We got 3 great kitchen tools as holiday gifts, and we’re putting them to good use

We unwrap the potential of our food-based Christmas presents.

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SodaStream store display
Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

There’s one question that loomed large when team Takeout returned back from our holiday break: What did you eat? Once we all shared perfectly drool-worthy dishes, the question then becomes: What will you eat, based on your holiday gifts? There’s a safe bet that either ourselves or a loved one knew to get us something for the kitchen, and there’s no time like that nebulous week between Christmas and New Year’s Day to start experimenting with new gadgets. Here’s what we’ve been cooking up so far.


SodaStream creations

I drink an obscene amount of sparkling water. More often than not, if I’m hydrating, there are bubbles involved. It’s a habit that not only adds up financially but creates a ton of waste in the form of aluminum cans, glass bottles, and cardboard containers. So when my parents gifted me a Terra SodaStream I knew immediately it would be a game changer in terms of my carbon footprint.

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Once I opened up that baby and saw how easy it was to use (just twist in the CO2 canister, and bubble up your water with the press of a button), the flavor experimentation began. Using combinations of SodaStream-sanctioned flavored drops, cocktail syrups, and good old fashioned fresh fruit, I’ve become something of a sparkling water mad scientist, trying to recapture the magic of my favorite existing flavors like grapefruit and cranberry lime while whipping up ones I’ve yet to see in the sparkling water aisle, like blackberry lemon and lime with mint.

(It’s important to note that the flavors are added after the carbonation and only water should be put through the SodaStream; my colleague Dennis Lee learned this lesson the hard way when apparently successfully carbonating sashimi, breaking the machine in the process.)

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My next concoction? Time to dive into the world of savory sparkling flavors. With my SodaStream by my side, I’ve got nothing to lose. —Brianna Wellen, associate editor

Ninja Foodi XL Air Fryer

I have joined the cult of air fryer. Over the holidays I was gifted the “6-in-1 8-qt. 2-Basket Air Fryer with DualZone Technology” from Ninja Foodi. The mouthful of a name matches the features on the thing.

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First off, the fact that it is double barreled (pew, pew) is immediately impressive because you can cook two different items at different temperatures and times but have them finish together. One of my biggest challenges in the kitchen is timing, so this solves that.

Although the air fryer came with a starter guide complete with a chart of time and temperature recommendations for common foods like broccoli, fish, chicken wings (boneless and bone-in), and others, I of course ignored that for the first week. When my food kept taking longer than expected to cook, or coming our with some parts cooked and some not, I learned a few lessons. Newbie tip: take the baskets out and shake things around for a more even cook.

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As of now, I have only air fried sweet potato fries, mozzarella sticks, frozen egg rolls, and chicken nuggets. However, the box and instructions say this dual-sided wonder can handle an entire chicken. I am pumped to test that out. I have watched endless TikToks of air fryer recipes, and now it’s my time to shine. —Angela L. Pagán, staff writer

Meater (and my Dutch oven)

For Christmas, I got two big food-related gifts. One of them was from my fiancée, and it was a device called a Meater, which is the best name for anything ever. The Meater is a wireless meat thermometer that you insert into a piece of meat. It’s shaped like a long nail, and by using an app on your phone, you can keep track of how long it’ll take to cook. The Meater is made for most major appliances, like your oven, grill, and stovetop (but not your microwave!).

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Since I like smoking meat during the summer, it’s the perfect gift for me, considering I appreciate no-fuss recipes where I can slow-cook something and go play video games in the meantime, yet not fuck up our dinner.

In tandem with the enameled Lodge Dutch oven I gifted myself, I used the Meater to braise a delicious pork shoulder, pulling the Dutch oven out at exactly the right temp once the app told me it was good to go. I’m excited to roast off a chicken soon, without having to check its temp around when I estimate it’s going to be ready, because I’ll know for sure it’ll be done to the right temp. As with anything, I’m sure it’ll take some practice; all gadgets are quirky. But at least there’ll be one more layer to help prevent me from disappointing myself, and that’s good. —Dennis Lee, staff writer