Put your wok away, there are easier ways to cook

A meal for the family can be prepared at the push of a few buttons. No skill. No recipes.

It used to be that all we needed was a wok. A steamer and a pot could be handy, but everything could still basically be done in just a wok.

But now, we have appliances to make life — and cooking — easier and simpler.

A meal for the family can be prepared at the push of a few buttons. No skill. No recipes.

Shanghai Daily looks at a few of the options out there now to save time and avoid culinary disaster.

Stir-fry machine

With the help of robots that can sweep, mop and even clean windows, housekeeping has become much less tedious.

But what if you want to make a nice stir-fry, one that’s not from an instant meal packet, with the click of a button?

Well, there’s now a stir-fry machine — an automatic and smart appliance that’s also known as the “lazy pot.”

The stir-fry machine by Joyoung, a brand known for its soy milk makers, retails for around 1,500 yuan (US$226) on Tmall, although the price may be higher in physical stores.

It’s certainly not cheap, but with a program containing 104 recipes, the stir-fry machine is an all-rounder that can handle most home-style dishes including hongshaorou (braised pork belly), sumptuous soups and even steamed rice.

The ad claims that the machine can finish cooking four dishes and a soup in 30 minutes, which can come in very handy when preparing a last-minute dinner.

Other brands, such as Minhang, Midea and Gemside, also sell stir-fry machines for 700-2,000 yuan.

Toss in all the ingredients, add the spices and select what you want to cook. The machine will do the rest, cooking and even stirring intelligently to cook the meat and vegetables perfectly.

The pros of the stir-fry machine are significant. It’s fast, accurate and there is none of the smoke and steam that comes from using a real wok.

For those living in apartments, it is a great alternative to induction cookers. It’s also easy to clean.

When it’s done, all you have to clean is the inner pot.

But the downside is not being able to personally control each step, such as choosing the tenderness of the meat and the crunchiness of the vegetables.

All the dishes are done uniformly in accordance with the pre-set programs.

But online reviews are generally positive and users say it is ideal for rented apartments, can cook up to six stir fries in an hour — including cleaning — and there is no need to learn a recipe.

Ti Gong

Stir-fry machine is programmed with more than 100 recipes and can prepare four dishes and a soup in 30 minutes.

All-in-one Chinese breakfast maker

Hard-boiled eggs, baozi (steamed bun with filling) and a plate of vegetables are the essentials of an ordinary Chinese breakfast, accompanied by a bowl of congee and a glass of soy milk or milk.

Normally, that takes a steamer to heat up the bun, a pot to boil the eggs and a pan to fry the veges.

These days, when mornings are rushed and there is little time to cook, all-in-one breakfast-makers can save the day.

The two- or three-tier electric cooker can cook eggs, buns and other dishes at the same time, and you can also combine different layers freely to suit your needs.

The breakfast-maker also has a timer to cook the eggs to your taste.

All this for 50-200 yuan.

Ti Gong

Breakfast cooker can cook eggs, buns and other dishes at the same time.

Hotpot and grill machine

Hotpot or grill? It’s a real dilemma. Bring on the hotpot and grill machine.

This features two sections: a pot for cooking the hotpot and a griddle for grilling meat and vegetables.

All the surfaces are non-stick and can be easily cleaned. The temperatures can be controlled separately to ensure the ingredients are cooked to perfection.

And it only costs 100-300 yuan, depending on the brand and size. It can also make quick stir-fries after removing the pot and some designs even offer a flat, round pan to heat up pizzas.

User reviews say this machine heats up food quickly, saves space and trouble and is especially ideal for making simple meals.

But some reviews say models with parts that cannot be separated are not so easy to clean.

Ti Gong

Hotpot and grill machine has a large pot and griddle.

Egg roll maker

The egg roll maker is a fun kitchen appliance shaped like a travel mug that cooks soft egg rolls automatically.

Add a little bit of cooking oil, let it warm up for two minutes and add two eggs, then an egg roll emerges. You can also add ham, cheese and vegetables.

Most reviews say this machine is useful, especially for breakfast. But it does not cook the top part thoroughly and the egg roll can break apart sometimes.

It costs 30-100 yuan and some models can cook two rolls simultaneously.

Ti Gong

Egg roll maker is a cheap appliance that cooks eggs in minutes.

Health pots

Yangshenghu, which translates into health pot, is a new concept kitchen appliance that emphasizes the Chinese philosophy of food for health.

Basically it’s a glass pot that comes with its own induction cooker, so you only need to plug it in, fill the water and ingredients and choose the cooking mode.

Health pots can brew herbal teas, stew soups and make yoghurt.

Buydeem health pots are very expensive — the top-of-the-line models cost more than 2,000 yuan. Other brands sell for 150-300 yuan.

The glass pots are easy to clean. A product of similar concept is the traditional Chinese medicine cooker, which is a clay pot with an induction cooker.

Ti Gong

Health pots can brew herbal teas, stew soups and make yoghurt.

Baby formula machines

For new parents, feeding babies is a hard task, especially at all hours of the night.

Fatigued parents have to boil the water, dissolve the milk powder, check the temperature and clean everything afterwards.

Automatic baby formula machines reduce the steps.

Just combine the water and milk and simply click a button or even operate it using a smartphone app.

But the machines are expensive — 300-2,000 yuan depending on the brand and functions — and are useful only for a short time in the early stages of your baby’s life.

Nestle offers BabyNes, with formula capsules similar to its Nespresso coffee machine.

The company stresses the efficiency and hygiene.

But this system creates plastic waste and gives no choice in the brand of formula.

BabyNes machine sells for 1,888 yuan, and a box of 26 capsules is 488 yuan.

Ti Gong

BabyNes uses formula capsules similar to the coffee machines.

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