6 Must-Have Kitchen Countertop Appliances Under $200
If you're committed to cooking more this fall and winter, these are the tools you'll need.
Take a stroll through the kitchen appliance section at Target, and you could be easily convinced that your pantry and cabinets are missing a slew of critical tools. Espresso machines, Keurigs, Sodastreams, blenders, microwaves, juicers, air fryers, deep fryers, panini grills, slow cookers. Do you need them all? Of course not. However, investing in a strategic few of them will go a long way in helping you easily expand your cooking and baking prowess. They'll also help you cut down on how much time you'll spend actually working on your meals.
Going all-in on countertop appliances can get pricey fast, but the good news is it doesn't have to. You can snag these six reliable and must-have devices -- all of which have earned great reviews -- for under $200 apiece right now on Amazon.
I don't think there is a better singular piece of cooking equipment out there than this Instant Pot. I was skeptical of the set it and forget it method of cooking which Instant Pots have become famous for -- and then I ate some of the best pork shoulder I've ever had...cooked in under two hours. Though the pot does ask for some level of culinary competency (you'll have to make measurements, cut veggies, etc), once you nail down a recipe, you'll find yourself making it over and over again. Plus, there are thousands upon thousands of recipes out there that have been optimized for the Instant Pot. You'll never get bored cooking with this thing.
After asking around, it became apparent that sous vide is a somewhat intimidating way to cook. I can assure you, it is not. You just need to be sure you have the right equipment (a good pot, a vacuum sealer, and this sous vide device). This specific model hooks up to your smartphone through your WiFi, heats water to a precise temperature, and enables you to monitor the status of your food from anywhere (as well as grants you access to thousands of recipes). With it, you'll be able to cook steaks, chicken, fish, vegetables, pork, and so much more in their own juices to absolute perfection. That's not hyperbole, the food will taste truly perfect (and wildly flavorful).
Price: $108 and up
An air fryer is essentially a deep fryer that makes food crispy in a much healthier way. It uses just a tiny bit of oil and a lot of heat to crisp up chicken, potatoes, veggies, fish, and more. This model features a huge 5.8-quart basket (big enough to fit a 5 pound whole chicken) and a number of presets for cooking everything from bacon to shrimp to french fries. What it all comes down to is this: if you love fried food but wish it was just a little more healthy, an air fryer should be in your arsenal.
Admittedly, a food processor is not a sexy appliance. But it is a serious workhorse in the kitchen that will allow you to turn out some top-notch dishes with ease. This 8-cup version from Cuisinart will save you big time doing everything from chopping nuts to pureeing soup to shredding cheese (not to mention making everything from pesto to all manner of sales). If you're tired of chopping, dicing, and mixing by hand, this is your new best friend.
Don't be fooled into thinking this is just your average toaster oven for reheating pizza or heating up tater tots. This thing has a convection function, which changes the game. If you're unfamiliar with convection oven (versus a conventional oven), it basically creates a drier atmosphere to cook in, which helps caramelize the sugars in meats and veggies quickly when roasting them (in other words, they get crispier and browner faster). This one isn't huge, but plenty big to cook a good sized tray of veggies and several cuts of meat. Plus, it also boasts a conventional oven-style baking function, and has both "toast" and "warm" settings.
If rice, quinoa, and any number of other cooked grains are a staple in your meal-prep, a proper rice cooker will save you loads of time and energy. This thing allows you to simply drop in your rice of choice, add some water, and walk away while it works its magic to cook it to perfection using its "Automatic Cooking Logic," which actively monitors the cooking temperature. Plus, you can also simultaneously steam veggies/dumplings to perfection (without contaminating flavors) thanks to a dedicated steamer basket inside.