- Food and Cooking
My Favorite Small Kitchen Appliances
Top three small kitchen appliances
From all my years of impulse buying of kitchen equipment, three small kitchen appliances have stood the test of time and I use them all the time: the Tefal Actifry, the George Foreman grill and the slow cooker ( crock-pot).The products featured below are available in the USA.You can find UK offers in WriteAngled's Store.
The Actifry, produced by Tefal (T-fal) was a relatively expensive buy, but has proved itself worth every penny over the four years I’ve owned it. It is a low-fat replacement for a deep fat fryer. My main use for it is to make guilt-free chips (French fries). They come out perfect: golden and crispy on the outside, soft and flavourful on the inside. The Actifry beats any oven-based methods of making low-fat chips, leaves frozen oven chips in the shade, and even surpasses the chips from my local fish and chip shop.
Actifry chips are extremely easy to make. Peel and cut the potatoes as you would otherwise. Throw them into the Actifry and sprinkle with some oil. A half tablespoon of oil is sufficient for two generous portions. I usually salt the potatoes lightly before cooking as well.
The cooking time is fairly long; about 30-45 minutes depending on the quantity and how finely the potatoes are cut (I prefer chunky chips). However, the upside is that the Actifry can be left unattended to get on with the cooking while you prepare the rest of the meal. It has a timer, which emits a loud ping at the end of the cooking period. If necessary, it can be left for some minutes after being switched off, since the heat is has generated will keep the chips warm.
Other foods can also be cooked in the Actifry. Anything coated with breadcrumbs will work well. The small recipe booklet supplied gives more adventurous ideas. I must admit, though that I tend to use it for chips most of the time.
The Actifry can even be used for chicken tikka masala, the most popular British takeaway meal after fish and chips
George Foreman Grill
I bought this out of frustration at the grill built into my gas oven. The George Foreman grill consists of two ridged hot plates. These can be brought close together to be in direct contact with each side of the food. Alternatively, the top plate can be fixed above the food, but not touching it. This means that the grill can be used for something like cheese on toast or delicate fish, as well as for cooking steak, bacon or similar.
The grill is angled so that when fatty food is being cooked, the fat runs off and collects in a drip tray placed just below and in front of the appliance. This dramatically decreases the fat content of foods such as bacon or chops.
The main advantage of the Foreman Grill is the speed with which food can be cooked compared to a classic grill, plus the fact that it is not necessary to keep turning things over or shifting them around to get an even result.
I often use my George Foreman grill to make toasties. A standard toasted sandwich maker requires the sandwich to be coated with butter or margarine on the outside. This is not necessary with the George Foreman grill. My favourite is simply to place some cheese and sliced onion between two slices of bread, pop this onto the grill and enjoy a delicious toastie in just a few minutes.
Slow Cooker (crock-pot)
I love nothing better than coming home from a long walk on a clear frosty day to find a warm welcoming stew, ready to eat. My slow cooker lets me put such a meal together in the morning or even the night before and leave it cooking on the low setting while I am out. The energy consumption is about the same as leaving on one light bulb.
The long cooking time means that all the flavours blend together and even the toughest meat becomes tender and flavoursome.
Any recipe for a stew can be cooked in a slow cooker. Dumplings added to a slow cooker stew for the last 30 minutes or so of cooking come out light, fluffy and perfect.
IMPORTANT: If you want to use dried rather than canned red kidney beans in a slow cooker, you must first soak them overnight and then boil them for at least 10 minutes and discard the water. The beans contain a toxin which can cause very unpleasant symptoms. Dried soya beans contain a different, but equally unpleasant, toxin and it is recommended to soak them overnight and then boil them for at least one hour before using them in a slow cooker.
Below is a favorite recipe of mine for beef stew with dumplings. However, slow cookers can be used for far more than simple stews. Have fun exploring all the savory and sweet dishes that can be cooked in a slow cooker!
A simple recipe for slow cooker beef stew with dumplings
Ingredients for stew
1.5 lb (675 g) stewing beef, cubed
2 medium onions, chopped
12 oz (350 g) carrots, sliced
2 sticks celery, sliced
4 oz (115 g) mushrooms, whole or sliced if large
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 tablespoon plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tablespoons oil
½ pint (300 ml) beer – or stock if you prefer
Ingredients for dumplings
4 oz (100 g, 1 cup) self-rising flour
2 oz (50 g, just under ½ cup) shredded suet
Dried mixed herbs
Preheat the slow cooker on high.
Toss beef in flour.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan. Brown vegetables lightly and transfer to slow cooker.
Add remaining oil to pan and brown beef all over.
Add remaining stew ingredients to the meat and bring to boil while stirring. Transfer to slow cooker.
Put lid on slow cooker. Turn heat to low.
Cook stew for 7-10 hours.
About 45 minutes before serving, stir well and season to taste. Replace lid.
Combine dumpling ingredients and add salt and pepper.
Mix with water to a soft dough.
Shape dough into 8 balls.
Switch slow cooker to high.
Place dumplings on top of stew and cook for a further 30-40 minutes until dumplings are ready.
These are my three top choices for small kitchen appliances. I use each of them at least once a week. What appliances would you be sorry to lose from your kitchen?