Anyone can appreciate being able to get meals done more quickly, and with less effort. And there are many small appliances that can help you achieve this. Three of them, in particular, are the stand mixer, the pressure cooker, and the air fryer.
I actually own and use all three small appliances in my own kitchen. And while you might not think you need any of them or believe you don’t have the space to accommodate them, you’d be surprised to learn of the different ways they can come in handy. Not to mention how often you would likely use them. In all three cases, I went back and forth on the decision before taking the plunge. And in all three cases, I have never looked back.
So how do I use them, and how can each one make your life easier in the kitchen? I’ll break it down, touching on each small appliance individually.
Whether you bake a lot or just every now and then, a stand mixer is such a useful device to have. Most people think of stand mixers as only being useful to do things like mix cake batter or cream butter and sugar. But they can do much more than that.
Most stand mixers come with various attachments, including one for standard mixing as well as one for whipping and another for kneading dough. With the whipping attachment, you can pour in some heavy whipping cream then let the machine do the work, turning it into delicious homemade whipped cream for your ice cream sundaes, cake, hot chocolate, or fruit. Or, you could whip meringue to make a delicious pie. With virtually any recipe that calls for whipping ingredients, a stand mixer will save you not only time but also the effort of manually doing it with a wire whip. (Whipping manually takes good arm strength!) The main way I use this attachment with my stand mixer, the KitchenAid Professional 5, is to whip butter for shortbread cookies during the holidays. I throw in the softened butter and let it whip for a good 30 minutes while I tend to other tasks. There’s no way I could make them so soft and buttery without a stand mixer.
Most also come with a dough hook you can use not only for making bread but also other pastries, like pizza dough. While there is benefit in kneading dough by hand, getting just the right texture and imparting flavour from the oils of your hands, not everyone has the strength nor the time to do this. Whereas it would take about 10 minutes of good, strong manual kneading to get dough just right, you can accomplish this with a dough hook in about two minutes.
Finally, lots of stand mixers, like the KitchenAid line, can work with a variety of attachments, from ice cream makers to meat grinders, pasta cutters, slicers and shredders, many of which can make meal prep a breeze.
Not only can pressure cookers make cooking easier thanks to the many “dump and go” recipes that let you literally dump meat, vegetables, potatoes, broth, and spices or other ingredients in, press and button, and leave, but some of them can actually make cooking faster.
With a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, which is technically a multicooker, you can cook meats that would normally have to be slow cooked for hours in a fraction of the time. Pulled pork, for example, could be done in 45 minutes. Want to cook corn on the cob as a last-minute side dish? A couple minutes in the Pot and they’re done.
They also make cooking easier because you can get things done without having to keep an eye on the cook, taking care of other chores or activities while food is cooking. With multicookers, many keep the food warm inside once cooking is done so you don’t have to rush to remove the food once the timer goes off.
I still cook often in my oven and stovetop. But I have a series of quick meals in my weekly rotation that I make exclusively in the Instant Pot. And when we need a side dish in a rush, the Instant Pot is the go-to for quick mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, steamed vegetables, or creamy mac and cheese.
The newest addition to my kitchen is an air fryer, and while I use one that can only make small batches of food at a time, there are plenty of larger-sized air fryers that you can use to make a full meal plus sides. I actually have the Instant Pot Air Fryer Lid that fits atop my Instant Pot, which is a nice option if your concern is a lack of counterspace. It comes with its own base, but you could also stack it on top of your Instant Pot to save room, or more easily store it away in a cupboard than you would be able to a full-sized air fryer.
While the primary draw for these small appliances is to be able to enjoy traditionally fried foods in a much healthier way, using little to no oil, they can also make cooking faster and easier.
When you don’t know what to cook, pop some chicken breasts, nuggets, pork chops, or sliced potatoes into the air fryer and have a delicious and healthy meal in no time. Air fryers also work wonderfully for reheating food, doing a better job than a microwave, which can result in your leftover chicken balls from Chinese take-out the night before becoming soggy. The oven might require the same amount of time, but it might take forever to preheat it whereas you don’t need to worry about preheating an air fryer.
In most cases with an air fryer, you don’t have to worry about marinating meat and poultry for hours beforehand: add a nice dry rub, spray the tray with a bit of oil (if it’s even needed), and fry up dinner.
I’ve tried everything from homemade French fries and chicken nuggets in my air fryer, to reheating leftovers and even drying out apples for homemade chips. You can get really creative not just for meals but snacks, too. And even if you want to save time and pop in frozen, store-bought French fries and chicken fingers, you’ll get a nicer, crispier texture, and won’t have to worry about preheating.
These small appliances really can make cooking faster and easier
There are plenty of small appliances that make cooking faster and easier. And I’d rank the stand mixer, pressure cooker, and air fryer on the top of the list. All three devices have found a home in my kitchen, and in all three cases, I use them more often than I ever thought I would.
When I’m baking, my stand mixer is always in use. And especially during the holiday season, the mixer does a lot of the grunt work so I can focus on cutting, decorating, and packaging. For quick dinners or side dishes in a pinch, I always resort to my multicooker. And using the pressure cooker function is a weekly occurrence in my household for “set and forget” and “dump and go” meals, whether that’s delicious short ribs cooked to perfection in 35 minutes with nothing but a quick mix sauce, or corn on the cob to be a quick side dish to BBQ pork chops.
The newest addition to my kitchen, I couldn’t be happier with the results from my air fryer. Homemade French fries are a matter of washing and cutting fresh potatoes, tossing them in some salt and olive oil, and frying. But interestingly, I most frequently use it to reheat food.
Could I live without either of these three small appliances? Sure. But would I be as happy in the kitchen, and able to crank out meals as quickly and easily? Definitely not.
Check out a wide selection of small appliances, including stand mixers, pressure cookers, and air fryers, at Best Buy Online.