If you are newly married and setting up your kitchen, this is not the guide for you. I will not be going over the basic kitchen appliances and utensils—like toasters and steak knives, but instead, list those maybe not-so-common.
We’ve all purchased those kitchen gadgets that were supposed to save us time, but after a few weeks of limited use, they keep getting pushed back further in the cabinet or higher on the shelves. An example of this for me is the bread machine. Now you may love your bread machine, but for me, we are in the latest trend of eating less bread—so there it sits collecting dust—a lot of dust because this thing is big!
So the following is a list of 11 “extra” appliances or gadgets that I can’t live without.
[tweet "11 #kitchen gadgets worth the space on the counter! by @CatholicFC #SmartMartha"]
Now can I really live without these? My grandmother and mother, probably did, so yeah, but if you’ve got some space—these are the things that have helped me to feed my (large) family a little more easily and conveniently.
The Rice Cooker
It took me the longest time to get one of these. After all, can’t you simply make rice on the stove? Of course, but here are some benefits of a rice cooker if you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon yet. Once you dump the water and rice in, you can leave it. You don’t have to worry about starting your rice at the right time. It keeps the rice warm until you are ready to serve it. There is the steam basket that also is handy, but I never use this. For one thing, it’s too small for us and also, you kinda do have to worry about timing it right, or you get your veggies a little too mushy. Another benefit is the delayed starter. This works great if you are going to be gone all day. You can have your rice start a couple hours before you are planning to eat, without actually having to be there. This is especially nice because with large quantities of brown rice, it will take about 2 hours—and sometimes we are not always at home 2 hours before eating. Never fear. You can put the rice on in the morning, set the delayed timer, and forget about it.
This has got to be the heaviest countertop appliance in the world! In my quest to keep my counters clear, I keep it in a cupboard, and get a workout every time I have to haul it out. I know many brides have this on their registry—and I am so jealous. I had to wait for over 20 years of marriage before I was a privileged owner of one. If you do any baking (and yes—even though we eat less bread—we still eat cake!) a good mixer is a must. Plus, whenever I do make bread or pizza—this makes the task very doable. For pizza, I just throw all the ingredients in and let in knead for 15 minutes, using that time to clean up, get the topping ingredients ready, and answer emails.
Two Slow Cookers
Talk about excessive appliances! But admit it, haven’t there been times when you’ve needed an extra slow cooker, at least to keep something warm? I’ve used 2 slow cookers for things like:
Excessive amounts of food (parties/or for us—our Sunday dinner. It’s not unusual for me to have 2 pot roasts and veggies going at the same time.)
2 different courses, especially if we are at an event and we need to come home to eat. One might have soup, the other sloppy joes or meatballs. One might have mashed potatoes and the other, creamed chicken. For brunch, one will have scrambled eggs (keeping warm) and hashbrowns (keeping warm). Or simply 2 different kinds of soup. Are you wondering how you ever made it by with one?
Large Electric Griddle or Grill
If you’ve got a crew to feed, this is absolutely a must. Don’t even try to make pancakes in a skillet on the stove. I can make 8 at a time on this baby. That’s 64 in about 10 minutes. I also use our grill for grilled cheese sandwiches, scrambled eggs, and omelets.
Electric Waffle Iron
And when you need a switch from pancakes, you’ve got waffles! Although this is only used for waffles, it may seem like a waste of storage space. But nothing holds butter and syrup like a waffle. Say no more.
Ninja or Blendtec
These are just fancy blenders. If your Oster Blender works fine, by all means, you don’t need another. Some people swear by their Blendtec, but for about $300, I’ll still wait. I actually have a Ninja that I am fairly loyal to. We use it primarily for smoothies—and we blend in whole vegetables with our fruit like carrots, kale, celery, etc. The other way that I use our Ninja Blender is for making tomato sauce, salsa, and other soups and sauces. I find that if I blend up vegetables to the point that my children can’t recognize them, they actually eat them.
Instant Pot/Electric Pressure Cooker
This is my newest gadget addition. I got it about a year ago. I hate to admit it, but I am using it less and less. Like anything new, it takes a while to get in the habit. I’m an old dog who doesn’t like new tricks, but I’m trying. So far, it’s been great for soups and stews, and especially beans. It’s amazing to me that it can cook black beans in about an hour. Before, I had to remember to get the beans out to soak the night before and babysit them all the next day as they cooked. The savings for me over using canned beans has been worth its price. It’s also been a blessing when I’ve not planned far enough in advance to use the slow cooker—you can accomplish pretty much the same effect in an hour’s time.
Wait. This is not a kitchen appliance. I know, but it is a “gadget” and I use it in my kitchen all of the time. It is often on my counter. My favorite app to use is AllRecipes. I rely on the ratings and extra comments. It’s got a great search option, too. You can look up recipes by ingredients that you have on hand. I also use my iPad to listen to podcasts or other presentations, like Ted Talks, when I am doing tedious work in the kitchen alone.
Stapler, Tape, Sharpie, Scissors (the paper kind) in one handy place
Wait. These are not kitchen appliances either. These are definitely desk tools. That’s true, but having these handy in your kitchen can be very helpful. Some of you have a desk-like area in your kitchen, so maybe this doesn’t apply for you. For the rest of us, it’s nice to have these office supplies handy. If you are short on chip clips and you have something that is half-used, or something that will be opened only one more time, try stapling it closed. Staples can repair many things—unrelated to the kitchen. I once temporarily stapled a hem. Tape can be used in the same way. Tape a chip bag closed. Besides labeling my kids’ clothes with a sharpie, bags destined to the freezer need that permanent identification written on them, too. And finally, how nice is it to open a frozen fruit bag or cake mix bag so easily with scissors—without having to dig through 3 drawers to find them. All of these office-supplies-for-kitchen-use are in a magnetic bin on the side of my refrigerator.
This appliance doesn’t take up too much space, and it can really come in handy. I often use mine when I am too lazy to get out my Ninja blender, and it’s a small enough job for it to handle. I can put it into a hot soup if I am pureeing it. I also use it if I am scrambling a lot of eggs. It’s so easy to clean. I just run mine under water and wipe dry. (Can be used to get lumps out of gravy, too.)
Squash noodle maker?
Ok—this is definitely a stretch. In trying not to eat bread or pasta, I’m looking for ways to fill in that gap. Zucchini noodles don’t even come close—but I’m expecting a bumper crop this year. Maybe this device will save my waistline! I saw this at Aldi and had to try it out. Time will tell whether this little gadget will merit a place in my kitchen.
So there you have it: the not-so-typical appliances and gadgets that help get dinner on the table. Am I missing any? Is there something that you’ve come to love? How about your snow cone maker? Electric sandwich maker? Foreman grill? Deep fryer?
Copyright 2017 Tami Kiser
About the Author
Tami Kiser is a wife, mother, teacher, author, and speaker. She runs a video production studio featuring Catholic speakers. These can be purchased or viewed on Formed. She also is the co-owner and host of a new Catholic Retreat and Cultural Center in the Carolina Mountains called Heart Ridge. She has taught everything from NFP, Zumba, cleaning toilets, Catholic crafting, the hula, bullet journaling, tap dancing, and liturgical living to Saxon Math 54 for the 10th time.