Our Favorite Budget-Friendly Appliances

Find what you’re looking for in every kitchenware category.

I love everything about cooking—the fresh ingredients; the time spent in the kitchen; and even the appliances, baking pans, and gadgets that come along with it (seems like I’m probably in the right line of work). I want to know that the tools I’m using in my kitchen are going to give me great results, but I don’t have an unlimited budget for kitchen equipment. And some of our winners aren’t exactly budget friendly. They’re solidly made products that will last a lifetime, but they’re expensive. That’s why our team often names a Best Buy: a piece of equipment that works great and is more affordable. This week I’ve included all the appliances we’ve named as Best Buys or that have been chosen as budget-friendly top choices. Whatever you’re in the market for, we have recommendations that work well and won’t break the bank.

—Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, ATK Reviews

While this air fryer’s digital controls weren’t quite as intuitive as those of our favorite models, it was still easy to set the time and temperature once we got the hang of the multiple buttons. It cooked foods quickly, and its display was bright, large, and easy to read. Its drawer and automatic shutoff were a boon to safety, and its nonstick interior was easy to clean. Its small capacity wouldn’t work for a crowd, but it cooked our recipes for two and small batches of frozen fries without issue.

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This griddle had the largest surface area; it fit 11 pancakes or eight pieces of French toast at a time, with plenty of room for flipping. The controls were intuitive, and we appreciated the pop-up legs that angle the griddle for draining grease when cooking fatty foods such as burgers. This model claims to fold up for easier storage, but we found that a bit misleading—its collapsible legs save you only 1 inch of storage space, and they buckle when you pick up the griddle, making it slightly difficult to maneuver, especially when cleaning it. It also wasn’t as consistent as our winner: A cold spot in the center produced lighter-brown pancakes and slightly underdone French toast. However, food cooked on the rest of the griddle was evenly browned.

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The Flipside made well-browned waffles that were almost an inch and a half high. On the downside, if we wanted to make adjustments, doneness could only be varied by increasing or decreasing the duration of the cooking time using a built-in timer that must be reset before every waffle. But the timer itself proved quite useful, giving you an audible alert not only when the waffle was done, but also a minute before—a smart feature that helps ensure that you’ll never overcook your waffle. One small safety issue: Like several of the other machines, the Flipside tended to collect condensation in its handle, dripping hot water when flipped.

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The drying trays on our runner-up are round and a bit smaller than we’d like, but they stack together quickly and easily. The drying times were quite good; it was often the second machine to finish. Tasters also praised the quality of the finished foods. This machine’s lift-off lid allows you to check on food in progress; we also appreciated the timer with automatic shut-off. The motor is at the bottom of the machine, but a removable filter protects it from drips and debris.

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Our old favorite continued to impress us throughout testing with its speed and deep, stable base. The power button is conveniently located on its handle. Our only quibble: Sometimes the light-up indicator was a bit dull in bright daylight. The kettle is much shorter and has a smaller capacity than our winner, which makes it a good option for people who prefer a smaller kettle.

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Simple, intuitive, inexpensive, and stable, the winner of our previous test easily spiralized apples, beets, potatoes, and zucchini with relatively little waste. Better yet, the Paderno Tri-Blade was able to turn almost all of the produce into even, consistent noodles and ribbons. It was one of the only machines capable of spiralizing butternut squash into long, regular strands—although the stress of this endeavor caused the handle to crack on its last round of testing.

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Performing like our winner at a fraction of the price, this cooker has a fairly broad cooking surface, and its pressure indicator was easy to monitor. It cooked quietly and held pressure steadily without making us fiddle with the stove. Despite falling short of the 250°F target for high pressure, it cooked beef stew, pork ragu, risotto, and other dishes well and within recipe times. Its simple design made it easy to use and clean.

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The price is right on this model, which made pretty toast without any fuss. We loved its glass window to monitor browning. A “reheat” button lets you warm up cooled toast or add a bit more browning. Its profile is compact, and the exterior stays cool. On the medium setting, toast was too light, but once we pushed the dial higher, it came out reliably golden and uniform on both sides; the highest setting made great “dark” toast. This toaster might have won if it didn't occasionally throw toast onto the counter or floor, which can be comical but unsettling. (A backup copy did the same.)

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This slow cooker produced tender ribs and moist chicken thighs. Its oval shape fits food nicely, and the touch pad is easy to set. We liked that it automatically switches to “keep warm” after it’s done cooking. A few minor complaints: This model can be set to only even-numbered cooking times (2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 hours), and it doesn't have an exact countdown as food cooks, as some digital models do. Lastly, because this slow cooker runs a bit hot when it’s set to high, we recommend using the shorter time in the recipe’s given cooking range. 

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