Do you have appliance envy? Before you take out a loan so you can make instant parfait, take heed
Kitchen gadget envy.
Early in this Masterchef season, we locked up all the fancy equipment for a week. Personally, I think it should have been longer.
Do fancy kitchen gadgets just disguise a serious lack of real cooking talent or a firm grasp of basic culinary techniques? I would have loved to have forced the contestants to prove their real skills before being unleashed on the blast chillers and sous vide machines in the Masterchef kitchen, much in the same way some primary schools made you earn your “pen licence” before you could write with ink. Then we could suspend their licence if they made one too many parfaits or herb oils.
In fact, the contestants’ love of expensive kitchen equipment has prompted lots of questions from viewers about which of this kit is worth the money for the home cook.
So here are my thoughts on what’s worth buying and what’s not.
The mere fact I’ve been thinking about adding an immersion circulator to my mildly obsessive array of kitchen equipment means that the marketing to vulnerable minds like mine is having an impact.
These sous vide machines start at around $200, but remember you’ll need to spend another $120 or so on a good vac-pack machine as well as the bags to put what you want to sous vide into.
Also, given that you can cook fish such as salmon in a confit style – where it is submerged in oil in the oven – it’s a good idea to try that first to see if you like this form of cooking before spending those dollars.
I love my smoking gun (about $150) as it allows me to easily cold smoke everything from butter, maple syrup and cream to meat and fish.
Having said that, there are ways to smoke food that only cost a few cents. Find out how at delicious.com.au.
This is probably the most reliable and most used small appliance in my kitchen. I love it. I use it to blend soups, froths, sauces and to make mayonnaise. Starting at around $35, it’s a must for any kitchen.
One of these will cost you crazy money – upwards from $20,000 – but it will let you make parfait very quickly. Far cheaper, though, is to buy an ice cream machine and clear some space in your freezer for doing things the old-fashioned way. Well, unless you are a highfalutin pastry chef with a rich and generous benefactor. (Would that be a “sugar” daddy?)
These aren’t cheap at around $700 for a good one, but I love them for whipping cream or eggwhites, making meringues of all types or kneading dough for pizza, pasta and bread. Above all, they are perfect for making cakes.
It was Adriano Zumbo who convinced me of the huge difference these make in properly creaming butter and sugar (so it becomes super light, pale and airy) to make better cakes. Good ones are robust and last long enough to become part of the family. So if you’ve got the money and love cooking with flour, get one.
ROBOT-COUPE OR POT BLENDER
I use mine to make one-minute ice creams; to chop, blend and puree; and to make pastry. The expensive ones need a fair amount of ingredients to work properly. The blade attachments are a godsend if you make loads of coleslaw or need to grate mounds of vegetables. But a good, cheap one will do the job.
Some people swear by them, others just swear at them. But sellers of Thermomixes weren’t happy when I suggested a couple of years back that this appliance that heats, weighs and blends wasn’t a kitchen essential.
I stand by what I said. I have one and it is an ace blender, plus it does make really good herb oils, custards, white sauces and smoothies. But I don’t think it is essential in the same way that a stick blender or saucepan is. And pretty much everything it does, you can do with a pan, a stove, a wooden spoon, scales, a blender and a bit of time.
At over $2000, it is also eyewateringly expensive, especially considering that the average Aussie household spends a total of $676 each year on all household appliances. Really, at that price you’d be forgiven for thinking it ought to tidy the living room and pick up the kids from footy training as well.
While I don’t want to put you off buying one, before you splash the cash, please borrow a friend’s for a week and see how much you’ll use it. Also talk to them about what they use it for.
If you find you mainly use it for smoothies and juices, then perhaps look at a $150 high-speed, bullet-style blender instead.