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.
Great for Indoor Grilling and Gourmet Sandwiches
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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.
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.
Easy Solutions for High-Maintenance Dishes
Courtesy of Deni
When a stove isn't available, an electric skillet is a great substitute for a traditional skillet or frying pan.
Electric Woks & Skillets
These items mimic traditional skillets and woks that you would put on a stovetop. Electric skillets and woks heat up after you plug them in, and they typically have a dial that controls the temperature. They also have lids to keep in steam and heat. If you have a stovetop, you might not have a need for these items, but they are convenient for camping trips, tailgates, and temporary kitchen setups. Electric skillets and woks typically cost between $25 and $100.
If you enjoy fried foods, deep fryers can be a handy and safe way to concoct dishes like French fries. Many deep fryers come with lockable lids to prevent hot cooking oils from splashing outside the fryer.
You can also purchase a rotary fryer, which rotates the cooking oil instead of just having a pool of oil in which the food soaks. Rotary fryers use less cooking oil, because the oil is spread over the food more efficiently.
Most deep fryers have between 1,800 and 2,200 watts. Fryers come in different sizes, and some have more temperature controls than others. They usually cost between $100 and $300.
Courtesy of Crock-Pot
As their name implies, slow cookers cook food slowly, and they cook it in a way that keeps food moist and flavorful. Slow cookers cook items such as meats and stews over a period of hours at low temperatures (usually between 160 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit).
Slow cookers come in a variety of sizes, so make sure the one you purchase is big enough for the amount of food you're cooking. Since many people cook meals for families in a slow cooker, you'll want one that holds at least 4 quarts, which is considered family size. Slow cookers cost between $30 and $150. Price varies based on size, temperature settings, and temperature and time programmability features.
Courtesy of Panasonic
While cooking rice in the traditional way isn't extremely complicated, it does require a great deal of attention to make sure the rice comes out right. Rice cookers eliminate all the attention needed to make rice; they just require you to add rice and water and press a button.
Another advantage to rice cookers is that have automatic shutoffs. They detect when the rice is finished cooking, and will then switch to a warming mode to keep the rice heated until you remove it from the cooker.
Look for a rice cooker with a non-stick pan to make it easier to remove the cooked rice. Rice cookers can vary in size and settings (for instance, some rice cookers can cook rice to have different textures), but the more bells and whistles, the more you'll pay. Prices range between $50 and $200.
Create a Café in the Kitchen
Coffee and tea may be important enough to warrant multiple appliances and significant counter space in the kitchen.
You could treat yourself to a daily coffee at one of the coffee shops and cafés that seem to crowd every corner. You might also throw in an afternoon latte and post-dinner cup of tea. Quality caffeine, however, is an expensive habit to maintain. (So is quality herbal tea.) In the long run, buying your own beverage system is cheaper than dropping $2 to $10 a day.
Leaving aside French presses, stove-top kettles and other non-electric devices, we'll run though the basics on coffee grinders, coffee makers, tea kettles and espresso machines, from plug-and-brew models to multi-talented machines that can do it all. At the very highest end, "super automatic" espresso machines operate with push-button technology and come in both countertop and built-in models, which may have the added option of a plumbing hookup leading directly to your water supply.
Time to play barista instead of paying one!
Not Just for Tea Drinkers
Courtesy of Breville
Unlike most electric kettles, this one actually steeps the loose tea leaves for you.
For many people in the United States, stove-top kettles are king. They're affordable, they heat water pretty quickly, and some even whistle when the water reaches its boiling point. Electric kettles tend to be more popular in countries where tea is preferred to coffee, but they have advantages anyone can appreciate.
For example, electric kettles boil water more quickly, so they're more energy efficient. They also free up burner space on the cooktop or range, and can be used in places without access to a stove; say, at the office or in a bedroom. And of course, hot water comes in handy for hot chocolate or instant oatmeal and soup as well as tea.
Material options: Electric kettles may be made from plastic, glass or stainless steel. Plastic is the most affordable option; glass offers the option of viewing your water or tea but can crack or break; stainless steel keeps the water hot the longest, but makes the kettle heavier to lift.
Corded or cordless: A corded kettle sits on its own base and has an attached cord that plugs into the outlet. A cordless kettle sits on a "plate," and the cord is attached to the plate. They work the same way, but the cordless option makes pouring and serving easier.
Nice features to look for include a water gauge to indicate the level of the water inside the kettle, a water filter, variable temperature control with different settings for different types of tea, and an automatic shut-off function so that the kettle doesn't boil dry.
Kettles typically cost between $20 and $100, although they can run as high as $250 if they have a lot of features.
Three Types of Electric Coffee Machines
Courtesy of Viking
When it comes to electric coffee makers, you have three main options: automatic drip or filter coffee machines, which are the most common type in the United States; "pod" systems, which are a newer variation on the filter coffee makers; and percolators, the most traditional style.
- Affordable and easy to use
- Make enough cups for most households
- Difficult to customize blends for individuals
Automatic drip coffee makers became popular because they brew quickly and can be easily cleaned. These coffee makers have baskets that either are fitted with a mesh filter that can be removed for cleaning or are lined with a disposable paper filter. Water heats up in a separate tank, then drips through the coffee grounds and goes into a plastic, glass or stainless steel carafe. Usually the carafe sits on a hotplate that keeps the coffee hot.
Automatic drip machines make anywhere from four to 12 cups of coffee and cost from $15 to $200. Optional features that add to the price but may also add to your enjoyment include: settings that allow you to schedule the brewing time, built-in grinders or temperature controls, automatic shut-off switches, and a thermal carafe instead of a hot plate.
Pod systems are the newest way of making coffee. Instead of placing grounds into a filter basket, the user inserts a pre-packaged pod of ground coffee. Each pod holds just enough for one cup of coffee. Most systems have their own line of pods, but many brand-name coffees also sell their coffee in pods. Pods come in a variety of coffee blends and flavors. Most pod brewers cost between $40 and $100, but some machines run upward of $400.
- Good for households with only one coffee drinker or coffee drinkers who prefer different blends
- Pod coffee costs more than standard grounds or beans
Percolators look like metal pitchers and can make from two to 10 cups of coffee depending on the size. Inside is a small metal basket for the ground coffee. After filling the pitcher with water, you either heat it on the stove top, or, if the percolator has an integrated heating element, turn the percolator on to heat the water. As it heats, it is drawn up a tube that leads to the coffee grounds, where it then drips over the coffee. The brew is ready when all the water has passed through the ground coffee. Prices range from $25 to $100 except for commercial-style urns, which can cost several hundred dollars.
- Coffee is fast and hot
- Urns make enough coffee for large parties or meetings
- High temperature
- Too many circulations of the water can lead to bitter flavor
For the True Coffee Lover's Next Remodel
Courtesy of Dacor
Built-in coffeemakers allow you to make gourmet coffee right from home.
Retrofit into a kitchen remodel or installed in the sitting room of a new master suite, built-in coffee machines have become the splurge du jour thanks to their space-saving design and fun features.
- They preserve countertop space by being installed into your cabinetry
- They can be (although they don't have to be) plumbed directly to your water source, ensuring fresh water and saving trips from the sink to the coffeemaker
- If your cabinet space is at a premium, a built-in coffeemaker takes up a substantial amount: most built-ins are about 24 inches wide, 22 or 23 inches deep and 18.5 inches high.
- An average price tag of $2,000 to $2,500.
All built-in coffee and espresso machines are automatic models. You won't find them at typical retailers-instead, look for appliance specialists that carry high-end lines or at gourmet cookware stores.
The built-in models typically offer dual dispensing spouts whose height can be adjusted, a hot-water dispenser, an integrated frothing system, and either an integrated grinder with bean and ground compartments or a pod/capsule system. Other common features include multiple grinder settings, a large water reservoir, water/coffee temperature control, water hardness settings, a built-in water filter, a timer and automatic cleaning and descaling.
Some come with a cup-and-saucer warming and storage drawer; others can be installed with a separate but matching drawer unit.
Touch-pad control panels with LED displays are standard; but many of these units-which often are made by European manufacturers- offer multilingual displays.
They Also Make Cappuccino, Lattes, and More
Espresso machines come in a wide range of sizes and price ranges. Explore the offerings of various brands and read consumer reviews before selecting a make and model for your kitchen.
There are four types of espresso machines: manual, semi-automatics, super-automatics and built-in espresso machines.
Espresso purists tend to prefer manual espresso machines, also known as piston or lever espresso machines, but using them does take some skill. After evenly tamping the coffee grounds into the filter, the user pulls down on a handle to force the water through the coffee. When you pull the handle, as well as how fast or slow you pull it, affects the taste, and the physical effort can be tough for some people. Given the learning curve, homeowners often opt for a semi- or fully automatic version.
With a semi-automatic espresso machine, you fill the porta filter with ground coffee, but instead of using your arm power, the machine uses pump to create the pressure. A pump is very consistent in its delivery, so even if there are slight variations when it's brewing, it will make a taste of the coffee different. Most of the semi-automatics have a frothing feature on the side, so you can froth or steam your own milk, mix it with espresso shot and make cappuccino or latte. These machines have a tank in the back and need to be filled up with water. The only downside of this type of machine is that it doesn't store your coffee grounds. For every cup of coffee you have to fill the porta filter with ground coffee.
Super-automatic espresso machines allow you to store coffee directly in the unit as well as grind it freshly each time you use it. Super-automatic machines tend to be bigger than semi-automatics, so make sure that you have enough space in your kitchen. They are designed for speed, convenience and less mess or maintenance. Super-automatics will grind a pre-measured dose of espresso beans and extract a specific amount of coffee, from demitasse espresso to full cup of coffee. The used coffee grounds are placed into an internal bin that you need to dispose once it's full.
These large (and expensive) machines have displays that tell you what you are doing or what you need to do. For example, it can tell you when water tank is empty, when you need to empty the coffee ground bin, when to clean and decalcify the machine, etc. All super-automatics have a frothing feature if you want to make your own cappuccino or latte. You can also get an instant hot water for your tea or soup. Some super-automatics have an automatic frothing feature which lets you mix coffee and milk at the same time with the push of a button. Built-in espresso machines are pretty much the same as super-automatics, except that they need to be built into a kitchen cabinet.
When it comes to cleaning, most models are self-cleaning. Every couple of months you need to use the cleaning solution that will clean your machine internally.
Kenmore Elite Four-Slice Toaster
Kenmore Elite's four-slice toaster features extra-long toast slots to accommodate oversized bread; defrost, reheat and bagel functions; and blue LED light buttons. A die-cast metal body with brushed stainless steel accents make it a durable, stylish addition to any kitchen. The fast toasting feature makes your bread toasty in less than 75 seconds.