HOW TO BUY THE BEST COOKING AID
When it comes to preparing food at home, we believe our Food Preparation range has every job covered. However, it can be daunting working out which product is for you; as ever, we'd like to give you a helping hand...
TYPE OF PRODUCT
Juicers are used to extract nutrient-rich juice from fruit and vegetables. They leave behind a pulp, which includes insoluble fibre, skins and seeds, making the juice easy for our bodies to digest. The nutrients are highly concentrated in a juice and absorbed quickly into the bloodstream. You can usually consume more produce in a juice than you would in a smoothie made in a blender; however you will need more ingredients to make the same volume. There are two styles of juicer, centifrugal and masticating. Centifrugal juicers work by spinning the ingredients in a chamber against a mesh filter at high speed. They are good for hard and soft ingredients, are quick to use and require little preparation as they can handle whole fruit. Masticating juicers work by squeezing and crushing the ingredients at a much slower speed than a centifrugal juicer. They are particularly good at juicing leafy vegetables and the juices created last longer than those made in a centifrugal juicer, as less oxidation occurs during the juicing process. Masticating juicers do take longer to juice and they won't handle whole fruit or vegetables, so some prep work is necessary. It's important to consider the power of a juicer; most raw vegetables are hard and fibrous and need a powerful motor in order to produce a smooth juice.
What to look for: Powerful motor, dishwasher safe attachments or cleaning tools, wide feed tube, juice jug with foam separator, variable speed
Blenders are used to liquidise, mix and puree food; they are not designed for using purely with dry ingredients. Blenders are best used to make smoothies, milkshakes, soups and sauces and will give a much better result than if you try to make these in a food processor. They are also better at making small quantities of sauces than a food processor. However, a blender will not chop or grate; for this you need a food processor. A blender will pulverise the whole ingredient and leave no pulp, retaining any nutrients in the skins, piths and seeds. This is insoluble fibre that slows down digestion to leave you feeling fuller for longer but also slows down the absorption of the nutrients. You can use a wider variety of ingredients in a blender than you can in a juicer, such as pulses, yoghurt, creamy foods and liquids. They are good for blending fruits such as avocado and bananas, which have no juice.
What to look for: Variable speeds, good quality blending jug, dishwasher safe parts, ice crush
Often referred to as immersion or stick blenders, hand blenders offer similar functionality to a bar blender, but can conveniently be operated directly in the bowl or saucepan. This avoids having to dispense the liquid into a tabletop blender for liquidising, reducing spillages and the amount of washing up! They are compact and can be easily stored in a drawer or cupboard between uses, or kept on a work top without needing too much space. Some come with attachments such as a chopping bowl, which is designed for slicing small amounts of ingredients, or a whisk. Most come with a mixing bowl or jug. Hand blenders offer a variety of speeds, but are not powerful enough to crush ice.
What to look for: Variety of tools, easy to handle, multiple speeds
A food processor will chop, grate, knead, slice and mix - all things that you could do by hand, but if you are serious about cooking then the time and energy it will save makes a food processor an essential piece of kitchen kit. It's among the most expensive item you will need to buy, but investing in a good processor will give you great results. A good food processor will be able to chop large quantities of fruits, vegetables, nuts and meat with consistent results. The grating attachment will work with hard cheese, vegetables and bread, creating fine breadcrumbs in seconds. They are useful when making pastry or dough. Like a blender, a food processor will mix soups and sauces but work well with smaller quantities and the results probably won't be quite as smooth.
Hand Mixers are an alternative option to kitchen top stand mixers. Used primarily for baking, they are compact and easy to store between uses. A variety of attachments can include balloon whisks, dough hooks and flat beaters. The advantage of using a hand mixer over a stand mixer for baking is that more air can be added to the mixture, as the bowl is not as enclosed, allowing the air to circulate. Mixing with a hand mixer also gives you a better idea of when the mixture has reached the required state. Hand Mixers can also be used for mashing potato, mixing sauces, whisking egg white and kneading dough.