart capacity “Ultra” does just about everything except help your husband load the dishwasher. Available in different sizes. Instant Pot devotees have big online followings with loads of recipes.
#CoolIdea: Katrena Bond does an amazing cheesecake in her IP. Check out @bond_kat on Facebook.
2. ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide, 1,100 watts Immersion Circulator, $179
Once upon a time, “sous vide” cooking methods were limited to gastronomists like Ferran Adrià and the vaunted ElBulli culinary team in Spain. Nowadays, inexpensive vacuum sealers and gadgets like the Joule mean just about any intrepid home cook can vacuum-seal a protein and slow-cook it in water—a technique that controls doneness while preserving moisture and increasing tenderness. While some enthusiasts preferred the Anova immersion circulator, the Joule got the most votes by far. You can essentially “par-cook” your proteins—including softening less-tender cuts—and then finish them on the stovetop in a flash, cutting prep time to just minutes.
#CoolIdea: Veronica Winston takes on Starbucks by making her own incredible sous vide egg white bites. Perfect protein-y breakfast on the fly. @veronicawinston
3. NuWave 36001 Brio Air Fryer, $89.88
Want to satisfy a craving for crispy fries or onion rings without the guilt? This gadget, the most affordably priced air fryer in its class, uses hot air in combination with high-speed air circulation to cook your favorite fried foods without the saturated fats found in oil-based fryers. You essentially just dust the interior with a quick spray of olive oil or use no oil at all, and the machine does the rest for you—crispy textures achieved at a fraction of the fat content. You can bake and roast in it too.
#CoolIdea: Rosalind Napoli makes crispy zucchini, sweet potato and cauliflower fries as a healthier alternative to traditional potato crisps. @rosalindnapoli
4. Technivorm Moccamaster Coffee Brewer, $299.99
$300 for a drip coffee machine! And it doesn’t even make espresso! What? If that’s your reaction, and it was mine for sure, the Moccamaster will be a revelation. The brand has been spoken of with great reverence since the late ‘60s, and the machines are still made by hand with copper (not aluminum) heating elements. The real key is the temperature consistency. When coupled with freshly ground beans from a decent burr grinder, the Moccamaster keeps the water temperature around 200º for maximal flavor extraction. Most cheap coffee makers just don’t get the water hot enough. Devotees insist the Moccamaster is worth every single penny for the caliber of the coffee it produces.
#CoolIdea: For iced coffee enthusiasts, the Moccamaster can be a handy tool for more concentrated extraction. Be sure to experiment with different roasts and origins to find your perfect combination. Winemaker Ana Keller swears by this machine. @anakeller
5. Vorwerk Thermomix TM5, Kitchen Robot, $1,850
Yep, it’s the future. If you want to cook like the Jetsons, this kitchen “robot” is an extraordinary extravagance but believers swear by it. It’s quite common in European kitchens, where space is often at a premium so condensing every prep task into one compact gadget is worth the money. (They are manufactured in Germany and are there called “Bimby” if you can score a cheaper one while traveling in the EU.) All I can say is watch the videos on YouTube, and if you have an extra $2K to drop on the Thermomix TMG, then good for you. Let me know how you like it! This baby is like the love child of a high-end food processor and the Instant Pot mentioned previously, i.e., it does prep work AND does the cooking.
#CoolIdea: Can the Thermomix make your whole dinner in one device—proteins, grains, veggies, sauces? Yes it can. Put it to the test, and you may find yourself selling all your standalone appliances on eBay.
6. Coravin Model Eight Wine Preservation System, $360
This is the second iteration of the Coravin, which has revolutionized the wine industry. No salesperson works without it these days. What is this gadget? It’s a system that allows you to retrieve wine from the bottle without pulling the cork. Because no oxygen can then interact with the wine (beyond the natural permeability of cork itself), the Coravin can extend the life of a bottle of “open: wine for quite some time. Just how long is open to debate. One month? Three months? The jury is out, but the net result is that you can afford to open “fancy” bottles and really savor them over time without worrying that they will spoil. Again, I see this as useful primarily for people in wholesale who have a vested interest in showcasing a single bottle of sample wine for multiple potential buyers. There are loads of competing “wine preservation” systems out there, and they are all crap—except for the Coravin, which actually works. My thought: If two people who love each other and are cooking high-tech, gadget-driven dinners together can’t finish a single 750mL bottle of wine in a night (four glasses), then maybe gadgets aren’t your solution. #justsaying
#CoolIdea: Go splurge on that bottle of insanely expensive wine you’ve always wanted to try, and then Coravin the living daylights out of it. Then you can pour tiny tastes for multiple dinner party guests and look like a baller, even though you’re not LeBron and you can’t afford his wine habit. The Coravin will let you pretend enough to impress the easily impressed.