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If you watched the British period drama Downton Abbey on television, you probably remember the episode where they introduced a cutting-edge kitchen gadget that causes quite a stir—and invites derision from the butler—in the aristocratic household: an electric toaster.

Kitchen gadgets are like that: They can divide opinion. They can also check boxes from quirky and cute to dead useful. We spoke to five home cooks, and food bloggers, who swear by the gadgets that make them tick.

Family connection

Food blogger Gauri M. Jayaram’s interest in cooking started with kitchenware, so to speak. For Jayaram’s 11th birthday, her father gifted her a 3.8 litre Lifetime Dutch Oven. “I hadn’t requested it; Dad just brought it for me from the US," says Jayaram, who blogs at The Backyard Baker. “We still use it in my parents’ home."

“Kartick’s mother’s kalchatti is 35 years old. I can’t be exactly sure how old his grandmother’s is," says Jayaram. “A sambhar or rasam cooked in a kalchatti will keep bubbling for at least 2 minutes after you have turned off the gas. You never have to reheat the dish before serving it."

Everything has a reason

Deeba Rajpal, a well-known food blogger and stylist, has a fabulously kitted out kitchen. She has a Thermomix she uses for everything from kebabs to cookie dough, a Hamilton Beach mixer with separate attachments for masalas and smoothies, a Nescafé espresso machine that comes in handy for coffee-based desserts, the latest Philips soup maker and Santoku knives, as well as various non-pricey but functional thingamajigs, including a garlic crusher, a cookie dough scoop, a cherry pitter, and a Microplane lime zester.

Though Rajpal no longer scours the Internet or window-shops at appliance stores, she has done her share of searching the world over for the right kitchen gadgets. She bought a mandoline slicer from a “babushka" in Moscow in 1996 and visited the Victoria’s Basement on a trip to Australia a few years ago. “That place is heaven for kitchen-gadget fans," Rajpal says. She bought a clever oil dispenser from Sydney that has a dropper-like function to pick up the oil from the bottle and a silicone brush to spread it on the pan. “Someone has really put thought into these things," she says.

She also picked up her Microplane zester abroad. It’s now available on www.amazon.in, but at 1,124 a pop, it is around three times more expensive here than in the US.

The priciest gadget in Rajpal’s kitchen at her residence in Gurgaon, near Delhi, is still the Thermomix: She bought it for 85,000 four-five years ago, with a year’s savings from her blog and workshops. “I use it for everything—I once made kebabs, from mincing the meat to cooking it, in the Thermomix. It’s lovely for tempering chocolate. And I haven’t kneaded dough by hand for a day since I got it," she says.

Going by instinct

Meenu Iyer, a consultant at organizational design and executive coaching firm Vyaktitva, bought an ice-cream maker attachment for her 35,000 KitchenAid on impulse—and she hasn’t regretted it for a day.

Meenu Iyer. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint
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Meenu Iyer. Photo: Pradeep Gaur/Mint

“All through summer, we’ve had fresh home-made ice cream. You just freeze the fruit and the cream, and it takes a half-hour in the KitchenAid to get ice cream like Dad used to make," Iyer says.

The perfect eggs

Rajneesh Wakhloo serves up eggs—poached, fried or omeletted—for his wife and seven-year-old every day for breakfast. But not for him the non-specialized method of breaking an egg into a bowl and slowly tipping it into boiling water: He has silicone poachers that consistently make eggs that are runny in the centre and completely oil-free. Wakhloo also swears by his wire whisk to make omelettes fluffy. The Delhi resident’s gadgets, including a milk frother for home-made cappuccino and a heart-shaped egg shaper to encourage his daughter to finish a breakfast of sunny-side-up eggs, are not by highfalutin companies. But they are just right for the job.

Eggs done three ways by Wakhloo.
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Eggs done three ways by Wakhloo.

Research and development

For Sandeep Sreedharan, who blogs at Esca Brahma and regularly feeds his experiments in molecular gastronomy to friends, the can’t-do-without kitchen gadgets are an iSi foam gun powered by liquid nitrogen, a pasta maker and a Tanyu clay pot he bought in Singapore.

Sreedharan spent weeks researching the perfect foam gun that would not meddle with the taste of his food before finally buying one in Dubai. He recently used it to make a laksa foam for a dinner with friends.

On the whole, however, Sreedharan likes to keep things simple. “If something can be done by hand, I would rather do it by hand," he says. “Including beating egg whites to peaks."

So he has a pasta machine at home and prefers making the dough from scratch because it gives him a lot more control over the final dish than store-bought pasta sheets. “I can control how al dente I want my pasta to be, and how to layer my lasagna."

But Sreedharan continues to be excited by the refinement allowed by the foam gun. “What that piece of equipment can do, nothing else can," he says.

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