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Best kitchen gifts 2021: Top gadgets for home cooking

With these tools in your home kitchen, you can cook just like a pro.

If we've learned anything from this pandemic, good food is good for the soul. This holiday season, treat your inner foodie to some professional-grade kitchen gadgets and tools so that you can make restaurant-quality meals in your own home.

ThermoWorks Thermapen ONE

Ultra-fast and super accurate, built for pros

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If James Bond carried a cooking thermometer, it would probably be the Thermapen ONE. Made in England, it is accurate within ±0.7 degrees F (±0.4 degrees C). 

This is the updated version of the thermometer I use every day for measuring the temperature of meats, seafood, and other proteins. In fact, I like it so much that I own two of them, one dedicated to the kitchen and one for my grill area.

It has a backlit, auto-rotating display, with a motion sensor for wake mode and IP67 waterproof rating so you can wash it under the faucet, and it has a 3,000-hour battery life. If you do a barbecue or want to get that perfect reading on your steak, this is the thermometer to get. The all-new version of Thermapen's thermocouple cooking thermometer can instant-read temperatures within one second or less.

More affordable option:

Meater Plus with Bluetooth Repeater by Apption Labs Wireless Connected Thermometer

Remote monitoring for your big meat cooks

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The Meater Plus with Bluetooth Repeater is designed for long-distance (up to 165 feet) monitoring of your BBQ and grilling projects, using Bluetooth Low Energy technology. 

I use the Meater Plus when doing long cooks on my smoker, or when cooking primals of meat in the oven, such as a pork roast or ribs.

Designed for gas grills, kettle-style and vertical smokers, you'll never have to worry about exceeding internal meat temperatures again with their easy-to-use mobile app. In each probe, dual temperature sensors can simultaneously monitor internal meat temps up to 212 degrees F and ambient/external temperature up to 527 degrees F. 

A Guided Cook System walks you through every step of the cooking process to guarantee perfect and consistent results. You can also set up custom alerts/notifications based on temperature and/or time.

Also see:

  • Meater Block ($269) for larger cooks such as rib racks, pork shoulders, and briskets. It includes four Meater probes.

Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker Nano 750W

Now in a smaller, less expensive, easier stowed device

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Sous vide immersion cooking is now more affordable than ever with the Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker Nano. 

The device, which attaches to any large pot or water-filled container, circulates liquid around your vacuum-sealed proteins and vegetables at the exact temperature required for perfectly cooked meals, no matter what's on your menu. Use the Anova App to access thousands of free recipes and monitor your cooking from your phone via Bluetooth.

This is the baby brother to the larger 1200W Precision Cooker Pro, which I use frequently and is designed to circulate larger pots of water.

Also see:

Booker and Dax Searzall attachment for butane torches

Get that steakhouse crust

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The Booker and Dax Searzall is an attachment for handheld butane torches used to create the perfect sear on that sous vide steak or pork chop in seconds. Two lightweight, high-temperature metal screens convert the torch's flame into radiant heat, evenly spreading the flame to provide a professional-quality finish.

I primarily like using this to create a sear on large proteins after sous vide, such as on a thick-cut strip steak or a tuna steak. You don't have to spend big money at a steakhouse to get that nice surface Maillard effect.

Also see:

Ninja Foodi Smart XL Pro Grill & Griddle

High-tech, portable, countertop grill

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The Ninja Foodi is an ideal product for folks who can't grill outdoors, or if it's a rainy day and you just want to cook inside as well as air fry. With the 500°F independently powered grill grate, you get the direct, edge-to-edge high heat for steakhouse grilling, griddle searing, and so much more. The newest version for 2021, the XL Pro, has 7 cooking functions -- grill, air crisp, BBQ griddle, bake, roast, dehydrate, broil.

I have friends who utterly swear by the earlier version of this model who either live in tight apartments and cannot have several different appliances that do everything this product does, or are constantly making quick meals for hungry kids.

A lower-priced alternative:

Instant Pot® Pro™ Crisp & Air Fryer 8-quart Multi-Use Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer

Do it all in one device

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If you haven't jumped on the computerized pressure cooker bandwagon yet, well, what are you waiting for? Instant Pot® Pro™ Crisp & Air Fryer 8-quart Multi-Use Pressure Cooker and Air Fryer combine the company's most popular cooker with an air fryer lid attachment so that you can do it all in a single device.

My wife and I have two Instant Pots, a 6 and a 12 quart. The 8-quart seems like just the right size.

KitchenAid Professional 5™ Plus Series 5 Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer

The ultimate kitchen workhorse for generations

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The KitchenAid Professional 5™ Plus Series 5 Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer is essential if you want to be serious about home baking. This durable bowl-lift stand mixer is built to last, and features ten speeds to gently knead, thoroughly mix, and briskly whip ingredients for a wide variety of recipes and comes in a variety of colors to perfectly match your kitchen design or personality. Expand your mealtime creativity with over 10 optional hub-powered attachments, from food grinders to pasta makers and more, this will be one of the most valuable tools in our kitchen arsenal for decades to come.

This is the machine that was the workhorse of the pandemic in our household when we were baking bread on almost a daily basis. The motor in this machine is designed to last a lifetime and there's a lot you can do with it besides just mixing flour and extruding pasta. You can grind meat with it to make the perfect burger and meatball mix, too.

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven With Loop Handles (5qt)

2500 year-old tech that never goes out of style

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You know that sourdough bread you've wanted to bake in quarantine? Well, with the Lodge Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Double Dutch Oven, you can get that bakery crust you've been dreaming of. The lid doubles as a cast iron skillet so you can make that bacon cornbread for Thanksgiving and BBQ season everyone loves. Use it to sear, sauté, simmer, bake, broil, braise, roast, fry, or grill, in your oven, on the stove, on the grill, or over a campfire. Everyone should have a cast iron set in their kitchen, no matter what kind of cooking they do.

My wife loves this for providing that perfect vessel for cooking her sourdough loaves, and if you are going to do any slow cooking indoors or in an outdoor camping scenario, such as for a pot roast, a stew, or that giant pot of boeuf bourguignon on French onion soup, this is what you want to use.

Excalibur 9-tray, Digital 48hr Timer, Black

Turn your kitchen into a jerky factory

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The Excalibur 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator is what you need if you want to make those yummy, paleo meat jerky treats, and dried fruits and vegetable snacks for your family and friends. This is commercial quality, so you can expect yours to last for many years. We use ours to dry out fruit slices for making garnishes for cocktail drinks and also for preserving fruit during the height of the season for baking use.

Breville Smart Oven® Air Fryer Pro BOV900BSSUSC

High-performance toaster oven broiler

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If there is any appliance in our household that gets the most attention, it's got to be this one. We've had a Smart Oven for several years and whether it is toasting bread in the morning or baking entire lasagnas, this thing does it all.

Breville Smart Oven® Air Fryer Pro is no mere toaster oven; it also integrates a convection oven so you can cook your food evenly. It has 13 pre-set cooking functions: toast six slices, bagel, bake, roast, broil, pizza, cookies, reheat, warm, slow cook, air fry, and dehydrate, with 1800 watts of countertop power that gets your meals on the table more quickly. The Element IQ digital controller transfers heat intelligently across five quartz elements for precise and stable heat just where and when you want it for perfect results, every time. 

Interesting, less expensive, and stowable alternative: 

Anova Precision Oven

An affordable combi oven

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Anova Precision Oven is a technological tour de force that allows for restaurant-grade, combi-oven cooking, right in your own home, for thousands of dollars less than the systems four-star restaurants use to produce the same results. The system uses a combination of steam from a water reservoir and a computer-controlled oven with a multi-stage cooking process (Preheat, Core Cook/Sous Vide, Crisp) to get even browning, perfectly cooked, and juicy meat for cooking sous vide without using a water bath and multiple pans.

For our more extensive review of the Precision oven, read my writeup here.

Ooni Karu 16 Multi-fuel Pizza Oven

Cook pizza just like a pro

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The Karu is Ooni's ultimate pizza oven if you want to be able to cook full-size pies just like your favorite pizza parlor.

Using the gas burner attachment, connect it to a gas propane cylinder to cook epic 16-inch pizzas and delicious flame-cooked steaks, fish, and veggies, or cook with wood or charcoal out of the box. Ooni Karu 16 boasts a wide opening with a closable door, a large cordierite stone baking board, and an innovative L-shaped flame. Ooni Karu 16 reaches up to 950 degrees F (500 degrees C)  in just 15 minutes -- the blazing heat needed for cooking stone-baked, perfect Neapolitan-style pizza in 60 seconds.

For smaller pizzas, check out:

Elevated Craft Shaker

For the ultimate margarita

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Jason Perlow/ZDNet

The Elevated Craft Shaker is what you need if you want to make professional-style cocktails but want to keep your hands from freezing, your counter from gathering icky condensation, and rid yourself of old-fashioned, leaky shakers. With an integrated measuring cup and strainer, the large vessel allows you to make multiple drinks at once. With stainless steel, insulated construction, it will be the last shaker you ever buy.

For a more detailed review of the shaker, read my writeup here. 

Vitamix A3300 Blender

Daiquiris, crushing ice, smoothies and soups galore

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My wife and I have owned a Vitamix for 22 years -- it's lasted almost as long as our marriage and we use it on a weekly basis, more than even our food processor.

The Vitamix A3300 features a built-in Programmable Timer that can be set to process your custom recipes and stop the machine automatically. The timer and Pulse feature is housed in a sleek touchscreen that easily wipes clean, and built-in wireless connectivity will allow Ascent™ Series blenders to evolve with the latest innovations for years to come. Touchscreen controls give the machine a sleek silhouette and are easily wiped clean. Variable Speed Control and Pulse feature let you fine-tune the texture of any recipe. The motor base will automatically adjust the maximum blending times for the container size you've chosen. A built-in timer helps avoid over-or under-processing your custom recipes. Set the timer to the length of your blend, and it will turn the machine off automatically. Add a range of compatible container sizes, building a customized blending system designed to fit your needs.

Also see: Best blenders: Winter soup is coming

Thermomix TM6 Internet-connected Smart Mixer

A European favorite

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Thermomix has been the kitchen appliance of choice in Europe for decades because of its versatility as a mixer, food processor, and blender with the ability to cook ingredients in a self-contained manner. 

Now with WiFi and internet connectivity, the Thermomix® TM6®  is made with state-of-the-art technology to not only allow you to cook thousands of recipes from its database but to do it with ease. With its multi-layered cooking feature, you can simultaneously cook your entrée, sides, and dessert simultaneously.