The 8 best cooking tools and small appliances for winter
Here’s what you need to stay warm and healthy in cold weather.
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Throughout the winter months, the frigid weather, insufficient sunlight, and occasional snowstorms can sometimes take a toll on our wellbeing—as many of us are fighting off winter blues, eating well may not be the easiest goal to achieve.
But with the right gadgets, winter cooking can be just as enjoyable as summer grilling. From hand blenders to air fryers and more, here are some tools to motivate you to cook and warm your body and soul.
1. A Dutch oven for mulled wine, crusty bread, and hearty stews
If you’re looking for a kitchen workhorse that can take on challenging tasks like baking bread, braising meat, and simmering stew, a Dutch oven is an obvious investment. Because of its durability, versatility, and simplicity, it also makes a perfect kitchen tool in the time of the year that weather conditions are less predictable. In our tests, the Staub Dutch oven narrowly beat out the well-known Le Creuset, thanks to its perfectly round shape that fits on the stovetop and in the pantry. While a little heavier than some others, this Staub Dutch oven cooks evenly and quickly. It also has a large sautéing area, but doesn’t prevent you from putting other large pots on the stove.
Get the Staub Cast Iron 5.5-qt Round Cocotte on Amazon for $325
2. A portable cooktop that allows you to cook stress-free
If you’ve dreamed of a cooktop that doesn’t wear grease like a medal, then I have some good news. This portable induction cooktop is a great appliance for people who like to cook but hate cleaning. It's also great for outdoors-y types who take regular ski trips and stay in lodges with less-than-ideal kitchens.
To start using the hot plate, simply fit a pan snugly on top of the induction surface and make sure all corners are within the exterior of the base (except for the soup pot, which rises above the base because of its depth). To switch pans while they’re still hot, you can use the finger mitts included with the box. There’s no need to worry about switching the heat off while doing the swap, thanks to the induction heating system.
3. An Instant Pot for easy, quick meals
People love their Instant Pots for a lot of reasons—the most obvious one is that you can have meals ready in 20 minutes instead of an hour. If you dread cooking from time to time and crave hearty curries and stews in the winter, an Instant Pot will make you fall back in love with preparing your meals.
Of all the multi-cookers on the market, our favorite one is the Instant Pot Ultra. It has ten settings—from steaming to pressure cooking—as well as an updated interface that offers simplified dials and comprehensive display that takes the guesswork out of cooking times.
Get the Instant Pot Ultra on Amazon for $109
4. An air fryer for your greasy food cravings
Whether you like it or not, the air fryer craze isn’t going away anytime soon—especially not when everyone’s stuck inside and craving carb-heavy foods. For people who want to enjoy these treats but cut back on oil, a powerful air fryer may be a good choice. As for which air fryer can fry up the crunchiest chicken wings that are on par with deep frying, we tested a bunch to find out—and the Philips XXL took the cake.
Get the Philips XXL Air Fryer on Amazon for $200
5. A slow cooker for lazy weekends (and weeknights)
I always appreciate my slow cooker more than anything when it’s freezing out—minimal effort for warm, delicious food. Whether you want to set it up for a weeknight meal or bring it to a Super Bowl party, having the best slow cooker will enable you to cook high-quality meals and transport food easily. After testing several slow cookers, we fell in love with the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Multicooker. Not only did this cooker ace most of our tests, but it was also by far the easiest to use and was able to maintain a safe “keep warm” temperature.
Get the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central 6-quart Multicooker on Amazon for $111.99
6. A roasting pan that you can use all winter long
When it comes to cooking in the winter, we tend to focus on heavy, filling foods and overlook the importance of vegetables. But why not enjoy both? A roasting pan is good for more than making a Thanksgiving turkey —a good pan can be used to sear meats on the stovetop and finish cooking them over a bed of vegetables in the oven. In our testing, the Viking tri-ply stainless steel roasting pan was the top performer of the group, both on oven tests and stovetop tests.
Thanks to its sturdiness, it can handle a 20-pound turkey and it’s capable of cooking anything you throw at it. If you’re on a tight budget, we also like this roaster from Circulon, as it can sear beautiful pork loin and chicken—and its lightweight and easy to clean.
7. An immersion blender for soup lovers
Admittedly, it’s generally agreed that soup is the food of winter. But cooking soup from scratch can be a daunting task—that’s why we love immersion blenders (or hand blenders). In our roundup, this well-designed, easy-to-use Breville Control Grip blended perfect soups and creamy pesto.
8. A rice cooker that makes more than white rice
I usually don’t have the patience to make rice on the stovetop, not to mention when days are short and I’m always running out of time doing other things. But I love rice enough to have invested in a rice cooker that not only does white rice superbly, but is also smart enough to tell me the exact water-to-rice ratio in brown, quinoa, jasmine, and other types of rice.
By using a rice cooker, like our favorite Panasonic Fuzzy Logic, you can avoid constantly hovering over a boiling pot to ensure the grains are fully cooked without burning the bottom. In our tests, we found this rice cooker to have the most consistent results with its four settings: Quick, White, Brown, and Porridge.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.