3 Kitchen Appliances That Will Turn Up The Heat On At Home Cooking

by Lisa McCune MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Last Updated: August 24, 2020

More than 50% of Americans report that they’ve been preparing more meals at home during the pandemic. With more people in the kitchen and summer temperatures in full swing, small appliances have become a hot topic of discussion among home chefs.

Using an oven in the summer months isn’t ideal. If you can’t stand the heat, don’t get out of the kitchen! Try a different appliance. Air fryers, pressure cookers and slow cookers can keep us cool and save us money. Let’s explore the differences between these appliances to find which one is best for you.
  1. Air Fryer
    This handy appliance is essentially a smaller version of a convection oven. A convection oven circulates hot air around food to evenly distribute heat. This cooks food faster than a traditional oven and gives food that crispy texture we look for in deep fried foods. The food is placed in a basket with an area to catch drippings underneath.

    Pros
    Because this appliance uses air and very little oil to cook the food, this is a much healthier option to deep frying, where food is completely submerged in oil, further packing on unneeded calories. Foods that do well in an air fryer are items that we usually think of as being deep fried (and usually kid friendly) such as french fries, chicken nuggets and wings. It crisps frozen foods, fresh vegetables and meats well, like these Parmesan Air Fryer Pork Chops that take only 8-10 minutes to cook. In addition to it being a replacement for a deep fryer, you can even bake in it!

    Cons
    Some downsides to using an air fryer are that the baskets tend to run on the smaller side. If you are feeding more than a couple of people, even with the largest options available, you would need to make multiple batches. It is compact, but still large enough that it requires storage in a deep cabinet or permanent counter space. Clean up can be tough, but now most models feature a dishwasher safe basket.

    Cost
    These appliances typically range from $50 to over $200 depending on the size and model. New varieties include combination Air Fryers such as Air Fryer Dehydrators and Air Fryer Toaster Ovens.
  2. Instant Pot
    This appliance has quickly become one of the most used small kitchen appliances in recent years. It has multiple uses, it’s small, and it’s energy efficient. An Instant Pot is a countertop electric pressure cooker. It cooks food very fast and uses significantly less energy than baking, boiling or steaming.

    Pros
    Benefits of pressure cooking include foods developing deeper flavors and maintaining a better appearance. Harmful bacteria is also destroyed effectively. A large nutritional benefit is that foods retain more water-soluble vitamins using this method of cooking. This appliance reduces cooking time drastically, making it a great option for busy parents or college students. It tenderizes tough cuts of meat well, like a slow cooker, but in much less time. Think 30-60 minutes versus 4-8 hours. Some models even offer yogurt and sous vide features, as well as short term and long-term delays, which makes planning easier for multiple course meals. The options of foods to create in an Instant Pot are endless, but some favorites of Instant Pot fanatics are hard boiled eggs, soups and stews, carnitas, potatoes, rice, oatmeal, beans or lentils, and pot roast or brisket like this Instant Pot Classic Braised Brisket. Clean up is easy because it’s all in one pot. Also, using this appliance could take the place of several other appliances, freeing up space in the kitchen.

    Cons
    The only things that don’t work as well in an Instant Pot are dairy, cakes, and foods that we want to be very crispy. High heat can curdle dairy so it’s best to add it to an Instant Pot dish after it’s done pressure cooking. Cakes can be made in an Instant Pot, but they have an altered texture because they are steamed rather than baked. Crispy foods like chicken nuggets, wings and onion rings would do better in an air fryer for the desired texture.

    Cost
    Instant Pots range from $80 to $200 and over, depending on variety and features.
  3. Slow Cooker
    Slow Cookers have been around much longer than the other two appliances and they are similar to an Instant Pot in that they are a good appliance to tenderize tough cuts of meat such as shank, shoulder, chuck, and brisket (which tend to be cheaper cuts as well).

    Pros
    Preparation and clean up are easy with everything in one pot and you can cook almost anything in them, with the same exceptions of an Instant Pot. It feeds a large family easily and it is less expensive than the newer appliances with a typical range of $30 to $100. Again, it’s more energy efficient than an oven and usually a healthy option because it requires little fat to use. Just like an Instant Pot, it’s great for cooking large amounts of foods that can be used in different ways like this Slow Cooker Shredded Buffalo Chicken. Use this recipe in tacos, on a salad, or to stuff a baked potato.

    Cons
    The con to a slow cooker is the time it takes to cook food. It takes much longer than the other two appliances even on a higher setting. It requires many hours to use, which can be done while you are home, away from home, and can also be done overnight. For those who work at home throughout the day it’s a great option to prepare meals in the morning, and they are ready for you in the evening.

    Cost
    Slow cookers range from $10-$70 depending on the brand, style, and quality.

There are pros and cons to each of these appliances, but they all have one thing in common: they can make our lives easier this summer by keeping our ovens turned off. For more help with meal planning and prepping meals with these appliances make a FREE appointment with one of our dietitians!

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


Lisa McCune MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Lisa McCune MS, MPH, RDN, LDN

Teaching people about the positive things that food can do for the mind, body and spirit, and helping them understand that all foods can fit into a healthy diet is Lisa’s nutrition philosophy. She believes food should be exciting and fun! Lisa encourages celebration of non-scale victories, which focus on what good nutrition can do for your life beyond weight. She loves food, but also loves to break a sweat whether it’s cycling, walking her dog or doing CrossFit.