Tech up your teatime: The best kitchen gadgets reviewed
Lazy cook or just need everything to be techie? We've found the perfect devices to soup up your kitchen
Technology and food are a match made in heaven. You’ve got fish and silicon chips. Motorolo’s. An all-you-can-eat USB-C-food buffet. And of course Apple.
But enough of that nonsense – you just want to know how to tech up your kitchen.
It’s actually never been easier to get some digital help when cooking a great meal. Smart kitchen appliances abound, and some of them are even pretty good.
We’ve spent a few days gorging ourself on ice-cream, hot dogs and smoothies to bring you this selection of our favourites.
Kenwood EXCEL juicer JE850 (£220/$260)
The single best thing about juicers is the delicious juice (naturally). The single worst thing? Cleaning up all the pulpy mess that you’re left with in the machine. Thankfully, the JE850 has been equipped with a mighty 1500W motor to extract more juice and leave less pulp behind. It also has two speeds, which makes it ideal for squeezing juice from hard fruits and veg, and the filter (inside the metal body) even continues to collect the delicious juice once the fruit has all been obliterated, so let it run for a few extra seconds to get every last drop.
The extra-large feed hole means you can get all sorts of odd-shaped vegetables into it without having to cut them up and the three-litre pulp bin means you can do a whole sack of potatoes before it needs emptying – what do you mean you don’t like potato juice?!
Kenwood has gone to the trouble of patenting its anti-drip technology on the juice spout… but they probably shouldn’t have bothered, as it holds on to a tiny bit of juice that you inevitably end up spilling over the worktop when you’re taking it apart for washing up – oh, the irony! But for a big machine it comes apart very easily and is surprisingly easy to clean. Just one other word of warning: at over 5kg and 40cm high, you’d better make sure this thing will fit under your cupboards before you make the effort to haul one back from the shops.
Words: Ross Presly
Stuff Says ★★★★✩
Movenza Automatic Black by Krups (£180)
Most baristas these days look like extras from Sons of Anarchy who’ve had an accident in H&M. If you’d rather have your coffee served to you by an extra from Alien, Krups’ Movenza eats Dolce Gusto coffee pods and spits out a hot black brew without a tattoo in sight.
It’s bigger than it looks in the pictures, with a distinctly 3D-printed feel to the machined plastic, but it’s very easy to use: just follow the instructions on the individual pods and you’ll have the perfect latte macchiato (or whatever you’ve loaded it with) every single time. There’s even a touch panel to tweak the amount of hot or cold water you want poured through.
A box of 16 ‘official’ pods will set you back about £4.50, but if you like a frothy cappuccino you’ll need to use two per mug, doubling your contribution to the 180+ million discarded every year. On the other hand, Wish.com sells reusable pods at less than a tenner for six, meaning you can be a conveniently stylish eco-warrior. The coffee tastes good, too. The Americano is way better than your average powdered instant, and the latte is frothy and rich. For a good-morning wake-up hit, this is a stylish experience.
Words: Peter Brown
Stuff Says ★★★✩✩
Sage smart Toast (4-slice) (£170/$180)
You make some toast and it’s a bit underdone, so you pop it back in for an extra minute. But you forget, because of the tea, and it burns. So you start scraping it off into the sink, and now you’ve forgotten the teabag and it’s all stewed. You groan, and then you look at your stupid toaster and yell, “AT LEAST I KNOW WHERE I AM WITH RICE KRISPIES!”
This isn’t a stupid toaster. It’s a comparatively intelligent one, with two hugely useful functions: ‘a bit more’, which heats the bread for an extra 30 seconds, and ‘a quick look’, which lifts it up for a progress check without interrupting the toasting. All this happens with motorised slots that glide up and down like the doors to a Bond villain’s lair – a big step up from the spring-loaded ones that occasionally launch a crumpet off your worktop and into the dog’s mouth.
Is this really a ‘smart’ toaster? No – it can’t be programmed to switch off when the toast has reached a set brownness, so it’s not catastrophe-proof – but it might be just clever enough to keep you out of the arms of those damned Rice Krispies.
Words: Richard Purvis
Stuff Says ★★★★✩
Breville 3 Slice Sandwich Maker and Panini Maker (£36/$39)
History doesn’t record who invented the toasted sandwich, but presumably it was one of the usual gang: Archimedes, Leonardo, Tesla, Beckham. Either way, it was an inspired move, taking one of the world’s greatest foods – the sandwich – and making it better via the application of heat.
Or at least that’s the theory. In practice, toasties can be surprisingly hard to get right. You can use the grill, but that doesn’t squash it all together nicely or crisp up the outside of the bread without also drying it out. This Breville does the lot, though.
It’s essentially two hot plates: you switch it on, give it a minute to heat up, then pop your sandwich on the bottom plate. Then close the top – no need to press, the lid’s weight is enough on its own – and wait for between a few minutes while it works its magic.
And what magic it is. A simple ham and cheese sandwich is transformed into a sort of cheapo calzone pizza; a bit of ciabatta is made crisp and crunchy; focaccia becomes a meal in itself. Then you just wipe it down with a damp cloth and relax secure in the knowledge that if you’d eaten that in Pret you’d have paid £6 for the privilege.
Words: Marc McLaren
Stuff Says ★★★★★
Nutribullet RX (£170/$149.99)
Time was, making your own soup meant slicing, simmering and stirring a broth of fresh veggies. The Nutribullet RX changes all this: its Souperblast mode will blitz your bits in a jiffy, heating as it goes to serve up homemade soup without the usual hassle.
There’s still a pinch of preparation necessary (such as slicing tomatoes to squeeze them through the container opening), but it’s otherwise as easy as screwing the blade unit and lid on to the plastic jug, popping it on the base and pressing the big green button.
Once it’s whirring, you can leave it to do its thing: a seven-minute blend-and-heat cycle will turn your chunks and herbs into delicious liquid. You won’t forget that it’s going, though: this thing sounds like a washing machine full of cheesegraters. For those seven deafening minutes your neighbours (and anyone else in earshot) will be calling for your head.
Still, at least the kit’s all easy to rinse clean while your hearing recovers. Oh, and the soup’s good too. You can also use it to make smoothies, and they only take about 30 noisy but mercifully brief seconds.
Words: Chris Rowlands
Stuff Says ★★★★✩
Smart Retro Pop-Up HotDog Toaster (£41/$43)
Most of us experience two types of hunger in our lives: the regular type when you haven’t eaten for a few hours, and the type that strikes when you get home from the pub, which feels like a black hole has replaced your gut. But ovens and alcohol don’t mix, so this hotdog toaster keeps your intoxicated culinary challenges to a minimum.
It’s just like a regular toaster but with specially shaped holes, so you place the frankfurter and bun inside, pick a heat setting and then wait a few minutes for them to pop up. Once they do, it’s surprising how good they taste, although that’s probably down to the simplicity of the hotdog as a food rather than the particular talents of the toaster.
For optimum feedback from your tastebuds you’ll also need to squirt on some mustard and load it up with onions, which the toaster can’t do for you. Also you don’t get separate dials for the bread and meat, so it’s best to put the sausages in first if you don’t want burnt buns. And nobody wants burnt buns, do they?
Words: Ryan Jones
Stuff Says ★★★★✩
Tefal Cook4Me Connect (£320/$528)
With a name like Cook4Me Connect you’d think this teched-up pressure cooker would let you chuck in all your ingredients, shut the lid and put your feet up until dinner. But it’s not as simple as that.
Quite big but not particularly heavy, like a cross between a droid’s head and an old diving helmet, this gadget takes the guesswork out of the final pressurised step (which is what speeds the cooking process up), but there’s still a decent amount of preparation work involved.
You start by installing the app, available on iOS and Android. It has a load of recipes available straight away but you can sign up for an account to access more. Next, connect the app to the Cook4Me over Bluetooth then chose a meal. This’ll then guide you through the recipe step by step – but it’s not always the most intuitive app and lacks a little in functionality. Sometimes it’s not clear whether you’re waiting for it to tell you to move to the next step or not. Occasionally it’ll emit a jet of steam like an angry whale, and when it’s done it’ll play a little tune.
The food we made was decent but not mind-blowingly tasty, which is about what you’d expect for the price.
Words: Tom Wiggins
Stuff Says ★★★✩✩
Morphy Richards Sear and Stew Compact (£55)
This slow cooker is a bit of a TARDIS. Smaller and lighter than it looks in pictures, it’ll still hold a family meal’s worth of meat and veg – and cook them to tender, unhurried perfection while you go off and play Overwatch for the whole afternoon.
Lift the pot off and you can put it on the hob to pre-cook any of your ingredients, before adding the rest and letting it do its long, slow thing. All that’s on the front is a single dial with four positions: off, low, medium and high. That’s it. The only thing it really changes is how long it’ll take to cook, but even on high you’re looking at four hours at least for most dishes. It might be simple, but it’s definitely not quick.
There’s no timer so you’ll have to keep an eye on the clock yourself – but with cooking times as long as these, you’re not going to burn the place down if you leave it a few minutes longer than you meant to. Even on the high setting our meat and veg came out as tender as you like – and there was more than enough to go round. Tuck in!
Words: Tom Wiggins
Stuff Says ★★★★✩
Sage Smart Scoop Ice cream maker (£350/$383)
You could probably buy an old ice-cream van for the same price as Heston Blumenthal’s Smart Scoop ice-cream maker – but you’d need to pay the driver a lot more than £350 to make the stuff for you. So, you’d best have a crack at making frozen treats on your own.
Be prepared, though – you’ll be faced with a tricky, hour-long preparation involving splitting eggs, heating things, cooling things, stirring things, watching things, transferring things from bowl to pan and back again.
With the Smart Scoop pre-chilled, it’s time to pour in the fruits of your labour. Simply select whether you want to make sorbet, frozen yoghurt, gelato or ice cream. Towards the end of the process it’ll ping to let you know to add mix-ins (chocolate chips, fresh fruit or, if you’re feeling particularly Blumenthal, sausages) – and shortly afterwards, once it’s churned to perfection, it’ll play a melodic ice-cream van jingle. There’s even a Keep Cool mode that chills your ice cream for up to 3hrs. Or you could, you know, keep it in the freezer.
The one problem? You only get a litre out of it, so it’s a good job it tastes amazing.
Words: Natalya Paul
Stuff Says ★★★★★