The best kitchen trends of 2020

Ah, 2020, a real doozy of a year. Along with it came changes in just about every aspect of our lives. Seemingly overnight, our professional and personal lives were turned upside down. We now find ourselves in Zoom meetings from our living room decked out in our finest pajama bottoms, and instead of dining at our go-to restaurant, we're ordering contactless takeout. A big change came in the way we now consume food. Restaurants were met with the unprecedented challenge of pivoting their business strategies in order to survive. Consumers, as well, were forced to change their own habits to adapt to these changes. 

While we've spent a ton more time in the house, that didn't halt our palate's desire to be stimulated. Creation and inspiration in the kitchen could still be found, but sometimes in the most unusual of places. Need some mid-week recipe tips? Just head to TikTok for the latest dish from your favorite influencer. Fancy a wine tasting of the best of what Napa has to offer? Just log into a virtual tasting room with your favorite sommelier. If we've learned anything during this time, it's that it is human nature to crave connection. Food is the ultimate way people connect, and that's been ever so present and important to us now. Let's have a look at the best kitchen trends of 2020. 

Access to virtual cooking classes with top chefs

Once upon a time, our only access to our favorite chefs was through purchasing their cookbooks in the aisles of Barnes & Noble. Then, in 1993, the Food Network launched (via NPR) and gave us never before access to our cherished chefs while introducing us to our soon-to-be-obsessed with food personalities. In 2020, we one-upped all of that. Suddenly, chefs, who were used to the 24/7 hustle and bustle of packed schedules and demanding commercial kitchens, found themselves confined to their homes. Luckily for us, these geniuses in the kitchen now had the time to share their tips of the trade directly with their fans.

Longtime chef and award-winning food personality, Andrew Zimmern, is one such chef that turned to the digital age for connection during these times. In addition to hosting virtual Zoom classes, he's also amped up his YouTube series that is chock full of tips. Now that you've got all that free time, why not let Zimmern help you brush up on your knife skills? Had to cancel that bucket list trip you've been planning for ages to Asia? Zimmern shares a recipe inspired by his travels during Bizarre Foods. The world may not currently be our oyster, but this is, sure enough, the next best thing. 

TikTok became the ultimate resource for inspiration in the kitchen

While 2020 may have been rough for many, it was a major success for TikTok, beating out Facebook to become the top app globally for 2020, per Fast Company. Bored people took to the social media platform to let out a bit of creativity (whether witty content or totally irrelevant), socialize, and most importantly, be entertained. Avid cooks turned to the app to share with all of us their quarantine creations and even some kitchen mishaps. In tow, recipes quickly went viral, like the now-famous mini pancake cereal

Major corporations have even caught wind of the viral potential and have gotten in on the action with their own dedicated TikTok recipes. While a trip to Walt Disney World may be out of the question for some right now, that's not reason enough to miss out on your favorite indulgent theme park treats. Disney Parks is dishing out recipes, in easily digestible TikTok form, of some of their visitor's favorite treats, like the Salted Caramel Pumpkin Pie milkshake from Disney's Beach Club resort. Because, in 2020, everything should be topped with a pair of chocolate ears. 

Fewer dishes and a whole lot more delivery options

With most meals now being consumed within the home, according to Supermarket News, it's no surprise that we've seen a major bump in delivery options and how often we utilize their services during 2020. According to Postmates, breakfast orders alone saw a 61 percent increase, while fast food orders went up 50 percent. Call it lazy, or call it supporting local (we'll go with the latter), but our hands often opted for the iPhone and not the spatula when figuring out what we were going to eat next.

And 2020 also saw the rise, and for many of us, our first encounter with the ghost kitchen. Sounds spooky, right? Not so much. Ghost kitchens are essentially virtual restaurants that operate on a delivery-only level while often sharing the kitchen with several other restaurant concepts. These spaces are not traditional restaurants and rather operate in unassuming strip malls or even industrial spaces. These concepts have soared in popularity all across the US thanks to the inherent low start-up cost and minimal labor issues associated with owning and operating one. Many ghost kitchens choose to operate exclusively on delivery apps, therefore cutting the often-problematic element of handling deliveries. Tech has met food in this ultimate meeting of the minds, and we're thankful (and full) because of it. 

Sourdough bread kits

Even with the rise of delivery, more time at home inevitably meant more time in the kitchen. Call it boredom, call it ambition, but the rise of people in the kitchen meant more time to experiment and push ourselves outside of our usual comfort zones. Cue: sourdough bread kits. A phrase not often muttered by the average person pre-2020, but that has since found mainstream appeal. Baking was long synonymous with labor and time-intensive work for a meager reward. Now, with our free time abound we're all claiming our stake in the at-home bakery

Carbs, aka heaven on Earth, have been what people are grabbing for the ultimate comfy cozy feeling. According to Refinery 29, local bakeries have caught wind of the trend and begun selling their own sourdough starter kits. These starters are essential when making sourdough bread and are comprised of flour, water, and wild yeast. While you are able to whip this up on your own, it does prove to be a bit of a challenge for the novice behind the apron. Once you've dipped your toe in the wonder that is sourdough, the starter can also be used to impress your household with homemade scones and doughnuts. 

Unprecedented access to wine sommeliers virtually

It's no surprise that the consumption of alcohol went a bit through the roof this year (via RAND). Sometimes those essential libations called for Two-Buck Chuck, but other times we're interested in classing it up a bit. When you think of wine sommeliers, you may have images of a stuffy beverage professional suited up at a swanky steakhouse gliding across the dining floor carrying bottles of wine that will set you back a mortgage payment. Thanks to social media and some trend-forward sommeliers, the name of the wine game has totally changed. 

Samantha Capaldi is a sommelier and all-around blast to follow on social media thanks to her knack for making wine feel approachable and her hilariously unpretentious personality. Her business, which focused on in-home wine tastings, was met with the challenge of adapting to 2020. Capaldi successfully pivoted her model to virtual tastings and is now busier than ever, able to reach people all over the world. Similarly, master sommelier George Miliotes, who owns the only sommelier-run restaurant in Florida, also had to pivot his methodology with not only his wine education series but also with the temporary closing of his restaurant. He, too, took to socials to host informative Instagram live sessions as well as virtual tasting events. While his restaurant, Wine Bar George, has since reopened, he continues to host a virtual series. With some creativity and a dash of innovation, entrepreneurs are stepping up to the plate like never before to successfully meet and overcome these obstacles.

We focused on US-made cookware

As we've seen first-hand the struggles of many in the industry, consumers have sought out ways to support the brands and businesses they love. In an effort to keep it close to home, the movement of supporting US-made products, as opposed to companies who manufacture overseas, has been ever so prevalent. Quality kitchenware, like pots and pans, is an investment for sure but can prove to be worthwhile. You'll always have long-lasting pieces in your kitchen arsenal. According to Made in America, there are numerous reasons to support American companies, but at the top of that list are their far better labor standards that support local economies.

Heritage Steel, a family-owned and operated business in Tennessee, employs a small number of people out of their Clarksville-based facility. Since opening in the 19th century, they continue to produce some of the most highly rated stainless-steel cookware on the market that is available direct to consumer as well as from retail giants. Their products have been met with fantastic reviews, specifically because of their use of titanium stabilized 315Ti steel in their pans, which has wowed the folks at Cook Logic

Pantry boxes and at-home meal kits from favorite restaurants

With looming issues of safety, we've resorted to less conventional methods of getting our weekly groceries. Out of this need has sprouted the popularity of pantry boxes. Offered by both restaurants and small businesses, pantry boxes have popped up all over 2020 as an easy way to get your basic kitchen necessities while also supporting small businesses and farmers. These boxes typically include fresh produce, dairy, and quality meats.

Taking that concept even further, restaurants have created at-home meal kits. It's a similar fashion to concepts like HelloFresh, but this time you can create your favorite restaurant's dishes right from the comforts of your own home. Small restaurant chain STK, known for their signature vibey atmosphere and high-end steaks, got in on the action as well. Complete with a detailed recipe card, you can indulge in premium filets without changing out of your house clothes. If you aren't feeling inspired in the kitchen, many restaurants have also been offering fully-prepared, family-style meals available for pickup or delivery and ready to be consumed. 

Delivery cocktails right to your doorstep

What's that sound? Oh, it's your doorbell, but no, it's not your local pizza or Chinese food joint, it's cocktails. On the very, very short list of pros to 2020, delivery cocktails and alcohol right to your doorstep has got to be at the top of it. While alcohol delivery services are nothing new, they've certainly risen to the occasion this year. How else are we going to keep that bar stocked for virtual workplace happy hours and FaceTimes with the fam? Drizly is one such company that works with retails stores throughout the country to have your essential wine, beer, or booze at your doorstep in as little as one hour. Even with the convenience factor, the consumer pays no mark-up cost and instead just pays a delivery fee and is encouraged to tip.

In an effort to keep small businesses afloat, statewide ordinances were created in certain markets to allow for the sale of to-go and delivery cocktails. Restaurants throughout the country, where allowed, are offering your favorite cocktail alongside your meal via delivery apps. What a time to be alive! We're not sure about you, but a bit of escapism sounds like an absolute delight right now. Lost Lake, a tropical lounge located in Chicago's trendy Logan Square, has excelled at the to-go method by offering a wide range of authentic, hand-made tiki drinks in bottled, ready-to-drink form. They've even created a monthly at-home rum club, a membership program that offers limited edition bottled cocktails as well as other surprises. Beach not included. 

Non-traditional charcuterie boards

Charcuterie boards are nothing new. They've sprouted up everywhere from your local tapas joint to the Instagram feed of the amateur cook. Essentially a plate of meat and cheese, they've been around since the 1500s but have captivated the American public now with their eye-catching presentations and drool-worthy accouterments. They also require zero skill (yay!) to make and even prove to offer self-care attributes.

Naturally, something so popular would see endless spin-offs. Now, your only limit with the board is your lack of imagination. We're ready for a trip to Candy Cane Lane because candy charcuterie boards have become big business. Hold the savory, these dessert boards are basically a piled-high, Willy Wonka wonder and make for the perfect ending to a delicious meal, Halloween party, or even the casual movie night. We're not sure about you, but we're feeling all sorts of inspired to create this Home Alone-themed candy charcuterie board we spotted on Insta. 

The rise of the plant-based burger

In a time where the animal agriculture industry is more scrutinized than ever, we've all made the move towards thinking more about the ethical complications associated with what we put in our bodies. Plant-based companies, like Beyond Meat and Impossible, have realized these rising issues and began to market towards not only the uber health-conscious but the everyday person. No longer limited to the fresh food section of our local Whole Foods, these plant-based products have partnered with major chains to bring their products to the masses. 

Accessibility and affordability to plant-based products have come together like never before in the form of partnerships with major chains like McDonald's, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts, and even Pizza Hut. A whole new meaning to the phrase eat your greens is about to come to fruition with the arrival of the McPlant. With a 2021 nationwide roll-out expected, the McPlant's patty was created in partnership with Beyond Meat. This meat-alternative is a first in McDonald's line-up, which could lead to more plant-based options on their breakfast menu and beyond (*pun intended*). Pizza Hut also became the first national pizza chain to offer plant-based meat toppings this year with their partnership with Beyond Meat. 

The focus on small business

The restaurant industry is historically one of the hardest to find success in. According to FSR, 60 percent of restaurants fail in their first year, while 80 percent go out of business within five years. Bright-eyed dreamers have still taken the plunge despite the grim outlook and staggering costs of overhead. 2020 has sadly made it even more difficult to succeed. According to Forbes, with revenue instantly halting, 40 percent of American restaurants were shuttered this year leaving over 8 million people out of work. Out of these staggering numbers, the Independent Restaurant Coalition was formed. Comprised of over half a million businesses and 11 million workers, these restaurants and chefs lobby before state and federal governments to seek relief due to the loss of income associated with mandates. 

A movement has spread across social media to support these businesses that we love, otherwise, they might not make it another day. While some have reopened, they've mostly been limited to takeout, delivery, or only outdoor dining options. Businesses have sought out alternative revenue streams with the push to purchase gift cards for future use and even merch. The Collins Bar, located in Birmingham, Alabama, is a craft cocktail bar that was forced to temporarily close in March. They got resourceful and partnered with a local t-shirt company to create a line of streetwear with proceeds benefitting their staff

All the comfort food

When the discussion of health comes up, we usually think about the physical aspect, but this year, the mental aspect has risen to the forefront as well as how we deal with this often stigmatized issue. With the many fallouts of 2020, so comes the unneeded stress. Suddenly, everyday tasks became difficult to accomplish. As we saw the lack of availability in fresh produce and meats, so we sought out the need for shelf-stable products. These comfort foods, like pasta and baked goods, soothe the soul while also having the ability to survive a very long time in our pantries.

According to Psychology Today, when we eat these foods, that are generally high in fat and sugar, the reward system in our brain is instantly triggered and we experience temporary pleasure, and often, relief. Comfort foods can also take us on a stroll down memory lane when the tastes and smells conjure up memories of good times with the family. Next time you're contemplating grabbing that second helping of macaroni and cheese, think of it as self-medicating. Because, treat yo' self.