Convenient Small Kitchen Appliances

Reader Contribution by Carole Coates
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Modern pressure cookers offer plenty of options in addition to cooking under pressure. Photo by Carole Coates

I recently wrote about some kitchen tools I wouldn’t want to be without. Today I’m sharing two more. To be honest, if you’ve never had them, you’ll never miss them. That said, in my opinion they make cooking much faster, easier, and more versatile. These two modern inventions are the electric pressure cooker and the air fryer.

Electric Pressure Cooker

If you’re afraid of pressure cookers, you may not know how much they’ve changed over the years, whether electric or stove top. Today’s cookers have multiple safety features built in. Your job is to become familiar with the appliance and follow all the instructions: clean and check the vent hole and gasket, don’t use too little or too much liquid, use a trusted recipe.

What I like about the electric pressure cooker is how easy it is to operate. It’s basically a ‘set and forget’ appliance. The second thing I like is its multi-functionality. Depending on the model you purchase, you can even use it to make yogurt. I love that I can cook up large batches of rice or dried beans to store in the freezer in appropriately sized containers for quick and easy future meals. I can also prepare scrumptious one-dish meals in it. No muss, no fuss. Some people even take their pressure cookers on camping trips, business travel or vacations. Yes, you can prepare a hot home-cooked meal in your hotel room with an electric pressure cooker.

From start to finish, cooking with pressure may take about as long as using your stove top; however, using a pressure cooker frees up the cook’s time, since there’s no stirring, no watching the pot. Like I said, set it and forget it. That’s no small bonus. It also uses less energy and keeps the kitchen cooler than using a stove’s burner.

Like most things, if you don’t make a real commitment to it, you’ll probably find your pressure cooker gathering dust. After all, it’s a whole new way of food preparation. But there are some excellent resources, both online and hard copy, to help you turn it into an everyday convenience. If you invest in one, be sure to invest in a good pressure cooker cookbook—and use it. Registered dietitian Jill Nussinow is a pressure cooker advocate and has several excellent cookbooks out there. 

Air Fryer

What a contradiction in terms! It never made sense to me, so I ignored the hype. But once I entered the world of pressure cooking social media groups, I heard as much about air frying as pressure cooking. Some folks love their air fryers so much they own two, three, or more of them. I don’t have that much space. In fact, my biggest complaint about air fryers is the room they take up. I’ve had to make an exception to my clutter-free-counter rule for this gadget. But since I use it most every day, I’m not complaining.

With an air fryer, you can prepare foods you’d typically fry, except you use very little or even no oil. I’ve stayed away from lots of foods I love because deep frying doesn’t happen in my kitchen. Now, I can have some of those special treats. Imagine french fries without the fat calories!

The air fryer is also faster and less messy than conventional frying or roasting. Yes, you can use the air fryer to roast. You can and also bake cookies and (small) cakes. My air fryer is easy to clean, too. Like pressure cookers, air fryers use less energy and keep the kitchen cooler than a stove top—and especially an oven. You heat a much smaller space with an air fryer.

Aside from the counter space it requires, that’s the other complaint some folks have. Even though my air fryer has a pretty big footprint, it doesn’t cook a lot of food at a time. In my family of two, that’s not a problem, but for a large family, you’ll want to upsize.

Again, social media and a good cookbook will help you out. JL Fields, founder and culinary director of the Colorado Springs Vegan Cooking Academy, is a super resource. I use her cookbook on vegan air frying regularly. If you join an air fryer social media group, you’ll learn all sorts of tricks and short cuts, and you’re almost guaranteed to become addicted to air frying.

Some people think of meat when they think about pressure cooking and air frying, but both appliances are just as useful, if not more so, for vegetarians and vegans, perhaps bringing much more variety into the diet. The air fryer works wonders with tofu!

If you’re looking to change up your food preparation and eating habits a bit, you might want to look into the worlds of pressure cooking and air frying. You can pay anywhere from $35 – $200 for an electric pressure cooker, with most falling in the $60-$120 range, but you can often find them on sale. Air fryers are generally a little less pricey.

Carole Coatesis a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here. You can also find Carole atLiving On the Diagonalwhere she shares her take on life including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.

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