The Very Best Small Appliances for 2021

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Credit: Courtesy of Instant Pot

If we had to pick a small appliance of the year, it would have to be the Instant Pot. Or, perhaps, an air fryer. Or maybe it’s a KitchenAid stand mixer, a classic that’ll never not be useful (you can even juice lemons with it)! Ugh, okay, so we can’t pick just one appliance. That’s why we included 10 in our recent list of Kitchn Essentials. (You can browse the whole thing here.)

Today, we thought we’d take a look at the small appliance section of the list. Because we hear a lot of questions around which air fryer to get, which Instant Pot model is best, and if Vitamix is worth the price. We’ll answer all those questions as you scroll through this list of our favorite small appliances for 2021.

Note: We’ve indicated which ones are “repeat winners,” meaning they were also chosen as our top picks in last year‘s Kitchn Essentials!

1 / 10
was $79.99

No kitchen tool or gadget has had a bigger impact on how Americans cook these last 10 years than the Instant Pot. Don't already have one? Get the 6-quart Duo, which does all the things you want an Instant Pot to do but doesn't have too many extra bells and whistles (translation: you're not paying for features you might not use). We’ve got everything you need to know to get started with this life-changing appliance.

2 / 10
Slow Cooker
Bed Bath & Beyond

Lots of Kitchn editors have a slow cooker in addition to the Instant Pot (even though the IP has a slow-cook feature). We like this one because you can brown your meat in the pot, it has three fully programmable cooking functions, and it will keep a dish warm for up to 24 hours. Trust us, it's worth making the space for this small appliance.

3 / 10
Air Fryer
Williams Sonoma
was $259.95

This is the mother of all air fryers. It is giant and holds up to three quarts of food. (If you want something smaller, go with this one from Dash.) It also has clear controls, crisps up food better than other machines, and won all of the speed tests we've done against other models. Perfectly cooked mozz sticks in a flash? Yes, please.

4 / 10

For a third of the price of other top toasters, this guy still pops out toast with great results. We once tested five batches of oversized honey-wheat slices in a row, and all 10 pieces of toast came out looking exactly the same. Impressive, indeed!

5 / 10
Toaster Oven
Williams Sonoma

We're fully aware that you're probably either Team Toaster Oven or Team Toaster, which is why we included both this year. This toaster oven is a total ace. It makes evenly golden toast, can perfectly bake cookies, and can even roast a whole chicken. It also has helpful features like a tray that slides out when you open the door and an easy-to-read digital display.

6 / 10
Stand Mixer

The KitchenAid stand mixer is the peak of domesticity and a luxury item for sure. Set one out on your counter and you instantly get more baking cred (even if you’re not a baker). "It’s not just a status symbol, either," says Grace Elkus, Deputy Food Director. "It can mix up cake batter, knead dough, shred chicken, juice lemons, and more." This is the most popular model and the one that’s best for most home cooks.

7 / 10
Hand Mixer

A stand mixer doesn't actually replace the need for a hand mixer. Luckily, the latter won't cost you nearly as much as the former. Use this budget pick for smaller tasks — like whipping egg whites, making whipped cream, and mixing brownie batter — and use the stand mixer for bigger tasks (think: kneading dough).

8 / 10
Food Processor

Our Tools Editor, Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm, argues that a food processor is one thing you should pay up for. "This food processor is, in my opinion, the best for most home cooks. It's super simple to operate, precise and powerful, and will last for years and years," she says. Food Editor-at-Large, Christine Gallary, agrees 100 percent. If it's simply not in your budget, we still recommend this one from Black + Decker. At about $30, it slices, dices, and purées with little fuss.

9 / 10

For those of you who are willing to invest in a blender, you shouldn't settle for anything less than the Vitamix 750. It churns out the smoothest soups, frozen piña coladas, and smoothies. It also has one of the most powerful motors on the market and comes with a seven-year warranty. Pro chefs often keep this in their restaurant kitchens, if that tells you anything. (Just in case: Our favorite budget pick.)

10 / 10
Immersion Blender
Williams Sonoma

Every soup-lover needs an immersion blender in their arsenal, as it can purée veggies right in the pot (no need to ladle cup by cup into a blender!). We also use ours to make homemade mayo. This Breville pick — which comes with a chopping bowl and other goodies — is our favorite. For what it's worth, it gets the thumbs-up from Wirecutter and Consumer Reports, too.

Credit: Kitchn