Much data has been mined around quarantine cooking, eating and drinking trends. A May report from The NPD Group revealed a spike in sales of carb-centric kitchen gadgets including bread machines and pasta makers between mid-March and mid-April this year. Not terribly surprising, considering the need for comfort in all forms during the pandemic (which is far from over). Below, we take a closer look at the most popular kitchen tools during quarantine.
During the five weeks analyzed in the study, sales of electric pasta-makers, bread machines, electric griddles and rice cookers saw major growth -- all "after two years of flat or declining sales." Waffle makers also saw a surge in popularity, but had been doing well even before this period (brunch never gets old, after all).
While summer lasts, grills may steal people's appliance affections (we tend to call on the Instant Pot, slow cooker and cast iron a lot during the summer months too), but these comfort food gadgets won't be going anywhere.
Pasta is a perennial favorite -- and a pantry staple, easy to make into a meal with minimal additions -- but in the early days of quarantine, it was scarce at many supermarkets, so it would be natural to expect more interest in making it at home.
Making pasta is also a time-consuming kitchen project (in a good way!), and we know many people wanted to preoccupy themselves with comforting activities. So the rise in pasta maker sales is not surprising -- but you should know, it's also pretty easy to make pasta without a machine. As long as you can find flour, that is.
Obviously. Baking bread -- sourdough in particular -- was the de rigueur quarantine kitchen project, even for novice bakers who had never once looked for yeast or attempted to make a starter before. The attendant surge in popularity of bread machines is only natural, though they're not necessary for a great homemade loaf.
Now that it's too hot to turn the oven on, bread frenzy seems to have waned (or at least shifted to stovetop methods such as easy flatbread and outdoor endeavors like grilled pizza dough) -- but it's only a matter of time before fall triggers the cozy baking craze to start up again.
In the meanwhile, if you do have a dedicated bread maker, see how to use a bread machine for lots of things besides bread.
Our guess is that waffle makers saw a spike since (a) people couldn't outsource brunch with restaurants closed and (b) people suddenly had to feed their kids way more meals at home than normal. As many no doubt discovered, waffle irons happen to be good for making lots more than their namesake breakfast treat too, from fantastic grilled cheese sandwiches to delicious desserts.
If the old one you picked up at that garage sale four summers back isn't quite cutting it anymore, see our picks for the best waffle makers of 2020 -- and then see all the wonderful things you can make in one. Plus, it pays to know how to clean a waffle maker (the best tool for the job might just be in your bathroom).
We're betting the increased interest in these handy kitchen appliances might have had something to do with people ordering less takeout -- or maybe it's just that rice is such a delicious, versatile, affordable and filling staple, everyone was eating way more of it. Rice cookers certainly take the guesswork out of preparing your grains, and keep them warm for a while to boot. The end result barely needs any dressing up to become dinner, and leftovers make amazing fried rice.
Rounding out the list of popular quarantine appliances, electric griddles make sense too; they can handle big batches of eggs, pancakes, bacon and hashbrowns for family breakfast or do several sandwiches at once. Ditto steaks at dinner ... and they give you a little of that diner vibe, especially if you make smashburgers or patty melts. So you can at least feel like you're going out for dinner, even if you're still staying home.
If you're cooking solo, an electric griddle happens to be less hassle and keeps the kitchen cooler than using the oven, especially in the summer months, so no need to shelve yours any time soon.
This story was originally published on CNET sister site Chowhound.