Chris Jones on what’s ‘hot’ and what’s ‘not’ in the 2012 Kitchen.

For a typical undergraduate, it doesn’t have to be 3p Morrisons’ value noodles, the classic beans on toast or, if you’re splashing out, oven chips for dinner every night. There are many products out there that can enhance the cooking repertoire of any student – including the ‘kitchen illiterate’ – and even impress the occasional dinner party guest.

Now, there is a whole new array of gastronomy gadgets out there that will set you back the equivalent of a bucketful of diced onions in eye-watering amounts of cash. But don’t worry – there are also a few handy tools that are, in true David Dickinson style, as cheap as chips (sorry, couldn’t resist). Take the bucket of chopped onions. This would seem like a never-ending chore for most students. However, with the Judge SS Onion Chopper, the task would not only take a fraction of the time, but at £12, a fraction of the cost of a good set of knives. Simply place your peeled onion (or vegetable of choice) into the container and push down to unleash its sharp blades. The Onion Chopper is ideal for the clumsy, lazy student that seems to go through plasters like finger food at a party.

If, on the other hand, you think that your knife skills are up to scratch and you would much rather persevere through the tears, there may be another option: Eddingtons’ Onion Goggles. Yes Onion Goggles. £10 might seem a lot for a pair of padded glasses but they do work. Just don the goggles for a quick demonstration to your flatmates, and you will have them crying with laughter in no time!

A frozen bag of oven chips may be the most convenient of the home cooking methods available, but is that the most flavoursome?  I think not. But like the onion, peeling and chopping a potato can be time consuming. Instead, why not invest in a home potato chipper. From as little as £10, these machines will not only save time, but produce chips of equal size; allowing even cooking.

And how to cook those freshly thick cut chips? The true Scottish way would be to dunk them in the deep fat fryer and enjoy them in all their golden glory. But that is a sure fire way of helping us maintain the unhealthiest country in Europe’ crown. In steps the Tefal Actifry. With just one spoon of the oil of your choice, 1kg of chips can be cooked, in less than 3% fat. From around £100 you would expect a high quality product and despite a number of overheating issues in the past (and the occasional fire or two), the Actifry has undergone some major updates to stamp out teething issues, and is now one of Which? magazine’s top three fryers.

These fairly inexpensive items will help to an extent, but what if you don’t have a clue where to start and just want to put the ingredients into the gadget and let the technology do the work? Well, if you fancy some fresh soup for lunch, a blender would certainly be a good investment. Just add everything and blend! Moreover, there are blenders that will also heat your soup for you, like the £140 Soup Maker & Blender from Cuisinart.

And, if the prospect of cooking a roast dinner reduces you to curling up into a ball and rocking back and forth in the corner of a room due to the memories of past attempts, then you may have to splash out. No, not for a psychiatrist but for a ‘smart’ oven. With offerings from De Dietrich, TMIO, Samsung and more, these extraordinary machines are sure to invade the next generation of kitchens. The Samsung Zipel oven is combined with an Android smartphone app to control your oven from anywhere in the world. All that is required is to select the desired dish on the app, having prepared the ingredients beforehand and placed them inside the Zipel. You could be sitting in your dreaded 5 p.m. lecture and simply fire up the app and, in a few touches, be cooking with gas (infrared and ceramic plates actually).

TMIO have taken this concept a step further. They produce an oven that will not only cook your food by remote commands, but will refrigerate the pre-prepared food in the oven before cooking. This ensures that your carefully prepared dinner will not go off by leaving it out. However, this functionality comes at a price: £5000. Is it really worth it? Probably not. Personally, I would wait until the Internet-enabled kitchen revolution is well underway and prices have dropped.

For around £1000, De Dietrich’s offering is significantly cheaper and, although there is no connectivity with other devices, it still has a few tricks up its sleeve. This oven has enough settings to keep a trained fighter pilot busy for days. Instead of simply selecting a time to finish, the type of food you wish to cook is chosen on the touch screen. The oven uses its built-in scales to measure the weight of the foodstuff and will adjust the cooking time accordingly. Furthermore, with internal humidity sensors, De Dietrich makes sure that your food will never be too dry. And when it comes round to cleaning this oven, there is no need to unleash those toxic oven cleaner fumes. Just let it run through its crematorium cleaning cycle. This heats the oven to 500 °C and turns anything inside to dust.

With a big fuss being made over internet-enabled TVs this year, I am sure we will see this spill over to more home appliances, especially in the kitchen. Not just ovens but fridges, dishwashers and blenders will all be connected so that when you arrive home, your favourite smoothie is ready, the dishes are spotless and the fridge has ordered replacements for the out-of-date produce to be delivered. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for that wirelessly connected chopping board we all desire.

Chris Jones
Image credit – M. Brandt