I'm not much into cooking. The activity poses many challenges to me as a blind person, and I didn't have the required motivation to overcome them. My biggest worry of them all, though, is my insecurity to tame our fire-spitting monster with four mouths, or the thing known as a gas stove, with slippery pans, shallow frying pans with hot oil droplets splattering everywhere, and explosives known as pressure cookers (one of them exploded once, and I've been wary of pressure cookers ever since). The only heating appliances that I was 100% confident to operate were our electric coffee maker and our old electric rice cooker.
Then, I came to a realization: the two cooking appliances that I best get along with are the electric ones! So, I came to think that if there were other electric pans, like the rice cooker, I'd be more confident about using them too!
Off I went to research about electric pans and such... it was then that I learned about these cool little machines: one is for frying, the other one is for cooking, and the other one is for making several kinds of dough. They seem to be convenient, easy to use and clean, quite versatile, and sound like the kind of appliances I could get along with!
Below is what I've learned in my searches, and what I found interesting about the appliances in question (in general, not limited to any brand):
The One for Frying - the Air Fryer
Image source: by Samay9211 [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons and the Wikipedia article
- Like the name says, it fries with air! More specifically, hot air. It's like a small convection oven that "fries" the food by circulating hot air around it, and needs little to no oil (though I've heard it's advisable to put just the minimum amount of oil to prevent the food from sticking). If the food already has its own oil (like meat for example) we don't even need to add any oil.
- It's easy to use. We basically place the food inside its basket, set the temperature and how many minutes to "fry," and wait until it finishes. Some foods may need to be turned over at half of the time so that both sides crisp evenly, but otherwise, it's set and forget (no need to keep watching over the process. The machine will turn off once it's done).
- It controls and keeps the temperature constant.
- It's easy to clean (as long as the basket isn't like a grid, that is).
- No oil droplets or smoke in the kitchen, or smells throughout the house.
- It can also be used as a mini oven and bake things (cakes, bread, cookies, baked snacks...).
- Some models with digital controls have a timer we can set to have the food ready after a few hours.
The air fryer may be a good option to those wanting to reduce the oil in their diet and the mess in the kitchen without having to let go of fried food completely. Something to keep in mind, though (again, from what I've heard, as I couldn't experience the results for myself yet), is that the taste obviously won't be exactly like deep-fried. I've heard the results taste like somewhere between baked and fried. Sounds fine to me, though. As long as I can operate the machine and the results taste good :P .
The One for Cooking - the Electric Pressure Cooker
- Yes, a pressure cooker... but the electric variants have many safety measures in place. The pressure cooker doesn't turn on if it's not set-up correctly or if there's nothing inside it. It doesn't build pressure unless the valve is at the correct position. It has automatic temperature and pressure control. It has locks to prevent the lid from being forced open during pressure. It turns off automatically if it detects something wrong like overheating or more pressure than its acceptable limits. It has mechanisms to prevent exploding! (this last point alone was already enough for me to feel confident about operating one :D ).
- The sealing ring is made of silicone, and is way more durable and reliable than the rubber rings common in conventional pressure cookers.
- It's easy to use. We basically place the food inside its internal pan, set how many minutes to cook (the time only starts to count once pressure builds), and wait until cooking finishes. It's set and forget (no need to keep watching over the process or controlling the stove burner flames' intensity).
- It preserves the food's nutrients and properties much better than conventional pressure cookers.
- It regulates and keeps the temperature constant.
- Unlike conventional pressure cookers, it needs little to no water. If the food releases water during cooking, we don't even need to put any water.
- It's rather silent, and doesn't fill the kitchen with steam and smells.
- It's easy to clean.
- Like the air fryer, some models with digital controls also have a timer we can set to have the food ready after a few hours. Some people like to set the timer before going to work, then find the dinner ready when they return home.
The electric pressure cooker does what a rice cooker does, plus what a pressure cooker does, plus what other pans do, can also act as a steamer, and more. This and the safety measures against accidents and explosions were enough to give me confidence to operate it, and convince me that it should be very handy in our kitchen!
PS: I didn't find a photo of an electric pressure cooker that can be used freely (image under a Creative Commons license or in the public domain). I guess I'll have to take a picture once I get mine :D .
The One for Making Dough - the Bread Machine
Image source: by MASA [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons and the Wikipedia article
- The bread machine, or breadmaker. To use it, it's a matter of putting all the ingredients, and the machine does all the work of mixing everything, kneading (the hardest part to do by hand), waiting for the dough to rise, and even bakes the dough at the end! It's also set and forget, unless we don't like the standard shape of the bread and want to shape it ourselves or bake it in another oven, which is also possible.
- Like the previously mentioned appliances, it regulates the temperature (while baking).
- It's not limited to bread, and can prepare other things like pizza, cakes, pies, jams, and snacks.
- It also has the timer. People like to put in the ingredients before going to bed, and then wake up to freshly baked bread for breakfast.
When I first heard of the bread machine, I had thought it made mixing and kneading the dough easier, but didn't expect it to even bake the result. It's almost no work to always have homemade bread. The bread machine may be a good option for those who love homemade bread, or have restrictions in their diet and need to make their own bread with specific ingredients. Since it's not limited to only bread, it may be good for those who frequently prepare different kinds of dough.
One point that worried me and I made sure to try to find out about was the power consumption of these appliances (electricity is quite expensive here in Brazil). The air fryer I was eyeing had its power consumption listed as 1500 w (which I thought was a lot), the pressure cooker's 800 w, and the bread machine's 600 w. However, fortunately, they actually don't consume that much. Those numbers are their maximum power consumption, and only happen while they're heating to reach the target temperature. Once that's done, the heating element turns off, and the machines hold the heat for a while. Only when they detect the temperature is dropping, the heating element turns on again until the temperature is back to the ideal level, and then it turns off again. While this information alone doesn't tell us how much electricity these appliances really consume, I believe this information is important, and knowing that the heating element (the part that consumes more power) doesn't remain turned on the whole time is already a relief.
During my searches, I looked into websites with recipes that use these appliances, so that I could have an idea of what these machines can do. Soon I had gone from bored about cooking, to excited and amazed at how convenient and versatile these little machines are! The comments of people who tried the recipes sound tasty enough, and many recipes sound so easy that I'm even tempted to make them!
Below are the recipe websites that got me excited!
These first three websites are all from the same author, and do a great job of showcasing these appliances ease of use and versatility. The recipes sound easy and tasty, and some are creative (like baking chicken and potatoes in the bread machine!). However, the websites are in Portuguese. But if you understand the language, they're very worth a check!
- Fritadeira sem Óleo (recipes for the air fryer).
- Receitas na Pressão (recipes for the electric pressure cooker).
- Máquina de Pão (recipes for the bread machine).
Websites in English:
- Instant Pot Recipes & Pressure Cooker Recipes By Amy + Jacky (recipes for the pressure cooker).
- Cook Fast, Eat Well (also has recipes for the pressure cooker).
- Recipe This (recipes for the air fryer and for the pressure cooker).
In my case, I'm just not sure whether to get a bread machine (even though I find it very interesting, I'm not sure if we'd use it enough to justify the purchase, since we don't make bread/cakes/dough often), but the air fryer and the electric pressure cooker are definitely in my wishlist. I've been monitoring the prices of those two for a few weeks, and hoping that I can get some good deals on Black Friday. Too bad that the Black Friday discounts here in Brazil aren't that great, but I hope I get a discount that's worth it!
What about you? Had you known about these appliances? Do you have any of them? Or were you like me and had never heard of them?