What are the essential tools every cook needs in the kitchen? Whether you're setting up a kitchen for the first time or else looking to pare back down to the basics, our Essentials Guides are here to help. We've covered prep tools and cooking tools, cookware and baking pans. Today we come upon a somewhat controversial category: essential small electric appliances.
BIG DISCLAIMER: More so than any of our other Essential guides, the Small Electrics guide leaves the most room for interpretation. The small appliances we list below as "essential" may not be depending on your personal cooking preferences, style, and need, whereas those we list as "up for discussion" may be the most overworked appliance in your kitchen! So, take with a grain of salt and, as always, sound off in the comments with your opinion!
As in all of our guides, we've offered a few product recommendations in each category based on personal preferences, experience, and editor and reader reviews. Most of these tools can be bought on Amazon, but a terrific and cost-effective resource for basic kitchen tools is a restaurant supply store. Just buy the best quality you can afford!
1. Hand-Held Mixer OR Stand Mixer: Yes, you can mix by hand, but having an electric mixer makes everything that much easier. A hand-held mixer will probably do the job unless you like to do a lot (we mean, a lot) of baking, in which case a stand mixer will be a life-saver.
• KitchenAid Artisan 5-Quart Stand Mixer, $237.75 from Amazon
• Cuisinart HM-70 Power Advantage 7-Speed Hand Mixer, $48.59 from Amazon
• Stand Mixer vs. Arm Muscle: Do You Mix by Hand?
• Should I Buy a Tilt-Head or Bowl-Lift KitchenAid Mixer?
• 5 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Buying a KitchenAid (Or Any Stand Mixer)
2. Countertop OR Immersion Blender: Powerful countertop blenders, like Vitamix or BlendTec, are great multi-taskers - make smoothies, puree large batches of soups and sauces, grind grains into flour. But the smaller, lighter immersion blender is much more convenient and less unwieldy. It's great when you need to quickly whip cream or puree applesauce.
• Cuisinart CSB-77 Smart Stick Hand Blender, $45.80 from Amazon - read our review here.
• BlendTec Home The Professional's Choice, $399 from Amazon
• KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender, $99 from Macy's
• Immersion Blenders: Should You Buy One?
• Best Reviewed Blenders for Summer
3. 3-Cup OR 11-Cup Capacity Food Processor: The size of the food processor really depends on how you use it. If you pull it out mostly for dips, sauces, pesto, purees, salsa and other chopped mixes, the smaller size is likely to work just fine. If you want to use it chop vegetables, then the larger capacity is better.
• Cuisinart DFP-3 Handy Prep 3-Cup Food Processor, $55 from Amazon
• KitchenAid 700-Watt 12-Cup Food Processors, $159.99 from Amazon
• What Size Food Processor Should I Buy?
• Top 10 Ways To Use Your Food Processor
• What Recipes Maximize a Food Processor's Potential?
4. Two-Slot Toaster OR Toaster Oven: If all you want is something to toast slices of bread, then a toaster is for you. If you're interested in doing that PLUS some baking, cooking, and roasting (without heating up your big oven), then a toaster oven (or its amped up sister, the Breville Smart Oven) is for you.
• Kalorik Aqua 2-Slice Toaster, $59.99 from Overstock
• Breville's Smart Oven 1800-Watt Convection Toaster Oven, $249.95 from Amazon
• Toaster or Toaster Oven: Which Do You Prefer?
• 10 Best Uses for the Toaster Oven
• The Toaster Oven in the Solo Kitchen
Small Electrics Up For Discussion
While the appliances below are certainly useful, we think it's debatable whether or not they're essential. It's probably entirely dependent on the cook! Chime in with your thoughts and join the discussion.
Crockpot: Should I Buy a Slow Cooker?
Waffle Maker: Waffling Over Waffle Makers: Should You Buy One?
Microwave: Which Is Better: A Microwave or More Countertop Space?
Electric grill: On the Pros and Cons of Grill Pans
Electric Kettle: Electric Kettles: Should You Buy One?
Juicer: Fruit and Vegetable Juicers: Should You Buy One?
Food Dehydrator: Food Dehydrators: Is It Worth Buying One?
Related: 5 Small Appliances You Can Live Without
Readers, what are your essential small electric appliances?
The Kitchn's Other 'Essentials' Guides:
• The Kitchn's Guide to Essential Prep Tools & Utensils
•The Kitchn's Guide to Essential Cooking Tools & Utensils
• The Kitchn's Guide to Essential Cookware
• The Kitchn's Guide to Essential Baking Pans