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With the craziness of the coronavirus pandemic, the election, and 2020 in general, we could all use a little more comfort than usual, especially as we head into the new year. For some of us, that means whipping up a gooey pot of mac and cheese, a soothing cup of chicken noodle soup, or a sweet brownie skillet. I’m talking about comfort food.
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Before you can even think about making your favorite comfort foods, you need to make sure you have the proper tools in your kitchen. Thankfully, the cooking experts at Review have spent the entire year testing hundreds of products to determine not only what you need to make comfort food, but the best model of each to do so. Below, you’ll find the 10 best things you need for making comfort food.
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1. Instant Pot
Pressure cookers are great for when you want a bowl of comfort food—and fast. I mean, how else could you make a creamy bowl of risotto in less than 30 minutes? Reviewed staffers are big fans of the Instant Pot for everything from single-serving meals to a big pot of chili for the whole fam. After testing a variety of pressure cookers, our experts determined that the Instant Pot Ultra is the best model out there because it offers 10 different cooking settings and is intuitive to use.
2. A slow cooker
Food made in a slow cooker just hits different. It’s a fact. When food simmers for several hours it results in the most succulent flavors and tender meats—a.k.a. everything you could ask for in comfort food. Our favorite slow cooker is the Cuisinart 3-in-1 Cook Central because it’s was the easiest to use of all the slow cookers we tested. Plus, it’s very light, which is ideal for storage.
3. Casserole dish
A casserole dish is one of those things I didn’t have until I needed to make apple crumble bars, and now I can’t imagine my life without one. How else could I make lasagna, baked mac and cheese, or dump and bake cheesy casseroles? Casseroles are really the foundation for comfort food, and our experts recommend using Pyrex glass dishes for even cooking and easy storage.
4. Potato ricer
Mashed potatoes are one of the top five comfort foods out there, but to make the creamiest, fluffiest mashed potatoes you’ll need a gadget called the potato ricer. Seriously. It works by pushing boiled potatoes through a tiny grate, breaking them up into the smallest pieces possible without disturbing the starch molecules. It’s a game-changer for mashed potato fans. This one from Chef’n is the best potato ricer we’ve ever tested because it’s pretty much effortless to use.
6. Popcorn maker
Munching on popcorn is definitely a form of self care. But you don’t want the microwaveable bag—you need freshly popped kernels. Popcorn is extremely easy to make at home with a popper, and the best popcorn popper we ever tested does so in a microwave—so basically, it’s the easiest thing ever. We loved the Cuisinart Pop And Serve Popcorn Maker because it requires little work and it doubles as a bowl for fast serving and minimal cleanup.
7. Ice cream maker
Yes, you could always buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s and eat it on the couch or you could have a little fun and make your own ice cream at home. While a bit more intensive, this one from Cuisinart is the best ice cream maker we’ve ever tested. We loved this ice cream maker because it’s not only easy to use, but it was the fastest of all the ones we tested, meaning you won’t have to wait as long for your rocky road.
8. Air fryer
If you’re trying to make healthier versions of your comfort food favorites, try an air fryer. You can use it for everything from making buffalo wings to crisping up your favorite Trader Joe’s appetizers. It’s one of those specialty kitchen gadgets you’ll actually use. The Cuisinart Compact AirFryer is our favorite affordable air fryer because it actually fits on your kitchen counter and it evenly “fries” whatever you put into it.
9. Dutch oven
Soups, stews, roasts—the Dutch oven does it all, making it the ultimate comfort food tool. With the ability to be used on the stovetop or in the oven, they are truly a versatile piece of equipment. The Staub Round Cocotte beat out the cult-favorite Le Creuset in our testing for the best Dutch ovens because it aced all our cooking tests and its shape fits better on most stovetops. If you don’t already have one, it might change your life (in the kitchen).
10. Cast iron skillet
Two words: cookie skillet. Cast iron skillets are good for more than just searing steak—they can be used for a number of comfort foods like dessers and creamy spinach artichoke dip. Why? Well they’re versatile enough to sauté a few ingredients before fully cooking your meal in the oven. Lodge makes the best affordable cast iron pan we’ve ever tested because it cooks perfectly for its low price point.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.