Magazine article USA TODAY

Kitchen Helpers. (What's New? Small Appliances, Tools, and Gadgets)

Magazine article USA TODAY

Kitchen Helpers. (What's New? Small Appliances, Tools, and Gadgets)

Article excerpt

* Recent studies have discovered that the kitchen is arguably the most-important room in the house, whether for families or busy singles striving to expand their vistas beyond a refrigerator full of leftover take-out food. To confirm that more appliances are needed than just a microwave oven, Applica Consumer Products, Inc., Shelton, Conn., a division of Black & Decker, has a wide variety designed to make life easier in the kitchen.

For versatility, efficiency, and ease of operation, it is hard to top the countertop Toast-R-Oven Plus ($99). This solidly built, large-capacity machine seemingly does everything but wash the dishes after the meal, as it toasts, broils, and bakes with topflight ability, handling anything from an English muffin to an entire chicken or roast. A simplified, easy-to-read trio of control knobs ranging down along the face allows you to establish function, temperature, and timing with a mere click. The oven can be regulated by the Worry-Free-Timer, which automatically turns the appliance off at the designated time desired, the sole drawback being that it only has an hour-and-a-half window to work within, so you cannot preset a dish that requires more time.

The toaster has a wide range of settings from light to dark and everywhere in between, a belt signal to let you know when it's done, start and stop buttons, and a top-browning setting for melting cheese onto a homemade bagel pizza and other inventive quickie recipes. Meanwhile, the baker does a great job on cookies, pies, potatoes, and meatloaf. A slide-out crumb tray makes cleaning a snap, especially since the entire inner surface can be wiped easily with a soap-and-water-coated sponge or nylon pad. The outer surface is treated at the top and sides with ThermaGuard to prevent burns should you accidentally touch them while the device is on.

Once you are done eating, leftovers can be preserved neatly and efficiently with the Seal-Away Vacuum Bag Sealer (about $50), which creates its own plastic bags for virtually any size you might need, sucks the air out to form a vacuum, then seals the bag closed for storage in freezer or refrigerator. When ready to use again, the bag can either be slit open and emptied or popped into a microwave or boiling water to reheat the contents, The Seal-Away allows you to package meat, fish, or poultry for the freezer; retain crispness of fruit and vegetables; retard mold; and ensure greater shelf life for dried foods. …

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