There's nothing more aggravating than a drawer of kitchen tools you don't use. But, a few really good gadgets can make getting in the kitchen each day more pleasant. So to help keep your New Year's momentum going all year long, I've rounded up 9 gadgets to help make cooking easier. Sure, none of these are essential, but each one can make throwing together healthy meals a little quicker, easier, or just more fun.
Sturdy Sheet Pans
Eating healthy should still be delicious.
Roasting is one of the easiest (I'm talking toss-with-a-little-oil-garlic-and-salt-and-then-throw-in-a-hot-oven kind of easy) and tastiest ways to prepare vegetables, so a sturdy nonstick sheet pan is always great to have in the kitchen. Veggies need space to roast, so go bigger if in doubt.
Buy It: Rachael Ray Nonstick Baking Sheet with Grips, 11 x 17-inch ($10.99); Wilton Perfect Results Premium Nonstick 21 x 15-inch Mega Baking Pan ($10.86)
I held off purchasing one of these for a long time, thinking these revamped pressure cookers were just a passing fad. But I finally gave in last year, and I have to admit I really love this appliance, particularly for meal prep at the start of a week. Cooking Light Diet member Liz Striegl (who lost 128 pounds with her husband!) agrees with that philosophy, adding that she uses it to get grains, legumes, stocks, and other meal components prepped for the week or in the freezer for quick, healthy meals. And don't feel pressure to get one with all the bells and whistles: There are lots of electric pressure cookers with 4.5 star ratings or higher for less than $100.
Buy It: Instant Pot Lux 6-qt ($79)
"I love and use my cast-iron skillets almost daily," said Cooking Light Diet member Patricia Reidy Lawrence, when asked what tools make healthy cooking easier. She also cited cast-iron skillets' versatility in terms of it going directly from stovetop to oven. This is something I've found helpful, too, particularly when cooking chicken or pork tenderloin. I sear and season poultry and meat on the stovetop, then finish off the cooking process in the oven to keep the meat juicy and tender. The seasoned coating also provides a natural nonstick surface.
Buy It: Lodge Cast Iron Seasoned Skillet Set, 8 and 12-inch ($34.99)
Incorporating a little healthy fat increases satiety at a meal, and one of my favorites to add to tacos, eggs, toast, grain bowls, wraps, and salads are avocados. Diced, sliced, or mashed, it's hard to go wrong if you've got a ripe one. If not, you can wait a few days. Or stick it in the Avocado Sock overnight. The concept sounds crazy, but the small wool bag has been my fix for perfectly ripening an avocado overnight. Definitely not an essential cooking item, but if you're an avocado lover, it's worth trying.
Buy It: The Avocado Sock ($17)
One of the keys to creating really good food that's also good for you is incorporating ingredients with big flavor profiles; fresh garlic, ginger, lemon zest, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese upgrades dishes. A small amount of one or two ingredients added to the right dish can upgrade it instantly, so consider a microplane to make prepping all of these easier. This handheld tool is a small-scale grater that creates a finer end product and has a more ergonomic design.
Buy It: Microplane 40020 Classic Zester/Grater ($12.95)
When Cooking Light Diet Community members were polled to find out what their favorite kitchen tools were, a digital kitchen scale topped the list for many. Joanne Zuccaro Devaney said, "I weigh everything. Even my uncooked pasta." And Mary Gresham Dee felt the same way. "I'm also on the kitchen scale bandwagon. I never got pasta right and always ended up with too little or too much." We recommend spending $5 to $10 extra for a digital version to get the most accurate readings.
Buy It: Etekcity Digital Kitchen Food Scale ($14.38)
The Pampered Chef Mix N Chop
This gadget is a favorite among several Cooking Light Diet members, like Lauren Appell Aronson. It was new to me at first but quickly became a helpful tool. Instead of using my spatula to brown and crumble ground beef or my potato masher to macerate berries, I can use the Mix N Chop. Aronson says she finds it particularly helpful when cooking ground meat and poultry "to get that perfect consistency."
Buy It: Pampered Chef Mix N Chop #2583 ($10.99)
"My immersion blender!" was Kaylee Hammonds' immediate answer to our Cooking Light Diet poll of favorite kitchen gadgets. And I have to agree because it's one of my favorites, too. A good immersion blender is equally efficient when it comes to mixing smoothies, pureeing soups, and blending dips and sauces like hummus, but it takes up a lot less space than a blender or food processor. Another plus is that there's less equipment clean up.
Buy It: Cuisinart CSB-75BC Smart Stick 200 Watt 2 Speed Hand Blender ($34.95)
Reusable Containers for Meal Prep
Sticking with healthy eating is always easier when I can prep a few meals or ingredients for the coming week, and a set of reusable containers to hold individual meals is essential. Portability, likelihood of leaks, and number of compartments are all things to take into consideration before selecting the right containers for you.
Buy It: Glass Food Storage Containers with Locking Lids, 5-pack of 34 oz. containers ($21.99); Glass Meal Containers 3 Compartment – Bento Box Glass Lunch Containers with 3 Compartments with Lids 3-pack 36 oz. containers ($22.99)
Have all the gadgets you need, but aren't sure what to make? Let the Cooking Light Diet help! Subscribe at CookingLightDiet.com today and start receiving your customizable meal plans.
Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, is author of Meals That Heal: 100+ Everyday Anti-Inflammatory Recipes in 30 Minutes or Less, and a culinary nutrition expert known for her ability to simplify food and nutrition information. She received a 2017 James Beard Journalism award, and her work is regularly featured by Cooking Light, RealSimple, Parents, Health, EatingWell, Allrecipes, MyFitnessPal, eMeals, Rally Health, and the American Heart Association. You can follow her on Instagram (@realfoodreallife_rd) or visit carolynwilliamsrd.com.
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