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. Whether you’re in the market for a toaster, rice cooker, or stand mixer, 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 model, it was still easy to set the time and temperature once we got the hang of the multiple buttons. It cooked foods quickly and crisply, and its display was bright, large, and easy to read. Though it’s a little bigger than our favorite model, it was still short enough to fit under our cabinets, and its drawer-style design and automatic shutoff were a boon to safety. Like other models, it has a nonstick interior, which was easy to clean.

  More on this test

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.

  More on this test

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.

  More on this test

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.

  More on this test

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.

  More on this test

This inexpensive model produced perfectly tender-chewy white, brown, and sushi rice, and it came with useful features like a digital timer that lets the cook know when the rice is nearly ready, clear audio alert, and a delayed-start function. Although it makes up to 8 cups of cooked rice, it takes up only a small amount of counter space and can be easily tucked away. The inner lid pops out for hassle-free cleanup.  Update October 2018: This model is now called the Aroma 8-Cup Digital Rice Cooker, Multicooker and Food Steamer and has a “flash rice” function that cuts down on the time required to cook white rice. When we tested this feature, the cooking time decreased by about 30 percent and the quality of the rice didn’t suffer. In all tests, it performed as well as or better than the original model.

  More on this test

This cooker performed well, producing perfect ribs, steak, and chicken. A gasket and clips on the lid let you take your cooker to a potluck without risking spills. It’s comparatively low tech: The “off,” “low,” “high,” and “warm” settings are on a manual dial—which is its drawback. You can’t set it to turn off or switch to “keep warm” on its own.

  More on this test

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.

  More on this test

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.

  More on this test

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.)

  More on this test