I want to start this out by saying that there are a gazillion wonderful small appliances out there and I certainly have not tried them all (or even come close). But I find myself going back to the same appliances over and over again, while others make rarer appearances on my counter. I am also looking at products through the eyes of someone with a very small household (a total of 1) with limited counter & pantry space. A giant espresso machine might be mighty useful in helping me complete my daily caffeine intake and an ice cream maker could make endless delights, I have to prioritize. (Now if my pantry were a Tardis or Mary Poppins’ bag this list might be quite a bit different).
Old Faithful (A KitchenAid Stand Mixer), $249-$650
This baby is built like a tank and got my mom through nearly 30 years of baking before Dad got her a new one and put it under the Christmas tree with her old one, bows on both. She got an upgrade & I got a work horse. I really don’t know what I would do without a mixer – hand mixers are only good for lighter use. Even making cakes from a mix is easier with a stand mixer. I love KitchenAid mixers for their quality and versatility – I can add a grain mill, a pasta maker, an ice cream bowl and countless other doodads to make the mixer a multi-tasking queen.
Breville Smart Convection Oven, $249.95 at Williams-Sonoma
This is the newest addition to my kitchen, and I think it might be one of the best appliances anyone could have. It’s small size means it preheats quickly and convection settings make for incredibly even baking. During the summer in an apartment without central air, baking anything in the oven is just unbearable and this little guy does the trick without making my kitchen even hotter. It’s also great for reheating leftovers which means your microwave won’t turn your gluten-free pizza to mush, or, for those of us without microwaves, it makes it possible to heat it up without turning on the oven. I did have to get a new set of muffin pans so that they would fit, but it is actually quite roomy for a counter-top oven.
Vitamix S30, $349.95 at Williams-Sonoma
A blender is a must in any kitchen and a blender that means less dishes for me is always a win in my book. I wanted an easy way to make morning smoothies and I had a couple of criteria: it couldn’t just make smoothies (so a magic bullet was out) and it had to be sturdy. And what do you know, Vitamix was being mighty psychic because they launched the S30 right when I started looking. With the power of a Vitamix and the smaller footprint of this model, it was a no-brainer to include in my small kitchen. And the regular pitcher is just big enough for blending sauces, soups and margaritas.
SodaStream, $79.99-199.99 at SodaStream
This is probably the odd ball here. It isn’t electric and it doesn’t fill a basic need like a coffee maker. What it does do is encourage me to drink more water and gives me a way to enjoy some of the different syrups I experiment with in the summer. It is also a heck of a lot cheaper than buying cases of Lacroix every week (and the trouble of shlepping them on the bus).
I asked for a CrockPot for my 21st birthday. An ex bought me one for my 27th birthday (because he had adopted mine while I lived with my parents and I asked for it back when I moved away…he liked it so much he just replaced it). It can make so many things while you sleep or while you work. It makes it easy to make a big batch of something that can be divided up into a couple of lunches. They can be bought for as low as $30 and as much as $300 (Mammacakes has a fancy one where the inner pot can be placed on the stove to brown meat in and then put into the slow cooker to finish cooking away).
I use mine to make more than just plain rice. It is actually a great way to make all types of gluten-free grains including sorghum and quinoa. Famous film critic Rodger Ebert even wrote a cookbook all about rice cookers and their versatility. Making a batch of grains on Sunday for healthy buddah bowl lunches during the week saves so much time, and it is a set it and go read a book kind of easy. Wait, who am I kidding. It is set it and drink a glass of red wine easy. 🙂
Now that I have one, I don’t know how I lived without one…but I did get by on a kettle and a french press for quite a while. I won’t lie, having hot coffee ready when I wake up is certainly easier than making it in a french press when I can barely open my eyes, but it can be done.