If your holidays have left you over-stuffed and under-energised, changing up your cooking routine is a good way to start feeling better. To get a more organised approach to eating healthily at home – and to save money along the way – you need the right kitchen equipment.
These are the appliances you need: a countertop cooker, a blender and a frying alternative. They'll let you meal prep in advance, make fresh dishes from scratch and cut down on oil in your cooking. Read on for advice on which types of appliance to buy and specific product recommendations.
Buy a multi-cooker, slow cooker or pressure cooker
The best way to stick to healthy eating habits is to make it as easy as possible to do so. Get a countertop cooker and soups, stews, chilli, curries and rice dishes are all simple to make in a single pot.
And, if you get a larger volume cooker, you can prepare meals in advance and freeze them in batches. But which type of countertop cooker is right for you?
Is a slow cooker for you?
Buy it for: cooking in advance. If you know that you’re going to be too tired to cook something healthy after work – and therefore likely to be tempted to order delivery food – you need a slow cooker.
Add your ingredients before work in the morning and, once you’ve clocked off, your dinner will be ready for you.
If you cook a lot of meat, we’d recommend the Russell Hobbs 6-litre Slow Cooker and Sous Vide, for £66.99. It has an integrated meat probe, which makes it ideal for making pot roasts and, alongside the sous-vide function, cooking steaks. It also comes with a removable, dishwasher-safe ceramic cooking pot that you can serve from.
Should you buy a pressure cooker?
Buy it for: batch cooking quickly. Like a slow cooker, a pressure cooker will help you to make the most of ingredients such as beans and tougher cuts of meat, but the difference is, it’ll do it in 45 minutes.
If you’re planning to do your cooking for the week ahead on a Sunday, this is the appliance to buy. You’ll be able to prep, cook and portion out a week's worth of food in a a couple of hours.
One of the best-rated pressure cooker buys is the Instant Pot Duo. You can buy the 8 litre Duo Pot from John Lewis for £139.99. A 5.7 litre version is only £99.99, but we’d always recommend opting for the larger model.
The best thing about the Duo is that it's multi-functional. As well as a pressure cooker, it’s a rice cooker, slow cooker yoghurt maker and steamer. You can also use it to sauté, warm food, make stock and, with more programmes, make cakes, cook eggs, sterilise and sous vide.
Get a blender – but which type?
A blender is an essential piece of kitchen equipment if you want to make food from scratch. But buying the right blender is key to getting a lot of use from it. So should you opt for an immersion or a countertop blender?
Should you buy an immersion blender?
Buy it for: soups. A hand blender or immersion blender is the best option for blending hot and high volume foods. If you’re planning to make a lot of soups, for example, it’s a great investment. There’s no need to transfer your ingredients around. Just cook up some some stock and vegetables and when it’s done, immerse your hand blender in the cooking pot to make a silky, creamy soup.
If you buy one with extra attachments, you can also use it for chopping vegetables, mashing and whisking.
Best luxury buy: We reviewed Smeg’s 700W hand blender. It's extremely powerful and you can buy it in a set with accessories, including a whisk, a 1.4 litre jug, a sealed chopper and a potato masher. The set is available from Currys in the red colourway, for £129.
Best budget buy: If you’re after something a bit more budget-friendly, try the Russell Hobbs Desire 3-in-1 hand blender. For £39.99, you’ll also get a whisk, blending cup and mini chopper. It’s not as robust or powerful as the Smeg hand blender, however, so you’ll need to treat it with care. Find out more in our review.
Should you buy a countertop blender?
Buy it for: making your own hummus, salsas, smoothies, protein shakes and more. If you want to make smaller volumes of food from scratch, puree vegetables and blend fruit drinks, this is the appliance for you.
Best luxury buy: Zwilling's Efinigy table blender does pretty much everything you'd want. You can use it on hot and cold foods, it's easy to use, it can crush ice – and it looks gorgeous while doing so. We loved it. The snag? It costs £199.
Best budget buy: For just £35, you can buy Breville's Blend Active. It's a brilliant kitchen assistant that'll chop, blend and puree. On the minus side, it only has a 450ml capacity, so it's not ideal for larger families.
However, if you're a solo household or in a couple, it's a solid option. You can also use it as a personal blender, as it comes with a travel bottle that you can blend a shake straight into and take to the gym. Find out more in our review.
Find an alternative to frying
Cooking with oil adds a surprising number of calories to food. If you want to cut out deep or shallow frying but retain the crunch in your fries and the browning on your steaks, consider an air fryer and a health grill. We've found some of the best options.
Air fryers don’t actually fry food at all. In fact, they’re mini convection (fan assisted) ovens but they are quick, economical and give food a crispy crunch when it’s cooked.
Air fryer with smart functionality: We tested the 5.5 litre Proscenic T21, which also has smart functionality. It’s a connected appliance that you can set and monitor from your phone, as well as access dozens of air fryer-optimised recipes. It's currently available for £98.
Multi-functional air fryer: If smart tech isn’t important to you, the big advantage of the Ninja Foodi Max Health Grill and Air Fryer (£179.99 from Amazon) is that it's a two-in-one appliance that can air fry and grill. It also has settings for baking, roasting, reheating and more.
Health grill: A grill gives you an option beyond frying meat, fish or vegetables in oil. Once you get used to it, you won't automatically reach for a frying pan. Our pick would be the new George Foreman Flexe (Currys, £49.99). You can use it as an open grill or closed as a press, make panini and toasties and store it vertically for a tidier kitchen cupboard. Have a look at our review to find out more.
Happy cooking, and happy new year.
If you need some help with your health in other areas, we’ve got ideas. Need to focus on getting a better night’s sleep? Have a look at our round-up of the best light alarms we’ve found. And if you struggle to get through the dark months of January and February, you might want to consider one of our tried-and-tested SAD lamps.