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"Convenience" and "efficiency" are important words for a home cook. Spending an hour whipping meringue by hand seems foolish when you could just pop the ingredients in a stand mixer and have stiff, glossy peaks in minutes. And why work your wrists into cramps from grating the four blocks of cheese you need for homemade macaroni, when you can just attach the grating disc to your food processor and make quick work without hand fatigue?
Countertop appliances are space-saving workhorses. They make baking projects and meal prep less stressful, instead offering robust capabilities and ease of operation. We researched and tested everything from espresso machines and blenders to food processors and pressure cookers to make your kitchen endeavors smooth and exciting.
Here are the best small kitchen appliances.
Best Microwave: Toshiba EM131A5C-BS Microwave Oven
Buzzer can be muted
Has door handle rather than button
Some presets aren't very accurate
Preparing leftovers in a microwave can be so much easier than reheating on the stove. Melting, heating, and even defrosting become quick tasks with the trusty appliance. This model has some sweet advantages over other models and gorgeous black stainless steel exterior. Instead of a button, there's an easy-grip door handle, too.
The Toshiba EM131A5C-BS has a roomy interior capacity of 1.2 cubic feet, but has a small footprint to save on counter space. The size does not reflect the power, though. At 1100 watts, it can perform most tasks quickly and quietly. You can even mute it.
There are pre-programmed buttons for popular foods, like potatoes and popcorn, defrost options for various items, and three programmable spots for your personal favorite foods. It's also equipped with a sensor function that recognizes what type of food is in the microwave and cooks it for the appropriate amount of time. The interface is large and easy to read, the finish is sleek and smudge-resistant, and the interior cleans up with ease.
Power: 1100 watts | Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet | Size: 2.5 x 17.1 x 12.8 inches
"Throughout the testing process, I kept my power setting at 10 and was pleased with the results." — Rachel Ellison, Product Tester
Best Food Processor: Cuisinart DFP-14BCNY 14-Cup Food Processor
Versatile in use
Extra-large feed tube
Can be difficult to clean
Low liquid fill capacity
For a busy home cook, a food processor is almost like having your own sous chef in the kitchen. It aids in quick completion of mise-en-place, does the heavy lifting for holiday dinner prep, and makes mezzes in a flash. Whether you're grating cheese, preparing pie dough, slicing vegetables, or making pesto, the Cuisinart 14-Cup Food Processor is a smart choice.
The design could not be more user-friendly. There are only two large, paddle-style buttons: one for "off/pulse" and the other for "on." There's no fussy touchpad and only one bowl to worry about. The base is solid and doesn't slide around during heavy use. It has an extra-wide feed tube, which makes tasks like slicing larger vegetables and grating blocks of cheese a snap. It comes with a shredding disc, slicing disc, removable disc stem, and metal blade for chopping, mixing, blending, and pureeing.
Power: 720 watts | Capacity: 14 cups | Size: 11 x 7.9 x 14.8 inches
"If you’re averse to reading through thick instruction manuals like I sometimes am, you’ll feel you’ve lucked out with the Cuisinart’s intuitive design." — Tierney McAfee, Product Tester
Best Espresso Machine: Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker
Easy to use
Nice variety of drinks
Difficult to clean
Trips to the coffee shop can be an expensive habit. An espresso machine at home can add a lot of savings to the monthly budget and offer the convenience of espresso shots, cappuccinos, and lattes whenever the mood strikes. Mr. Coffee is a trusted brand, especially for electric drip brewers. Its espresso and cappuccino maker maintains this reputation with its semi-automatic operation, simple interface, and customizable brewing options.
The Mr. Coffee Café Barista Espresso and Cappuccino Maker is a sleek, modern addition to your kitchen countertop. The intuitive design boasts a one-touch control panel, simple indicator lights, removable water and milk reservoirs, and an automatic sleep mode after 15 minutes. You can also switch from automatic to manual mode if you want more control over drink customization.
Power: 1040 watts | Capacity: 1.7-liter water tank | Size: 12.6 x 8.86 x 11.22 inches
"Compared to some of the cheaper alternatives, [the Café Barista] wins out because it is semi-automatic. With this machine, it’s easy to make cappuccinos and lattes at the touch of a button." — Cheyenne Elwell, Product Tester
Best Coffee Maker: Cuisinart DCC-3200BKSP1 Perfectemp Coffee Maker
Programmable up to 24 hours
Adjustable brew strength
Temperature control keeps coffee hot
Difficult to fill the water reservoir
Sometimes, waking up to a ready-brewed cup of coffee is exactly what you need to start the day right. The Cuisinart Perfectemp Coffee Maker affords this option and more. It's programmable up to 24 hours in advance, and you can choose your carafe temperature and coffee strength. The display is easy to use with large, simple buttons. Making that customized cup of joe has never been easier. And, if you only want to make a few cups, the Cuisinart Perfectemp has you covered; you can make as little as 1 and up to 14 cups.
There's more to this model, though. You can grab your cup mid-cycle with the "brew pause" function, and there's an alarm to let you know when the pot is finished. It has a modern, stainless steel exterior and compact footprint, making it an attractive, space-saving addition to your counter top. It also has a reusable, gold tone filter, so you can ditch paper filters and reduce your kitchen waste.
The self-cleaning feature facilitates keeping calcification at bay, ensuring a fresh cup of coffee every time, and the auto-shut-off option lets you safely leave the house without worrying whether you left the coffee maker on.
Weight: 8.75 pounds | Capacity: 14 cups | Size: 7.75 x 9 x 14 inches
"Considering its sleek design, temperature control, and undeniably useful features, this coffee maker simply brings so much to the table. An investment in this product will transform your morning cup of coffee routine forever." — Lambeth Hochwald, Product Tester
Best Blender: Vitamix 5200 Professional-Grade Blender
Simple to use
Good at heavy tasks
Not dishwasher friendly
A good blender can be used for a lot more than smoothies, though the Vitamix 5200 excels in that department. This multi-use appliance cuts time when preparing smoky barbecue sauce, emulsifying vinaigrette, or smoothing out chunky soups. With a spacious 64-ounce, heavy-duty, BPA-free, Tritan plastic jar, you can blend large quantities, too.
The intuitive design of the Vitamix 5200 makes it easy to use. A single dial allows control over ten speeds, and a mode switch for high/variable options could not be simpler to operate. The rubber lid is spill-proof and features a drop-in hole to add ingredients or utilize the included tamper to break up air pockets or push stubborn ingredients toward the blade mid-session. The powerful stainless steel blade crushes ice in an instant.
Don’t worry if you overwork this blender because it has an automatic shut-off to keep it from burning out, and the hefty sticker price comes with a seven-year warranty to keep you blending for years.
Power: 1400 watts | Capacity: 64 ounces | Size: 0.5 x 7.25 x 8.75 inches
Best Pressure Cooker: Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker
Remembers previous settings
Three temperature levels
Precise temperature control
Comes with minimal accessories
Difficult to see the pressure valve
If you're pressed for time, but don’t want to order takeout, the Instant Pot is your answer. It's large 6-quart capacity can feed a family, and the seven functions take you from pressure cooker to steamer to saute pan and more. It has three temperature settings and two pressure settings, as well as 14 cooking programs to accommodate foods like rice, stew, and yogurt. For even quicker prep, the machine will remember your exact time and pressure settings for the next time it's used.
The Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker has a stainless steel insert with a three-layer base for even cooking and a steam rack for veggies or lifting baby back ribs out. Schedule meals with the delay start option (this can be set up to 24 hours in advance), 10-hour automatic keep-warm function, and manual keep-warm function that will maintain toasty potluck temperatures for up to 100 hours.
Built-in safety features, like overheat protection and safety lock, will avert any potential hazards. The exterior is fingerprint-resistant, and accessories are dishwasher safe.
Weight: 11.8 pounds | Capacity: 6 quarts | Size: 13.39 x 12.21 x 12.48 inches
Best Indoor Grill: Cuisinart GR-4N 5-in-1 Griddler
Nonstick, removable, dishwasher-safe cooking plates
Opens flat for griddling and grilling
Bottom plate heats more than top
Drip tray easy to forget when cleaning
Small for a large family
Craving a steak, but it's raining? Yearning for a panini, but the restaurant is closed? The Cuisinart Griddler is the machine for those moments and more. It's incredibly versatile with options for a contact grill, panini press, full grill, full griddle, and half grill/half griddle. The grill plates are reversible, too, so you can have a flat or ridged surface depending on your needs. The hinge adjusts to accommodate thicker or thinner items and opens fully, so you can avoid steaming foods or pour on heaping helpings of pancake batter.
The simple controls make it effortless to operate. The selector dial allows you to choose between griddle and grill, and then the temperature is adjusted with the appropriate dial to the left or right. Indicator lights let you know when the griddler has reached the set cook temperature. Cleanup is easy with the nonstick, dishwasher-safe removable grill plates.
Power: 110 volts | Material: Aluminum plates with nonstick coating | Size: 13.5 x 11.5 x 7.12 inches
Best Stand Mixer: KitchenAid Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer
Easily handles tough doughs
Heavy-duty bowl with handle
Impressive array of optional attachments
Coated attachments could chip
Wire whip isn't dishwasher safe
A stand mixer is the ultimate time-saving appliance for many bakers. KitchenAid is the gold standard and has been for years—since 1919, in fact. This iconic appliance boasts ten speeds, a head that tilts for ease of adding ingredients, a bowl-locking switch, a dough hook, a paddle, a whisk attachment, and a hub that makes switching out accessories a piece of cake, whether that's a pasta maker, spiralizer, or ice cream maker.
That said, the real asset here is the pouring shield; it keeps ingredients from erupting out of the bowl, coating you and your countertops. Not to mention, this stand mixer looks gorgeous in any kitchen setting. It's available in a rainbow of colors, from milkshake to lavender cream to 2021’s signature color: honey. Whichever you choose, this appliance is sure to make prep much easier, whether you're creating sausage balls, homemade whipped cream to top fresh strawberry shortcake, or a double batch of snickerdoodles.
Power: 300 watts | Capacity: 5 quarts | Size: 14.3 x 9.3 x 14 inches
"No matter what the task, I could just set up the machine and stand back and watch it." — Donna Currie, Product Tester
How do you clean a microwave?
Even stubborn food debris is easy to remove with a couple easy steps. Mix 1 tablespoon of white vinegar in a glass measuring cup with 1 cup of water. Place it inside the microwave and set it on high power for about five minutes or until you see it boiling and steam starts to create condensation on the door. Leave it in there for another five minutes, and then remove it. Wipe the interior with a sponge.
What are the attachments for a food processor?
There are many different attachments for various stand mixers, but common types include a shredding disc, which is useful for cheese, cabbage, carrots, and other foods you need grated or shredded, like potatoes for homemade hash browns; a slicing disc, which gives you a thin slice on fruits and vegetables, cooked meat, and semi-frozen raw meat; and a metal blade for chopping, blending, pureeing, grinding, kneading, or emulsifying everything from dips, nut butters, sauces, and salsas to spice blends, bread crumbs, and more.
One caveat for food processor attachments is that they're extremely sharp. Be careful attaching, removing, and cleaning to avoid injury.
How does a pressure cooker work?
Pressure cookers are used to cook food quickly via a sealed pot that traps steam. As the steam gathers, pressure builds, which raises the boiling point of water inside past 212 degrees and up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. The high pressure created by the trapped steam forces moisture into the food in the pot, cooking it quickly in comparison to traditional methods. This is especially good for tough cuts of meat that need tenderizing.
What can you make with a stand mixer?
The better question is, "What can’t you make with a stand mixer?" Stand mixers usually come with three attachments: a dough hook, whisk, and paddle. The dough hook is great for making breads, pie doughs, pizza dough, and anything else you would knead by hand. The whisk attachment renders whipped cream in a matter of minutes and makes a stiff meringue without hand cramps. Basically, anything you would hand whisk can be done in a fraction of the time with this attachment. The paddle is the real winner, though, as this tool is used for cookie and cake batters, brownies, compound butters, frosting, and other treats.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. If you purchase additional specialized attachments, you can grind your own sausage, spiralize zucchini noodles, churn ice cream, roll out fresh pasta, or juice citrus.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Carrie Honaker is a food writer who has owned her share of small kitchen appliances on this list. As a restaurateur and avid home cook, she knows the importance of finding the right tool for the right job. She loves her KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer for its durability and functionality. The vibrant mango color looks pretty on the counter, as well. Her work has appeared in many publications, including Bon Appetit, Allrecipes, and Wine Enthusiast.