The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 16, 2019 1:00 am

Weigh pros, cons when buying cooking appliance

JESSICA GARVIN | The Journal Gazette

Michelle Strom's favorite kitchen appliance is her pressure cooker, which cuts cooking time in half.

But an even newer air fryer is “shaping up to be a leading favorite appliance as well,” she said in an email.

Kitchen appliances have always had an important place in the home, whether saving time for busy families or making meals healthier. Air fryers and the Instant Pot received a lot of attention in 2018, topping holiday gift lists, eclipsing mainstays such as slow cookers and pressure cookers as the darlings of the kitchen.

The Ninja Foodi is also gaining interest in the cooking appliance market, according to a couple readers who responded to a query. This cross between a pressure cooker and an air fryer is touted as having it all: the ability to fully cook foods quickly, keeping them tender but also crisp.

Heidi Rae of Fort Wayne said she bought a Ninja Foodi for her son and calls it the “best gift I have ever gotten anyone.” Rae said the appliance is versatile, noting you can make chili and cornbread at the same time.

Bill Burkhart of Fort Wayne agrees. While he has used air fryers, an Instant Pot, pressure cookers and slow cookers, his vote for favorite appliance also went to the Ninja Foodi. “You can only imagine the meals you can make in an appliance that has all these capabilities,” he said in an email. “The possibilities are infinite.”

The kitchen appliance market is expected to see $253.4 billion in revenue in 2020 globally, according to a report by Allied Market Research, a global market research and advisory company. The report attributes increased disposable income, health concerns and a flourishing food and services industry as reasons for strong growth. 

Stores like Target, Kohl's, Walmart and Meijer carry a wide range of the newer appliances at varying sizes and price points. The Instant Pot and air fryers, for example, range from $70 to over $120, depending on size and brand. The Ninja Foodi generally ranges from $200 to $250.

Here's a review of the pros and cons of the most long-lived and popular appliances.

Ninja Foodi

Pros: Touted as the pressure cooker that crisps, the Ninja Foodi is equipped with eight settings so you can sauté, steam, broil and roast to your heart's delight. It cooks foods in multiple ways to get the right consistency without having to transfer food from one pot or pan to another.

Cons: Because the Foodi is new to the industry, it is relatively expensive. And though it does double the work, it takes up double the space. Also, there are no preset times, so cooks will need to rely on the cook-time template; this could cause more user error. Several reviews noted the inner bowl is nonstick rather than stainless steel, which may show wear over time.

Air fryer

Pros: This device uses heat convection rather then oil to “fry” foods and make them crisp. This can reduce the amount of fat and calories in foods and may be a healthier alternative to deep fryers. They are also typically quick and efficient and can be easy to use right out of the box.

Cons: Air fryers can be limited in versatility, especially if foods don't fit in the basket. Even larger air fryers may require multiple batches to create full meals. They are better suited for making meats and snacks rather then full meals for families. Foods may also stick to the basket, so cleanup is not always a breeze.

Instant Pot

Pros: The Instant Pot is a pressure cooker with several other functions, so it can replace an aging slow cooker and other appliances on your counter. The one-pot-cooks-all machine may appeal to busy cooks. It also makes meals easier and faster and seals in flavor.

Cons: Its many functions can confuse new users and may take some practice. The appliance takes up plenty of counter space, and the time to both pressurize and release pressure can add cooking time to your recipe. Some cautionary tales about the Instant Pot exploding have also popped up on the internet, though safety features make the likelihood low.

Slow cooker

Pros: You can fix it and forget it. Slow cookers come in many quart sizes with usually low, medium and high settings. You can dump your ingredients in and leave them to cook while at work or overnight. Great for soups and stews and keeps meats juicy and tender.

Cons: Some slow cookers can be difficult to clean. They may also take up a lot of counter or storage space. Even high settings can take three to four hours to fully cook food, so if you're in a hurry for a quick weekday night meal, pass on the slow cooker.

Pressure cooker

Pros: Pressure cookers use liquid and an airtight environment to build steam pressure. This in turn cooks foods more efficiently then typical oven methods. They also seal in nutrients and flavors and can preserve a food's taste. Modern pressure cookers are now fail-safe in releasing pressure and erasing the possibility of exploding.

Cons: It can be easy to overcook food. Because it relies on a pressure seal, foods can not be checked on easily and cooks usually have to rely on timing and practice to use this appliance well. Versatility is often limited to soups, stews, broths, dense vegetables and meats.

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