I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but this year I have decided to embrace some of the new kitchen appliances available instead of dismissing them summarily with my “it is always better done in a pot” attitude.
Appliances I already love include the air fryer (the best roasted potatoes ever) and the Soda Stream, which offers huge savings compared to buying fizzy bottled water. The high-speed Vitamix is my perfect companion, to the detriment of the food processor, which I am using less and less. And probably my favourite kitchen machine is the stick blender, which whips up cream, purées soup, thickens salad dressings and is easy to clean.
I will never be sold on the slow cooker, as everything I have made in it has been unexceptional. Good for the busy person, I suppose, but this is the one machine where everything you could make in it tastes better cooked in the oven for the same time.
The appliances I need to learn more about are immersion circulators for cooking sous-vide and the increasingly popular pressure cooker, the Instant Pot.
For sous-vide, all you need is a big pot, the circulator and water to prepare all sorts of interesting food. (For most of the applications you can use heavy duty plastic bags pinned to the side of your pot, so you don’t need to invest in a vacuum sealer.) I produced plump and juicy shrimp, more flavourful and with a better texture than poaching or grilling, and amazing short ribs done sous-vide for 48 hours. My other experiments with vegetables, chicken, steak and fish have been less than perfect.
When I used the Instant Pot for the first time, I made stock. It was watery and needed to be reduced to get a full flavour. Next, I tried a stew; again, it was too watery, although the meat was soft and tender. Risotto took the same time as on the stove top and was no better. The pot got stowed in my basement. However, my daughter. Emma. says it is a practical time saver. She uses it for soups, especially bean, and any kind of bean and meat dish. She even throws in frozen poultry and meat without defrosting. “Frozen chicken thighs mixed with teriyaki or barbecue sauce take no time and perfectly pulled pork is ready in 90 minutes,” she says in the Instant Pot’s defense. “It is the speed of the Instant Pot with no flavour sacrifice, adding everything in and leaving it. A perfect family tool.”
Looks like I have some more experimenting to do in the kitchen. I will report back when I have mastered these machines.
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