Having spent months in lockdown at home, you may well have expanded your culinary repertoire, from new dishes for dinner to afternoon sweet treats.
With restaurants closed, it saw many of us trying to cook something beyond our go-to spag bol and garlic bread while a little over three weeks into lockdown, banana bread and sourdough making proved to be all anyone was doing, according to our Instagram feeds. If you didn’t attempt either, you definitely know someone who did.
However as the latest easing of lockdown restrictions mean restaurants along with pubs, museums, art galleries and cinemas have been allowed to reopen from 4 July, you may have found it tricky getting a booking, as the whole nation clambers to get a table.
Instead, use the time to take advantage of finally being able to host a socially distanced dinner party thanks to the new rules which mean larger bubbles of people are also now allowed to meet, with no limit on how many people can gather indoors, as long as they are members of just two households.
So dust off your chef’s hat and get planning the delicious food to serve up, using our edit of the kitchen gadgets that you simply cannot do without which will do the hard work for you, even for the most challenged of would-be home cooks.
You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
Getting your measurements right plays a pivotal role in ensuring your recipes turn out as planned, and the best set should have bright displays, ultra-accurate weighing platforms and able to use with different types of ingredients
It measures in the following units: millilitres, kgs/grams, lb/oz, fluid oz and there’s also a milk and water setting too.
We found them to be slightly heavy, but our reviewer described them as "wonderfully sturdy", and it’s this top-quality feel, paired with the colourful design, which makes these colourful kitchen scales a great option for mini MasterChefs in the making.
All you’ll need is three AA batteries and you’re good to go.
To avoid under or overcooked food, make sure you have a kitchen timer on your work surface.
It’ll save you clock-watching too, as most have a loud alarm you’ll be able to hear over the TV or chatting with your friends while you wait
While on the more expensive side, we’d recommend the Heston Blumenthal precision indoor/outdoor 3-in-1 timer (Salter, £19.99).
The timer function goes as high as 99 hours, 59 mins, 59 seconds so you can slow-cook as much as you want, and it even has a turn reminder for a more even cook.
Functional and easy to boot, it’s made with a water-resistant silicone coating too, so you can use it when barbequing near the beers also.
Blenders and mixers
To make juice, sauce or soup in seconds, get yourself a bullet blender, that’s compact, fast and easy to use and clean.
It has built-in scales to analyse ingredients and the accompanying app gives nutritional information on what you’re blending.
“Cups were huge at 930ml and the two matching flip-top lids were leak-proof and portable. The cups are dishwasher safe, but the blades are hand wash only and easy to clean with shorter blades,” said our tester.
Arguably the most versatile piece of equipment money can buy is a stand mixer, which can mix, whisk, whip and knead, while more comprehensive ones may also tackle jobs such as chopping, slicing, blending and mincing.
In our guide to the best stand mixers, one we loved was the KitchenAid 4.8L artisan stand mixer (Appliances Direct, £498.97) which doubles up as a rather fetching counter decoration when not being used.
It’s a hefty investment but we discovered it performed well across all three functions – kneading, whipping and mixing – particularly when it came to cake batter.
Our reviewers found it quick, quiet, easy to set up and use, a doddle to wash (with dishwasher-friendly parts) and is versatile with a whopping 10 speeds. There’s also plenty of attachments including a smaller 3l bowl and an effective pouring guard.
However, if you’re limited on space and budget, but want an electric hand mixer that can beat egg white or knead dough, we’d suggest the Breville hand mixer with heatsoft technology VFM021 (Curry’s, £69.99).
According to our testers: “Its 270w power output is lower than some models on the market, but its easy-to-slide 7-speed control and added boost button ensure a powerful and efficient output, all while being ergonomically pleasing to hold.”
It also features dough hooks, beaters and a whisk add ons, plus a storage case to safely stow it away.
For making light work of your vegetables, pick up a nifty spiraliser.
Not only will one save you the boring task of peeling and cutting, but it’s also an innovative way to try new dishes, such as courgetti (courgette pasta) and cucumber ribbons for garnishing.
To use, simply feed the vegetable through the shoot and the sharp electric blades (choose from two thicknesses) will deposit perfect noodles into the bowl provided, with very little waste.
One thing to note from our reviewers is that the larger veg like sweet potato needed trimming slightly before feeding to the machine, but the blades weren’t deterred by the harder veg.
One kitchen appliance that will never let you down is a microwave, that can melt butter, aid with oven-free dinners, defrost meat and the more advanced versions that have a grill function can heat, roast and crisp food too.
The Beko MOC20200C reto style freestanding microwave oven (Amazon, £69) topped our IndyBest guide thanks to its time-saving features, that allowed our reviewers to carry out four different cooking stages in a row.
“It keeps food moist and cooks evenly, with none of those rubbery edges that are so common with microwaved food,” they said.
Bread, pasta and ice cream makers
When a rare few days of sunshine arrive for the British summertime, staying cool calls for ice cream, sorbet and lollies galore.
Whip up frozen treats at home with an ice cream machine, many of which are versatile enough to create any number of desserts.
It allows you to make all the more predictable flavours right through to the weird and wonderful such as roasted pineapple, mascarpone and black pepper ice cream and watermelon and tomato sorbet.
Our reviewer loved how quick it was, taking as little as 20 minutes, and consistent in its results, while the three automated programmes make it a doddle to use and it has a generous two-litre capacity.
Indulge your inner baker with a bread-making machine which will aid you in creating gluten-free, artisan, experimental or everyday white and wholemeal loaves.
There are 14 pre-set programmes to choose from and we found it delivered flavoursome, well-risen bread with nice crusts. If you need to check on progress there’s a viewing window and with it you can create cake, pizza dough, yoghurt and jams too.
Our reviewers called it, “a fabulous all-rounder for an everyday option.”
As pasta was quickly found in scarce supply thanks to the surge in demand at the beginning of lockdown, you may have thought about making your own.
Easier than you think, try the KitchenAid 5KSMPRA food mixer attachment pasta maker (Argos, £154.99) which topped our pasta maker guide.
The kit contains three pieces: the basic pasta roller, a spaghetti cutter and a fettuccine cutter which each slot into the front end of the KitchenAid and lock into place.
“Start with the pasta roller, set the speed on a low setting, start with the widest setting (there are eight) gradually working towards the lowest and in minutes you’ll have perfectly paper thin sheets of pasta,” said our reviewer.
The height is also easier to deal with than the worktop level, we found. Expensive, but worth it if you like making pasta