Here’s the second part of my recommendations for setting up a functional chef’s kitchen, and as promised, this time around we’ll look at electric appliances, along with a few of my specific picks and my rationale for selection of a particular item when applicable. As in the first part of the series, the same disclaimer applies: only buy what makes sense for your particular situation. In addition to the “must-have” kitchen electrics, I’ll also point out a couple of items you really don’t need. Here we go:
- Blender – Most mid-priced models work great; make sure to get one with a tempered glass pitcher, and at least five speeds.
- Food processor – Regular readers know I used the absolute cheapest processor I could find, and didn’t much care for it. I no longer have anything to complain about: I’m the proud owner of a KitchenAid® 13-cup monster of a processor, and I absolutely love it! It does everything but change the oil in my car; in fact, I’m still learning its capabilities. I’d encourage you not to cheap out on this appliance like I did – and unless you’re building a back yard deck, stay away from the Black and Decker® brand – it doesn’t belong in the kitchen.
- Stand mixer – Probably the most-used appliance I have – it’s a KitchenAid® Artisan, and should last for generations. It has great attachments too, although they can be pricey. I have a meat grinder/pasta maker attachment which works great.
- Hand mixer – Great for small and/or quick jobs when you don’t want to drag out the big boy…
- Deep fryer – Just so much easier (and safer) than stovetop deep frying – a digital model controls temp much more accurately, too. Mine’s a Philips – I don’t think they make ‘em anymore.
- Countertop oven – The cheapies are known as “toaster ovens” – stay away from those; they’re no bargain. Once you have a countertop oven, you’ll be surprised at just how often you use it. Baked potatoes, reheating leftovers, small broiling jobs, heck – I prefer mine to bake my delicious cheesecake! And you want to know why? Without getting too scientific, a countertop oven will maintain an even temperature throughout the chamber much better than a cavernous standard oven, because it has a smaller space to heat. I have a KitchenAid®, but the similar-priced Cuisinart® looks just as good.
- Slow cooker – Yes, they’re pretty much all the same – I like mine because it will automatically switch from high heat to the low simmer. I can’t remember what brand it is, and I’m not getting up to look.
- Electric skillet – A popular wedding gift; so if you’re currently single, I recommend that you get married – you’ll no doubt get one. It produces wonderful fried chicken.
- Electric griddle – Almost the same thing as the skillet, but larger, with no sides. Bacon and eggs, anyone?
- Electric knife – Slices through anything (including the cord, if you’re not careful – yes, I really did that once… you should’ve seen the sparks fly right before the lights went out!)
- Bread machine – I almost didn’t include this – I do have one, but honestly, I don’t use mine much. I prefer using my stand mixer with the dough hook to make bread. If, however, you feel a little shaky about your bread-making skills, by all means, get one – prices have gotten very reasonable the last few years.
And a couple of “optional” items that I have and like:
- Deli Slicer – So great for making paper-thin slices of roast beef, or cutting raw meat for Philly cheesesteak. The brand I have is a 7” Chef’s Choice.
- Vacuum sealer – My review of this handy item is here.
Finally, here are some things you really don’t need:
- Rice cooker – Practice cooking rice on the stovetop once or twice – it’s really not hard.
- Electric can opener – Unless you practically live on canned goods or own a kennel, don’t bother.
- Popcorn popper – They make this new thing now called “microwave popcorn”… you should really give it a try!
Feel free to disagree all you want with my picks, and heap all the abuse you want on me – I can take it. And if I managed to create a launching pad for your own kitchen re-do, well, I can take that too. Till next time…