Whether you want to be Australia's next MasterChef or just throw together a meal that the kids won't reject, having the right tools in your kitchen can be a game-changer.
With these products in your arsenal, you'll be able to turn out delicious meals in less time and with less stress.
1. Kitchen mixer
If you want to create a dessert so delicious you'll be fending off uninvited dinner guests, you'd better get your hands on a quality kitchen mixer.
They're not just for mixing cakes or whipping up pavs, though: with the right attachments, you can transform them into mincers, pasta makers, blenders and citrus presses. And of course they can take all the hard work out of kneading bread and pizza dough.
While KitchenAids are the mixer de rigeur, you might find that they're not the winning brand for you. Several other brands outperformed KitchenAid in our stand mixer reviews.
2. Food processor
It chops, it slices, it dices - is there anything a food processor can't do? It's the ultimate kitchen workhorse: it can make short work of time-consuming cooking tasks so you can turn out a restaurant-quality meal in no time.
Avid home chefs cooking for large groups will probably want a larger food processor with all the bells and whistles. Some things to look for:
- Storage for all the attachments
- A suitable-sized food processor bowl
- Pulse function, for making things such as shortcrust pastry
- Reversible blade (one side grates, the other slices)
- Double feed chute (for better control when slicing or shredding)
- Rubber feet to limit movement when it's sitting on the bench
- Beater and whisk disc attachments, for added versatility
- Integrated scales, so you can easily weigh ingredients
But if bench space is at a premium, you could opt for a mini food processor that'll comfortably take care of curry pastes, chopped nuts, breadcrumbs, mayonnaise and pesto. They're usually up to 1L in capacity.
All the kitchen gadgets in the world won't make you a good cook if you don't have the basics down pat. Good cookware can make or break a meal: you need to be able to sauté, sear and simmer well to create a good dish.
A non-stick frypan is a must-have for any kitchen. When we test non-stick pans, we scrub a section of each pan 10,000 times with a mechanical arm. To find out which non-stick pans are truly non-stick, check our frypan reviews.
In case you can't quite justify spending hundreds on a non-stick pan, here's a $16 Kmart frypan that impressed our kitchen experts.
A cast-iron casserole pot (also known as a Dutch oven) is a versatile piece of cookware that you can use for slow cooking, roasting and even baking bread. (No, really! Here's how to bake bread in a cast-iron pot.) If you're wondering how a metal pot can cost upwards of $500, we've answered the question that's on your mind: are cheap casserole pots just as good?
Price isn't the only consideration when buying cookware. Before you hit the shops (online or bricks-and-mortar), check our:
4. Stick blender
Sometimes it's the little details that really make a dish memorable. But busting out a bulky food processor eats up precious cooking and plating time – and bench space. This is where stick blenders come into their own: they're easier, lighter and faster to use than a regular blender or food processor.
They'll also save you on washing up: not only are they faster to clean than regular blenders, you can puree, whip or emulsify ingredients in whichever vessel you're cooking in, so you won't create extra dirty dishes.
Look out for stick blenders with:
- a comfortable, non-slip grip that's easy to hold
- sealed controls so food doesn't get into the crevices
- attachments for whipping and beating
- a pulse function for blitzing small quantities of dry foods
- a tall, narrow jug or beaker for pureeing soups and smoothies.
5. Pressure cooker
If you want slow-cooked taste in fast-food time, a pressure cooker is a no-brainer. Cooking lamb shanks? That'll take you seven hours in a slow cooker, 2.5 hours on a stovetop, but only 45 minutes in a pressure cooker – winning!
Or if you're looking for a change of pace, many multi-cookers have both slow-cook and pressure-cook functions. If you're not sure, take a look at the pros and cons of multi-cookers and our multi-cooker reviews.
A slow cooker can take 7–8 hours to turn out this meal, while a pressure cooker can take 45 minutes.
If you're exploring multi-cooker options, look out for:
- sufficient capacity
- a steam release valve
- different pressure settings
- pre-programmed cooking times
- easy-to-use controls
- easy-to-clean design
- a timer
- automatic settings
- a steaming and warming feature.
6. Pantry staples
The perfect meal starts with great ingredients, so make sure you have the best olive oil, butter, salt and stock on hand to really make your dish stand out.
- In our butter taste test, a cheap supermarket brand outperformed several high-end, artisan brands. Find out which butter is better.
- Any chef worth their salt knows how important seasoning is. You might be tempted to splash out on some fancy specialty salt to really make your dish sing, but is it worth it? We looked at the truth behind the marketing to find out is gourmet salt better?
- The key to a decadent dessert is good quality dark chocolate. Our experts had the difficult job of tasting 37 different products to help you find the best dark chocolate.
- There's a secret weapon you can keep in the fridge to help transform weekday meals from mundane to mouthwatering: pesto. Find out which basil pesto our experts scored highest.