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Small Kitchen Appliance Essentials: The Five Must-haves

Editorial Staff

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Need to simplify your time in the kitchen, but not sure where to begin? Here are some hints regarding which of today’s appliances can make your life easier.

Kitchen Appliances can be bulky, expensive and easily clutter a small kitchen. Oxymoronic as it may seem, they can add to the stress of maintaining a sane and efficient kitchen rather than simplifying the most frequent of quotidian tasks. However, a closer look often reveals that many among us eager home cooks purchase one too many gizmos and gadgets we little need and consequently seldom use.

It’s fun to have the Pizzelle or that waffle cone maker, but if your kitchen is about the size of a small car or a suburban closet, you know that perhaps this was one appliance you could have done without. The key to avoiding over cluttering the kitchen aides is to thoroughly assess your needs and prioritize them over what you might simply want—for the sake of novelty or otherwise.

Here are some basics for every kitchen in the decreasing order of need. All five items will have you set to throw down anytime and while you can certainly get by without any at all, you won’t regret purchasing any or all of these items—neither for the time nor the effort, they will save you.

Immersion Hand Blender

Regardless of whether you are an appliance minimalist or not, an immersion hand blender is a must. The benefit of one over a regular blender and food processor—especially for foods that need to be pureed—is that the action takes place in situ, eliminating the need to wash an extra dish. Great for soups, sauces, individual smoothies, even mayonnaise, it’s a great starting appliance for a college student or the kitchen novice as well.

Prices start at around $16-$18 for brands such as Kalorik and Oyster, while blenders from Cuisinart, Nesco, and Waring can be purchased within the $25-$40 range. The higher-priced brands such as Kitchen Aid retails at about $50 on websites such as Amazon.com. If you’re enticed by a cordless blender take a look at the Breville Cordless Blender with the rechargeable base.

Food Processor

Every kitchen needs a multi-functional appliance and in most kitchens a good food processor will get a variety of tasks done with efficiency and ease. No more shortcrust pastry the old-fashioned way—a few whirrs of the blade and you’re done without even getting your hands dirty. No more bland store-bought pesto and how about a quick chunky salsa or a chop salad: simply snap on the chopper attachment and you’re in business. There aren’t too many things these savvy helpers cannot do. Cup capacity is a matter of personal choice, depending on the volumes you usually work with—you’d know best.

Cuisinart and Kitchen Aid are popular brands in this category and while they retail at anywhere from $100 to around $250, it’s easy to catch a sale on this item. The Cuisinart DLC-10S Pro Classic 7-Cup Processor is priced at $180 but sells on some websites for as low as $99 with free shipping. It’s worth scouting out the deals online, especially for big purchases. Christmas and Thanksgiving are also great times to look for deals on appliances.

Electric Grill and Griddle

When you cook on a daily basis for home or your restaurant, you need commercial kitchen equipment. Variety is important and plays a significant role, not just when it comes to the final product, but also in the process of preparation. An indoor contact grill is a great way to empower everyone in the household as everyone can use it—the kids don’t need to meddle with the stove—or simply when you’re pressed for time and ideas. Cook up a marinated chicken breast, or grill up some fresh veggies when tired of a salad; no-fuss shrimp skewers or tasty portabella burgers; or a breakfast Panini or delicious grilled focaccia with basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella for lunch.

Check out brands such as Oyster, Cuisinart, DeLonghi and not to forget the George Foreman varieties. Prices can be as low as less than $50 with most decent grills within the $100 range.

Electric Water Kettle

If you do not have a hot water dispenser, an electric kettle with variable temperature settings is the next best thing. It’s easy to dismiss the utility of an electric water kettle. Sure, you can boil water on the stove, but then again, why do that when you can get boiling water in less than half the time with an electric kettle.

Purchasing this appliance is about accelerating simple tasks: Simply pour a measured quantity of hot water over some couscous and in about 3 minutes, it’s done. Never tried quinoa—it’s prepared the same way, is more nutritious and definitely delicious. Prepare hot tea, oatmeal, hot chocolate or a cup of noodles in a flash. If you’ve never prepared French Press style coffee, the faster boiling water makes it simple; cutting back on the nine minutes of time it probably takes to get it to boiling. The freshness and flavor are unbelievable and you can get just the right extraction by setting your water kettle to the appropriate temperature.

Most kettles will cost you less than $100. These days they are quite attractive and certainly efficient. Make sure you look for brands that have a concealed heating element as this ensures your water does not have a metallic taste and also because they are easier to clean.

If You Have Space…A Standing Food Mixer

It’s not much for the mixing ability that you need one of these—your handheld mixer can do that—but primarily for the kneading properties and the added functionalities of the attachments such as the ice-cream and pasta maker and if you’re a true artisanal gourmet, the sausage maker is a real treat. There is one caveat: these heavyweight toilers do not come lightly. The popular Kitchen Aid standing mixers are true behemoths at around thirty pounds apiece even though they whip up an Angel Food cake lighter than air. The Waring and Viking contenders are even heavier. So do consider how often you will use such a machine if it were not to sit on your countertop.

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