Nearly every year, a new “must-have” countertop appliance appears on store shelves promising to transform your life. While some of these gadgets add convenience, others just take up valuable real estate in your kitchen. Before you buy that mini-donut maker, check out our list of five countertop cooking appliances you’ll actually use.
- Slow cookers are a must for busy people who want to enjoy home-cooked meals and save money on dining out. Higher-end models are programmable and offer features such as auto shut off, delayed start, and integrated temperature probes. Prices on higher-end models start at $40, but can go as high as $100. Basic models cost as little as $20. While they don’t offer the same bells and whistles as pricier units, they perform cooking functions just as well as more expensive models, according to Consumer Reports.
- Pressure cookers offer time and energy savings as well as health benefits. Modern models are easy and safe to operate, so it’s no surprise that they are making a comeback. Electric models offer a variety of functions and presets and are automatic. Some models, like the Instantpot, function as slow, rice, and pressure cookers and will sauté or sear meat. If the $100+ price tag doesn’t fit your budget, pick up a simple stovetop pressure cooker for as little as $20.
- Electric griddle. Many models come with interchangeable plates that allow the unit to perform as a grill, Panini press, waffle iron, and griddle. If you don’t want to spend the $50 to $200, try a basic waffle iron. They’re inexpensive, plus, you’d be surprised at what you can cook on a waffle iron. Pro tip: Check out “Will It Waffle” by Daniel Shumski. According to the author, steak, pizza, and pie can all be made on a waffle iron.
- Toaster oven. The advent of convection in toaster ovens has increased the utility of these appliances. Beyond making toast, toaster ovens allow you to reheat leftovers, melt cheese, and bake smaller dishes like cookies and pizza. They preheat fast and don’t increase the temperature of your kitchen as much as a regular oven, making them great for snacks and during the summer. Pick up a basic model for as little as $20, but a convection model will run $70 and up.
- Fryers. If you love your food crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, a fryer is invaluable. Choose from traditional countertop fryers or air fryers. Both create good results. Air fryers are a healthier option because they use less oil. They also take up less space. Most fryers are relatively inexpensive: Traditional models start as low as $20, while air fryers are priced at $40 and up.