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Summer is arguably the most difficult time to cook. Yes, the sun stays out longer, but it’s all a facade. Between summer activities and the grueling heat, cooking is often the last thing on our minds. That means many of us go back to takeout night after night, which can seriously add up. Thankfully, there are a few items that make cooking during the summer easier and can save you a ton of time, so you can get back to enjoying the warm weather.
From meal kits to kitchen gadgets, these 13 things will make summer cooking less of a chore this year.
1. A precise meat thermometer
If you have yet to buy a meat thermometer, your life is about to change for the better. While you might think you know how long to cook your chicken in the oven, a meat thermometer ensures that your meat is perfectly cooked and juicy (goodbye, dry chicken). Plus, it’ll save you the time of constantly cutting into whatever you’re cooking to check on the doneness.
The ThermoWorks ThermoPop is the best meat thermometer we’ve ever tested. It takes just three (!!) seconds to read temperatures and has a 360-degree screen rotation, so you can easily spot the temperature no matter what angle you’re using it at. Seriously, our experts love what a game-changer it is while grilling.
2. A meal kit that does all the planning for you
Possibly the most challenging part of cooking is deciding what you want to eat—and then going grocery shopping for your ingredients after. But meal kits take care of both and ship fresh ingredients and innovative recipes straight to your door. Hello Fresh is one of our favorite meal kit delivery services because of its delicious recipes (it had our favorite recipe of all the meal kits we tested) and affordability at just $7.49 per serving. It does lack a bit of variety in terms of vegetarian and other specialty diets, but we still think it’s a good choice for most eaters. My friend who used to rarely step foot in her kitchen, started cooking again because of her Hello Fresh subscription.
3. Meals you just need to pop into the microwave
While some of us like to use meal kits to improve our cooking skills, some of us just want them for the meals sans chopping. That’s where Freshly comes in. It’s the best pre-made meal kit we’ve ever tested. All you have to do is pop these pre-made meals into the microwave, which may feel like a Lean Cuisine, but we found these to be pretty dang close to a home cooked meal—though they might not look as pretty.
4. A gadget that makes chopping onions easier
I’m going to be honest: I still can’t properly chop an onion. The various rings make it exceedingly difficult to dice it and I’m usually left in a puddle of tears because of chopping. The solution to my red-eye woes? An onion chopper. This one has more than 17,000 reviews and a 4.6-star rating on Amazon with reviewers raving about how much time it saves them while chopping. It comes with two stainless steel blades for small and large chops, and can be used on a variety of vegetables and cheeses.
5. The best grilling tongs we’ve ever tested
Tongs are often a forgotten cooking tool that make your life way easier. Not only are they essential for grilling, but they make tasks like grabbing corn from a boiling pot of water much easier and safer (please don’t try to do this with a fork). These ones from OXO Good Grips are the best ones we’ve ever tested because the scalloped pincers easily pick up a variety of foods and textures.
6. An Instant Pot so you can stay out of the kitchen
The Instant Pot is one of my favorite cooking gadgets of all time. Not only are dump and cook dinners one of the easiest meals to put together, but it also keeps you from turning on the oven and bringing in the heat. As someone who doesn’t have A/C in their kitchen, this is very important to me. The Instant Pot Duo is a great base model for any kitchen and has seven different cooking functions like saute, steam, rice cooker, and the all-important pressure cooker. Basically, you can cook whatever you want in it—and fast.
7. Scissors that expertly chop herbs
Fresh herbs immediately elevate any dish, but chopping them for this purpose can be a pain in the butt. Usually, I get so fed up, I’ll just tear them apart in my hands, which is less effective and not aesthetically pleasing. Instead, people reach for these handy herb scissors, which have five blades for swift slicing of cilantro, basil, mint, and more. With more than 1,000 reviews and a 4.5-star rating on Amazon, one reviewer says this product is “a must for every kitchen.”
8. An air fryer for healthier fries
Air frying was one of the hottest food trends of 2019, and it’s still as popular as ever for this summer. I mean, how else could you make a healthier version of your favorite french fries and chicken wings sans grease? Plus, it allows you to crisp up smaller batches of food while the oven is taken. After testing a variety of air fryers, we found that the Philips Airfryer XXL was the best of the best. Not only is it large enough to cook a family-sized portion, but it was the most consistent and produced the best “fried” foods of all the air fryers we tested.
9. A mandoline for perfectly cut veggies
Cutting vegetables is pretty time-consuming and you usually can’t get your slices a unified size, which can be pretty frustrating. But a mandoline produces perfect slices for your ratatouille, crudité, and homemade veggie chips in basically no time at all. We love this model from KitchenAid because its V-shaped blade sliced through whatever we threw at it and it has five different thickness options. Plus, it’s safer than most thanks to a larger-than-average finger guard and rubber feet that keep it from sliding, which is why it’s the best mandoline we’ve ever tested.
10. A strainer that’s better than a colander
Pasta salad is a barbecue favorite and plain ole pasta is always a go-to easy meal. But what’s not actually that easy: straining it. It’s super tedious to move the pasta into a colander just to put it back into the pot to add sauce or butter. This genius strainer cuts out the middleman by simply snapping to the side of a pot and draining water without losing any precious noodles. It’s garnered nearly 4,000 reviews and has 4.5-star rating on Amazon, so it’s safe to say that people won’t be returning to their traditional colander anytime soon.
11. Our favorite spiralizer
Zoodles were a food trend that I can still get behind. Vegetables are just way more fun to eat when they’re in noodle form. And the easiest way to make vegetable noodles is with the Veggetti, our favorite spiralizer. It’s simple to use, has two size options (thin and thick), and requires minimal cleanup. As someone who owns both a Veggetti and a full-size spiralizer, I always find myself reaching for this handheld one because it’s much more convenient.
12. A food processor that doubles as a sous chef
A food processor is one of the handiest appliances out there. Initially, I got mine to make cauliflower rice, but it has so many more uses, like shredding Brussels sprouts, chopping up all sorts of vegetables, and even shredding cheese. Plus, it can dice things way faster and more finely than you probably can by hand. Our favorite food processor is this 14-cup one from Cuisinart, which we found to be the most efficient with the largest tube for seamless processing.
13. The easiest way to chop garlic
Chopping garlic is one of the most tedious tasks. The cloves are so small—which is dangerous for fingers—and the garlic scent sticks to your hands for hours later. That’s where the ingenious GarlicZoom comes in. After testing it for ourselves, we found that quickly and efficiently chopped garlic with its wheeled knife design. It also works well with fresh ginger, shallots and other small onions, and small peppers like jalapenos.
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