Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

Last Updated on March 3, 2021 by April

Whether you are moving into a new place or you want to make sure your kitchen has everything it needs, this guide will introduce you to all the basic kitchen appliances. You’ll discover what they are and whether you need them in your kitchen. Finally, stop being overwhelmed by all the choices when you shop for a new kitchen appliance. This guide will explain in plain language what the different appliances are and how to pick out the one that fits your lifestyle.

Appliances In The Kitchen

There are certain appliances that are almost impossible to live without. We all need a way to cook our food and store the leftovers. Beyond that, there are tons of appliances and gadgets that make food prep and clean-up easier. The choices can be mind-boggling.

Have you ever started browsing stores online and wondered, “What are the best appliances for the kitchen?” Sure, everyone needs a refrigerator and a stove, but what else is a must-have for your kitchen?

This guide is just for you! This is the most extensive kitchen appliances list that you will find. I broke it down by size and will even share how to use it so that you can decide whether you want to invest in it or not.

Large Kitchen Appliances

First, let’s look at the large kitchen appliances. These are things that will take a larger financial investment and take up more space. Usually, the larger appliances are also the most necessary. From the fridge to the stove to the dishwasher (and everywhere in between), these are the most essential large kitchen appliances.

Refrigerator

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

Refrigerators are used to keep your food at a low enough temperature that it won’t spoil. Refrigerators keep food at 40° F (4° C) or cooler. This prevents bacteria from growing.

A basic refrigerator will have the ability to keep your food chilled. From there, you can choose from all sorts of additions and add-ons.

Some smart refrigerators let you see what is inside without having to open the door. Others will track your grocery list for you and even tell you when you need to replace some items that have expiration dates.

You’ll also find fridges with different types of doors. These are the most popular types of refrigerators:

  • Bottom Freezer – These have the refrigerator on the top and a pull-out drawer or door on the bottom.
  • Top Freezer – This model has a freezer door on the top of the unit and a refrigerator door on the bottom.
  • French Door – This type of refrigerator has a freezer on the bottom. On the top, there are two doors that open up instead of just one.
  • Side-By-Side – This has the freezer on the left and the refrigerator on the right.

Stove

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

A stove is an essential kitchen appliance because you need it to cook your food. The size of your stove depends on how many people you are cooking for and the size of your kitchen.

Stoves come in two main designs – with an attached oven or as a standalone cooktop. After you decide whether you want the stove and oven attached or not, you can then decide which power method you want.

These are the most popular types of stoves and their heating methods:

  • Gas Stove – This type of kitchen appliance uses propane or natural gas to ignite a flame that heats your food. This is popular because it works even if your power is out and it immediately provides heat without having to “warm-up” the cooktop first. It is also one of the most budget-friendly options on the list too.
  • Electric Stove – Some electric stoves have removable plates that resemble gas stoves. These often cost more than gas stoves, but they are easier to keep the temperature consistent.
  • Induction – Induction stoves use magnetic currents to heat just your cookware. That means that your skillet will get super hot and cook your food, but the cooktop will be safe to touch. These are higher priced than the first two, but they are popular because they are so safe.

After you choose the heating type, you can also choose a stovetop surface. The two main kinds of cooktops are coil and smooth surfaces.

Coil stovetops are the most budget-friendly. They come in a spiral pattern that you can usually remove and replace.

Smooth surfaces are usually made of glass or ceramic. They are completely flat and are usually easier to clean. However, if they crack or get stained, you’ll have to replace the entire cooktop, which can be very pricey.

Dishwasher

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

A dishwasher is a kitchen appliance used to automatically clean your plates, cups, and other dishes. These come in a variety of sizes and can fit in a ton of different spaces. They range from really compact to extra-spacious, and from programmable with a multitude of different settings to basic with just a few settings.

Traditional Built-In Dishwasher

The most common type of dishwasher is the traditional built-in. They are permanently installed under the countertop, usually very close to the sink. They have their own plumbing hookup, so they do not hook up to your kitchen sink. Most standard dishwashers are 24-inches wide. Some compact ones are 18-inches wide.

Drawer Dishwasher

The next type of dishwasher you’ll find is the drawer dishwasher. They are also called dish drawers. This type of dishwasher comes at a higher price tag than traditional ones because only a few brands produce them. They come in either single or double drawer units. If you buy the double-drawer unit, you can run each drawer at different times. It is like having two dishwashers in a space that usually held just one.

Portable and Free-Standing Dishwasher

Another budget-friendly option that doesn’t require special installation is a portable free-standing dishwasher. You can move them anywhere in your kitchen. Plus, you don’t have to give up kitchen-cabinet space to use them.

These connect to your sink with a special adapter. The best thing about them is that you can take them with you when you move.

Another thing you’ll discover when you look to buy a dishwasher is that they have a range of noise levels. The pricier ones are said to be so soft that people question whether they are working at all.

Microwave

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

Microwaves are one of those kitchen appliances that are not entirely necessary, but tons of people really enjoy the convenience they provide. How else can you heat up leftovers in less than 5 minutes?

When you are choosing a microwave, there are a ton of options! Let’s look closer at each of them so you can decide what is best for you.

Countertop Microwaves

The first kind is also the most common – countertop microwaves. These guys sit on top of your countertop and they range in sizes from 0.5 to more than 2 cubic feet (or 18-24 inches wide and 18-22 inches deep). The benefit of these is that they are portable. You can easily take them with you as you move. The downside is that they take up precious countertop space. This type tends to be the most budget-friendly option.

Over The Range Microwaves

The next most common type of microwave is the over-the-range microwave. These literally sit above your stove and have a vent that you can use while you cook. They are a bit higher in price because they have that added functionality. These are larger as well, often at 29-30 inches wide and 15-16 inches deep. People love using these because it frees up countertop space and is low-profile.

Built-In Microwaves

A pricier option yet is a built-in microwave. As the name implies, this kind is actually installed into your kitchen cabinets. This is another countertop-saving idea. It also fits seamlessly with your kitchen design.

Microwave Drawer

Another trendy option that is becoming even more popular is a microwave drawer. These usually sit below the countertop and pull out like a drawer. They are one of the priciest options on this list. They also come with safety locks because they are so easy to open and close that they are tempting toys for kiddos.

When you are trying to decide which microwave to buy, consider your wattage as well. They range from 300-watt to clear up to 2600-watt. The higher the wattage, the quicker your food will cook. The most common one is an 800-watt microwave.

Whichever one you choose, make sure you keep it clean…the easy way! Here’s how to clean a microwave with vinegar and steam (number 9 on the list).

Convection Oven

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

The Kitchn described it best – “A convection oven has a fan and exhaust system that a regular oven does not. The fan and exhaust help blow hot oven air over and around the food, then vent it back out. As a result, this hot air surrounds the food so that it cooks evenly and more quickly.”

In other words, a convection oven is a huge, over-sized air fryer. Yes, they both work the exact same way. They both blow hot air around your food and remove it through the exhaust system.

Lots of people prefer convection ovens because they cook food up to 25% faster than traditional ovens. Plus, traditional ovens often have hot spots, but convection ovens cook more evenly. They are also a lot more energy-efficient since they cook the food so much faster.

Lots of traditional ovens will have a “convection setting” that you can use. This is a fantastic choice if you want to roast something or are cooking something that has a cover.

Induction Cooktop

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

If energy efficiency is important to you, you might want to invest in an induction cooktop. They use an electromagnetic field to heat up your pan, which means the actual cooktop stays cool to the touch. It seems like magic, but it’s science!

Since it heats only the pan, it saves energy (which saves you money). You aren’t wasting heat on the air and kitchen around you. In fact, induction cooking is 60% more efficient than a gas stovetop.

They also heat the pans up a lot more quickly than any other stovetop too! For example, it takes about 36 minutes to boil water on a gas burner, but only 22 minutes on an induction burner. Plus, they respond immediately to temperature adjustments – when you lower the heat, it will change the temperature of the pan instantly!

The only downside of induction cooktops is that you will need a specific set of cookware. You can only use them with pots or pans that are made of ferrous metals like steel or cast iron. Aluminum, glass, or ceramic will not work. If you want an induction cooktop, you’ll need to make sure that the cookware you buy is compatible with it.

Toaster Oven

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

One of the most compact ways to cook your food is with a toaster oven. This is one of the kitchen appliances perfect for single people or couples, or anyone living in a small space like a camper or tiny house. It fits right on your countertop and you can take it with you wherever you go.

They cook food by heating it and toasting it. They are often more affordable than an entire oven. There are tons of things that you can make in a toaster oven – these 21 recipes are some of my favorites.

There are also countertop convection ovens too or air fryers.

Bread Machine

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

Finally, a bread machine takes up a lot of countertop space. This is an appliance that you might want if you really enjoy baking but don’t have time to really focus on it. You can make a ton of things beyond just bread in a bread machine. Most have a “jam cycle” that use you use to make stews and dips.

You can also use it to make desserts. This is a fun appliance to have that speeds up something that you enjoy doing.

There are budget-friendly options and even amazing ones that you can set on a timer and that are programmable. There are even some that have LCD displays and come with recipes that you can follow.

Small Kitchen Appliances

There is no way that I can cover every single kitchen gadget and tool in this guide, but I will definitely tell you the kitchen appliances that are the most popular and well-loved. These smaller appliances might not be a “need,” but they definitely make life in the kitchen so much easier!

This list includes anything that you can fit on top of your countertop or that you can stow away in your cabinets. They make baking, cooking, and life in general so much easier than you might think some of them are actually a “must-have.”

Coffee Maker

Depending on the level of your caffeine addiction, a coffee maker is either essential or unnecessary. Thankfully, there are a bunch of different types of coffee makers out there. This way, you can have a way to make hot coffee whether you need an entire pot at once or just one cup.

These are all of the different types of coffee makers so you can decide which one is right for you.

Keurig

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

A Keurig is a name-brand coffee machine that uses a disposable pod to make a single cup of coffee. There are lots of other brands that also use these coffee pods.

Keurig also makes a machine that does both – single-serve K-cups and full-pot brewing with a filter. With the Keurig K-Duo, you can choose to make just one cup, or add a filter and your own amount of ground coffee to the carafe side.

Lots of pod coffee machines are perfect for single people or couples that don’t drink very much coffee, because they are tiny and make just one cup at a time.

The downsides of these machines is that they often cost more money and the K-cups are not recyclable.

Traditional Drip Coffee

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

The most common type of kitchen appliance that makes coffee is the traditional drip coffee machine. You choose how much coffee you want to brew by adding the correct amount of coffee beans and water. They range in sizes from tiny 4-cup coffee makers, all the way up to 18-cup carafes.

There are simple ones that you turn on and brew instantly. Then, there are wi-fi-enabled coffee machines that you can program from your smartphone. Some drip coffee machines even have settings where you can make a single cup of coffee.

Pour Over Coffee

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

Another popular way to make just a few cups of coffee at a time is with a pour-over system. Instead of the coffee pot pouring the hot water over the beans in the filter, you use a pitcher or kettle to pour hot water over the coffee yourself.

Chemex is the most well-known pour-over brand you can buy and they make sizes ranging from 3-cups up to 10-cups.

People love that this method doesn’t require any electricity and it gives them complete control over the strength and taste of their coffee.

Moka Pot

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

The Moka Pot is another way to brew coffee that doesn’t use electricity – you just need a hot plate or stove of some sort to heat it up. This method doesn’t require you to slowly pour the water – it actually brews from the bottom up to the top.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Add boiling water to the bottom of the brewer and then top with the filter basket.
  2. Fill the filter basket with ground coffee beans.
  3. Screw the top and bottom pieces together.
  4. Place the Moka Pot on top of the stove or a hot plate at low heat and watch the coffee brew into the top part of the pot.
  5. When you are ready for it to stop brewing, wrap the Moka Pot in a chilled towel and pour it into a coffee mug.

The best thing about the Moka Pot is that it has a reusable filter basket so it cuts down on overall waste.

It makes a very strong espresso, so if you don’t like strong coffees, you might want to pass on this one.

French Press

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

A French Press is another non-electric way to brew a small amount of coffee without extra waste. It works with the use of a plunger.

Here’s how a French Press coffee maker works:

  1. Add coffee beans to the French Press jug.
  2. Pour boiling water to the jug/carafe.
  3. Cover with the plunger and lid.
  4. Slowly press the plunger/filter down into the brewed coffee.
  5. When you can’t press it any further down, your coffee is ready.

This method takes a little more practice. There are small things that you can do to improve the taste of your coffee like preheating the jug/carafe and letting it sit while it is covered with the lid before you begin pressing the plunger down.

Espresso Machine

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

An espresso machine makes a very concentrated cup of coffee. Many people like to buy espresso machines that also have milk frothers on them so they can make lattes at home.

The main difference between espresso coffee beans and regular coffee beans is how fine they are ground up. In order to brew the boldest and best espresso in your machine, the beans must be ground extra-finely.

Another difference between an espresso machine and a coffee maker is how much it makes. Most espresso machines only make a 1-ounce shot of espresso at a time.

Blender

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

People use blenders to chop up and mix their ingredients together into a smooth, fine, consistency. The most common thing people use blenders for are smoothies, but they also use them for making soups and sauces too.

They come in a variety of sizes as well. From the really large and professional-grade Vitamix XL to the portable single-serving BlendJet, there are machines that are built for your lifestyle.

A blender usually has blades at the bottom that move in a circular motion to chop and move all the ingredients together so that they don’t just become chopped, but everything mixes together at the same time.

Toaster

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

You might already know what a toaster is. This is a device that toasts your bread. It’s simple and almost everyone has one.

What you might not know is that there are toasters that do so much more than that too.

Here are just a few of the different features you might find on toasters:

  • Bagel Toasting
  • Toast From Frozen Setting
  • Reheating Setting
  • Defrosing Setting
  • Toasters With Touchscreens

You can also choose from 2-slice, smaller models up to 4-slice models that toast enough for an entire family.

Food Processor

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

Food processors do so much more than what a blender can do. It can do everything from shopping and shredding veggies or meats to mixing dough.

It usually comes with four parts:

  • Base
  • Clear Plastic Body
  • Removable Blades
  • Lid

This is one of the larger “small” appliances on this list. It’s meant to be a cook’s best friend, speeding up food prep time on tasks like slicing onions or chopping ingredients for salsa.

Electric Mixer

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

Electric mixers are a huge time (and muscle) saver for bakers. With an electric mixer, you can make the frosting, mix ingredients for the dough, and completely cream batter ingredients without extra sweat.

Stand mixers have a large bowl and various attachments that you can use. Once you add your ingredients and turn it on, the mixing process is virtually hands-free! The mixer does most of the work for you.

A hand mixer requires you to hold it and mix the ingredients yourself. These are usually very affordable and last a long time too. The benefit of a hand mixer is that they are smaller and easier to store too.

Can Opener

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

Since this guide is about kitchen appliances, I am not referring to the hand-crank can opener. That is more of a hand-held tool than an appliance.

For this guide, I’m referring to electric can openers. There are some models that you can hang on your wall and use when you need them. Others are hand-held and battery-operated.

Other models sit on top of your counter and plug into the wall. Most models cut from the side and have a magnet, making them safer to use than the hand-crank tools.

Rice Cooker/Steamer

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

Whether you want to cook rice, quinoa, oatmeal, or steam some vegetables, there is a rice cooker/steamer out there that is perfect for you.

These work by sealing the ingredients in the pot and using steam to cook the grains. They take all the guess-work and stove-top babysitting out of the equation. Just add the right amounts of your ingredients and press the correct settings, then let the machine do the work.

Some are simple and low-cost with only one option – cook rice. Others have settings for different grains and even have delay-start options you can use.

Pressure Cooker

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

A pressure cooker uses steam to cook foods in a very tightly-sealed pot. The steam on the inside builds up high pressure that cooks the food. People make all sorts of foods in them – from desserts like cheesecake to hearty stews and even yogurt.

The most popular pressure cooker on the market is the Instant Pot. From the simple models that have just a few options to the larger and more robust ones with a variety of modes, there is one to fit your lifestyle and budget.

People love making meats in the Instant Pot because it forces liquid into the meat which makes it very tender, very quickly. (No more tough pork chops or chewy roast.)

The only downside of them is that they come with an entirely different language you’ll have to learn – like “natural pressure release” and “quick release valve.” After you use it a few times, it’s easier to understand.

Deep Fryer

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

A deep fryer submerges food in hot grease and fries it – just like restaurants and fast food places. They are often completely contained and fit on your countertop.

It heats foods to temperatures between 350 °F and 375 °F (175 °C to 190 °C). You can make all sorts of fried foods in it – from simple French fries to deep fried cookies.

Electric Grill

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

There are two different types of electric grills that you can buy. One kind comes with removable plates. The most popular brand is the George Foreman. You can use it to grill veggies, make paninis, or use flat plates to make bacon or pancakes.

These are a good option for people who don’t have room for an outdoor grill. They fit on your countertop and have the ability to cook a variety of different foods.

Juicer

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

A juicer extracts all the juice or liquid from fruits and vegetables. This is different from a blender. A blender pulverizes the produce and keeps all the fiber in it. A juicer, on the other hand, squeezes the liquid parts of the food without the fiber.

Juicers tend to be larger than blenders and they are higher priced as well.

Kettle

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

Kettles are used to heat up water or other liquids. There are two popular types of kettles that people buy – stovetop and variable temperature electric.

Stovetop kettles literally just hold liquids and are able to be heated on the stove. They are mostly used to heat water for tea or coffee.

Variable temperature electric kettles can be plugged into the wall. They use electricity to heat the water. This is a good option for anyone that doesn’t have a stove (like college students in dorm rooms).

Egg Cooker

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

As the name implies, an egg cooker is able to cook eggs in a variety of ways—they can boil, poach, or even scramble eggs. They are a very handy appliance if you don’t have a stove.

All you need is water to cook the eggs. It’s that simple. Some only boil the eggs, while others have features that let you make omelets or set a timer.

There are also a variety of sizes. Choose to cook a few eggs, up to enough to feed an entire family. This appliance takes all the guesswork out of cooking eggs.

Popcorn Machine

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

Popcorn machines aren’t used as much anymore, but they are a fun way to make fresh popcorn. There are a bunch of different models and types of machines that you can choose from. These are the best-selling ones:

  • Electric – Heats up a plate that pops the popcorn into a self-contained lid that you can use as a bowl.
  • Microwave – This bowl and lid can be used in a microwave.
  • Air Popper – It pops the popcorn with hot air, but it doesn’t come with a bowl.
  • Stove Top – This has a handle that turns the kernels so that they don’t burn. People say that this method tastes the most like movie theater popcorn.

Waffle Maker

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

A waffle maker heats batter to make waffles. If you have a family to feed, they can come in large sizes that can make up to 4 waffles at a time.

These are the different types of waffle makers or waffle irons you can buy:

  • Belgian Waffle Iron – This makes deeper and bigger waffles than a traditional waffle iron.
  • Flipping Waffle Iron – The flipping motion helps the batter distribute on the iron better. They are also known for making larger waffles.
  • Mini Waffle Maker – People use these to make keto-friendly chaffles, or smaller waffles
  • Character Waffle Irons – There are also waffle makers that are able to make waffles that look like your favorite movie icons or logos.

Slow Cooker

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

A slow cooker uses a low temperature to cook food over a longer period of time. They range in sizes from 1.5 quarts up to 8 quarts. People often use smaller sizes to make dips or sauces. The larger ones are big enough to cook an entire pot roast for a family.

Some slow cookers are simple with basic temperature settings. Others are Wi-Fi enabled so that you can set it even if you aren’t at the house.

Air Fryer

Basic Kitchen Appliances & What They Do

An air fryer uses hot air to cook food. It’s basically a countertop-sized convection oven. Hot air rushes around the food and fries it without the use of hot oil. Air fryers have two parts – the air fryer basket and the mechanical parts above it.

Some air fryers have digital displays, others have knobs and dials. There are also air fryer lids that you can add to pressure cookers to air fry the food.

7 Essential Kitchen Appliances

When you are ready to set up your kitchen, these are the most essential appliances that you will always need. These are the basic kitchen appliances for a functional kitchen.

1. Refrigerator

One of the most necessary kitchen appliances is a refrigerator. Choose one that is the perfect size for your family and/or home.

2. Stove

Next, you need a way to cook your food. Pick out a cooking top or a stove/oven combination.

3. Oven

An oven of some sort will help you cook and bake. Whether you use a countertop toaster or convection oven or install a built-in oven, find a way to install an oven that fits your lifestyle.

4. Coffee Maker

If you enjoy coffee, you should definitely pick out some sort of coffee maker. Buy the size of the pot that you need with the features that will make your life easier.

5. Toaster

Toast is such an essential part of so many meals that everyone should own one.

6. Dishwasher

You can probably survive without a dishwasher, but it sure does make life so much less stressful.

7. Slow Cooker

If you have to cook for an entire family, a slow cooker makes meals a breeze. Even if you don’t, you can use it for parties.

Final Thoughts

There you have it! This is the most comprehensive guide to kitchen appliances you will ever find. When you are ready to upgrade or if you are moving and downsizing, keep this guide handy. You’ll enjoy using it to make sure you have everything you need.

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