Gift Guide 2020 #2 – Essential Kitchen Gadgets

When everyone is home full time, things break. Toilets, coffee makers, computer printers — everyday items got a whole lot more milage than ever before. This Christmas, we’ll replace some basic items; others will get an upgrade. After all, Steve probably won’t go back into the office for many, many months.

Items for the kitchen probably got the most wear, since we avoided restaurants for a big chunk of the spring. And then with everyone home — hello, teenage boy metabolism! — I’ve been cooking a lot. So, here are my favorite appliances/gadgets/equipment, along with some ideas for upgrades. The basic and the dream machine.

Our Cuisinart Coffee Maker is a much loved device in this house. After years of service brewing my essential liquid life-force using our town’s hard water, the machine is struggling and will be replaced soon. My dream machine.

We use a Zojirushi rice maker at least three or four times per week. This machine turns two cups of water, a chicken bouillon cube, and two cups of Jasmine rice into perfect fluffy carbs. And Steve sets it up the night before to have his oatmeal ready in the morning. My extended family fought me about the benefits of rice makers saying that they had enough appliances. Guess what? They all have one now. Dream machine.

After lunch, I typically switch from coffee to tea. A life saving acquisition this year was an electric kettle. Life-saving? Surely, I overstate the benefits of this machine? Ah no. I have a history of forgetting about a kettle on the stove and running out of the house to do chores. I bought an inexpensive one initially as a trial. I’m ready to upgrade. Dream machine.

On Thanksgiving morning, we popped some poppy seed bagels into the toaster, and then added cream cheese, lox, and capers. I ate the whole thing. No regrets. Even though I gained about ten pounds from that meal. Dream machine. Ooh. This one, too.

Taking a break. Back again soon.

18 thoughts on “Gift Guide 2020 #2 – Essential Kitchen Gadgets

  1. Best coffee machine:

    There are few moving parts to break. Unlike other coffee makers, the water has to get hot enough to get up and over to the coffee grounds. The coffee stays warm for a long time in the insulated carafe. We’ve had one for 4 years, and it’s still going strong. It was recommended by Cooks Illustrated at the time.

    Instant Pot!

    Almost 140K positive ratings on Amazon. The Instant Pot app is useful. There are also many, many recipes online and cookbooks featuring Instant Pot recipes. You can also use it as a rice cooker.


  2. Ha! I feel like a stereotype. We have your current coffee maker, just used an electric kettle to make hot chocolate for the family, and I ordered the air fryer/toaster oven combo from Amazon on Black Friday.


    1. Looking forward to those articles when they appear!

      Continue to see the blog as a labor of love on your part and thus, never have expectations beyond what benefits you reap.


      1. Right.

        Here’s an idea for a post that I’m sure that a lot of us are going to have opinions on soon: how high schools and colleges are handling or have handled remote exams.

        Our college freshman had a nearly full term in-person, but after Thanksgiving she has a (planned) shift to remote classes for two days and then remote exams. Our freshman has been kind of vague about the whole deal, but my understanding is that for one of her courses, she’s going to do a brief Zoom translation for her professor on camera, while her calculus class is going to be doing an exam via lockdown browser.

        I’m looking forward to it all being over.


  3. I thought those electric kettles were dumb until my sister-in-law got me one about ten years ago. They’re especially good when you have a cold and you’re constantly wanting hot water.

    AmyP is right about exams. Teachers have been talking about this a lot. Not me so much as I’ve figured out how to convert most things to easy reading quizzes plus essay exams, which works for my current classes, but anyone who teaches things students have to memorize is really struggling. This has been an issue for online classes for ages. One of my colleagues gives short oral exams, which might be an option, though I remember I was terrified when one of my Jesuit profs used them back in grad school.

    Another testing issue: one of my friend’s kids walked out of her ACT last month because the proctors weren’t following COVID protocols (actually were pulling down their masks to talk to individual students, etc.)


  4. Amy P said

    “Here’s an idea for a post that I’m sure that a lot of us are going to have opinions on soon: how high schools and colleges are handling or have handled remote exams.”

    Exam season is almost over here in NZ.
    Most have been in person (thanks to our relatively Covid-free status) – but some schools/classes have opted for online.

    Headline news about the online exam system crashing – and kids having to choose (under pressure) to switch to print – or wait for the online system to be back up.
    In either case, it would have been disruptive for them.

    IMHO – I don’t think that the online process is sufficiently robust.

    This was mid-year uni exams:

    And this one was high school a few days ago:


  5. Love my electric kettle[s] (kiddo has one at school, borrowed mine when she lived in an apartment over the summer, and now I’ve acquired a third). Am currently experimenting with pour over coffee.

    I was inspired by finding copper cow Vietnamese coffee in a subscription description. And that brings me to a question. Have folks tried subscription/gift box services (i.e. bulb of the month, pickle of the month, tequila of the month?). I am desiring gifting that brings something to people during this quarantine. But, I know that I am being manipulated by pretty pictures. So, has anyone received/or given and actually enjoyed (say, Harry & David or WIlliams Sonoma or Mouth)?


    1. My sister gave us a subscription to a food club from Zingerman’s sometime back. It was lots of fun.

      I’ve given her Harry & David Fruit of the Month; she loved it. That was at her request.

      On his wife’s advice, I gave a cousin the gift of the Microbrewed Beer of the Month Club: He was very happy.

      We have subscribed to wine clubs in the past, but not at present. In my opinion, you generally get the best wines as a new member, but over time the quality dropped off. Again, that was my opinion.

      Of course, any gift club involving alcohol will have state-relevant restrictions.

      I’m making up my Christmas list right now. I think you could give a local CSA membership to someone?


    2. BJ said
      “Love my electric kettle[s] (kiddo has one at school, borrowed mine when she lived in an apartment over the summer, and now I’ve acquired a third). ”

      This is really funny from NZ – where we pretty much *only* have electric kettles.
      I had to do some research to figure out what you were all using instead…..;-)


      1. Coffee machines, espresso machines, mini espresso (nespresso, . . .) machines, kettles you put on top of the stove, and hot water from water delivery (5? gallon tanks that can heat and cool water).


  6. Ok, what follows is by definition not essential, but then again, most people will already have essential items.

    I’ve tried to explain my philosophy of gifting multiple times. Everyone is so caught up in making things useful, wanted, desired, practical, perfect, etc., they miss the true fun of giving. Really, being tied up with the model of the Perfect Gift causes a great deal of performance anxiety around holidays.

    Live a little–relax, the worst that can happen is that it is regifted or used for a Yankee Gift Swap. Yankee Gift Swaps are a lot of fun. Regifting is both recycling and decluttering, which is virtuous by definition.

    Just, don’t give gifts which could be seen as insulting. For example, Nut of the Month Club to someone you know is nut-allergic. Or your brother in law, unless you know he likes to eat nuts & won’t take it personally. In theory, you know your gift recipient well enough to not Insult by Gift.

    I came to this philosophy on the day my aunt blanched at the gift of a live plant. Turns out, they die on her. So, ok, note to self, only bouquets for her.

    Alright, so…

    Silicone Trivets. Light, pretty, not expensive, available in many colors:

    Bundt Pans. There are many different, pretty styles available. Most kitchen gadgets, except for coffee makers, are not used continuously. Thus, choose one that looks pretty when not in use! You can store iphone charging cords in it when you’re not using it. Win/win!

    Tweezer tongs! Now, this is an essential kitchen gadget.


  7. Butane Torch! I don’t have one yet, it’s on my list because I want to see if anyone in my family thinks I can be trusted with this. For less than $20 you can tell someone you are willing to place your life in their hands:

    A bacon press. During the pandemic, we’ve experimented with sandwiches. This is less expensive than a panini press, but more convenient than using another pan to squish sandwiches.

    Electric Fondue Pot

    This is essential, if you like fondue. It makes clean up much easier than the other models–drop it in the dishwasher! You can regulate the temperature easily.

    Handmixer. It…has…a…light. It is quiet. It stores its attachments.


  8. Our new coffeemaker after the Bunn died of well water:

    Not super fancy, but anything that cleans itself (the milk spout), is a plus for me.


Comments are closed.