Sarah Machajewski, a 29-year-old Buffalo writer and editor, is a self-described foodie. She follows food blogs and likes to try new ways to prepare meals. In October, she received an Instant Pot for her birthday and has since been “obsessed.”
You can see why: The Instant Pot promises to do just about everything but set the table. It combines an electric pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, sauté pan, and yogurt-maker into one unit. Although it’s been on the U.S. market since 2009, sales have soared in the past couple of years. On Amazon, 84 percent of reviewers gave it five stars.
“I cook oatmeal, big batches of brown rice, and chicken thighs right out of the freezer. The benefit is that you can put everything in the pot and walk away,” Machajewski said. “Within 25 minutes, your meal is ready, and everything tastes so good.”
The Instant Pot is one of a handful of newer kitchen gadgets that have received high marks from Buffalo cooks.
Charlie Riley, a 39-year-old marketing director who lives in Tonawanda, describes himself as “techie” and an early adapter to kitchen gadgets. He raves about the BlendTec, 1,560-watt commercial-quality blender he uses almost daily to make smoothies and juices. He also uses it to create homemade sauces.
“It will blend anything,” said Riley, who with his wife, is committed to living a healthy lifestyle. He said a tool like the BlendTec helps. It costs quite a bit more than your average blender — between $300 and $600 — but it also comes with a seven or eight-year warranty and is super tough. (It’s the one featured in a YouTube video blending a phone.)
Another professional-grade option is the Ninja Blender.
“I’ve gone through a lot of blenders in my life. This one is stronger,” said Diane Ward Bartelo, a Hamburg mother of four. “I use lots of ice and frozen fruit, primarily for smoothies and milkshakes, and it never loses power.”
They run between $100 and $200 and can be found at Walmart, Target and on Amazon.
Another hot gadget that has caught cooks’ attention is the air fryer, produced by companies like Philips and Farberware. Despite the name, no frying is going on in this countertop device. Rather, air heats up then rushes onto and around food through a mesh cooking basket and down to a drip tray that recirculates the air back to the top. Because air fryers use a fraction of the oil you’d normally use, food has fewer calories and fat. Most run between $69 and $160.
Elma resident Maureen Ann Stewart said she’s been having fun experimenting with the Philips Power Air Fryer XL her husband gave her for Christmas. “The food has definitely been tasty. It cooks in less time and is very moist,” Stewart said. “I wouldn’t say it tasted fried, more like we cooked it outside on the grill. It definitely tastes better than simply baking it.”
Lynn Avery, a West Seneca telecommunication analyst, had a different experience. After she saw an air fryer advertised on an infomercial, she bought one. Despite making a few tasty recipes, she found the internal basket really small and hard to reinsert once you took it out.
“It drove me crazy,” she said.
Avery traded in her air fryer for the Breville, a combination toaster, convection oven and air fryer. It costs a little more — around $300 — but she found an Amazon special for $240. She said it uses the same concept as an air fryer, circulating air with high heat.
“I use it almost daily and it’s really spectacular,” said Avery, who roasts cauliflower, broils lobster tails and makes French fries — all with healthy results.
Likewise, Ward Bartelo said she loves kitchen gadgets and relies upon them to cook for her family of six. One is the countertop NuWave Oven. By combining conduction, convection and infrared heat, the NuWave Oven allows users to bake, broil, barbecue, roast, grill, steam, sear and air fry.
“It cooks a variety of foods very quickly,” she said. “I feel more like I’m cooking than when using a microwave and the food tastes better.”
Benefits include no need for preheating and cooking food from frozen to done. NuWave ovens range from $100 to $150.
Riley also swears by the Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker. It sounds fancy, but it’s basically a precision cooker that you attach to a pot filled with water in which you drop ingredients into a sealed bag or glass jar. It replicates professional-level cooking by warming food to a precise temperature, resulting in maximum tenderness and moisture retention. The Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker ranges from $150 to $200 and can be found on Amazon, Target and Williams-Sonoma.
“It cooks everything to the perfect temperature,” Riley said. “If you want meat made a certain way, it’s great.”
“Steaks are cooked throughout without dry, crispy edges. Chicken breasts are so tender you can cut them with a spoon,” she said. “Everything is a little tastier than if you were to boil or cook on the stove because they cook in their own juices. Even carrots are tastier.”
The caveat is that the sous vide isn’t suited for nights when you’re in a hurry — and it’s not without complexity. “It’s almost like a science experiment,” she said.
Because Machajewski likes to get creative in the kitchen, it’s the perfect gadget.
“It makes you think outside the box.”
Story topics: Home