The kitchen is a sacred place. Some chefs insist on keeping things low-tech — Christine’s favorite purchase of the year is a piece of plastic from QVC, and Haje thinks that the Internet of Things has gone too far with Wi-Fi enabled toasters. But some of us cannot resist the allure of a highly precise meat thermometer that happens to come in 10 different colors.
Sure, we probably don’t need an Alexa-compatible refrigerator or whatever, but sometimes, a bit of technology can make our lives easier (or, at least, make cooking more fun). Behold, some of TechCrunch staff’s favorite kitchen gifts.
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Fellow’s Stagg EKG Pro Electric Kettle
Some people are so serious about the quality of their pour-over coffee that they need to regulate the precise temperature of their boiling water, down to the degree. If you’re one of those people, you probably already know about Fellow’s sleek, temperature-controlled kettles. They’re the bread and butter of a true coffee snob’s morning routine.
This kettle has Wi-Fi, but to be clear, this isn’t so that you can check Facebook on it or something. Like many Wi-Fi-enabled appliances, this allows you to update your kettle, like how you’d update a phone. You can schedule the kettle to reach a certain temperature at a specific time, prevent boiling over by setting the altitude for your location and pre-boil your water at a max temperature to sanitize it.
The Stagg EKG Pro will cost you a whopping $225 (or $195 for a model without wooden accents), which probably sounds insane if you’re like me and own a $20 Hamilton Beach kettle (I drink cold brew, so I don’t need to boil water that often). But anyone I know who owns the Fellow is adamant about its immense superiority, even if they are a bit sheepish to admit how much they paid.
If you don’t want to spend more than $200 on a kettle, you can get a refurbished model of the standard Stagg EKG for $132. This model lacks some of the bells and whistles of the pro — it can’t connect to Wi-Fi and you can’t program it to turn on as soon as you wake up in the morning — but it still has exact temperature control and a sleek gooseneck spout, which is what people love the Fellows for so much anyway.
Anova’s Sous Vide Precision Cooker Nano
Speaking of tools that achieve a very precise temperature… sous vide cookers are, as TechCrunch once wrote, “one of the most high-tech methods of food preparation that home cooks can perform without a degree in chemistry and/or killing themselves and those around them.”
Sous vide devices circulate a pool of water to a precise temperature, which cooks a piece of vacuum-sealed meat to the perfect level of tenderness without risk of overcooking. It’s a technique that has been used in professional kitchens for ages, but is a bit newer for home chefs.
More advanced chefs love sous vide cooking because you can get such precise control — but, as someone who is terrified of touching raw meat, I find it useful because you can just take a piece of plastic-sealed frozen meat and throw it into a stock pot without risking salmonella. Isn’t technology incredible?
The market for sous vide immersion circulators has evolved a lot in the last decade, ever since Anova opened the floodgates with one of the first affordable, consumer-grade tools on the market. While plenty of even less-expensive sous vide cookers have become available since then, Anova remains — as we declared 10 years ago — the most “Apple-esque.” The company was acquired in 2017 by Electrolux for $250 million, but it continues churning out products under the Anova name.
While Anova has some heftier, more powerful devices, most home chefs can get away with the company’s Precision Cooker Nano (unless you’re cooking for a family of 10 or something). It comes with either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity, depending on which model you choose, and connects to an app, which is available on both iOS and Android. Do you really need to be able to monitor your sous vide’s temperature from your phone? Probably not. You can just go to your kitchen and check on it for yourself. But some people like that stuff!
Despite the maturity of the sous vide market, we’re still seeing new companies battle for their share at CES. After raising $20 million, Typhur Technology announced its sous vide station, which retails for a whopping $1,099 and, for some reason, has a 12-inch display. We have a feeling consumers will gravitate toward Anova’s $100 models instead.
ThermoWorks’ Thermapen ONE
TechCrunch editor Matt says the ThermoWorks Thermapen is “the only [meat thermometer] I’d recommend, and not the dozens of clones on Amazon.” Audience manager Morgan says, “that Thermapen is on every kitchen gift guide list for a reason!”
So, apparently, people love this little guy. It comes in 10 colors, which I personally find exciting, and if you don’t buy the pink one, you’re a coward. But the reason people love it isn’t because it’ll help you keep your Barbie phase alive. It’s called the Thermapen ONE because it is supposed to be able to give you a reading in one second. If you’re really serious about meat temperatures, that’s huge, because you’re not going to overcook your steak while waiting to see how hot its internal temperature is. It also comes with a five-year warranty, which could make the $109 price tag a bit more palatable.
Breville’s Smart Waffle Maker Pro
A few months ago, our data analyst Miranda texted me in a frenzy, questioning if she is making a horrible mistake by purchasing a waffle maker that costs over $200. But, as gift guide season rolled around, and I asked my colleagues what cooking tools I should write about, Miranda pointed once again to the Breville Smart Waffle Maker Pro. So, evidently, she does not regret this purchase.
This waffle maker has 12 settings to customize baking and browning, which will appease any waffle sommelier’s preferences. And on top of that, there are settings for four batter types, so really, if this thing can’t make your perfect waffle, maybe you’re the problem?
Are Instant Pots going on sale?
I never understood the Instant Pot craze until I was gifted one three years ago, and now, it’s an appliance I use weekly. I use it as a rice cooker (which may horrify Morgan, who swears by this Zojirushi device), a soup stock pot, speedy dry bean cooker, a curry-making machine, a boon for one-pot meals on busy days… this thing has more than earned its valuable kitchen counter space. But the company behind my cult-favorite pressure cooker filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, which took everyone by surprise, as the Instant Pot is so ubiquitous and successful.
Perhaps, that’s where the problem lies — as The Atlantic hypothesized, the Instant Pot failed because… it’s too good? Listen, business doesn’t make sense. The company was sold to a private equity firm in 2019, and unfortunately, selling a well-made, useful, long-lasting product isn’t what our private equity overlords want — they just want to grow, grow, grow. By that nature, having one absurdly successful appliance isn’t enough, because once you buy your Instant Pot — likely at a large discount during the holiday season — you’re done. The Instant brand also sells air fryers and coffee makers, and it’s even expanded beyond the kitchen to sell air purifiers. But you probably wouldn’t know that unless you navigated to the company’s website because you’re writing about it, as I just did.
Despite filing for bankruptcy, Instant Pots remain on the market — the company got $132.5 million in financing from lenders, which is supposed to help the brand find its footing once again. So, in the meantime, can we expect crazy good deals on the Instant Pot this holiday season? We hope so.
Wanna hang up your stove? Try induction burners
Our climate writer for TechCrunch+, Tim, is dreaming of a range-less kitchen. Induction burners are becoming more and more popular, since they use far less energy than gas stoves, and they heat your pots and pans with magnets, which keeps your kitchen cooler. To sweeten the deals, induction cooktops can boil water faster than gas or electric, so it’s a win-win-win.
But, as Tim points out, some restaurants have been using portable induction burners for decades, giving chefs the flexibility to move around their workstation and relegate power accordingly. What if you could take that idea into the home? No, Tim isn’t just thinking about getting an induction stove — he’s thinking about going wholly portable all together.
The Italian company Fabita is making sleek, minimalist, space-saving induction burner sets, but unfortunately for Tim, they don’t ship to the United States. But if you live closer to Fabita’s HQ, you can snag the gorgeous Sopresa model, which can house up to six burners. Goran Bjelajac, a Belgrade-based designer, has conceptualized a fold-out induction cooktop, but it’s not ready for purchase yet.
Maybe our best local option is Impulse, which raised $20 million last year for its stylish induction stovetops, but you can’t hang this thing on your wall, so it doesn’t save counter space like its European counterparts.
So, it may be a bit early to live your range-less dreams, but perhaps by next year, Tim’s fantasy kitchen will get closer to becoming reality.