Looking to update your kitchen? Confused about all of the new offerings in kitchen appliances?
This guide will show you what to look for when purchasing kitchen appliances as well as why you might want to consider adding some speciality appliances to your collection.
When purchasing appliances, try to look for those that are durable, environmentally friendly, and safe for your food.
These appliances are the main, big appliances in your kitchen. These will cost the most and hopefully last the longest. Do the most research and price comparing in this category.
The average lifespan of a standard refrigerator is 13 years. Even if your fridge is not that old, you might want to consider replacing it with a new model after 10 years in order to save on your energy bill.
Since refrigerators are one of the biggest energy-consuming appliances in the kitchen, it is important to look for Energy Star Certified refrigerators. One of these will save you money on your electricity bill and reduce your environmental impact.
In terms of food safety, try to find a refrigerator that has been coated with an antibacterial lining. These linings are very effective at reducing the growth and spread of bacteria. Also look for a refrigerator with a temperature notification panel as most fridges keep food at higher than safe temperatures. If this is not in your budget, you can instead place several thermometers throughout your refrigerator and monitor their readings on a regular basis.
Best for: preserving food and keeping it at a safe temperature until use
When choosing a range, the most important thing to decide right away is electric or gas. While a gas range is more energy-efficient, it may be harmful to your health. A study in California homes found that cooking with a gas range increases the levels of nitrogen dioxide in your home which can lead to respiratory problems.
A third option is available and that is induction cooking. This method is in between gas and electric in terms of energy consumption but without the respiratory problems of gas cooking. While some people have raised concerns over the safety of induction cooktops, this study was unable to find any negative consequences of using induction.
Best for: cooking quickly and healthfully
While dishwashers used to be a luxury in households, they are now becoming more commonplace. If you think you can’t afford this indulgence you should look at this study which shows that having a dishwasher saves a dramatic amount of water and energy per cleaned item. On top of that, it’s easier!
Besides ease of use and saving water and energy, dishwashers are great at sanitizing your dishes as well as other household items. Dishwashers can even be used to sanitize medical instruments.
However, another study showed that dishwashers are the perfect place for growing pathogenic fungi so make sure to get a dishwasher with a high-heat sanitizing cycle, clean your dishwasher regularly and air it out when possible.
Best for: speeding up cleaning time and reducing water use
As we saw when discussing ranges, gas stovetops can cause high levels of nitrogen dioxide in the home. These levels of nitrogen dioxide can cause health problems such as asthma in kids and cardiovascular issues. The best way to avoid these is to not have a gas range but if you absolutely must use gas, you need a great range hood. While these take up a lot of space, they are the only things that can reduce the amount of dangerous chemicals in the air while cooking.
This study found that over-the-range microwave ventilation is not effective at all. Some range hoods don’t require a duct and instead they circulate the air through charcoal filters. The researchers said that this type of hood should be avoided as it makes very little difference in air quality. They suggest buying a full range hood that extends out to the front burners. Also, it is best to cook on the back burners so that the contaminated air has fewer chances to escape from the range hood. Finally they noted that even the best range hood doesn’t work if you do not turn it on.
Best for: cleaning the air when cooking
Small must-have appliances
These are the smaller appliances that are necessary for most people. Try to make sure you have all of these before moving on to specialty appliances.
More than 90% of American households have a microwave so you know it is a must-have appliance. Cooking vegetables with a microwave allows the vegetable to retain more vitamin C than stovetop cooking methods.
When choosing a microwave, you’ll need to decide on whether to buy an over-the-range microwave or a counter microwave. Choose the counter microwave because according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, over-the-range microwaves do not effectively ventilate the kitchen so you need to save that space for a hood.
Some microwaves have a sensor cooking option that uses the humidity released by food to determine when the food is done cooking. While this is safer in terms of food safety, it is also quite pricey. If you can not afford the sensor cooking, placing food on the edge of the turntable instead of the middle is more effective in producing even cooking.
Pro tip: Microwaves are great places for bacteria so remember to regularly clean your microwave in order to prolong its life and help prevent cross-contamination.
Best for: speedy cooking and reheating leftovers
Blenders are a great way to get kids to eat more fruit in the form of smoothies. They can also be used for blending soups and making sauces. In the battle of blending vs juicing, blending is generally cheaper and fruits retain more of their antioxidative properties in blending.
When choosing a blender, there are three types: personal, immersion, and countertop. Personal blenders are small and make a smoothie or sauce for just one person. These are typically easier to clean and generally encourage drinking straight from the container. Countertop blenders have much larger capacities and would better serve a family. Immersion blenders are great for warm soups since you do not need to transfer the mixture to another container and can blend on the stove.
Make sure you remember to regularly clean and inspect your blender as broken pieces or hidden dirt can cause food contamination.
Best for: getting creative with smoothies, sauces, and shakes
Food processors are often overlooked as a necessary kitchen appliance but if you eat vegetables or dips and sauces frequently, this is a gadget you need. While many people think a blender can easily take the place of a food processor, this is not true. Blenders are best for liquids whereas food processors are best for creamy dips like hummus, chopping veggies for a fresh salsa, or making a pesto. Yes, these tasks can be accomplished by hand but if you do them regularly, a food processor is the way to go.
When shopping for a new food processor, look for a wide feed tube. This is the part that allows you to push fruits or veggies into the machine. The wider the tube, the less chopping you have to do.
Also be sure to get one with dishwasher safe parts. Food processors come with many pieces and cleaning gooey dip out of every nook and cranny is not how you want to spend your day. Make clean-up easy and check that it says dishwasher-safe.
Best for: creating healthy dips and sauces at home
If you are deciding between a toaster and a toaster oven, get the toaster oven. Yes, they take up more space and are more expensive but they can do so much more than just a toaster. Most of the things you cook in the oven, you can also cook in a toaster oven. This is a bonus because toaster ovens heat up quicker and use less energy. According to Energy Star, toaster ovens use 50% less energy than a conventional oven to cook the same item. You can even bake in them and the average toaster oven only costs $40-50.
There are two main types of toaster ovens and those are conventional and convection. Energy Star claims that no reliable studies have shown an energy consumption difference between conventional and convection, but convection toaster ovens do cook faster because they have a fan that moves the warm air around. This also helps to eliminate uneven cooking as hot air is everywhere. So definitely get a convection over conventional but don’t spend too much. The average lifespan of a toaster oven is only five years.
Pro tip: Get an oven with a curved back for cooking frozen pizzas
Best for: heating and baking food quickly and efficiently
Making coffee at home has been proven to be considerably cheaper than buying it at a coffee shop. Did you know that coffee is also healthy for you? It has been shown to raise your glutathione levels, prevent diabetes, and help with heart health.
So which type of coffee maker should you buy? Stick with the conventional, filtered coffee maker. While French presses may look cool, this study found that they provide you with less isoflavones than filtered coffee. French presses allow diterpenes into your cup which can raise cholesterol.
You should also avoid the coffee pod makers as those cost twice as much money per cup and have a larger environmental footprint than filtered coffee makers.
When choosing a conventional coffee maker, there are lots of options such as programmable settings, thermal carafes, and a wide array of size options.
Best for: making a simple cup of coffee
Slow cookers are a busy family’s best friend. What’s easier than dumping some ingredients in a pot in the morning and coming home to a warm, cooked meal after work? However, there are two main safety concerns that everyone has when it comes to slow cookers: food safety and fires.
While one study found cooking meat in slow cookers to be perfectly safe in terms of food-borne illnesses, another study found that it might be even more safe than a conventional oven. In the second study, they found more of a decrease in E Coli in meats cooked in a slow cooker than those in a conventional oven. However, the USDA does recommend thawing meat before placing it in the slow cooker and you should also check the internal temperature with a thermometer after cooking.
In terms of fire safety, it turns out that slow cookers are so safe that they don’t even make the list of concerns. Just make sure to check that the cord is in good condition and you should be good to go.
So what slow cooker should you buy? An oval pot for even cooking and a programmable cooker that will switch to the “warm” function when it is done cooking. That will keep your meal at a safe temperature even if you are not able to get to it right away.
Best for: preparing a meal with minimal effort
Electric Tea Kettle
Homemade tea is not only delicious, it’s quite nutritious. Many studies have been done on tea and most show serious beneficial effects such as increased antioxidants and cardiovascular health. Green tea, in particular, was shown to have many health benefits.
So why do you need an electric tea kettle if you can just boil water on the stove or in the microwave? First of all, using an electric tea kettle is thought to be more energy efficient than the stove or microwave. Also, for the best overall flavor, different teas require different temperatures of water and this can be difficult to achieve in the microwave or on the stove.
When purchasing an electric tea kettle, look for one with adjustable temperature settings. This will allow you to change the settings depending on which type of tea you are making. Also try to buy a stainless steel kettle as they are seen to be the most durable.
Pro tip: The handle on an electric tea kettle is one of the most contaminated places in a kitchen. Make sure to clean this regularly and wash your hands between preparing meat and making tea.
Best for: preparing a healthy cup of tea
If you bake regularly, you need an electric mixer. And if you don’t bake regularly, maybe you should. This article compared the ingredients in store-bought baked goods to that of those in homemade baked goods. To sum it up, you’re definitely better off baking your own cookies and treats.
There are two main types of mixers: hand-held and stand. Hand mixers work for most smaller jobs but you’ll want a stand mixer if you bake in large quantities or make bread. Stand mixers also have optional attachments for making pasta, sausage or grinding meat. Hand mixers are generally cheaper but stand mixers have more options. Some heavy bakers have both so they can use the hand mixer for smaller jobs but still have a stand mixer available for larger projects.
If you are going to buy a stand mixer, invest in a good quality one made out of metal. These are more durable and last longer. Also look for one with a motor that slowly speeds up to reduce spills and help the motor last longer. Finally, think about what attachments you’ll use the most and find a stand mixer with those capabilities.
Best for: mixing and kneading dough
Garbage disposals make a kitchen a lot easier to use. Not only do they allow you to eliminate throwing smelly food in the trash bin, they make dish clean-up a lot quicker too. When you can rinse your food waste down the drain, you save a lot of time. But is this okay for the environment?
Scientists are torn on the subject of garbage disposals. On the one hand, they decrease the amount of trash going to landfills but they place more of a strain on water systems. A study in the UK found that garbage disposals would work great if everyone or nobody used them. If everyone switched to a garbage disposal, they could invest more money in water-cleaning facilities and if nobody used them, they could send that money to create better landfill technology. The fact that the country is in the middle is the problem.
Garbage disposals are fairly affordable and relatively easy to choose. The most important thing to look for in a disposal is horsepower. Balance higher horsepower with your budget to choose your disposal.
Pro tip: While most people use a wall-mounted electrical switch for the disposal, it is actually safer to install an air pressure switch on the counter.
Best for: removing waste in an easy, hassle-free manner
You have all of your large and your small must-have appliances so what do you do next? Now you customize your kitchen to your needs by choosing specialty appliances that fit in your lifestyle. Choose anywhere between one and all of them!
The popularity of juicing has increased dramatically over the past decade and for good reason. Scientists have found that juice helps prevents obesity and improves your cardiovascular health. A study has also found that juicing provides better bioavailability of nutrients than blending.
There are three types of juicers: centrifugal, masticating, and triturating. Centrifugal juicers chop up the food and spin it very quickly to get the juice out. Masticating juicers chew up the food very slowly and push it through a screen to separate the pulp from the juicer. Triturating juicers chew up the food just like masticating juicers but they use two gears instead of one which allows the machine to produce more juice and nutrients.
While triturating juicers are superior, they are also extremely expensive (think $2,000) so they are mostly recommended for diehard juicers and commercial businesses. Scientists found that between a centrifugal juicer, masticating juicer, and a mixer, the masticating juicer produced the healthiest juice with the most benefits. Masticating juicers do cost more than centrifugal but if you’re going to juice, this is the kind to get.
Best for: improving your health with delicious drinks
Sous Vide Precision Cooker
Have you ever heard of sous vide cooking? Basically it is cooking food inside plastic bags. This has been done for decades by chefs but now there is an appliance that makes it easy for home chefs.
Several studies have been done on sous vide cooking and have found it to be completely safe as long as you follow basic food safety temperature guidelines. This study also found it to be safe but states that vegetables pose the least risk of foodborne pathogens.
There are two main types of sous vide machines. One is an immersion wand that clamps onto a pot of water. After the water heats up, you place the bag of food inside the pot.
The other type is a sous vide oven. This has the pot and wand all combined in a machine. It is almost like a slow cooker except the food is contained in a bag.
The immersion wand takes up less space and is definitely the more popular product on the market.
Best for: fool-proof, evenly-cooked meals
Many people are trying to avoid carbohydrates like rice because of current diet fads. But fortunately for the carb-lovers, rice, especially brown rice, is incredibly healthy for us. It has been shown to decrease inflammation and cardiovascular risk factors and provide a good source of resistant starch which is helpful for your digestion.
So how should you cook your rice? Well, this article shows that the healthiest way to cook rice is in a rice cooker because it helps the rice maintain more of its healthy resistant starch. Also, the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy believes that cooking in a rice cooker, as opposed to on the stove with a pot, is more energy-efficient.
Rice cookers have several different features and additional functions. Some of the more helpful features are a delayed start, a steamer basket, and a function that switches the cooker to warm after it finishes cooking. Also, don’t forget to get one that has a brown rice setting!
Pro tip: Did you know you can cook entire meals in a rice cooker? Cook fresh veggies in the steamer basket while your rice cooks or add beans and broth straight into the rice cooker with the dried rice!
Best for: cooking nutritious and delicious meals
Contact grills are a large category of appliances that covers indoor grills, waffle makers, panini presses, quesadilla makers, plate grills, and many more. They all have about the same idea and construction though. Two hot plates are attached by a hinge and can be opened and closed. The shape of these plates determines what type of grill it is.
Using these contact grills for items you would usually cook outside on the grill allows you to avoid all of the health and environmental risks associated with outdoor grilling. Many contact grills also have a slanted edge that allows fat to drip away which may reduce the overall fat in the food.
When choosing a contact grill, consider what you cook the most. If you love hot sandwiches but hardly ever eat a steak, you might want to choose a panini press over an indoor grill. But if you like all of these options, some grills have the ability to switch out plates so you can cook several different items with just one appliance!
Pressure cookers are very popular right now and with good reason. Pressure cookers have been found to retain higher levels of zinc, iron, and vitamin C in foods than traditional, stove-top cooking. Plus they’re considerably quicker and easier to use than normal pots and pans.
While pressure cookers used to be heavy-duty pots with valves and vents, many new pressure cookers are now electric. The most exciting part about new pressure cookers is that they have single-function and multi-function cookers on the market. While the single-function pressure cookers are great for canning and just pressure cooking, multi-function pressure cookers can be used to replace many kitchen appliances. They are capable of acting as a slow-cooker and rice cooker, steaming vegetables, sautéing, making yogurt, pressure cooking food, and much more.
While multi-function pressure cookers aren’t cheap (running anywhere between $50 to $250), if you’re going to use more than two of the functions, it beats buying the individual appliances.
Pro tip: Buy a multi-function pressure cooker and then sell your now redundant appliances. You’ll make money and save space!
Best for: cooking in several different manners with only one appliance
Dehydrators are a great appliance to buy if you want to eat more whole foods. Common items that people dehydrate include fruits, veggies and even meat. Scientists even suggest people eat more dried fruits as they are a good source of antioxidants and fiber. Usually these dried foods are pretty pricey in the store so if you eat a lot of them, a dehydrator might save you some money.
There are two main types of dehydrators. One type is stackable where the the racks stack on top of each other and then are covered by a tray at the top. This kind is great because you can add or subtract trays as needed. The downside to this is that food on the bottom will be more dehydrated than food on the top. It is suggested to rotate stacks throughout the dehydration period in order to prevent this disparity.
Box and shelf dehydrators are considerably more expensive than stackable dehydrators but offer more even dehydration. The main downfall here though is that you can not add additional racks if needed.
Whichever type you choose, make sure to get a dehydrator made out of metal or food grade plastic. Metal will last longer.
Pro tip: Researchers found that dehydrators are effective in eliminating salmonella almost entirely. They conducted this research on stackable dehydrators and surprisingly found that there was less salmonella on the top rack than the bottom.
Best for: preserving whole foods and making jerky
Researchers have found that drinking a moderate amount of wine daily can help prevent cardiovascular disease. Once you start drinking wine regularly, it’s hard not to become a little obsessed. But how do you know if you’ve reached the point of needing to buy a wine fridge?
According to this study, 20% of households with a household income over six figures have a wine fridge. This article featuring wine experts states that you should start considering the purchase of a wine fridge if you regularly have more than 20 bottles of wine in your house.
But the point of having a wine fridge isn’t just so you have a place to put your wine collection. Wine storage requires very specific humidity levels, temperature control and bottle placement. All of your basic wine fridges will offer these necessary features so the main part you need to decide is noise level and aesthetics.
Best for: storing wine to maintain its flavor and aroma
Essential to any kitchen, here is an assortment of knives that you will need.
Drinking clean water is essential to well-being. Here are the key equipment you need to ensure the safety and quality of your drinking water.
15 Kitchen Planning Tips
Now that we’ve looked at different types of appliances, you can plan your kitchen. Use these tips and tricks to make your kitchen and kitchen appliances work for you.
1. Plan ahead
Have you ever had a major appliance unexpectedly break beyond repair? While rushing to replace it, you might not have done the best research or had enough money to buy what you really wanted.
If you use the chart on page seven of this study, you can plan for when certain appliances will need to be replaced. This will help you budget ahead of time for the appliance and do research without being rushed. Also, watch for sales and consider upgrading an appliance before it breaks but when it is nearing the average age of replacement.
2. Think about your space
When purchasing small kitchen appliances, remember that you’ll need to have somewhere to put them. Will they all fit on your counter or do you need to set aside a cabinet or pantry shelf for appliances? Remember to factor in the width of an appliance as well as the height and the clearance needed to operate the appliance.
For example, many stand mixers open upwards to remove the bowl. If you have low-hanging cabinets, you might want to look for a stand mixer where the bowl slides out instead.
3. Combine functions
A lot of appliances now offer multiple functions. In order to save space and money, look for appliances that can replace two or three separate appliances like a blender and food processor combo or a pressure cooker that also has several other options like rice cooking, steaming, and slow cooking. While these usually come with hefty price tags, they are generally cheaper than buying each individual appliance.
4. Consider your lifestyle
Do you mostly subsist on take-out and microwavable dinners? Maybe you don’t need every specialty appliance out there. Do you have large dinner parties every week? You should probably have dual wall ovens and a large refrigerator.
Before purchasing appliances, think about your lifestyle and needs. How will you be using this kitchen? Design it to fit into your life and be realistic about your habits.
5. Spend more on your priorities
Do you make hummus several times a week but never turn on your oven? Buy a top-of-the-line food processor and a budget oven. Figure out what appliances you’ll use the most and buy the best of those while saving money on the infrequently-used items.
6. Add more electricity
With all of your new appliances, you’ll need somewhere to plug them in. Add extra electrical outlets to your backsplash to make small appliance usage easier. You can also hide power strips under counters or inside cabinets.
Additionally, some free-standing kitchen islands come with extra outlets. This will also increase your storage and counter-space.
7. Read Reviews
Before you buy that $1300 refrigerator or tear out cabinets to make space for your a new wall oven, read the reviews on the product. If you can’t find extensive customer and professional reviews on an appliance, don’t buy it. You don’t want to spend a huge amount of money on a new type of fridge only to find out that it leaks water everywhere a month past the end of the warranty.
8. Plan, plan, plan
If you’re completely remodeling your kitchen, you can not plan too much. Draw out your kitchen complete with measurements or use an online configuration planner like Opunplanner or Ikea’s. These will give you a visual idea of what your new kitchen will look like and will help you plan the locations of your appliances.
9. Color Scheme
Pick your color scheme before you start buying appliances. Look at pictures in magazines and online to decide what color appliances will best match with your decor. Then try to get appliances that all match. Common colors are black, stainless steel, white, or match your cabinets.
Many smaller appliances come in bright colors. You can use a red toaster and coffee maker to provide a pop of color in an otherwise plain kitchen.
10. The Work Triangle
If you are completely redesigning your kitchen, be sure to keep The Work Triangle in mind. The Work Triangle considers the range, refrigerator and sink to be the three most-used areas in the kitchen. In order to make a kitchen more efficient, the Work Triangle has a specific formula to use to determine where to place these three items. This method also stresses the importance of keeping foot traffic to a minimum in your work area.
With all of your new appliances, you might need extra lighting. There is nothing more annoying than trying to work on something and not having enough light to see it clearly.
Since most small appliances will be on the counter, under-cabinet lights are a cheap and easy solution. These should be small enough to not be seen and be connected to a separate switch so you can use them only when you need them.
Under-cabinet lights also provide mood lighting during romantic dinners or a night-light for a midnight snack.
12. Scratch and Dent
If you are on a budget or just want to spend the big bucks elsewhere in your kitchen, buy appliances with cosmetic issues. Most of these can be hidden with a cleverly placed magnet or are not even seen from the front. Ask your local appliance store if they have scratch and dent merchandise or visit a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Not only will you save yourself some serious cash, you will be helping out a good cause.
13. Be Environmentally-Friendly
Try to buy Energy Star appliances when possible. Not only are these certified to be better for the environment than their counterparts, they’ll also save you more money on your electric, water, and gas bills. Even if they’re more expensive initially, the utilities savings will usually catch up eventually.
14. Choose Durability
Don’t waste your money on cheap appliances that will break in less than a year. Spend a little extra money to get durable products. A good indication of durability is the materials of which the appliance is made. Look for metal over plastic as it lasts longer and is safer for your food. Inspect the construction of an appliance. Are any of the pieces wobbly or seem fragile? Buy appliances with solid, heavy pieces that appear to be attached together well. While these are most often more expensive, you’ll save money in the long run by not having to replace a cheap appliance.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.