Whether you're setting up a new home or simply taking stock of what you already have, how can you tell what small appliances are essential for a well-equipped kitchen? Use this checklist to determine which countertop appliances are essentials in your kitchen, and which appliances you might also need depending on your cooking habits. Once you obtain everything on this list, you can move on to the more specialized appliances (See my list of secondary appliances) that also are nice additions to your kitchen.
A blender is essential for making smoothies and other frozen drinks, pureeing soups, mixing custards, chopping soft ingredients and achieving other chopping and emulsifying tasks. Choose one with a powerful motor (500 watts or more should be good for most tasks) and a sturdy jar made of glass or heavy-duty polycarbonate. Make sure the jar is big enough for the volume of recipes or drinks that you think you'll normally be making; if you often entertain or cook for a crowd, you won't want a blender jar that is so small you'll have to make everything in batches. An alternative to consider is an immersion blender (see next page).
- KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender
- Waring Professional Blender
- Vita Mix Blender
- Hamilton Beach Wave Station Express Blender
A food processor can chop, slice, grate, blend, knead dough, puree, emulsify and so much more. You can save lots of time in the kitchen if you use your food processor for everyday tasks, such as grating cheese, chopping onions, slicing vegetables and kneading biscuit dough. A food processor is among the most expensive countertop appliance you can buy, but investing in a high-end version means you'll have a more powerful motor, a larger-capacity bowl and a sturdier design, as well as some useful accessories, such as grating disks or emulsifying attachments.
- Choosing between a Cuisinart or KitchenAid Food Processor
- Emerilware BAM! Machine
- KitchenAid Mini Food Processor
- Vidalia-Tomato Salsa
- How to Make Basil Pesto
- Tomato Gazpacho with Parmesan Toasts
- Yogurt-Thyme Hummus
Sure, it takes up more space than a regular toaster, but a toaster oven is far more useful. Toast or heat thicker, stickier items like homemade bread, oversized bagels, French toast or waffles, or melt cheese, broil a sugar topping or brown breadcrumbs. You can also use a toaster oven to cook small quantities of food, such as a few cookies or a mini pizza, without having to waste energy and heat up the house with your conventional oven. Some toaster ovens even can double as a microwave, but as long as the toaster oven you choose has a toast setting, a temperature-adjustable oven setting, and a broil setting, you'll have all you need. Invest in a couple of extra baking sheets and broiler pans that fit inside the oven – you'll find yourself using them frequently.Products to Consider
Whether you have an outdoor grill or not, a countertop grill is still one of the handiest appliances ever for making a quick and healthy lunch or dinner. Use it to cook burgers, fish, steak or chicken breasts, or to toast panini-style sandwiches. Features to look for in a countertop grill include a "floating" hinge to evenly cook thicker foods without compressing one side, removable grill plates for easy cooking, or even plates that interchange with smooth plates to convert the grill into a griddle. You might also want to make sure the grill you choose opens flat.Grill and Griddle Brands and Resources
Products to Consider
- Cuisinart Griddler G4
- George Foreman Grill
- Comparison of George Foreman and Breville stainless steel grills
Try These Recipes and Techniques
- Grilled Tuna Steaks with Asian Sesame Crust
- Fish Tacos with Fajita-Grilled Vegetables and Cilantro-Lime Slaw
- Best Indoor Grilled Burgers
- Grilled Tilapia with Smoked Paprika and Parmesan Polenta
Once you've got all of the basics, round out your cooking equipment repertoire with these secondary small appliances.