With the festive season already feeling like a distant memory, the dark, drizzly winter evenings can be a bit of a slog, but arriving home to the smell of a hearty home-cooked meal could help to banish those winter blues.
If you’re in need of some comfort food, there are plenty of handy kitchen gadgets that can help to rustle up a tasty meal. What’s more, they can be a savvy choice, helping you to get more veg in your diet or make the best of cheaper cuts of meat, not to mention doing the cooking for you. Read on for three kitchen helpers that could brighten up your January.
Kitchen gadget reviews – see reviews of everything from blenders to air fryers.
1. Make melt-in-the-mouth stews the easy way with a slow cooker
Slow cookers can be set up in the morning to pot-roast, braise or stew your food, so you’ve got a meal ready and waiting when you come home. They’re economical to run, and you can get away with using cheaper cuts of meat, such as stewing steak, brisket or skirt, as this slow and gentle cooking method helps to soften them up into tasty, tender mouthfuls.
Whether you want a casserole for one person, or enough stew to feed a large family, there will be a slow cooker to fit your needs. If you choose an oval-shaped model, and you aren’t fussed about achieving a crispy skin, you can roast a chicken economically too.
You can spend as little as £12 for a basic slow cooker, up to around £100. There’s no need to splash out unless you’ve got your heart set on a certain feature, though – we’ve found Best Buy slow cookers that will create delicious meals for less than £20.
See our slow cooker buying guide for more advice on the features worth having.
2. Make a speedy hot lunch with a soup maker
A soup maker can whip up a warming batch of soup without leaving you with a collection of dirty pots and pans to clean up. Soup makers cost from around £40 to more than £100, and will blend and cook your soup for a fuss-free meal. The pricier models will sauté your ingredients prior to cooking, which can help to give your soup extra flavour.
Most soup makers will also blend cold ingredients, so you can make smoothies, too. But not all soup makers are created equal. Our tests have found that some can be very noisy, while others are slow to cook or a hassle to clean. To find one that makes perfect soups, whether you like a smooth or chunky blend, see our pick of the best soup makers for 2018.
3. Wake up to warm bread with a bread maker
If you need some encouragement to get out of bed on a chilly morning, the smell of a freshly baked loaf wafting through the house might tempt you. But great bread must taste, as well as smell, fantastic, which is why we meticulously examine the loaves from every bread maker we test, checking the crust, texture and rise. Only the very best models earn our Best Buy logo, so you can rest assured that you won’t find any gaping holes, soggy bottoms or hard, sunken crusts.
If you like a speciality loaf, there are models with settings for everything from sourdough and pizza dough to gluten-free bakes. Some bread makers can also tackle extras such as making cakes, pasta dough and even jam. See our bread maker buying guide for more advice on choosing the best model for you.
Keen on a bread maker? Find out which are the best and most reliable bread maker brands.
Other ways to beat the winter blues
A warming bowl of soup with crusty bread on the side can be a great way to ward off chills, but if you need a more comprehensive solution, there are some useful appliances to consider.
If your home has cold spots, or you don’t want to have the central heating on all day, an energy-efficient portable heater can keep you warm without breaking the bank.
It may not be practical to leave your windows open for too long in the winter, but a closed environment can cause damp and condensation to build up in your home. We’ve tested more than 50 dehumidifiers, so if you’re suffering from condensation issues check our recommendations for the best dehumidifiers to buy in 2018.
With the short winter days, bright lighting can help cheer up dingy stairs and hallways. With the rise of super-bright 100W-replacement LED bulbs, there’s no need to settle for a bulb that’s dull and slow to brighten. Read our guide on how to choose the best energy-saving bulb to make sure you find one that’s warm and welcoming – as well as money-saving.
For more tips on keeping cosy, see our guide to making your home warm and healthy in 2018.