Chef secrets: The best kitchen appliances

Nov 24, 2011 at 4:34 a.m. ET

Every kitchen has a refrigerator and an oven, but what about those extra appliances that make a kitchen your own? It’s those smaller pieces, tailored to specific foods and styles of cooking, which make working in your kitchen less of a chore and more of a hobby.

Woman in organized kitchen

Immersion blender

Not only does an immersion blender help you create delicious soups and drinks, but it helps cut your time — and your dirty dishes — in half. The blender goes right into the pot, bowl or glass you're working from and blends to a perfect puree every time. It's just what you need for creamy soups like butternut squash, potato, pumpkin, broccoli and more. It also lets you create tasty frozen drinks in seconds without the hassle of a full-size blender.

Buyer's guide to immersion blenders >>

Coffee maker

No kitchen is complete without a coffee pot. They get you through rough mornings and sometimes even rougher nights. A great cup of coffee is the perfect way to end a meal and gives you an excuse to sit at the table and chat with your guests just a little while longer.

How to brew fabulous coffee >>

Choosing a coffee maker is a personal decision that depends heavily on your tastes and preferences. Jeff Mease, founder and CEO of One World Enterprises, is partial to his Bodum French press, calling it "Twentieth century but decidedly tow-tech."" Owning this coveted coffee maker is a major concession for Mease, who insists he doesn't need anything in his kitchen his grandmother didn't use. "I just put in a few spoons of my favorite locally roasted coffee, pour in 200-degree water and in several minutes I have….perfect Joe," said Mease.


Avoid choosing appliances in bold colors. While they may seem fun at first, the colors may go out of style or make a redesign difficult and costly.

Slow cooker

You're a busy lady, but that shouldn't keep your from putting an impressive meal on the table. Use a slow cooker to "fix it and forget it" on days when you're really pressed for time. Slow cookers aren't just for soups and stews. Use them to make lasagnas and dips, cook whole chickens and prepare perfect desserts.

The safe way to use your slow cooker >>

NOTE:  Think simply when choosing the tools you cook with. One of Jeff Mease's favorite tools is a basic mortar and pestle. According to Mease, it works wonderfully to pound together papaya, green beans, peanuts, fish sauce, chili, lime and sugar for a tasty Asian salad. He also recommends this tool for creating your own chili paste.

For a beautiful dinner that's delicious enough to serve to guests, place two pounds of chicken in your slow cooker, followed by a can of chicken broth and a can of cream of chicken soup. Add one cup of dry white wine and 8 ounces of sliced white mushrooms, then place the lid on your slow cooker and walk away for eight hours. Serve the tender chicken and sauce on wild rice. It'll look like a dish you slaved over for hours.

Some dishes have shorter cook times than others and may start to dry out after six or eight hours. If you're away from home during the day, invest in a programmable slow cooker. These smart appliances will start to cook whenever you need, turn off after the programmed time and then keep your dinner warm until you're ready to eat it.

Indoor barbeque grill

No more standing outside in the dead of winter or pouring rain when you desire a perfectly grilled steak or burger. These small grills (usually 18-24 inches in size) are portable, easily stored and can be used on any table or countertop. As an added bonus, you can bring it right into your dining room and grill vegetables and meats right at your table, hibachi-style.

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