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By: The Villages | Mar 30, 2022

Kitchen Gadgets that Support your Healthy Lifestyle

There are kitchen gadgets abound — even more so with the turn toward home cooking as a result of our current pandemic. It can be exciting, a bit confusing, and may be taking a big toll on one’s wallet.

Is this the new snake oil with Home Chefs, or the opportunity to increase one’s culinary prowess? The more we become immersed into cyberspace and direct marketing, the more cooking devices are presented to us. These devices, much like the home gym, can ultimately become a dust collector and then onto a garage sale.

By default, my career has positioned me to conduct food demonstrations. I have been presented with many types of situations to cook quickly, enhance nutrient values, and have an easy cleanup. When cooking, I am looking at devices that allow me to prepare a plant forward (80/20) menu and fit into the Mediterranean Diet. The Rule of Thumb is that if you are not eating raw foods, then our food must be cooked appropriately, not “overcooking” the nutrients out.

So, where do we start when we have a plethora of devices that sound like a Billy Joel song? — Air Fryer, Deep Fryer, Macerator, Vitamix, Pizza Stone, Zoodle Maker, Pressure Cooker, and the like. Let’s not forget the Oils and Salts. We Didn’t Start the Fire!

When looking at my “quick cooking arsenal,” I always have the same lineup. The number one leader is the Instant Pot (there are several iterations of this type of “one pot” solution) which can do it all — Air Fry, Pressure Cook, Slow Cook, etc. Always make sure to buy the biggest size (8 quarts at least). But wait, there’s more — you can also get the other options in one piece of equipment: slow cooker, steamer, sauté pan, food warmer, sous vide, roaster, mini oven, broiler, and dehydrator. An Instant Pot expedites cooking by reducing cook times by 75%.

Other devices are Extractors or Juicers. I use three devices for extraction that create culinary byproducts for soup stocks, unique plating, and/or flavor infusion. This includes a Macerator (good ones range $160-$200), Nutribullet and Vitamix ($50-$500). A Macerator will juice almost anything leaving a chipped byproduct, usually the skin/husk of a fruit or vegetable. I’ve done potatoes, lemons, apples, herbs, and garlic. The Vitamix and Nutribullet both offer a range of models to accommodate a variety of lifestyles and budgets. They are very close in what they can do; however, the Vitamix series is more robust. The Vitamix requires the purchase of specific accessories for mincing and dicing, whereas the Nutribullet series is generally more capable to perform such functions out of the box.

Other devices that I use include Zoodle Makers, which work like a wood lathe, but for squashes, cucumbers and root vegetables. When using the device, you crank the rotation, and the device carves the produce into long strings.

Pasta Makers are a hit, but you need to understand the principles of making pasta. If you want to explore the world of handmade pasta, by far the most consistent and easy-to-use option is the Phillips Pasta Maker ($150-$250).

For cutting boards and knives, I suggest spending the money and buy commercial grade. Invest in a nice cutting board that will respect your knife for longevity. Avoid plastic that can come off in your food and traps harmful bacteria in grooves and onto food.

Always invest in a good knife. You can’t go wrong with a Zwilling Pro. You can buy gadgets to sharpen, but have it done professionally every 3-6 months.

For traditional cooking methods, stick with copper and cast iron pot and pans. If you are making a lifestyle change, these will best compliment and elevate your cooking. If you want to step it up even more, look to purchase a Cast Iron Tagine, an original InstantPot. Another worthwhile investment could be the Waterless Cookware set, specifically constructed to prepare food without the need for nutrient-stealing water. Airtight lids allow food to be cooked surrounded by heat and vapor.

What makes all this work are cooking oils and salts. Whether you are making broths or doing a light air fry, these are essential tools for making a great meal. Salts and oils are not bad for you if used and sourced correctly. When cooking, especially with quick cooking devices, we want to use high temperature oils such as coconut, avocado, and sunflower. These will not go rancid or oxidize at high heats and will preserve nutrients. A good salt can provide many important trace minerals and when used properly can pull out nutrients into the dish or broth. The safest and yummiest cooking salts are Sea Salt, Kosher Salt, Himalayan Salt, and a few specialty salts. Avoid cheap salts that may contain lead.

Changing a diet rapidly is not recommended, but these devices allow us flexibility to turn the ship in the right direction. A lifestyle change is much more sustainable, and healthier, than a “diet.” These devices can help us cook more efficiently and achieve flavors.

By using the systems above, I have been able to create amazing dishes in a short amount of time, and the devices never go un-used. They are all easy to clean, easy to store, and ready to work for you. Happy and healthy cooking — with a little help from your gadgets!

Adam Wright, Director of Operations for The Villages Grown