The busy person’s kitchen
Whether you’re a time-poor professional who’s always on the go or a flustered new parent juggling the baby with the blender, there comes a period in all our lives when we need our time in the kitchen to be short, sweet and productive. Take a look at our list of time-saving gadgets to help maximise your time at home.
Must-haves – time-saving appliances on a budget
1. Pressure cooker
If I could have just one kitchen appliance to take with me to a desert island, this would definitely be it. Whether you go for an electric pressure cooker or a traditional cooker-top one, this device will cook meat, vegetable and pulses in a fraction of the usual time. Dried peas and beans can be cooked without having to soak them overnight – a real boon for time-strapped vegetarians – and residual water from cooking makes a tasty base for gravies and sauces.
There’s nothing like the smell of fresh bread, but who has time to make it from scratch? Just throw in the ingredients and your breadmaker will fill the house with delicious baking smells, providing a fresh loaf within four hours. However, be wary if you have a small kitchen, as these tend to be quite hefty – it all depends how much you love fresh bread! Prices for breadmakers have dropped in recent years, and they can now be bought from as little as £40.
3. Hand blender
There was a time when a pot of homemade soup had to be cooled, transferred in batches to a countertop blender, transferred back to a pan and reheated before it was ready for the table. The hand blender is a godsend for soup-lovers. All that is needed is to put it straight into the pan, whizz around until the desired consistency is achieved and your soup is ready to eat.
Should-haves – expensive or integrated appliances
1. Slow cooker
These are useful if you work during the day or are out of the house for long periods. A slow cooker or “crock pot” will cook a one-pot meal such as stew or chilli over several hours, ensuring it is hot and ready to eat by the time you get home. Some have a built-in timer delay function if you’re going to be out for longer than the suggested cooking time, or you can purchase a timer plug to use with it.
2. Induction hob
Induction hobs use electromagnetism to heat a pan directly rather than heat transfer – this makes them faster and more efficient, and also reduces the likelihood of accidents as the hob is not hot to the touch. An induction hob is 30% more efficient than other types of electric hob and could as much as halve cooking time for some foods.
3. Convection oven
A convection or fan oven circulates air around the cooking cavity, reducing the time it takes to cook food and ensuring an even bake. Foods can cook up to 25% faster in a convection oven than in a standard radiant oven.
4. Health fryer
A health fryer such as Tefal’s Actifry can cook 1kg of chips or roast potatoes with just one spoon of oil, using a turntable and fan to evenly distribute the fat. So it’s healthier – but what about faster? One big advantage is that potatoes don’t have to be parboiled before cooking, which means they can go from chopping board to plate in under 45 minutes. It’s great for other roast veg too.
Might-wants – small gadgets to fit your lifestyle
Do you use a lot of fresh herbs in your cooking? A mezzalune – a small, concave chopping board with crescent-shaped cutter – is the perfect tool for chopping them in double-quick time.
2. Flexible chopping boards
With a bendy board, you can chop your meat or veg then roll into a funnel shape to easily add to your pan.
3. A sharp chef’s knife
Not all gadgets have to be revolutionary. A good, sharp chef’s knife is worth its weight in gold to the busy home chef.
4. Garlic peeler
A rubber tube that will easily strip cloves of their skin, and protect your hands from garlic stink too.
5. Salad spinner
A quick way of drying your washed fruit and veg, consider a salad spinner if you like to buy fresh.
Don’t-haves – the time-saving devices that too often end up on the shelf
1. Sandwich toaster/Panini press
These sound like a good idea in principle, but in too many homes they end up stashed away in a cupboard and never used. Perhaps it’s the difficulty of cleaning, or the tendency of sandwiches to stick to the inside, leaving a mangled mess of bread and goo. That said, modern sandwich toasters are improving all the time, many now having removable plates for ease of cleaning, so if you can’t resist a toastie, don’t write this off.
Yes, this one appears in two categories. By all means invest in a breadmaker if you love the taste of fresh bread but don’t have time for hours of mixing and kneading – but if you only enjoy this occasionally, this is a big device for a small return. Try the local bakery instead.
3. Ice cream maker
Perhaps it’s our British summers, but these gadgets too have a tendency to go the way of the sandwich toaster – stashed away in a cupboard for use once or twice a year. However, they generally take up relatively little space so you may think it’s still worth the investment.