Our Favorite Countertop Appliances

[Photograph: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]

Living in New York City has its downsides. I've come to terms with the fact that I will never own a piece of real estate here, and I know any apartment I can afford to rent will be woefully small, more fit for a hobbit than an average-sized human. (Dating here is also a nightmare, but let's deal with one challenge at a time.)

In many apartments, the kitchen is the space in which we make the most sacrifices. My kitchen is really just a galley in the living room, with a fridge, sink, and about a foot and a half of counter space. That area, while minuscule, is where I do all of my cooking. It's also where I have skillfully Tetris-ed my beloved appliances, all of which I've bought based on the recommendations from our recipe developers. These are the go-to items we at Serious Eats love and use all the time. Hopefully you have more counter space than I do.

High-Powered Blender

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

If you've ever seen a Vitamix in action, you'll immediately understand why it's at once so wonderful and so expensive. These machines can obliterate chunks of ice for frozen margaritas, whip up frothy smoothies and purée soups until they're rich and creamy. Sure, a hand blender might perform some of these tasks pretty well, but the Vitamix goes the extra mile: it can mill flour, grind beef, emulsify mayo, and make homemade peanut butter. Even if you do have a tiny kitchen like me, a Vitamix deserves a spot on your counter—maybe even a pedestal. Or, you know, one of those red ribbons you wrap around new cars in teen movies.

Precision Electric Kettle

I never fully understood the appeal of electric kettles until a few years ago, when I was dating a New Zealander. He had spent most of his 20s in London and was an avid tea drinker. He also spent most of our first date discussing the pros and cons of various kettles and shaming me for not having one. (Needless to say, the relationship didn't go far.) But my appreciation for kettles grew. Who knew that different varieties of tea can benefit from brewing at different temperatures? A good precision kettle like the Chefman heats the water to your exact specification, with an LED display that shows the temperature. It can also keep your water warm for up to an hour, in case you're in the mood for multiple cups of tea (or hot chocolate, or bowls of mac and cheese). Another benefit of the Chefman: You can always see how full it is at any given time. The included tea-infusing attachment doesn't hurt either.

Pressure Cooker or Multi-Cooker

[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

There is perhaps nothing we love more at Serious Eats than a pressure cooker. I never had one before coming to work here. But now I use my Instant Pot all the time, mainly for these quick and easy recipes. Whether you go for the Instant Pot or the Breville Fast-Slo Pro or a simple stovetop pressure cooker, it will become your go-to to break down meats for braises and chilis, cook dried beans without a long soak, and even make gelatin-rich chicken stock in just one hour. So long, slow cooker!

Food Processor

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Even if your knife skills are excellent, a food processor is a useful tool that will save you time and energy. Breville's newest food processor is among our favorites. The blade drive runs like the base of a blender, so you won't need to worry about leaking sauces. Plus, the slicing blade has an adjustable width for even more versatility. While it's an expensive purchase, you can use a food processor for so much, like Stella's super fruity (and stable) whipped cream, ground beef, or super-smooth bean purées, like this hummus recipe. Daniel also uses his to mince in mass quantities, which saves a ton of time if you're cooking for a crowd.

Stand Mixer

[Photograph: Vicky Wasik]

There is no greater piece of kitchen eye candy than the KitchenAid Stand Mixer. It comes in a wide range of colors, and it can't be beat in terms of functionality and versatility. Use the dough hook for the perfect crusty loaf of bread; the paddle for homemade brown sugar; the whisk for fast and easy cream cheese frosting. And I haven't even gotten to the attachments yet. Our two favorite attachments are by far the pasta roller (which makes homemade pasta a cinch) and the meat grinder (for vastly superior burgers and juicy homemade sausages). And if you're making a bucket of Margaritas, Kenji's a big fan of the citrus juicer.

Ice Cream Maker

It is safe to say that we are ice cream maniacs at Serious Eats, and we've found that this ice cream maker from Cuisinart is perfect for home cooks. The construction is simple: there aren't many moving parts to confuse you and the wide mouth at the top makes it easy to add chocolate, nuts, hot fudge...really, any mix-in you can imagine. That mouth is also pretty handy when you're looking to get in there with a big spoon to taste the finished product.

Immersion Circulator

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[Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt]

People ask us all the time if it's worth it to get an immersion circulator. To that, the answer is always a resounding "yes." Sous vide cooking, which you can read about here, will give you complete control over whatever you're making. While oven and stove temperatures can be unreliable, an immersion circulator—paired with some airtight sealed bags, a Cambro, water, and maybe some ping-pong balls—will heat your food to the precise temperature you want, from edge to edge, every single time. Here's everything you need to know to get started with sous vide cooking.

SodaStream

The ability to turn regular water into sparkling water is almost more impressive than turning water into wine. All of us at Serious Eats are seltzer obsessives, and we've found that it can get pretty expensive keeping up with the addiction. The SodaStream satiates our need for bubbles without all the wasted plastic and money. Plus, this machine doesn't require any batteries or electricity, so you can save your precious countertop outlets for your other appliances.

Waffle Iron

You may remember our column, Will It Waffle, where we waffled just about everything. Seriously. I'm talking cheese, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, leftover pizza, falafel, and so much more. Whether you're waffling something silly, like s'mores with Halloween candy, or something traditional, like Stella's perfect vanilla buttermilk waffles, you'll need a good iron to get the job done. We like this one from Cuisinart. It heats quickly and evenly, and the non-stick plates make it suitable for all sorts of experimentation. What will we waffle next? Only time will tell.