Reader question… “I wonder if you would share your feelings about small appliances. Do you think they are extravagances or necessary and useful? And if you wouldn’t mind, what small appliances do you own or use on a regular basis?” –Nepa

I think it really depends on the small appliances and your own lifestyle. Some small appliances are probably extravagances if you’re not going to be using them very often… others are probably not necessary, but they definitely make certain jobs much easier. I have made a list of some of the small appliances that I have and use… and why. Perhaps that will help to answer your question.


Velvet foot mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes)

Small appliances I use all the time:

  • Countertop oven… I’ve had a countertop oven for almost a year now, and I use it more than I use the regular oven. The countertop oven I have is not a toaster oven… it is a commercial countertop oven, and it is large… big enough to hold a twenty-pound turkey… and it has a convection feature which almost cuts baking time in half. Using this oven instead of the regular oven really saves electricity.
  • Food processor… For years and years I didn’t have a food processor, and I had no idea what I was missing. Now I use the food processor all the time. I use it to mix pasta dough, I use it for cutting and slicing vegetables, I use it for grating, for mixing pie dough… and so much more. This is one small appliance I would replace IMMEDIATELY if something happened to the one I have now.
  • Stand mixer… My stand mixer is OLD, as you can tell from its color… avocado green! The motor is starting to complain under stress, but it still works well, so I am reluctant to part with it just yet. This mixer has a juicer attachment, a meat grinder attachment, and a dough hook, plus a couple of other attachments for other purposes… and I never use any of them any more except for the mixer. I do a lot of baking, so I really do need a stand mixer. Eventually I will replace this one, but with a mixer without so many bells and whistles.
  • Hand mixer… I use my hand mixer even more than the stand mixer. The one I have was very inexpensive. It isn’t very fancy but it works well for a lot of small mixing jobs.
  • Blender… I use my blender every day for making smoothies, but not much else. For most other jobs that I could use the blender for, I find that I prefer the food processor.
  • Electric skillet… I love using an electric skillet, especially for “one dish dinner” meals, and when I have a working electric skillet I use it almost every day. At the moment I am in between skillets… the latest one burned out recently and I have not replaced it. I find it is almost impossible to find an electric skillet that is not Teflon-coated, and with daily use the Teflon coatings, even on the more expensive models, last only a short time. I am not comfortable with Teflon anyway, so I look for a stainless steel skillet, and they are hard to find. The ones I have had in the past have had problems with the electrical parts within the skillet base burning out from continued use. If you know of a good stainless steel skillet brand that does not have this problem, I would really appreciate hearing about it. (Found one at Sears… thanks to Patti.)
  • Bread machine… This one almost deserves a special category because when I have a bread machine I use it every day. I currently don’t have a bread machine. The metal blade on the last one I had broke in half just after the warranty ran out and we have not replaced it yet, although I do plan to. I mostly use a bread machine for making dough but not for baking bread. Right now I’m mixing the bread dough using the stand mixer and kneading by hand.

Small appliances I don’t have (or don’t use):

  • Microwave oven… We do not have a microwave oven, and I have never had (or wanted) one because I am not comfortable with the concept.
  • Electric can opener… I’m not exactly sure why, but I prefer the heavy duty manual type. The can opener we’re using now opens the can on the side instead of the top and breaks the seal instead of cutting the metal. I like that.
  • Rice cooker… We had a rice cooker at one time and used it regularly for a while, but I found that I preferred to cook rice using a method I first saw on a televised cooking show… which is simply to cook the rice in a lot of boiling water the same way you would cook pasta. I think the rice comes out better this way than in a rice cooker.
  • Electric knife… We had one of these for a while too, but almost never used it. The electric base is long gone, but I still have one long serrated blade, and it is the best knife I have ever used for slicing bread, even though it doesn’t have a handle.
  • Toaster… We do have a toaster but it never gets used. For some reason when we make toast, we make it in the countertop oven.
  • Automatic coffee maker… We don’t drink much coffee, so we don’t have a coffee maker. My husband drinks only one cup of coffee each day, and he actually prefers the taste of instant coffee! I drink even less coffee than that.
  • Crock pot/slow cooker… I actually do have one of these, but I have never used it. I’m not sure why.

Small appliances I use infrequently:

  • Popcorn popper… We have the hot air type that lets you pop corn without oil or butter. We don’t use it a lot, but it’s worth having because it makes a healthier snack.
  • Ice cream machine… We only make ice cream for birthdays and special treats, but we really appreciate having the ice cream machine because it means we can make a soy-free ice cream. We make frozen yogurt more frequently.
  • Waffle iron… I don’t make waffles very often either, but a waffle iron is nice to have. It has a plain side too, which is convenient for toasted sandwiches.
  • Stick or immersion blender… I used to use the stick blender all the time for making mayonnaise, but then I tried making mayonnaise in the food processor and found it to be much easier and much faster. I haven’t used the stick blender for a long time.

So those are my favorites and some not-so-favorites. What small appliances would be on your list?


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Katie

I would have to say my coffee maker , food processor,coffee grinder, I use for grinding whole spices,the stand mixer,stick blender,magic bullet for making lassi and smoothies,and last, but not least, our mortar and pestle ( even though that is not exactly an appliance ) it has to be mentioned because it is so valuable !

Sandy

I have the BEST stainless steel electric skillet. It’s made by Towncraft (and made in the USA). It’s a bit on the expensive side, but worth every penny! I can bake potatoes in it, fry chicken (without grease or breading), cook meatloaf, and even bake a cake or make cornbread in it. I absolutely LOVE it. I think other companies make a similar one. Kitchen Craft comes to mind. I love my Kitchen Aid mixer and use it to knead my bread dough, as I don’t have a bread machine. No microwave either, but I do have a nice toaster oven (it’ll bake a 12″ pizza). I rarely use my blender, but have one of those “Magic Bullet” blenders that I use all the time. No George Forman, the electric skillets cooks hamburgers and steaks rather nicely too.

Sarah

I picked up my small George Foreman grill for like 15 bucks at a thrift sale that my work at the time was hosting. Comparable ones to it were running 75 dollars, so when I had the opportunity, I bought it. Living in my own apartment, with just me to feed, I used it tons. When I moved back in with my parents a year ago, I brought it with me. My mom now uses it all the time. She has even looked into purchasing one for the time when I move out…of course, she has also threatened to keep mine instead. There may be a battle whenever that happens.

carole

Shirley –
you mentioned the countertop oven; I was wondering what you think about a rotisserie? My boys love those yummy chickens you pick up all prepared and warm at the grocery stores. The thought of those sitting there for who knows how long under the heating lamps, makes me a little uneasy. Also, I would prefer an all natural chicken. Does your countertop oven have a rotisserie feature? Do you think it would be cost effective to invest in a rotisserie and cook our own chickens? With a house full of young boys, we easily polish off 2 of the store bought chickens now…I am very afraid of how many I will need once they start to approach the teen years! I am new to this website so forgive me if this is posted somewhere, but I would also love a series on cooking in volume and how to satisfy the never ending hunger of growing children, boys, athletes!
I am very thankful to have discovered this website; a sincere thank you from a not so rural New Englander!

Carol

Hi Shirley…I love your blog! So glad I found it. My favorite use for my stick blender is to make milkshakes. I use a large canning jar. Put my ice cream, a little milk and some chocolate syrup and rip it up. Maybe not quite like a milkshake machine, but satisfies my addiction.

Elwin

We use the Crock pot a fair amount. It’s great for fix and forget meals. I like to use it for cooking lentil and kielbasa soup. (Lentils and water according to the package, usually 2 cups lentils to five cups water. one 1 1lb. package of Kielbasa or other sausage, sliced into 1/4-3/8 in. slices, and one onion, chopped fine and sauted. It will cook up in about 4 hours on high, but you can cook it longer on low. Season to taste. Sometimes I add garlic.

I have one of the older Vita Mix machines (basically a blender on steroids), that I like to use for all sorts of things, smoothies, soups, gravy, etc.

I also have a 20 year old Oster Liitle Oscar food processor I inherited from my mother, which I use mostly for making biscuits, the odd batch of hummus, and peanut butter glaze for chocolate cakes. (I think my recipe for chocolate cake pan cake is the same one you have here, I got it from King Arthur flour) The glaze uses about 3/4 of a cup of powdered sugar, a couple of teaspoons of vanilla, maybe 1/4 cup of peanut butter and some water, then it get’s whizzed in the Oscar until it is smooth and creamy. I put it on the cake right after it comes out of the oven.

I have a larger “Professional Grade” Kitchen-Aid stand mixer I use. I make bread dough, cake, cookies, meatloaf, and occasionally mashed potatoes with. It’s a remanufactured one I got at a factory outlet store. Cost me half as much as a new one would.

I would love to have a countertop convection oven. I used to have one of those round “cyclone type” ovens, but it broke. When I had it, it worked quite well. I also have had my eye on one of those big Nesco roaster ovens for years, but keep talking myself out of getting one.

Esther

My Favorite appliance at the moment is my bread machine… I appreciate knowing exactly what is in my bread… it is very convenient…
I have to have a coffee maker, and a coffee grinder…. a crock pot I use continually, and toaster oven… and microwave…. mostly for cooking oatmeal and rye cereal… it comes out the best…..

SR

Nice list! I don’t have half of the items you do. I use my microwave and toaster ALL of the time. The toaster is for sandwiches using non-white bread. I think it makes em taste better. I only use the microwave for reheating leftovers. I prefer not to -cook- with it either.

Grace

I would say to get the waffle iron! Our kids have grown up on Dad’s homemade waffles made mostly on Saturday mornings when they were little. They are grown now and still love to come over and have Dad’s waffles. The grandbabies love them too so I vote yes for the waffle iron and yes to memories!

Niki

I have so many appliances but to be honest I use them all. #1 is my coffee pot, without this…well it would not be pretty. My toaster goes non stop as well. I also love my George Foreman, our first broke and we got a smaller one to replace it. I use this for the kids grilled cheese instead of frying them. I use my waffle iron to make large batches of waffles to freeze. I barely use my crockpot but when I do it is for large batches of chilli and spaghetti sauce. I guess I barely use the microwave. Other one I use and love are my yoghurt maker, blender for Kefir smoothies and small rice maker for steaming veggies. My husband uses his air popcorn maker almost every night instead of eating chips. I can’t say I have any that don’t get used regularily. I am now on the look out for a pressure canner and a food mill…I need more room now. LOL

Alissa

I like this list!

The small appliances I use most frequently are:

Toaster Oven – we purchased this a few months ago and I’m so glad we did! We almost never use the big oven any more. It also has a warmer on top which is great for warming up buns, etc.

Blender – I use this daily, also for making smoothies. The kids love them and so do I.

Food Processor – mine is ancient. My mother-in-law gave it to me when she got a new one. I think she had it for like 30 years. The handle is broken, and it only has one blade. I’m not even sure what specific blade it is, but I use it for everything.

Indoor Grill – We use this fairly often. The grill can be interchanged with a griddle, which we use for making pancakes.

Crock Pot – my favourite fall/winter appliance! I love that I can throw a meal in there in the morning, smell it cooking all day, and serve it up at supper time.

Bread Maker – I love using this in conjunction with my Crock Pot. In the fall & winter I like to put a meal in the crock pot, ingredients in the bread maker, set the timer, and not think about supper again until the timer goes off at supper time. :)

Toaster – we haven’t used this as much since getting our toaster oven. I will use it though if I’m only making a couple of pieces of toast.

Microwave – Part of the reason we bought a toaster oven was so that we can phase out the microwave. I don’t like the idea of it either, but I’ve used one for so long, it’s taking me some time to figure out how to survive without it.

Hand Mixer – Indespensible. I have a nice one that came in its own case, and I love it.

Popcorn Popper – We don’t use this very often, maybe once a week, but when we think of it, it makes a nice evening snack. :)

Coffee Maker – we have two, a regular-sized one, and a single-cup one. (Actually it will make two cups if you put them side by side). We mostly used the single cup one, and saved the regular one for when we have company. Now that I’m pregnant it’s mostly collecting dust, because not only can I not drink coffee, but I can’t stand the smell of it right now, so my poor husband can’t have any either. :)

Small Appliances I wish I had:

A waffle iron! I would love to be able to make and freeze my own waffles. I’m worried though, that it will be one of those novelty appliances that will be fun to use for awhile, and then it will collect dust in the cupboard. So I’m holding off for now.

Fran

My mother gave me a Farberware stainless steel electric skillet back in the 1970’s and that thing still works beautifully and is gleaming and beautiful. It’s a big one with a domed lid. These are on sale on Ebay. I found one there just today that was still in wraps and never used! from an estate sale.
This baby is indispensable. I plan on it lasting as long as I do.

I like my immersion blender for making “mashed potatoes” out of cauliflower. Works fast and efficiently. I use it for other things, too, but the cauliflower is my favorite.

Hand mixer– use it much more than stand mixer. Don’t bake as much as I used to. But I like having it there when needed.

Food processor– I don’t know how I lived without it. I grate and shred carrots and cabbage and cheese, when needed in large amounts, and it’s great for pastry, and pureeing– If it died, I’d replace it the next day. use it almost every day.

Don’t have a coffeemaker, I use a French press.

But I do have a little coffee grinder, and I love it for making almond flour, and have been experimenting with bean flour, chopping small amounts of things, etc. It’s very handy.

Toaster– it mostly sits in the cupboard, because I don’t eat bread like I used to before being diagnosed diabetic. But now and then I toast English muffins in it.

CK

…you’ve got me interested in the countertop oven now!

I too love my food processor and couldn’t get by without it. Likewise my KitchenAid stand mixer (though have to say I rarely use the attachments). Only ever use the microwave for reheating dinners and cooking corn on the cob. Just put a cob of corn, still in its husk, on the turntable and give it 4 minutes on high. Comes out perfectly steamed in its own juices. Allow to cool for a few minutes and the silk and husk just slip off effortlessly.

Two devices I also adore are my lettuce spinner – just a cheapie from IKEA but does a great job – and my pasta machine. It’s an Italian-made Grazia and it is sensational. Make the dough by hand or in the KitchenAid then let the kids help you pass it through the rollers a few times before cutting it into the required shapes. Very hard to beat perfectly fresh pasta!