These days, the shelves of every department store are crammed with ‘must have’ kitchen gadgets. Most of us, though, have only a limited amount of counter space and storage available in our kitchens. Unless your passion is Italian food, a fresh pasta maker probably won’t see the light of day more than once or twice a year – particularly as they can be tricksy to clean. Ice cream makers? Fantastic if you do a lot of entertaining. Otherwise, probably easier to stick with gold old Haagen Daas or Ben and Jerry’s.
However, there are some gadgets that are definitely worth investing in. We’ve put together our own list of kitchen ‘must haves’ that really pull their weight.
1. Slow cooker
There’s something very 1970s about slow cookers, so you might be surprised to find it on a list of modern kitchen gadgets. They do fit in very well with a modern lifestyle, though, particularly in the winter. A bit of simple prep the night before, chuck it all in the cooker first thing before you go to work, and you’ll be coming home in the evening to a delicious casserole, curry, tagine or soup.
Choose one that’s big enough for family meals, such as this 6L oval slow cooker from Wilkinsons – currently reduced from £25 to just £18.
2. Kitchen scales
A decent pair of kitchen scales is a must for every cook. Even if you’re of the ‘add a bit of this and a bit of that until it looks about right’ school of thought, sometimes you really do need to be precise. Look for scales that measure in both grams and ounces, and a large bowl that doubles as a mixing bowl to save on washing up. Dishwasher-safe cleaning for the bowl is also an advantage.
We like this Uma weighing scales by Bugatti, which looks good sitting on the countertop and also doubles as a kitchen timer, cutting down on the amount of gizmos you have to have. Available in different colours, prices start at £96 from Amara.
3. Home coffee machine
Now that we’re so used to being able to get great filter coffee pretty much anywhere we go, not many of are happy to settle for instant granules in a mug – particularly at home. Home coffee machines are more popular than ever, and there’s a wide range on the market. As this is one gismo it’s not really practical to keep anywhere but on view, it’s worth putting some time and effort into choosing one that will look good in your kitchen. Think about what you’ll want it to – if you drink espresso, it’s worth getting a specialist espresso maker.
We like this smart Francis Francis Y3.2 IperEspresso/Filtro machine by illy – it’s very small and neat and won’t take up much counter room. It’s available in a choice of three colours (white, red and black), and can make both espresso and filter-style long coffees for flexibility. It’s also reasonably priced at £110 – but you will have to continue to buy capsules for it.
4. A decent blender
You may or may not have room in your kitchen for a full all-singing, all-dancing food processor. If not, then a blender is definitely the next best option. A blender will make anything from breadcrumbs to smoothies or soup, and you can also use it to mix the flour and butter for pastry, crush ice, convert granulated sugar to incing sugar and a host of other uses.
You can buy them for a few pounds, but it’s worth investing in a decent quality one as some of the cheaper ones aren’t suitable for blending hot liquids, so you’ll have to wait for your soup to cool completely before putting it in. This KitchenAid Diamond blender, £149.95 from John Lewis, will do the job while looking good.
5. Kitchen knife sharpener
You might think this one’s a luxury – but if your kitchen knives are on the elderly side and have never been sharpened, chances are you’ll be putting in much more effort than you need. Blunt blades are also dangerous, as they tend to bounce off what you’re chopping rather than cutting into it, and may hit your fingers on the way past! A decent knife sharpener needn’t be expensive, and will help prolong the life of your knives.
This little compact model by AnySharp is simple to use – just pull the knives through a couple of times – and small enough to store in a drawer while not in use. £9.99, available from Lakeland.0