April 9, 2014

My Top Ten Small Appliances: What are Your Kitchen Workhorses?

Dec4

It’s that time of year, when I reevaluate the needs of my kitchen. Since baking, cooking and entertaining top the list of my Family Manager duties during this month, I am continually reminded of how fortunate I am to have the useful ease of so many wonderful kitchen appliances at my finger tips.

After my time in Peru, I realize that as much as I view these as NEEDS, they are definitely wants, and over the years, I’ve slowly added to my kitchen more and more of my “wants” as finances allowed.

I often get asked for my recommendations as to the items in my kitchen that I can’t live without. Based on my season of life, they have changed slightly, but I continually come back to some core tools.. I’ve linked to some for ease, but I always recommend making sure you look at your budget before determining what kitchen “fun” to add. I’ve found great smaller second hand appliances, but for my larger work horses, I’ve saved, budgeted and then yes, splurged.

I’ve never regretted any of those investments because I look at the long term benefit to my family and the many years I use one appliance and they pay for themselves. For someone as frugal as me, kitchen tools are one aspect that I do invest in for the future.

With that being said, here are my Top Ten suggestions for items that I don’t want to live without in my kitchen.

Since everyone has so many different needs and cooking styles, I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments and I will add them to the end of this post.

how to shred chicken easily How to Shred Chicken in Seconds (Jens Best Kitchen Tips)

Stand Mixer

I have owned the KitchenAidClassic  4-1/2-Quart Stand Mixer  since I’ve been married, nearly 20 years ago.It’s the work horse of my kitchen. Traditionally used for baking, I now use it to shred chicken or turkey in your Kitchen Aid in seconds.

I actually own two KitchenAid Mixers (long story – one broke, replaced it after trying to fix it for six months, then of course, two weeks after I bought my new one, we fixed it.) When I upgraded, I chose the KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Mixer for the extra room, but honestly, I think I still grab my classic most of the time. It’s like my “comfort food of appliances.”

If your goal is serious baking or baking homemade bread for your entire family, than continue reading because you may want to consider investing in another machine, otherwise, this is the way to go.

(Added: I’ve never even researched Cuisinart for their mixers, but a reader swears by it, so more options for you to research. She owns the Cuisinart  7-Quart 12-Speed Stand Mixer.

Crockpot/Slow Cooker

I own three Crockpots. Yes, it’s a bit embarrassing to admit, but I actually use them all. I have a tiny one for appetizers, heating cheese etc, then I own a large, high quality Wolfgang Puck 7-Qt. Electronic Slow Cooker, but got it on sale, and then I found an inexpensive Proctor Silex Crock Pot brand new at a yard sale. I was so excited about that find, but now looking at just how cheap you can get then, it wasn’t the deal I thought.

That being said, I’ve owned it for two years and for less than $20 both my yard sale find and the Crock-Pot brand Slow Cooker are ones to start off with if you aren’t sure how much you’ll use it. If you want to invest a bit more, any of the higher quality Cuisinart or Crockpot brands are great.
 Meal Planning – with a twist

Rice Cooker

My rice cooker is definitely another appliance I use every single week, if not multiple times. This is something my kitchen can NOT be without. I cook up batches, save and freeze extras and never have to worry about burning or tending to my rice. It’s a great thing! It takes my meal planning to a whole new level. I even mix in lentils with the rice to cover two areas at once.

The irony is that most people don’t understand the jewel of this simple appliance because I see them at yard sales too often. The range is pricing on these is crazy and I’ve owned the inexpensive Black & Decker Rice Cookerfor years, although it’s now too small for our family. My larger model just broke, so I am off to purchase a larger edition.

As I search various rice cookers, I can’t imagine paying the high end prices ($100+) for some of these since I’ve had good luck with the inexpensive models, but I maybe missing a longer warranty etc. Recently, some brands have introduced crock pot/rice steamer combos and that would be worth the extra investment.

Toaster Oven

I’ve owned a Black & Decker  Toaster Oven for years. Yes, I bought it new at a yard sale. (Love those double wedding present sales.) We use our toaster oven daily for actually baking. The kids will pop biscuits in or cook up a few cookies at a time from my bulk chocolate chip cookie or store bought stash, and when only a few of the kids are home, I will actually make a small dinner in there as well. I plan on upgrading to a larger one since it gets so much use and this isn’t quite big enough for our family of seven. The Cuisinart Toaster Ovens look great. But I need to research a bit more and concentrate on the larger models this time.

High Quality Food Processor or Hand held Grater/Slicer

From my years with Pampered Chef, I own a few Zyliss products and have always been happy with them. The Zyliss Food Slicer is great for those who just dabble in the kitchen, but if you plan on upping your skills, a high quality food processor is the way to go.

Great for soups, sauces, dressings, dips, and much more.

Cuisinart Immersion Hand Blender

Immersion Blender

An Immersion Hand Blender blends drinks, sauces, dressings, dips, purées soup, mixes pancake and crêpe batters in seconds! Mainly, it is something I use all the time when I make soups. The ease of putting the stick blender right in my pot eliminates time, mess and clean up. I use mine often, but this could have the tendency to sit in your cupboards collecting dust unless you proactively find uses for it. A few of my friends use it for everything, but I use mine mainly for soups, and it’s worth it since those simmer quite often during the winter.

mr coffee no carafe coffeemaker Mr. Coffee No Carafe Coffeemaker & Oster Giveaway

No Carafe Coffee Maker

Last year, I was introduced to a No Carafe Coffee Maker and have been loving it. While I enjoy my Keurig, I drink more than one cup of coffee a day, so the Keurig is saved for those moments, I need a quick cup on the go. The No Carafe models, mimic a Keurig, but it brews a whole pot and keeps my coffee constantly hot  because it has a special warmer. My daughters want to make and serve me coffee all day long because they think this coffee maker is so cool, and I have to agree. I couldn’t find the exact Mr. Coffee model I own, and the stainless steel ones didn’t get as great of reviews, even though I have been happy with mine, so I steer you towards the Cuisinart On Demand 12-Cup Programmable Coffeemaker. Yes, higher in price than a traditional coffee maker, this would be for those of you who have really wanted the benefits of a Keurig, but who want the flexibility and savings of a whole pot.

Silicone or Non Stick Bakeware

Every since I started using my short cut tip for my own homemade Egg Mc Muffins and baking eggs, I’m sold on the ease of the Silicone Bakeware, especially the Muffin tins. Even though, I am trying to lean towards stainless steel, cast iron (Lodge) or enamel (I’d love Le Creuset) for my cooking, the ease of clean up for those muffin tins supersedes the other. I’ve found some great ones at Goodwill, but you can also hit the TJ Maxx aisle for new ones.

High Quality Blender

We use our blender daily. After two years, our Cuisinart blender just bit the dust. I liked it, but  I’m now in limbo with a $1 blender from a yard sale. It’s not cutting it for our family and it’s daily smoothie needs. For over a year, I’ve saved up for a Vitamix TurboBlend  or  BlendTec Machine.

Vitamix vs Blendtech demo. (My friends bought the Blendtec.)

For over one year, I’ve been trying to decide about whether I should buy a Vitamix or a Blendtech. Both are amazing kitchen machines – blenders by definition, but they do so much more. I’ve compared, analyzed, stressed, but because I finally have decided that I can’t go wrong either way, I am biting the bullet and buying.

Yes, I’ve researched for hours and hours,  and either of these make an amazing investment. I’ve talked four of my friends into buying the Blendtec and I still haven’t. It was hard to justify it when my Cuisinart was still working but now that it’s done, my husband even said, ‘GET IT.”  This is an INVESTMENT and we’ll use it! I don’t recommend this purchase for someone who mixes up a smoothie once a month, but it’s for those looking to really add in all the health benefits that this provides, you won’t be sorry. They are workhorses, and have 8 year warranties, so I won’t have to worry about burning out a motor.

(*A reader just recommended her HP New Design High Performance Heavy Duty Commercial Blender. Off to check it out. Looks like a great option as well.)

Good Knives

I have a drawer full of low quality knives and when I was at my sister in laws and used her high end one, I could NOT believe the difference. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I didn’t realize just how easy all the slicing and dicing could be with a better knife. I own one higher quality, but it is a bread knife.

Do you have any good suggestions on knives? That is something I have not researched.

TOTAL KITCHEN MACHINE

I hesitate mentioning my next products, but then I go back to my story. As a young mom with two toddlers, new to NC,and homesick for WI, I saved my long distance charges for over a year to buy this Magic Mill DLX Mixer – The Electrolux Assistent Bread Mixer

and Electric Grain Grinder. Read my story about how I saved for this. I believe in giving every dollar a job and it took me a long time to save for this.
It’s still going strong after nearly two decades and it mixes up to 8 loaves of bread at one time. You will faint when you see the price tag. It’s gone up just a tad since I purchased mine, but it was still “faint worthy” even back then. This is the kind of machine professional bakers will even use, so it’s a great idea for your own at home business. Do you know how much healthy homemade bread loves sell for? You could pay yourself back.

It’s ONLY for those really SERIOUS about investing in a workhorse, and again, don’t put that on your credit card. Save up for it. It makes it that much sweeter.

Electrolux has been producing this mixer in Sweden for over fifty years. It’s well known in the rest of the world, less well so here because it’s not in discount stores. I also highly recommend the Bosch Universal Plus Kitchen Machine. Both of my sister in loves have owned theirs for years and years and it’s a bit more affordable. Again, an investment, but the resell value of these holds incredibly high as well. Since they aren’t readily available, you can see it at any time for about 75% of what you paid.

What are some of those kitchen tools that you can’t live without in the kitchen?

I’d love to hear and I know my readers would too.

I keep thinking of more and more things, but let me know if you agree or disagree with my list. It’s helpful for everyone.

I also can’t wait to be inspired by your Tasty Tuesday recipes. (Link up, Link Back and share the love).




Comments

  1. Interesting list: some of those were on my list too, until we moved to a much smaller home and I gave up grains. My immersion blender, good knives (that’s for my husband: I use an offset serrated knife for pretty much anything), my nonstick omelet pan, a food processor, my electric tea kettle, a blender for my son’s smoothies…those are the things I won’t give up. Oh, and my gigantic stainless steel bowl that I got for $3 on sale at the grocery some 25 years ago — perfect for mixing up big batches of stuff. I used to love the rice cooker but we now use it perhaps three times a year (if we’re having company and my husband wants to cook something to serve with rice or if the dog is put on a bland chicken and rice diet).

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  2. I absolutely LOVE my crock pot…especially in the winter! :) I also love my bread machine…especially to make the dough, and then I usually will actually bake my bread in my oven. Thanks for hosting once again…it’s been awhile since I have joined in! :)

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  3. Since we’ve moved into a smaller house, my cabinet space for appliances has been reduced. I found a fantastic recipe for making rice in my crock pot, so I took the rice maker off of my “need” list. http://www.food.com/recipe/perfect-crock-pot-rice-16465

    I’m saving up for a Le Creuset!

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    Jen Reply:

    Yes, that is a great one. I was excited to see those new crock pots that also serve as rice cookers. My cabinets are TOO stuffed, so any way to get rid of something is a good thing. ;) Since my rice cooker cooks it so quickly, I love it, but I can’t wait to have my meal plan down enough or I’m organized enough where my crock pot would suffice. ;)

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  4. Great list! I have three Crock-pots too and use them all the time!!!!!!!

    For knives, I invested in a set of Cutco knives and THEY ARE AWESOME. I had a decent set I got as a wedding present, and it amazed me how much better the Cutco knives are. Plus, they have lifetime warranties- and that’s the lifetime of the KNIFE, not the owner, so you can pass them on and the warranty goes with them.

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  5. I have a tiny galley kitchen, so the few appliances I have are workhorses–the crockpot, smoothie-size blender, and I share a bread machine with my neighbor (stored in their kitchen). I just don’t have room for more, so I make do.

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    Lori Lynn Reply:

    @Gina, I have a smaller, galley style kitchen as well. Most of my counter space has appliances on them, but I use all of them a lot, so I just put up with the lace of space.

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  6. I absolutely LOVE my Kitchen Aid mixer! My mom has had one of 10-12 years and loved it! My hubby and I just got married 6 months ago and a Kitchen Aid was definitely at the top of my list of wants. My second favorite is my Bunn coffee maker. It keeps a reservoir of hot water and will make a pot of coffee in just a couple of minutes! I love my food processor, it’s a Black and Decker. It serves me well, but I do look forward to an upgrade when it wears out. I have a Ninja blender that makes great smoothies! I really enjoy using my Black and Decker convection toaster oven. It’s big enough for a small casserole dish, which is perfect for cooking dinner for just 2 people! Especially this summer is was so nice not to have to heat up the whole house with my big oven. I also have 3 crock pots! A big one (great for when we have company or when I want extra soup to put in the freezer), a medium one (great for making meat dishes for just 2 people. The same amount of meat in the big one would dry out. I know this from experience), and a small one that would be good for dips and such (I haven’t used the small one yet). My hubby already owned a nice knife set as well as a set of pots and pans (both are the Caphlon brand). I told him the other day how thankful I am for marrying into those… LOL. I love to cook, so I registered for middle of the road to nicer kitchen appliances because I knew they’d get used a lot! These wouldn’t be right for everyone, but they serve me well :-)

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    Jen Reply:

    oh my word – my toaster oven was in my draft and I accidentally deleted it. I use this EVERY SINGLE DAY! Love our toaster oven!! OFf to add it in. ;)

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  7. Thanks so much for hosting! I was glad to linkup my Chocolate Zucchini bread. :-)

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  8. it’s funny, because it’s special purpose, but literally our most used appliance is our quesadilla maker.

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  9. First.. if you have an Aldi near you, they sometimes carry a knock off of Le Creuset enamel covered iron pieces. I have 4 of them and they cook up sweetly. Aldi also often has silicone bakeware, especially before the holidays (now!) and I’ve seen it marked down to practically nothing.

    Im definitely going to do some research on that coffee maker. We’re currently using an old Gevalia freebie and its holding up strong, but I would imagine it’ll bite the dust one of these days. Its good to be armed with info.

    I’ve been researching good knives for a while but I’ve not made any serious decisions yet.. I’d love to get in on a really good serious users breakdown.. For the most part, I use Rada knives which have been sold as church fund raisers as long as I can remember. The Amish in our area use them as well and I’ve always loved mine. Speaking of Rada ware.. Their veggie/potato peeler is better than any I’ve ever used.. anywhere, anytime. Its the BEST!

    My top appliances..

    My crockpots- I have 4.. 2 were dip size & freebies.. and then I have 2 larger sized.

    My large table top roaster- at first I didnt use it much, but I’ve used it to make week long bone broths, stew 8 chickens at a time, make huge amounts of relish or salsa to be canned, et etc.

    My Cuisinart food processor…This is my #1 top appliance. I will not live without one. If mine broke today, by this evening or tomorrow at the latest, I would have another. It chops, shreds, grates, mixes & purees in seconds.

    VitaMix machine.. its an awesome thing. We use it often but not as much as we did at first.
    Im really glad we have it though. I have the grain container too, so its a one stop stop at our house.

    Cuisinart immersion blender.. I love this thing too.. dont want to ever be without one.
    I use it for soups, to puree apples when Im making apple butter & sauce, to chop down my veggies tp smaller pieces when Im making salsa for the most part. Anytime I need to chop hot veggies, this is my friend.

    Food Saver Systems- yeah, systems.. I have 2, not including the hand held systems that I have too. I have 3 of them I think. I’ve had a Food Saver since almost the beginning when they came out. My sister bought a set from TV back in the late 80 and sent a set to my mom as well. Mom didnt have any interest in it so she loaned it to me. I had it until I moved & accidentally
    left it on my laundry room shelf when I moved 14 years ago. My brother moved in my house so I assume its still in the family.. but I bought myself a new one that I love and then when the more compact styles came out, I got one of them since my other one is too big to keep in the kitchen where I really need it. Dont plan to get rid of the other one though.. its fine where it sits.

    Nesco 700wt food dehydrator- I use this thing ALL the time.. especially in the summer. Its going almost constantly. I wanted an Excalibur but M’honey told me to try this one out.. and see if I lost interest (as I do in many hobbies) after a year or so.. My step daughter gave me this one for Christmas last year and Im still loving it. I had one years ago but it was loaned out & lost. I’ve decided I dont really need the Excalibur after all.. this is one amazing inexpensive workhorse. I did buy more trays and screens for it.. but I love this. I garden, I can, I freeze, and I dehydrate.. ♥

    Waring Pro FS155 Food Slicer- I love this thing.. Got it at Macy’s for a super great price last year. I use this to slice veggies to go in the food processor, to slice veggies for a beautiful tray, to slice meat for sandwiches. It lives in the basement but its lightweight so its easy to go up & down.

    Pressure cooker & my canner. My canner, I obviously use it to can food in.. I have an All American and Im so glad I do. I’ll never need another although I found one in my basement not too long ago. I honestly dont know where it came from, but Im thinking it must have been M’honeys moms and I brought it home when she passed on 7 years ago. I have no recollection of doing it though.. I guess we were sorta in shock.
    I have an old Presto pressure cooker & I love it.. I use it quite often. My mom & grandma always cooked with one so it was second nature for me to use one. Wouldnt want to be without one.

    Stainless steel pots & pans- they’re an old set.. but I love them. I have cast iron I love too, as well as the knock off Le Creuset. I like & use them all. I also have a nice large set of Caphalon Pro cookware, and while I like them ok, Im not certain I’ll use them forever. I’ve been using them for about 6 years now & the coating is starting to show some wear in some of the pieces..

    I have a KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-Quart Stand Mixer and while I like it, it doesnt get a whole lot of use in my kitchen, Im sorry to say. So does M’honey.. I used it to make icing a lot when I was taking cake decorating classes & I’ll use it to make cookies for the holidays soon, but it sits in a very out of the way place so its kind of a pain to drag it out to use. If it were in a more central location, Im sure I’d use it more.

    Yeah… I definitely like my kitchen appliances.. ;)

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    Jen Reply:

    Oh friend – now I know who to go to for advice. ;) I bought a dehydrator at a yard sale, like new, but haven’t tried it yet. Plan on it soon. And the pressure cooker has been on my “need to learn” list this year and really do want to master it. I’ve been looking at Aldo for the knock off enamel. My store didn’t carry it as of two weeks ago, but I will check this week when I go.

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  10. I 2nd your recommendations on a:
    -rice cooker (my mom is Vietnamese so it was a staple in the kitchen from my birth)
    -immersion blender – I’ve made so many smoothies, soups and baby food with it, that I burned one out! So my dear husband got me an upgraded one with various blades for Christmas last year.
    -slow cooker

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  11. Thought of you today when I had chicken in the refrigerator, just waiting to be shredded. I am fighting a cold and didn’t have the energy to shred…in stepped the stand mixer to the rescue!!thanks for that tip!

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  12. My Crockpot is def. #1 on my list. But following close behind is my Pampered Chef hand food chopper. Although blades are a bit dull now and the plastic tube is cracked, but it’s still useable. That thing is expensive to replace though … $32! I did not pay $32 for it 10 years ago. I think I paid around $20 or so. Yikes!

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  13. Forgot to add that a Kitchen Aid stand mixer is on my dream list of appliances. Dh says it’s not a necessity and we don’t have counter space for it, but a girl can dream right ….

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  14. Homedotmade says:

    I recommend either Wusthoff Trident or Henckels knives. They are not cheap, but I have had mine for almost 20 years and they are still in perfect condition even taking into account that I used them for culinary school training where they were used far more than the average persons knives would be. As well as the traditional department and houseware stores, they can often be found on eBay.

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  15. Your link tool was not working properly; thought you’d like to know :) I’ve tried linking up 4 times. Will catch you next time.

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    Jen Reply:

    Oh no, really? I did set it to yesterday to make it so that the posts need a link back to my site on the post, but if you had it, then I must have done something wrong with that option. So very sorry.

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  16. Sounds like I’m in the same camp as lots of folks here – my main appliance are a stand mixer and a slow cooker. I also frequently use an electric water boiler. :) Thanks for hosting!

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  17. I highly recommend Wusthoff knives. They are worth every penny!

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  18. I am not the world’s most serious cook but I am growing my cooking by leaps and bounds. I recently got a new knife set. I got Pampered Chef’s new green, color coated knives and I have to say their perfect for me – I love them.

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  19. I love my Wusthoff Classic kitchen knives! That was one of my first kitchen lessons, that a good knife can make ALL the difference. I was always scared of slicing things before I got good knives. Now, I’m not a pro, but I don’t dread having to dice an onion!

    My parents support this local store in their hometown.
    http://www.heimerdingercutlery.com/index.php?route=product/category&path=31_336

    It’s great having a local store with knowledgeable staff to help you pick the best and most useful items!

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  20. We live in a small house with a big family…kitchen is tiny so we dont have room for the big workhorses like a GRAND mixer…I’d just flip if I had one though. But, we do put that toaster oven to use a LOT. With 2 teens in sports, a 20 yr old single daughter with a 1 yr old that does day care in our house. That thing is worth it’s weight in gold.

    We love a blender too. Its not a great brand. Been ductaped. I know, embarrassing. But kids in sports love to make smoothies for quick energy or on hot days. Me too! That’s about all. Besides a hand mixer for frostings and such, my work is done the old way…cutting, mixing, whisking, standing at the stove, etc.

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  21. I just got a blendtec. I wavered back and forth between the blendtec and the vitamix. I came to the same realization as you, both are awesome and I’d be happy with either. There was a lightning deal on Amazon which basically allowed me to get the additional wildside jar (larger capacity) along with the regular jar & blender for $20 less than just the standard kit. So we bought it. I haven’t regretted it yet. It’s awesome. My kids love it.

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  22. cannot live wihtout my electric cuisinart pressure cooker, beans, meat, potatoes…ready in minutes, jet strem oven…a bit cumbersome but makes for some crispiness of leftover pizza, egg rolls, etc

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