How to: Choose Small Kitchen Appliances

Posted by on Friday Mar 2nd, 2012 | Print

A lot of small kitchen real estate is inhabited by low-tech but useful occupants. You know, like cans of tomatoes, jars of cumin, loads of clean dish towels, and frying pans. Then there are the obvious, and big, high-tech components: a fridge, an oven, a microwave. That doesn’t leave all that much counter and cabinet space (if any) for the small but imperative elements of electric equipment: the small appliances. But it’s enough for us to cover all the basics!

Here are the technical ingredients you’ll find in my kitchen, the workhorses that magic my pantry essentials into delicious, homemade food.

What appliances do you make room for in your crowded kitchen? What will you buy the minute you have extra space?

**The 8 Small Kitchen Appliances You Really Need**

1. Slow cooker. So useful to the cook of limited resources we spent a week worshipping it early this year. See, with a slow-cooker you can do a little prep in the morning and have dinner waiting for you when you get home, as if mom was still cooking for you!

2. Mini food processor. Here’s what to make in your Cuisinart mini prep: everything. It grinds nuts, blends pesto, shortcuts the whisking part of making a vinaigrette, churns butter, and instantaneously turns beans into dip. The mini prep (mine is yellow) is tiny. Yet it may be the best $40 you ever invest in your kitchen.

3. Electric tea kettle. Look, I’m impatient. While I’ve had to learn to let my onions caramelize slowly, waiting for coffee is not an option. My little Bodum electric kettle has a small counter footprint and it boils water fast–then turns off on its own. The drip coffee can be ready 5 minutes after I get out of bed.

4. Seltzer maker. The seltzer maker is a remarkable little gadget. My SodaStream runs on a rocket-like gas cartridge which pumps bubbles into my Brita-filtered. Owning a seltzer maker has led to creations like homemade ginger ale and reduced the number of plastic seltzer bottles I’ve had to buy. Because I really love seltzer.

5. Ice cream freezer. I have been known to whip up a batch of ice cream from scratch. It’s fun but hardly an everyday activity. I justify keeping an ice cream maker in the house because Alex needs his ice cream dairy-free, and it’s harder to find a pint of coconut- or rice-based ice cream than it is for me walk up the street to Ample Hills and buy a cup of fresh Peppermint Pattie. Enter my recipe for Coconut Caramel Dairy Free Ice Cream–made at home.

6. Good old-fashioned toaster (not a toaster oven!). Susannah over at Small Kitchen College said it best when she said, “Toast smells like mornings. Togetherness. A hearth-like warmth. It smells like home.” You might complain that a proper toaster, where the bread and bagels fit vertically into slots is just not as versatile as a toaster oven. But it makes a mean piece of toast, of a different class altogether than what the toaster oven yields. Make sure yours is wide enough to toast bagels.

7. Handheld mixer. One day, friends, I’ll own the most handsome, powerful, glistening stand mixer you’ve ever seen. For now, I use a totally adequate handheld mixer. It creams butter and sugar, it whips cream, and it turns egg whites into airy poufs. I have to hold it the whole time, and it does take a little longer to whip things up. But when I’m done baking, it gets disassembled and filed away in the kitchen drawer.

8. Immersion blender. The handheld blender stands in when the mini prep just can’t cut it. Its best quality is that it can handle any temperature and any environment. I blend whole tomatoes right in the 28-ounce can and turn steamed vegetables into soup while they’re still in the pot.

This post was brought to you in partnership with Intel® who are all about making our lives better (and faster) with technology – today and tomorrow. Since we’re co-dependent on our laptops at every waking moment –that’s how we keep up to date on our food writing, photography, twitter streams, and facebook posts–we appreciate what Intel is doing.
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  • Sangeetha

    Great post. But what is the difference between the handheld mixer and the immersion blender? i though they are the same?

  • http://www.facebook.com/LadyKOL08 Mirakol Smith

    Ladies, maybe y’all can soon have a giveaway for an immersion blender ;) I’m in dire need of one! I strongly dislike having to pour all of my soup into a blender and back into the pot :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/LadyKOL08 Mirakol Smith

    Ladies, maybe y’all can soon have a giveaway for an immersion blender ;) I’m in dire need of one! I strongly dislike having to pour all of my soup into a blender and back into the pot :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Liz-Kern/100000012125695 Liz Kern

    Well since I don’t eat ice cream I would have to substitute my Magic Bullet.  

  • http://profiles.google.com/jenlindsey Jen L.

    I’ll never give up my toaster oven! Seriously, I’m headed off to grad school next fall and it’s pretty much my only “must have” kitchen appliance to bring with me. You can do so much with one! Though I will likely bring my mini food processor and hand mixer too. 

  • KCI

    I might have agreed with you on the toaster oven vs toaster, until I walked into my kitchen in my new apartment to find NO OVEN!  I was horrified.  Enter (on my birthday): The Breville Smart Oven (thank you, mom!) – the best toaster/convection oven that money can buy.  Has changed my life.  And I know that even when I get a “real,” shiny, multi-rack oven (in what I’m sure will still be a small apartment), I will DEFINITELY still use my Breville – more energy efficient, doesn’t make the whole apartment 100 degrees, heats up faster…  And I have successfully made cakes, cookies, cupcakes, breads, potatoes, quiches, casseroles, etc….and some great toast, too. :)

  • Anonymous

    I love my rice cooker. I have a crappy electric stove and I tend to burn rice when I cook it in a pot on there. The rice cooker stops cooking when the rice is done and keeps it warm.  I have a very simple model from Hamilton Beach and I think it cost about $20.

  • Amanda

    I have to disagree with the normal toaster.  In a small kitchen the best appliances are the ones that have multiple uses.  In college there is always leftover pizza.  Without a toaster oven you’d have to wait for the oven to warm up or microwave it!  Nothing beats the toaster oven.

    There are also many multi use gadgets out there that may be more expensive, but they’d make great christmas presents!  There are 3 in 1 rice cooker/slow cooker/pressure cookers.  There’s even a george foreman that can grill, make waffles, bake cakes and cupcakes, and more!  Their expensive, but if you can replace 5 appliances with just two, they’re worth it in a small kitchen!

    • http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/ BGSK

      Interesting! I think for me it came down to a counter space issue. But one day, a rice cooker will definitely be mine.

  • http://www.manuelsrestaurantequipmentservice.com/ restaurant equipment Austin

    This is a great information regarding small kitchen equipment! These items are indeed useful for both home and commercial kitchens. Thanks for sharing.