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eggs in an egg cooker

I bought an egg cooker recently. A squat, butter-yellow machine about the size of a Frisbee, it can accommodate up to eight eggs in their shells — or two, cracked into its poaching tray.

For breakfast, I simply measure water in the accompanying premarked pitcher, flip a switch, and put my feet up. Within minutes, I’m enjoying a perfectly cooked egg.

This contraption repre­sents a departure from my typically mini­malist approach to kitchen tools (for more on that, see “The Minimalist Kitchen“). It’s technically a single-use appliance. It has a lot of parts, needs to be plugged in, and takes up precious counter real estate. But what can I say? I’m hooked on the quotidian joy of a nearly effortless medium-boiled egg.

There are many such kitchen gadgets available these days, and they might seem fussy or gratuitous at first glance — but they can make cooking and eating so much easier and more enjoy­able. One of these gizmos just might fill the perfect-egg-shaped hole in your life.

Pressure Cooker

Many modern electric pressure cookers are multifunctional: They can cook quickly under high pressure, plus they can sauté, steam, make yogurt and rice, and even act as a slow cooker or sous vide machine. Today’s models are also equipped with a venting knob, so they’re safer than the old-fashioned stovetop kind. They’re bulky, though, so you’re going to need storage space.

Worth getting if: You eat a lot of foods that need prolonged cooking, such as beans, wild rice, and certain cuts of meat. Or you like to batch-cook grains and legumes as part of a meal-prepping routine. Or you enjoy the plan-ahead, hands-off method of slow cooking or sous vide. (See “Cooking With Pressure Cookers” for more on how to use this devise plus several recipes.)

High-Speed Blender

If you’ve ever read a recipe that says to use a high-speed blender and wondered if a regular blender would fit the bill, the answer is usually no. High-speed blenders have powerful motors that can turn even the toughest ingredients — dried dates, kale stems, frozen fruit — into a smooth purée. They tend to be pricey, so research different models and read reviews to find one that fits your needs.

Worth getting if: You love smoothies. Or you like making your own nut butter or nondairy milk. (If you’ve never tried either, visit “5 Made-From-Scratch Recipes” to learn how!) Or you enjoy super-silky sauces or the occasional frozen cocktail.

Dehydrator

Food dehydrators circulate air around food in order to draw out moisture. Without all that moisture, the flavor of the food is concentrated — that’s why dried herbs are so pungent, and why dried fruit often tastes extra sweet. Most ovens don’t have settings low enough for dehydrating, which is why dry-food enthusiasts often invest in a standalone appliance.

Worth getting if: You harvest a lot of produce and need a long-term storage method. Or you want to dry your own herbs or jerky. Or you love to camp and need dehydrated foods to keep your backpack light.

Digital Scale

If you’re gonna bake, you’ve gotta try baking by weight. Baking is all about precision — it’s chemistry, after all — and weighing your ingredients will give you a more accurate measurement than scooping them up in cups or tablespoons.

Most European recipes use weight rather than volume, so getting a digital scale could expand your options. Generally, digital scales are small and lightweight, and most will measure in ounces, grams, fluid ounces, and milliliters.

Worth getting if: You love to bake. Or you love precision. Or you love your morning espresso and want to get it just right. Or you have a health condition that requires closely tracking your macronutrients (many advanced scales can display nutritional data!).

Spice Grinder

Grinding your own whole spices may seem a little extra, but it’s well worth the effort — freshly ground spices can really take flavors to the next level. There is a range of different tools for the job, including electric models that are similar to coffee grinders and smaller, hand-crank tools more akin to pepper grinders. If you really grow to love the grind, you could even get your own mortar and pestle.

Worth getting if: You love cooking with a variety of spices and want a fresh experience. Or you like to experiment with different cuisines. Or you use your coffee grinder for spices and are tired of your coffee tasting like cumin. (Some electric models come with two bowls to solve this problem.)

Compost Bin

Home composting is one of the best ways to reduce food waste. If your city doesn’t offer curbside or drop-off compost services, you can build a bin for your backyard (find our tutorial at “How to Start Composting“).

Or maybe you’d rather compost indoors. Most countertop compost bins are like tiny trash cans, sometimes equipped with charcoal filters to minimize the smell — but you can also buy countertop bins that grind your scraps into soil. If you’re bothered by the smell or worried about attracting bugs, try storing your bin in the freezer.

Worth getting if: You want to recycle food waste and help the environment.

Toaster Oven

Like pressure cookers, many modern toaster ovens have multiple functions, including roasting, baking, broiling, dehydrating, convection cooking (which cooks food by circulating hot air around it), and air frying (which is essentially convection cooking with a trendier name). Toaster ovens are large, so consider getting one only if you can give up some counter space.

Worth getting if: You want to heat food without turning on the oven. Or you could use a “second oven” for staging or cooking side dishes.

Spiralizer

This one’s for the zoodle lovers out there. A spiralizer is a handheld or countertop tool that turns fresh veggies into noodlelike ribbons. Both versions are fairly affordable, and either will probably make it easier for you to start eating more vegetables. Need a recipe to get you started? Try our Spiralized Zucchini Puttanesca.

Worth getting if: You want to eat more vegetables. Or you need a way to “camouflage” the veggies on your children’s plates. Or you have a gluten sensitivity or allergy and are looking for a pasta alternative.

Chest Freezer

These are ideal for storing leftovers, veggies and fruits, and even cuts of meat that you can pull out as needed. Plus, standalone freezers are less expensive and more energy efficient than the one attached to your fridge. All you need is space to store it — but you might need less room than you think! Some newer models can fit on a countertop.

Worth getting if: You love batch cooking and freezing meals for later (try these “8 Freezer-Friendly Recipes“). Or you have a huge garden and need to freeze your harvest. Or you’ve ever considered purchasing a whole or half side of beef or pork from a local farm.

This article originally appeared as “Beyond the Basics” in the December 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Kaelyn
Kaelyn Riley

Kaelyn Riley is an Experience Life senior editor.

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