It's been an odd year to say the least, but it's not all doom and gloom – a few months in lockdown have brought some silver linings too.
For one, with all the extra time at home, there has been a real focus on our homes this year, with DIY shops and garden centres booming, and home interiors getting a much-needed refresh. But that's not all; another hobby that has seen a huge spike is home cooking. And while people were used to cooking before, lockdown has certainly ramped things up a notch, and home chefs have stepped up their game, creating culinary masterpieces. Everyone from our friends and family to our colleagues seem to be taking to social media to show off their latest terrines, tartare, coulis and compotes.
We've rounded up ten cool kitchen gadgets to give budding home chefs (or bakers) a helping hand. From indoor pizza ovens for summer evenings to soup makers for rainy days, and from dehydrators (used for making things like vegetable crisps) to dough mixers, we've tried to find something for everyone.
1. SELF-SHARPENING KNIFE BLOCK
Behold the mother of all knife blocks; a knife block with integrated sharpening modules that sharpen your knives every time you use a knife. Never saw through tough meat or veggies again; these knives will glide through everything like butter. The mechanism behind it is as simple as it is brilliant; there are two ceramic sharpening stones integrated in the slots for knives with a smooth cutting edge, which are arranged at the ideal grinding angle. When pulled out, the blades glide over the whetstones, gently sharpening them.
The knife block doesn't come cheap, but by keeping everything razor sharp year after year, you'll never have to buy another knife again. Worth the investment – or a stunning gift to give.
7 Piece Self Sharpening Knife Block, £449 from Zwilling-shop.com (opens in new tab)
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2. AIR FRYER
The Ninja Health Grill & Air Fryer is ideal for health-conscious diners, as it cooks, grills and sears with no added oil, creating light and healthy dishes. You can use it to Air Fry low-fat versions of your fried favourites, like oven chips or burgers, use it to bake desserts like tarts, pies and crumbles, or use the grill function for perfectly seared fish, juicy pork loin, tender steaks and the perfect burgers. To really impress guests, use the dehydrate function and make your own beef jerky, dried fruit snacks, muesli or fruit and vegetable crisps for dipping and dunking. This function will also come in handy around Christmas time for making decorative orange slices.
Ninja Foodi Health Grill & Air Fryer, £179.99 from ninjakitchen.co.uk (opens in new tab)
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3. FISH DISH
Have you ever seen a fish dish more beautiful than this? STAUB (opens in new tab)'s enamelled cast iron Fish Dish with Lid releases absorbed heat slowly and evenly for a gentle cook – perfect for delicate white fish. Whether you use it for serving fish pie, fillets of fish with potato and veg, or even a fruit de mer style dish, STAUB's fish cocotte won't only cook it beautifully (it can be placed on the hob or in the oven), but present the food beautifully too.
Perfect for slow cooking melt-in-your-mouth fish dishes, its low profile design (it's a very shallow dish) keeps moisture locked in, letting the freshness of the fish speak for itself.
STAUB 32cm Fish Dish with Lid, £249, available from staub-online.com (opens in new tab) and zwilling-shop.com (opens in new tab), and quality retailers such as John Lewis (online only), Selfridges, Bentalls, Fenwick and Borough Kitchen.
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4. STAND MIXER
The Bosch Stand Mixer is a one-stop-shop that can achieve an impressive variety of tasks, from egg whisking for meringue making to bread mixing for the perfect sourdough loaf and a stirring function for pancake batter. There's even a mincer attachment – ideal for things like making homemade burgers or pork pies – and a juicer attachment too, for fresh orange juice every morning. What else could you ask for from a single device?
Bosch MUM59340GB Stand Mixer with 3.9 Litre Bowl - Silver,£299 from ao.com (opens in new tab)
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5. SOUP MAKER
As we're slowly creeping towards autumn months and cooler weather, we're coveting a soup maker that simplifies the soup making process, can feed large groups, and offers minimal clean-up afterwards. Enter Cuisinart's Soup Maker Plus. Whether you are making chunky or smooth soups, jams, sauces for pasta, curries or tasty risottos, just chuck your ingredients into the Cuisinart Soup Maker and let it do the rest of the work for you.
The glass jar means you can spy on your ingredients as they cook, plus as it's a one-stop-shop container which can sauté, cook, simmer, stir and blend, there's no mess (the jar is dishwasher safe).
Soup Maker Plus, £140, Cuisinart.co.uk (opens in new tab)
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6. MEZZALUNA CHOPPER
A plain knife to cut your herbs? Pff, how amateur. A mezzaluna knife may look like a simple gadget, but it shows you take cooking seriously. This particular stainless steel one from Jean Patrique comes with its own wood chopping board with a rounded bowl centre, perfectly cupping the curve of the knife. It's perfect for preparing fresh herbs, chillies, garlic and onion, and can cut herbs powder fine. The rocking motion is quick to master thanks to the smooth, contoured design. It will have you chopping herbs extremely quickly.
Excalibur Mezzaluna Herb & Salad Chopper With Board, £14.99, jean-patrique.co.uk (opens in new tab)
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7. DOUGH MIXER
For baking addicts that don't need all the add-on gadgets of the Bosch mixer, the VonShef Cream Stand Mixer has a steel dough hook, a beater and balloon whisk, making it a kitchen essential for baking bread, cakes or making desserts. What's more, it comes at an amazing price point at under £70, and we rather like the cream shade too.
1000W Cream Stand Mixer, £66.99 from vonhaus.com (opens in new tab)
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8. LONG LASTING PAN
King of the non-stick pans, Samuel Groves' Non stick Tri ply collection was developed for professional kitchens, making it long-lasting and more resilient than other pans on the market.
Each pan has 3 layers of top quality non-stick coating from Swiss producer Ilag, making the pans very resistant to abrasion, and the pans are extraordinary long lasting as they are developed for heavy use and professional kitchens. The pans can be placed in the oven up to temperatures of 260 degrees C, and they each come with a 10 year guarantee. When those 10 years of cooking are up – don't throw the pan away, as Samuel Groves also offer a Pan for life refurbishment scheme, giving crusty old pans some TLC (a new coat of non-stick, a replacement of worn rivets and a pan polish) to make them good as new again. In other words, the pans might be a tad pricey, but they are worth the investment for busy kitchens.
The frying pans come in 3 sizes; 20cm, 24cm and 26cm diameter, from £146, from samuelgroves.com (opens in new tab)
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9. PIZZA OVEN
Calling all pizza lovers, this indoor pizza oven is honestly unlike any other product you've seen before. Offering brick oven performance at a fraction of the cost, this fantastic piece of kit is the first domestic countertop oven to hit a staggering 400°C, so you can be enjoying delicious crispy ‘wood-fired’ style pizza in just 2 minutes. The Sage Pizzaiolo replicates the three types of heat generated by a brick oven; conductive, radiant and convective. It also features intelligent heat distribution, so it perfectly cooks every type of pizza from frozen shop-bought to home-made. Game. Changing.
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10. RICE POT
For lovers of Asian food, make the perfect fluffy rice with a dedicated rice cocotte. Inspired by the shape of the traditional Japanese Hagama rice cooker, STAUB (opens in new tab)'s cast iron cocotte will give you perfectly cooked, fluffy rice – or Gohan, for those in the know. The even heat distribution of cast iron helps to prevent rice burning or sticking (say goodbye to scraping burnt rice off the bottom of your pan), while the Chistera rain-effect lid helps steam-cook the rice evenly.
The pan is suitable for use on all hob types, including induction, and can even be used for baking breads in the oven.
STAUB Rice Cocotte, £149.00 from uk.zwilling-shop.com (opens in new tab)
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Lotte is the Digital Editor for Livingetc, and has been with the website since its launch. She has a background in online journalism and writing for SEO, with previous editor roles at Good Living, Good Housekeeping, Country & Townhouse, and BBC Good Food among others, as well as her own successful interiors blog. When she's not busy writing or tracking analytics, she's doing up houses, two of which have features in interior design magazines. She's just finished doing up her house in Wimbledon, and is eyeing up Bath for her next project.
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