Not ready to spring for a new range or refrigerator, or simply want to spice up your countertop? Our exhaustive tests of 264 kitchen products yielded a selection of top-scoring small appliances that cost $200 or less. Months of slicing, searing, and simmering in our test labs also helped us separate the best-performing knives and cookware from a rack of pricey competitors.
Slow cookers let you drop in some chicken wings or other favorites in the morning, serve the finished entrée that evening, and do other things in between. The $50, 6-quart Hamilton Beach Set 'N Forget 33967, right, offers a good combination of features and performance for the money. Like other programmable models, it switches automatically to "warm" when cooking is done. Other fine 6-quart choices: the $60 Rival Crock-Pot SCVC604H-SS, a CR Best Buy, and the $40 Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 33162, which must be turned manually to the warm mode.
You can spend hundreds to make a great cup of coffee. Or you can pay just $45 for the Michael Graves 40304, right, a CR Best Buy. Like our other picks below, it brews into a carafe and makes 8 to 12 cups at a time. Prefer to fill your mug right from the machine? The Hamilton Beach BrewStation 47454, $80, topped that category. Also consider the Black & Decker Brew 'N Go DCM18S, $25, for just a cup or two at a time, and the Emerson CCM901, $90, if you also want espresso.
Cuisinart's CPT-170, $80, above, produced batch after batch of evenly toasted bread in our extensive tests. This two-slice model is made of metal and includes the usual bagel setting and even a digital countdown that shows seconds remaining until your toast is ready. Also consider the plastic T-Fal Digital TL6802002, $45, our top pick among four-slice toasters.
Added sturdiness and resistance to bending helped forged-steel knives slice, dice, and chop their way ahead of stamped-steel versions overall. Superb cutting and a comfortable handle for just $100 make the eight-piece Ginsu Chikara, right, a CR Best Buy. But the stamped-steel Oxo Good Grip Professional, $80, and Chicago Cutlery Walnut Tradition, $60, came close for even less.
Superb whipping, mixing, and kneading put KitchenAid's Classic K45SS, $200, right, at the top of our Ratings (available to subscribers). Classic design and colors that include Green Apple and Persimmon also make it a style statement. Also consider the quieter Hamilton Beach Eclectrics 6322, $180, if kneading is less critical.
Want the smoothest smoothies and the slushiest frozen margaritas? The $450 Vita-Mix 5200 topped those and other tests in our 42-model lineup. But the Oster BCBG08, right, a CR Best Buy, still scored Very Good for smoothies and excelled at puréeing and ice-crushing for a cool $40.
Even cooking and easy cleaning make the 10-piece EarthPan with Sand Flow, right, a CR Best Buy at $190, a winner among nonstick cookware. A durable surface and a sturdy, comfortable handle helped it match the $500 Swiss Diamond in our tests. See our other CR Best Buys below.
Cuisinart's TOB-195 toaster oven, $180, bakes and broils impressively, holds a 4-pound chicken, and toasts bread as evenly as some top toasters. Also consider the Black & Decker CTO4500S, a CR Best Buy at $70, if you're a bit less picky about toasting and baking.