When I walk into Williams-Sonoma or Sur La Table, it's hard for me to not want to buy everything I see. Especially those silly gadgets like the whipped cream canister...I have to remind myself that even though it's super cool, it's a waste of money.
There are some kitchen appliances that may seem too expensive or a waste of space, but every kitchen needs them. Here is my top-five list of kitchen appliances you should invest in.
With a spice grinder, you can grind spices, nuts and other seasonings you would like to reduce to a fine powder. Whether you're making a spice rub for fish or chicken, need to grind your black peppercorns to season any dish or you need to add nuts or spice to whatever you're baking, a spice grinder will save you time and will get the job done. Taking spices or nuts from their pure form and grinding them yourself just tastes so much better, and it allows you to be more creative when combining seasonings -- who knows, you could come up with your own recipe for an outstanding spice rub.
Mandolines can be quite intimidating and scary to use if you've never used one before, but once you do, you'll figure the technique out fairly quickly. With a mandoline, you can cut and slice vegetables and fruits extremely fast. Making a scalloped potato dish is a breeze with a mandoline; all you have to do is hold the flat surface of a whole potato on the mandoline, slide up and down and you'll create perfectly symmetrical slices. Most mandolines come with several blades to make different cuts, like julienne, waffle and other shapes. The prices range anywhere from $15 to $250, so if you're an avid chopper, buy the one with the most blades and of the best quality.
I never actually appreciated the stand mixer until I left for college and quickly realized baking was quite difficult without the electric stand mixer. This appliance offers endless possibilities when baking or cooking. With low to high speeds, it allows you to easily incorporate a cake mix or whip egg whites to stiff peaks. If you love to make pizza dough, buy add-on attachments to blend dough in the mixing bowl. There are even attachments you can use to make homemade ice cream. Although Kitchen Aid stand mixers are expensive, they will last many years -- my mom has had the same stand mixer since before I was born, and it still works perfectly. They also come in many cute colors!
If you're making a sauce or a soup, or you're emulsifying a vinaigrette, the immersion blender is your best friend. They're easy to store, so they won't take up too much space, and they come in handy when you need a powerful appliance to do the work for you. One of my favorite uses of an immersion blender is to thicken my tomato soup by pureeing the tomatoes -- I can use the immersion blender in the soup pot and don't have to transport my soup to another bowl and then transfer it back to my pot. Because immersion blenders are small, they can be used in smaller dishes to quickly whip egg whites, blend oil and vinegar, and make your own condiments. If you usually cook for two or just yourself, an immersion blender is a handy tool to have in the kitchen.
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You would be surprised what a food processor can do for you. There's no need to chop ingredients before you add them to the appliance. I love using my food processor to make pesto or a sauce that uses a lot of ingredients that take a lot of time to chop, a.k.a. garlic and herbs. Recently, I made macaroni and cheese and instead of killing my arm by grating eight ounces of cheese, I stuck the cheese into the food processor and voilà! -- my cheese was perfectly grated, and it took five seconds instead of 15 minutes. Seriously, a food processor is a necessary appliance in every kitchen. You don't have to buy the jumbo food processors; the small four-cup appliances will do the trick, and they take up less space.