Cutting-Edge Kitchen Gadgets Actually Worth Buying
By K. Thor Jensen, PC Magazine, 27 September 2016.
By K. Thor Jensen, PC Magazine, 27 September 2016.
One of the hardest things about the tech beat is separating the wheat from the chaff. Thousands of new gadgets hit the markets every year, each one accompanied with a breathless press release and a fancy video, but only a small handful find success.
A little bit ago, we published a piece on high-tech gadgets that you should never buy for your kitchen. It was full of useless junk that would just end up cluttering a junk drawer after one or two uses. And, while it was funny, it was also sort of like shooting fish in a barrel. So we decided to go back to the well and come up with kitchen gadgets that are actually worth checking out.
Set your cynicism aside for a second and check out how these machines could make your cooking quicker, easier and tastier.
Sous vide cooking has been a hip buzzword for the last decade or so, but the technology required to do it wasn't normally accessible outside of restaurant kitchens. It involves vacuum-sealing ingredients and flavoring together and then immersing them in water at a certain temperature to cook them evenly without losing moisture, and when done well it's awesome.
The Kickstarter-funded Sansaire aims to change that. The US$199 sous vide machine contains advanced temperature sensors that let you keep your water bath precise and evenly circulating, resulting in perfectly cooked food every time. It's also space-efficient and cleans up easily.
Another option is the Anova Culinary Precision Cooker, which we found to be one of the simplest, easiest, and most economical ways to start cooking sous vide. The Bluetooth connectivity is just gravy.
2. Smarter Fridge Cam
Making a grocery list is all well and good, but it never really gets everything. And the worst thing is when you buy something you already have, taking up valuable fridge space and usually leading to at least some of that food going bad. If only there was a way to look inside your fridge when you were out shopping.
Enter the Smarter Fridge Cam, which we spotted at CES. This inconspicuous peripheral affixes to the door of your fridge and takes a photograph of the contents whenever you open the door. That photo is then uploaded to the companion app, giving you a complete inventory wherever you are. Pre-order it now for about US$125.
Any home-entertaining situation can be improved with a cocktail or two, but mixing them can be a serious hassle. Enter Somabar, the closest thing to a robotic bartender that we're likely to see for a while. The Kickstarter-funded product uses six separate glass "pods" that contain booze and mixers, blending them perfectly every time to create a wide variety of drinks. The Somabar can also infuse bitters before pouring, and rinses itself clean every time. There are some things this baby can't do - shake a martini, for instance, if you like yours Bond-style - but it's a fun and fast way to make mixed drinks. If you have US$429 to spare, that is.
4. Biem Butter Sprayer
We've gone in hard on "single-use" kitchen gadgets; tools that are only good for one task and otherwise just take up space in your cabinets. But we're going to make an exception here for the Biem butter sprayer, because spreading cold butter on sandwich bread is one of the most irritating things in the kitchen. An onboard motion sensor triggers a heating element when you pick the device up, liquefying one end of a stick of butter and enabling you to spray it through a nozzle. Yes, the idea of spraying butter is more than a little decadent, but this thing actually works. Toast, popcorn, and other butter-enhanced foodstuffs will never be the same.
While a lot of these gadgets are pretty cutting-edge in terms of tech, the Searzall is deceptively simple. However, this thing is straight-up awesome. Created by Dave Arnold, the founder of New York's Museum of Food and Drink, it's a conical attachment that clamps on to the tip of a blowtorch and converts it into a hand-held broiler, allowing you to put the perfect sear on just about anything. The US$75 Searzall's two layers of fine mesh diffuse the "torch taste" that often ruins dishes cooked with a blowtorch, diffusing the heat into a radiant spread that creates an amazing finish on your meats.
6. Drop Scale
There are tons of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled kitchen scales, but most of them are pretty basic when it comes to functionality. If you have US$100 to spare, though, check out the Drop, which brings a couple new things to the table. The coolest of them is the "resize" feature. If you're short an ingredient for a recipe, weigh the amount you have and the Drop will automatically adjust the recipe to give you the right proportions for everything else. That's pretty awesome for people who hate math (i.e. most of us). It simplifies some of the hardest parts of cooking in a clear and coherent way. Because we live in a social world, the Drop also allows you to share your recipes with friends after you make them.
7. Gourmia Multi-Cooker
One thing that keeps people from cooking for themselves and their families as much as they could is lack of help in the kitchen. If you're the solo cook, it can be hard to keep everything together. That's why Gourmia introduced the Multi-Cooker, a sort of personal assistant that can handle a ton of kitchen tasks without your supervision.
The device is basically a combination food processor and heating element, both of which are deeply programmable. It's versatile enough to make perfect scrambled eggs, pop popcorn, and even bake a cake. For kitchen tasks that involve a lot of repetitive motion, this thing is a godsend.
8. Imperial Spherificator
Of all the gadgets on this list, this one is probably the least useful. But the art of cooking is always advancing, and if you're a playful chef who wants to experiment with molecular gastronomy, owning a spherificator might be pretty cool. The Kickstarter-funded Imperial Spherificator lets you transform just about any liquid into a globular, solid shape that has the mouthfeel of caviar. The Canadian company that invented it originally used the technology to manufacture inexpensive caviar substitutes, but clever chefs have seized upon the device to make all kinds of cool things. Sure, you probably won't use this one at every meal, but it's cool and does something no other gadget does.
Obviously the holy grail of kitchen tech is the replicator from Star Trek, a device that can simply materialize any meal you want at the touch of a button. We're still a few generations out from making that happen, but the Foodini 3-D printer is a step in the right direction. Like industrial printers that extrude plastic to create replicas of 3D models, this one uses similar tech to extrude ingredients into a completed dish.
Ingredients are loaded into washable stainless steel capsules, and the machine squeezes them out in programmed patterns to create pizzas, sandwiches, and more. The Foodini is set to hit store shelves later in 2016 with a retail cost of around US$2,000, so the jury's out on whether it's going to be able to live up to the hype. But it is damn cool and seriously futuristic.
10. Bugatti Noun
Does a toaster really need to cost US$1,000? If you said no, you haven't met the Bugatti Noun. This insanely high-end kitchen gadget debuted at the 2014 EuroCucina tradeshow and dazzled everybody who saw it. Here's the thing about this toaster: it doesn't use heated metal grates like pretty much every toaster has since the dawn of time. The Noun instead uses plates of glass lined with semiconductors that heat up incredibly fast. That means you can see your bread as it toasts.
That still doesn't sound like it's worth a grand, but throw in the fact that the Noun can cook other things, like steak or shrimp, in heat-resistant bags, and we've got an ostentatious gadget that will wow houseguests. It's a splurge, but it's better to buy one really awesome toaster that you'll use a lot than a hundred cheap gadgets you won't.
Top gif image: Biem butter sprayer. Credit: Image created from Biem Butter Sprayer/YouTube.
[Source: PC Magazine. Edited. Top image added.]