The snackmaker smackdown: The kitchen gadgets you need in your … – Sydney Morning Herald

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Baffled by the growing range of snackmaking appliances hitting the shelves? Neil McMahon hits the ON button and puts seven popular gadgets through their paces.

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In our appliance-laden lives, few areas of the kitchen marketplace have experienced the growth – and the inevitable consumer confusion – as the area that can be broadly sliced off as “the snackmaker” sector.
Walk into a department store and shelves are groaning with gadgets – one major chain store even helpfully groups them under the banner “Cookware/Novelty”, an honest way of saying that we are talking about gadgets that often appear to be gimmicks – and gimmicks that sometimes turn out to be handy little gadgets. But at first glance, you can never be sure.
The snackmakers come big and small, cheap and expensive, brilliant and occasionally baffling. “I need that!” competes for mental space with “What on earth would anyone want that for?”
The only way to find out is to try it, so that’s what I did — diving into the endless promises of snack-time nirvana and discovering how much the broader food industry has embraced them.
The machines promise a lot on their own; recipe websites and social media influencers promise a lot more. Are there really 40 different things to cook in your pie maker? Apparently, yes, there are. Using a pie maker merely to make pies is strictly for amateurs.
Let me confess that I can be snack demon. I can live on snacks, and at times have done just that. And while researching this story, I sacrificed my mostly healthy diet and did it again.
Regrets? I’ve had a few … but not many.
Let’s start with the big guy.
I have the Cucina Essenziale, a low-to-mid range pizza maker that retails for about $70. We are not talking a pizza oven here (the fancy ones of which can run into many hundreds of dollars). These are the pizza makers with a hinged lid and a hot plate, on to which you place your dough and your topping … and that is literally that.
The most complicated thing is deciding which toppings to add. I went for full convenience using pre-made supermarket pizza dough, so the whole process took me about 25 minutes – 10 minutes to shape the dough and make the pizza while the Cucina was warming up, and about 12 minutes to cook it.
Verdict: A definite winner. I make pizza from scratch often and bake it in a very hot oven or do it on the Weber. This eliminates a lot of fuss and time.
Pie makers have been around for years now, popularised by homewares stores such as Kmart, where the six-pie machine I have can be had for $39 and often even cheaper during sales. This is a sturdy beast that delivers in spades.
Firstly, it does what it says on the box: it makes great pies. It’s best to keep it simple as the snack gods intended. Get some store-bought pastry, make or buy your filling of choice (sweet or savoury … if you fancy a fruit pie, the fillings can be bought in tins) and off you go.
You can even do away with the pastry and line the pie maker with a slice or two of bacon or ham, crack an egg into it, sprinkle some cheese on top, and you have a breakfast or lunch snack in 10 minutes.
The thing I use mine for most is “poached” eggs – no water needed. Just crack an egg straight into a pie hole and three or four minutes later you have perfect, runny-yolk goodness.
Verdict: A no-brainer. Get a pie maker.
This was a new frontier in my snack-making journey and I wasn’t convinced I needed it. Now I know: I needed a sausage roll maker.
And you probably do too, even if you don’t like sausage rolls.
Here’s the thing: all those recipe website promises of wondrous cooking adventures to be had with this $25 device are true. The sausage roll maker does what it says on the box, and much more.
It’s incredibly easy to make sausage rolls. Take some mince. Mix it in a bowl with an egg and half a cup of breadcrumbs and whatever seasonings and spices you fancy. Cut a pastry sheet in half and drape it across the bottom of the sausage roll maker. Add the mince into the appropriate cavity (or cavities). Drape the other half of the pastry sheet on top and close the lid.
I was sceptical (mainly that the filling would cook) but 12 minutes later I had four golden, crispy, delicious sausage rolls. The machine even shapes and edges the rolls for you. Time: 20 minutes.
You can repeat this simple routine with anything you fancy. Buy a can of apple pie filling, spice it up with cinnamon, and do exactly as you did with the sausage rolls, only using fruit rather than meat.
Or try this. Cut a block of cream cheese into thin slices and put a couple in each pastry cavity. Then take a chocolate bar of choice (in the interests of research I did this with a Mars Bar, a Toblerone and a Caramilk) and put it on top of the cream cheese. Drape the pastry roof on top, shut the lid and in 10 minutes you’ll have a sinfully steaming chocolate and cream cheese dessert pastry that tastes like money.
Verdict: No kidding. You need a sausage roll maker.
A first glance, this range of devices (the Mini Waffle Maker, MyMini Electric Skillet and Noodle Maker, and the MyMini Grill) look like they were made for a family of hobbits that has just had the electricity turned on. Each fits in the palm of your hand and costs between $15 and $30, and it’s not immediately obvious to me who they are aimed at.
The Mini Waffle Maker is the clear winner and the one I will use a lot. I made waffle batter from scratch (a 10-minute task), warmed up the machine and in short order was devouring two delicious golden waffles drenched in ice-cream, frozen fruit and dollops of cream. Divine, if less than useful for anyone not cooking for one.
The MyMini Grill functions as a single-dish grill and I made a serviceable muffin burger in it. The MyMini Electric Skillet and Noodle Maker does indeed make two-minute noodles and fry an egg, but was so fiddly to use that I really couldn’t see the point. So they do what they say they will do; the question is why you would want them to do it.
Which brings home the obvious point: these niche snack doohickies are for a very particular market. Students might like them, and they’d be great if you wanted to whip up snacks in your hotel room or in a youth hostel kitchen. They’d also be handy in a caravan or holiday home.
Verdict: Yes for the waffles. With the others, only if your living space or general lifestyle sees a need for them.
I love my little Sunbeam egg cooker, and if you eat eggs a lot and in many different ways, you might, too.
It’s a simple bit of kit. It has a rack that holds six eggs for boiling to various degrees of done, two poaching trays, and a steaming rack (which can also be used for vegies). I’ve never used it for the latter, and I like my poached eggs made in the pie maker, but it’s a beauty for boiling eggs. Follow the cooking time advice and you won’t go wrong – the soft-boiled and hard-boiled eggs are perfection.
Verdict: Yes, if you really love your eggs.
Pizza oven
Waffle maker
Piemaker
Sausage roll maker
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