No matter how much we love to cook, our busy modern lives mean there's not always time to spend slaving over a hot stove. Step forward technology. These days there are hundreds of kitchen gadgets on the market, each designed to make life just that little bit easier. Here are the five you shouldn't be without.
If you just can't get going without a caffeine boost, a coffee machine is an essential. The smell of a freshly brewed cup will wake up even the sleepiest of heads, and save you a pretty penny on those high street lattes. For the ultimate professional coffee, De'Longhi's Bean-to-Cup Coffee Machine is a winner but comes with a hefty price tag of £549.95. If you don't want to spend that kind of cash, their Vintage Icona Espresso Machine is a more reasonable £189.95 (from John Lewis), while the Cookworks version from Argos is an even more palatable £38.89.
It purees, liquifies, chops and froths - what's not to like about the blender? Whether you're a soups or smoothies fan, it's a must-have time-saving device. Top of the list is the Philips HR2084/90 Blender (£70), which has enough power to crush ice, removable blades for easy cleaning, and a fruit filter that allows you to juice without seeds or pips. For a cheaper alternative, try the Lloytron Table Blender (£29.65), which comes with a separate grinder attachment.
Top of the list for health-conscious cooks, a good steamer can cook meat, fish and veggies without losing any of their natural goodness. If you're strapped for cash, the traditional Typhoon two-tier bamboo steamer is a great way to stay healthy and is priced at just £24.95 at Amazon. But for £99.99, the Morphy Richards Intellisteam 48781 is perfect for cooking whole family meals, as its horizontal layout allows for each compartment to cook for a different amount of time.
Deep fat fryer
When you're getting your five a day and a healthy mix of carbs and lean protein, you can afford a little indulgent treat every now and again. And as a nation of chip lovers, there really is nothing quite like a chunky, thick-cut homemade chip. Even better, deep fat fryers don't have to cost the earth. The Shef Mini Deep Fryer costs just £39.99 from Amazon and will happily fulfil those occasional cravings, but if you're prone to a guilty conscience, try the Philips AirFryer, a healthier, oil-free version (RRP £200).
No busy mum, dad, student or professional should be without a slow cooker. It's the ultimate kitchen gadget for anyone who doesn't have time to cook a warming winter meal every evening. Simply fry off the meat and bung all the ingredients for your stew, casserole or curry into the pot and press the button. By the time you return home, you'll have a bowl of comfort food that's hard to beat.
At the bargain end of the market, the Crock-Pot 2.4l slow cooker has an RRP of just £19.99, but if you're feeding a family, the Morphy Richards 48718 6.5l machine (RRP £49.99) might suit your needs better.
What's your must-have kitchen appliance? Let us know below...