Around the House: Home helpers that multi-task to make life easier

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Readers of a certain age will remember when all you did with a phone was talk through it. In some amazement, this demographic watched a household staple morph into a multi-functional tool that supports every aspect of home and work life — from schedules to healthy eating to system controls.

The home appliance industry followed, creating a new generation of multi-functional machines and technology. The toaster oven — itself an innovation when it was brought to market in the early 1900s — is a good example.

A few years ago, Cuisinart came out with a toaster oven with a steam function. I very much liked the tester I tried; the steam has lots of uses, including making a wonderfully crisp bread crust by simulating a professional bread oven with an initial burst of steam followed by convection baking. About $360.

Hamilton Beach now makes a toaster oven that’s also an air fryer. At about $95, it combines the convenience of a conventional toaster oven with an air fry function that produces browned, crispy foods with little or no oil. Even with an admirably small footprint, it can easily make a dinner for two, and handle a 12-inch pizza or a 9- by 11- inch pan.

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