For some people cooking is a great way to wind down at the end of the day. Others thrive on making complex confections that bring delight to everyone's face. Yes, these people float through the kitchen crafting perfect meals, bakery-worthy sweets, and drinks that put the mix masters of New York City to shame. Then there are the rest of us.
Is there someone on your holiday gift list that could use a little technological help to master the ways of the kitchen? Then I have some great ideas for what you can slip under their tree.
Is this scenario a common one in your, um, friend's house?
I want to bake a thing! I have flour and sugar and half a bag of semi-sweet chips. I have the Epicurious app. Let's do this!
Five minutes later:
Where are all the bowls? How many do I even need?
The text on the measuring cups wore off and I don't know which one is 1/3 and which Is 1/2!
Is the big spoon the same as the teaspoon?
I only have half as much flour as the recipe says. Do I halve everything else? How do I do half an egg?
Ten minutes and a trip to the corner store later:
::munching Oreos:: Screw baking.
Okay, so maybe it's not always that bad, but baking and cooking are a skill. One that intimidates some of us, especially when we don't have all the right tools. If that describes someone you know, and that someone would like to bake more, and that someone has an iPad or Android tablet, then the Perfect Bake is the perfect present.
This combo app and scale makes all the steps that go into baking easy. You don't even need measuring cups or spoons. The scale is sensitive and precise enough that it measures ingredients as you put them in. And the app will help you out if you over-add or find that you don't have enough of a key ingredient. The step-by-step instructions include details such as how long or vigorously you should stir. Perfect Bake will even help make sure the portions of batter you put on the baking sheet are correct. With this system it's very hard to mess things up.
Perfect Bake comes with the scale and connecting cord, three bowls, an oven thermometer, a stand, and an app with hundreds of recipes that get updated regularly.
Even if you don't need the Perfect Bake, tablets make great kitchen companions thanks to all the recipes, how to videos, and other digital tutorials and information they serve up. But in the midst of cooking, you don't want to have to clean your hands every time you need to swipe or tap, and having a stand that raises the tablet up away from stuff on the counter is a bonus. That's why I like this stand and stylus combo. Both are made with rubber and thus easy to clean. The stylus works on any touchscreen and is big and chunky, making it easy to grab even if you're wearing gloves or just have hands caked in flour.
The ability to accurately measure temperature is the key to great food (and not getting sick), so a good thermometer is important. This one is super useful because it can measure temps from two probes at once and broadcast that information to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth. Cooks can set up alarms in the app so they'll know right away when food is ready even if they're in another room watching TV. Handy, right?
The thermometer comes with two meat probes and also works with an Ambient Temperature Probe -- there's even a Candy Probe for more advanced uses.
This connected thermometer works much the same as the one above but is specifically geared to withstand damage from fire and smoke. The iGrill can handle up to four probes at once for tracking the status of multiple pieces of meat and grill temperature.
So, you're looking at this tea pot and the price of it and thinking: "K.T. you have surely lost your mind." Yes, it's expensive. And yes, it's overkill if all the tea-lover on your list likes to drink is Tazo or Lipton or Twinings or anything else that comes in a bag. However, fancy tea-loving individuals know that the best teas are loose. And that different kinds of tea require different water temperatures and steeping times. Getting the best cup requires precision and more attention and focus than I have when I first stumble out of bed in the morning. I'm sure I'm not alone. My desire for a great cup of genmai cha often wars with the ease of just letting the water boil and dropping a bag of black in a cup.
With this teapot, that's no longer an issue. It has the settings for different types of teas programmed in, and it will raise and lower the basket of loose leaf tea automatically, even agitating the leaves just enough to get the full flavor. You can set a timer and have tea waiting when you wake up. And it will keep your tea warm for up to an hour if you forget about it.
This is the perfect gift for someone who wants to master the ways of tea but doesn't have the patience or wherewithal to do so the old-fashioned way.
Compared to tea, learning how to make a good mixed drink is easy. Still, if you know someone whose bartending skills are more about buying pre-mixed baggies or just pouring in whatever until it tastes right, you might consider gifting them Perfect Drink. It's another system tied to a tablet app that uses a precise scale to help with mixing the exact right amount of liquids together. The app will walk you through shaking, stirring, and pouring as well.
What are your favorite kitchen tech devices? Anything you're especially hoping to find wrapped up as a gift for you this holiday season?