The Right Tools for Beverages, Soups and More
This blender from KitchenAid features smooth button controls for easy clean-up.
Synonymous with the sweetness of a fruity beverage, the blender can puree smoothies, chop ice, and pulverize salsa, sauces and more. When considering what type of blender is right for you, it helps to determine what kind of use you'll get out of it, how many people you'll be preparing for and whether you'll need any accessories.
Blender jars are made of glass or plastic, and both materials have advantages. While plastic jars are lighter, they will absorb food smells and get nicked and scratched. Glass jars won't get those scratches and are impervious to food odors, but their heft and susceptibility to breakage might make them the wrong choice for you.
The higher the wattage, the more power your blender packs. Don't go any lower than 350 watts. Most blenders will have at least low and high settings, which should be able to handle most jobs, as well as an ice chopping function.
If you're going to use this blender regularly, especially for entertaining, a jar with a tap attachment may work well for you. Dispensing drinks easily and quickly, without the hassle of the jar lid, makes life easier for the home entertainer.
The jar will most likely be dishwasher safe, but consider whether touchpad controls would be easier to clean up than buttons. To prevent any big spills, go for a bigger jar that holds more liquid equipped with a wider base to keep it stable while blending.
The hand blender from Braun comes with a stainless steel cup accessory for quick and easy smoothies.
For smaller size blending jobs, such as soups or sauces, a hand or immersion blender works well. Equipped with small blades, the hand blender makes targeting stray strawberries in your shakes a breeze. Accessories like bowls, whisks or the stainless steel mixing cup up shown above help with chopping veggies, blending beverages and more.
Look for other accessories for your hand blender like chopping blades and grinding attachments. These attachments will make the switch from blending beverages to chopping nuts a cinch.
Consider also whether you'd like a cordless model. Charging up the hand blender for short jobs is easy and no cords makes life easier. For clean-up, simply running soap and water over the blades works, but some hand blenders come with detachable shafts that can slip into your dishwasher.
Great for Indoor Grilling and Gourmet Sandwiches
Courtesy of Sanyo
An electric grill can be a good substitute when gas and charcoal grills aren't an option.
Electric grills operate in a similar way to other electric heating surfaces, such as griddles or skillets. The main difference between the electric grill and comparable countertop appliances is that grills have a rigid heating surface that makes grill marks on the food.
The George Foreman electric grill might be the most commonly known product in this category, but there are two distinct types of indoor grills:
- Standard electric grill: This electric grill looks similar to a griddle, except instead of having a flat surface, the cooking surface is a grate.
- The grill press: This is the style of the Foreman grill. For this type of grill, food is placed on a grilling surface, and then another heated surface presses down on the top of the food. This ends up cooking the food faster, since both sides of the food are heated simultaneously. A grill press is also referred to as a panini press; if you buy a panini press, which is typically associated with sandwiches, you can still grill meats and other items on it.
Courtesy of Hamilton Beach
A grill press or panini press.
While electric grills give you grill marks, they have several difference from outdoor grills that use gas or charcoal. Obviously, how the grills heat up is different. Outdoor grills produce more heat, making them good for searing. It can be difficult, if not impossible to sear meat on an indoor electric grill. Cooking meat on a grill press can also flatten your food, and possibly squeeze out flavorful juices. Finally, most electric grills do not allow for indirect heat.
Still, when an outdoor grill is unavailable or inaccessible, electric grills are convenient. The price of electric grills varies with size and strength. Most electric grills have between 600 and 1,000 watts. The more power they have, the faster they can heat up, and the more they will cost. Price also rises with larger cooking surfaces. Smaller electric grilling units with modest power and options are usually $50 and under. Larger units, and units with more temperature control and cooking options, can run up to $400.
Courtesy of Presto
Electric griddles are similar to electric grills, except a griddle's heated surface is flat (also, there are not griddle presses). Griddles are often used for breakfast foods, such as eggs and pancakes, as well as other foods where a grated cooking surface would not be useful.
A derivative of a panini press, a sandwich press usually has triangular slots for bread to be placed in. The sandwich is then heated on both sides. This item is good for regular-sized sandwiches and bread, but cannot accommodate thicker breads. It also should not be used for cooking raw meats.
Chop, Grate, Dice and More
This food processor from Cuisinart features multiple bowls for blending and chopping.
For cooks who want to get large jobs done fast, food processors will chop veggies, grate cheese, slice walnuts and more. Food processors are also great for mixing and kneading thick dough for bakers.
When looking at your needs for a food processor, consider how much you'll be chopping and dicing in your machine. While smaller models are available in six to eight cup sizes, full models and professional grade models range from 9 to 20 cups. Finding a bowl size in the middle — one that holds 11 to 14 dry cups of ingredients — allows for larger mixing jobs without being so large that it becomes difficult to store.
The plastic bowl rests on top of the food processor's motor, where the metal blade or other attachments go to work. The bowl's lid often features a feed tube, allowing ingredients to be added with the lid on and while the machine runs.
Like other food prep appliances, the food processor uses more power to process mixing jobs more easily. Processors usually range between 500 and 1200 watts. All models will come with at least one speed, if not more, and a pulse setting for mixing cookie dough and other thick jobs. A safety lock often comes standard on food processors, keeping hands safe when the lid has not been replaced before turning on the appliance.
These attachments from Cuisinart are easily stored in their cubby.
Food Processor Attachments
Plenty of attachments fit over the food processor motor to give a wide variety of slicing, chopping and grating options. Even juicers can be attached to the motor for quick orange and lemon juicing.
Select your attachments based on what your biggest needs are. If you find yourself scraping your fingertips on cheese graters, try a variety of sizes for shredding discs to achieve just the right sized slice of cheddar. Perhaps if carrot sticks or French fries are your thing, a julienne disc will do the job of slicing easily.
Most models will include at least a few of these attachments and a storage case for them. Extra attachments for specific needs can be bought individually.
The Baker's Small Appliance
Courtesy of KitchenAid
This KitchenAid stand mixer's bowl has a handle for easy lifting and pouring.
Whether you are a regular baker or aspire to corner the neighborhood cupcake market, a stand mixer will help you handle the arm-tiring work of mixing, blending, kneading and beating. With different bowl sizes, weights and attachments to consider, choose the stand mixer that works best with your everyday needs.
Stand mixers can get heavy, but that weight helps stabilize their loads for intense mixing jobs. You'll probably want to store the stand mixer on your countertop because of its heft, so its color and design may be important to you. (If you're remodeling your kitchen, consider a mixer shelf or lift in a base cabinet.)
The bowl should be large enough to handle bigger loads-at least 4.5 quarts. Some bowls come equipped with a handle to make pouring batters and mixes easier.
The more power your mixer packs, the more dough it can handle. And while your stand mixer may have up to 8 or even 16 speeds, you will want to look for low or slow-start speeds to avoid splattering.
Finally, stand mixers come with different kinds of mixing motions. Conventional stand mixers have two fixed mixers, but commercial grade mixers will have planetary motion. That means that as the mixer spins on its own axis, it also rotates around the bowl, folding more batter into its path and reducing the need to scrape the sides of the bowl.
Stand mixer attachments make this small appliance more versatile.
Stand Mixer Attachments
Some stand mixers will come equipped with standard paddles and beaters, in addition to a dough hook and wire whisk. Other mixers may only come with fixed whisks. For more options, you can purchase additional attachments such as food grinders, pasta rollers and cutters, juicers, shredders and more.
Padded stainless steel whisks on this hand mixer from Hamilton Beach protect bowls from nicks and scratches.
For quick and easy mixing, a hand mixer does the trick. The hand mixer is the little brother to the stand mixer, handling lighter jobs like mixing cupcake batter or whipping icing.
If baking isn't a regular thing for you, then a hand mixer that can be stored away and cleaned up easily is a good choice. Like the stand mixer, you should select a model that has a slow or soft start feature to keep your ingredients from being whisked out of the bowl.
Since you will be handling this mixer, you'll want to consider the ergonomics of your machine's design. Handles that slant up toward the front of the machine keep your wrist from being strained, and lighter models are easier to manage.
Avoid hand mixers with less than 175 volts of power, and lean toward your options with lighter, stainless steel double whisks. Some models feature coated stainless steel whisks to softly scrape the bowl. Other models include accessories for storage.
Compact Units for Making Crispy and Baked Dishes
Newer toasters have a variety of settings and have slots for more than just two pieces of toast.
Toaster Ovens & Toasters
Toasters no longer serve just as simple canisters in which to heat bread. Modern toasters can have a range of temperature settings, as well as oversize slots to accommodate thicker or longer bread and bagels. Typically they have two or four slots.
A convenient feature to look for is a slide-out tray for disposing of bread crumbs. These trays make it easier to keep a toaster clean. Toasters typically cost between $20 and $100.
A toaster oven looks like a mini oven, and for all intents and purposes, that's what it is. It's great for heating smaller food dishes, and is a suitable replacement for an oven in situations where a regular-sized oven is not available. Toaster or countertop ovens can be set at a variety of temperatures, and they also have a setting for toasting bread. Some newer countertop ovens even offer convection heat, which makes for faster and more even cooking.
When using a toaster oven, make sure to take certain precautions. These small boxes produce a great deal of heat in a short amount of time, so you'll want to make sure food placed inside it doesn't overheat and catch fire. If you're using a toaster oven in a temporary kitchen setting, or in a small confined space, make sure extremely flammable items are not placed near the toaster oven, as they can catch on fire.
Toaster ovens typically cost between $75 and $300.
Courtesy of Deni
A derivative of the toaster oven, the electric rotisserie often looks like a toaster oven with a rotisserie attachment. You can also find vertical standing rotisserie ovens, where the rotisserie rod is positioned upright instead of horizontally. Most electric rotisseries have more interior space than a typical toaster oven in order to accommodate the size of items being cooked, such as whole chickens or turkeys.
They typically cost between $50 and $200.
Viking 9-Speed Hand Mixer
Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt, Ice Cream and Sorbet Maker
Cuisinart CounterPro Convection Toaster Oven Broiler
The Cuisinart CounterPro convection toaster oven broiler has bake, convection bake, broil, toast and warming functions. Its .6-cubic-foot interior allows for roasting a whole chicken, broiling fish, toasting up to six slices of bread at a time, or baking a 12-inch pizza. With 1500 watts of power, this countertop oven can produce temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and saves energy over using a traditional oven because of its smaller size.
George Foreman 360 Grill
The George Foreman 360 Grill has a 106-square-inch cooking surface and comes with five different grilling plates: two traditional ribbed plates, a deep dish pizza plate, and two quesadilla plates. The cooking surface can be flat or tilted, to allow food to cook in the juices or to let fat drain away into a built-in drip tray. The 1,500-watt grill has an adjustable temperature control and a floating hinge to accommodate thicker foods.