Overlay
By Mike Peake

Kitchen gadgets: to have or have not

Beyond the basics, which hi-tech pieces of kitchen kit are worth splashing out on?

In the highly automated 21st century, there’s no end of hi-tech gadgets that can take the heat out of cooking and feeding your family. But which ones could prove truly valuable, and which could end up gathering dust at the back of the cupboard? We take a look at the gadgets you’re most likely to use in your new home and the appliances to save for a later date.

Hot water on tap

Forget the humble kettle and install a versatile tap that provides instant hot H20.

Many of the devices available on the market need to be plumbed in by a professional, and they’re far from cheap, sometimes costing thousands of pounds (the top-of-the-range Brita Vivreau ViTap is more than £4,800 and also offers cold and sparkling water options). But if you’re a serious tea drinker or like your veg to start cooking the second you add liquid, this is a serious contender for a kitchen essential. Better still, Which? magazine has done the maths and says if you can get beyond the hefty upfront spend, they can ultimately use less energy than a kettle: a standard instant hot-water tap can cost as little as 3p per day on standby, whereas Which? estimates the cost of boiling a litre of water in a kettle at 2.3p each time.

Verdict: who doesn’t fancy an instant hot brew on tap 24/7?

Electric pizza oven

Many conventional ovens just don’t get hot enough to create the crispiest pizza crust. That’s where the worktop pizza oven comes in.

The Lincat Lynx 400, which costs around £400, is aimed at the catering market but is certainly something serious pizza lovers can pick up for the home. It features a thermostatic control and timer for apparently perfect crusts every time. But if the price tag is too high, there’s always the G3 Ferrari Delizia, priced at about £95. It cooks pizza in just 10 minutes, so definitely quicker than ordering a takeaway.

Verdict: a sure-fire winner if your ideal night in is a DIY thin-crust.

Food smoker

Breville’s Smoking Gun lets you effortlessly smoke food at home. It’s a small, battery-powered device into which you put tiny wooden chips – and then set fire to them. Just point the gun’s nozzle at whatever you want to smoke – be that meat, cheese or cocktails – and a dash of culinary magic is quickly added to the equation with surprisingly little fuss, and all for a very reasonable £79.95.

Verdict: a fun, affordable way to impress your dinner guests.

Cheesemaker

We’ll be brief because this one isn’t out yet, but a new device named Fromaggio raised over £300,000 on Kickstarter and is now available to pre-order for delivery in May 2020. Billed as the world’s first automated home cheesemaker, it was the talk of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last January, where it was claimed the £334 machine would be able to make customisable hard cheeses in just two days, as well as healthy yogurts.

Verdict: one to watch.

Steam oven

Venerable German brand Miele is one of several companies now offering steam ovens – perhaps its easiest-to-install model is the £799 DG 6001 GourmetStar, which sits on the worktop and looks a little like a large (though very stylish) microwave oven. Fans of steam cooking claim that blasting food with hot water vapour keeps in both flavour and vitamins; it’s also especially good for preserving the colour of vegetables, proving dough, sterilising jars and even making yogurt and boiling eggs.

Verdict: perhaps not a ‘must-have’, but a head-turner all the same.

Breadmaker

Breadmakers have been around for decades and remain popular thanks in no small part to their pleasing aroma they emit: who doesn’t want their home to evoke the heady scent of the local bakery?

While the loaves that some machines produce can be on the small side (and they can also take hours to cook), inbuilt timers on most modern models guarantee hot, fresh bread at a time that suits you. Yes, the breadmaking process is derided by some as being annoyingly faffy – especially if you’re using a complex recipe – but if doughy delights excite you, the Expert Reviews website’s top picks include the Morphy Richards Fastbake Cooltouch for £79, and the Panasonic SD-ZB2502 for £160, which has a colossal 27 different bread and dough modes.

Verdict: a palpable hit for lovers of hot, fresh bread and its accompanying aroma.

Hydroponic grower

You can, of course, grow herbs and salad leaves in pots on the windowsill – or you can throw tech at your efforts and go down the hydroponic route. Many hydroponic kits come with built-in lights to stimulate growth, and because your herbs/salad/chillies are rooted in liquid fertiliser rather than soil, there’s less mess and less chance of your plants suddenly keeling over. When the Independent tested these kits, the Akarina 01, £169.99, came out on top.

Verdict: what’s not to like about having fresh herbs, and, perhaps, some quiet ‘mindful’ moments in the kitchen to boot.

Sous-vide

The darling gadget of many a restaurant was given a general thumbs down in a recent Guardian article, which pondered the question: “Is it worth trying sous-vide for home use?”

One chef said they made cooking “idiot proof”, if a little boring, and the article also pointed out that they can be fiddly to use – not least because you need to shrink-wrap your food in plastic bags and, in many cases, sear it using traditional methods once it’s cooked. That said, some home sous-vide devices are basically little more than a wand that can be immersed in any pot to create a water bath, so they don’t take up much room. Amazon sells models like this from as little as £52.

Verdict: a gimmicky bit of kit – but one that may help reduce those epic kitchen fails.

Pasta maker

Manual pasta rollers have been around forever, but there’s a new crop of devices that automate the whole process from start to finish – no kneading by hand required.

Philips’s Viva Collection Pasta and Noodle Maker delivers 450g of fresh pasta in minutes: choose from spaghetti, penne, fettucine or even lasagne sheets. Online reviews indicate that new owners should expect to waste a fair bit of dough mastering the £170 device, but the consensus is that the results are pretty impressive and the process reasonably painless, too – though cleaning can be fiddly.

Verdict: an inspiring addition to the kitchen that won’t take up too much shelf space.