Every few years, a kitchen gadget, appliance or tool captures hearts and minds. From the Microplane in the mid-’90s to the Instant Pot in the 2010s, when kitchen products become a cultural phenomenon, they blow the hell up.
The Instant Pot’s success was directly born from a successful Frankenstein integration of a pressure cooker with seemingly infinite other kitchen appliances, but it alluded to buying interests mutating with deeper societal shifts. Namely, rise of smaller living spaces — the result of the growing cost of developing land — and longer working hours. We don’t have the cabinet space to keep a dozen unitaskers around or the time to assemble a meal on the stovetop. The “next Instant Pot,” if there’s going to be one, will likely follow this path. The kitchen appliance industry’s best bet? Super microwaves.
“The microwave oven is in more than 85 percent of kitchens and used frequently every day. There are not a lot of other appliances out there with those stats,” explains Catherine Ruspino, Breville’s general manager of cooking. “One microwave downfall has been food results. Generally people have ratcheted down expectations and made do, so of course we see a lot of companies trying to solve that problem.”
Ruspino is referring to a wave of new mini-ovens primed to fight for your countertop space. Brands like Hamilton Beach, Cuisinart, Breville, Anova Culinary and Instant Pot itself have unveiled their takes on it, each armed with its own toolbelt of presets and cooking styles. But all aim to accomplish similar feats: more cooking options per square-inch, faster cook times and faster preheat times. From air frying microwaves to commercial steam ovens made for the home, these are the next generation of countertop appliances.
Hamilton Beach Digital Sure-Crisp Air Fry Toaster Oven
Debuted at IHHS 2019, Hamilton Beach’s take on the trend is peak Hamilton Beach. That is to say it’s suspiciously affordable and just a bit different than what other kitchen appliance heavyweights are doing. Its Sure-Crisp oven works as a traditional toaster oven, an air fryer and a rotisserie. The space on the inside of the machine is too small to cook some whole chickens (the roided-up grocery store variety), but fits smaller chickens, cornish hens and other small rotiss-able meats just fine. Use the air fry function on frozen food instead of a conventional oven — it’s faster and it’s not going to change what ends up on the plate.
Instant Pot Vortex Plus
Instant Pot’s take on the next Instant Pot is a cube-shaped machine with a slew of useful presets. The machine boasts air fry, roast, broil, bake, reheat, dehydrate and rotisserie smart programming. Moreso than the Hamilton Beach machine, it has the potential to completely replace not only a microwave, but a conventional oven.
A pricier version of what’s come before with a handful of useful features thrown in. The Livenza toasts, bakes, broils, reheats and keeps things warm, plus a handful of food-specific preset modes for cookies, pizza and so on. But it also comes with an app that delivers hundreds of recipes designed for the device, heats up significantly faster than traditional ovens (and most of the new ones on this list) and, thanks to what De’Longhi calls Heat Lock System, doesn’t put off as much heat outside the oven.
Cuisinart AirFryer Toaster Oven
Cuisinart’s multifunctional oven is similarly stacked with cook modes, but it boasts one thing the more affordable options don’t: slow cooking. Its temperature range is 80 to 450 (the widest of the aforementioned ovens), and it’s able to maintain those temperatures far longer than cheaper options. Plus, it’s got a preset function for proofing dough and making jerky.
Breville Combi Wave
Breville’s Combi Wave could take the place of your microwave and oven in one fell swoop. It’s a convection oven, an inverter microwave and, yes, an air fryer. It has more smart programming capabilities than all the previous ovens combined to go along with a number of standard presets (including “melt chocolate” and “soften butter” options). On its “Fast Combi” setting, it uses a broiler, convection oven and microwave heat sources simultaneously. It’s also got a satisfying quiet-closing door.
Anova Precision Oven
Anova’s inclusion on this list isn’t quite fair. For one, there’s no set release date for the product, and it’s not necessarily gunning for your microwave. Instead, the company that makes reall killer sous-vide circulators is making a sleek-looking steam combi-oven. Steam combi-ovens are staples in commercial kitchens thanks to far more precise heat conductivity and temperature stability, but due to a lack of well-priced, countertop-sized versions, they’ve yet to take hold in the residential space. No specs or pricing info are available yet.
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