35 gifts for the home recommended by Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports News: December 09, 2011 12:20 PM

Despite all the ads and hoopla, not everybody wants an iGadget, shiny bauble or flat-screen TV for the holidays. Some people on your list might fancy new kitchen gear or another product that makes life around the house more enjoyable such as a coffeemaker that brews terrific coffee or a stand mixer that kneads bread dough. And any handyman will appreciate a beefy cordless drill.

Here are 36 small appliances and other home products that scored highly in our tests and that are recommended by Consumer Reports. The first item in each category is pictured, followed by other good choices.

•The Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004 ($60) is a CR Best Buy and this isn’t the first time we’ve touted its excellent ability to crush ice and make icy drinks. It excelled at our durability test in which we conduct the ice crush test 45 times and very good at such as other tasks as puréeing soup and shredding cheese.
•The Vita-Mix 5200 ($450) aced Consumer Reports tests for icy drinks, ice crush, durability, and such other tasks as shredding and puréeing—and at that price it should. It was very convenient although a bit noisier than the Ninja and the L’Equip.
•The L’Equip 228 ($160) was also excellent at crushing ice, shredding and puréeing and was judged very durable. It was also very good at making icy drinks but not as convenient to use and clean as the other two.
•The Miallegro Professional MiTutto 9090 immersion blender ($70) is lightweight and versatile and a CR Best Buy. The handheld blender puréed soups, blended smoothies, whisked egg whites, grated cheese, and chopped onions and other foods better than more expensive versions in our tests. The metal parts detach for easy cleaning.

•The Mr. Coffee BVMC-SJX33GT ($40) is superb at brewing coffee and the conventional drip machine makes up to 12 cups. It’s programmable and allows you to adjust the brew strength, so you get just the jolt of joe you like.
•The Hamilton Beach BrewStation 47454 ($80) brew and dispense machine has excellent brew performance, is convenient and was judged excellent overall.
•The Senseo Supreme SL7832 ($13), a pod-style coffeemaker, was excellent at repeat speed and cup size consistency and very good at brewing range, temperature consistency, convenience and first-cup speed.

•The Bonjour Stainless Steel ($540) 10-piece set was excellent at handle sturdiness, very good at cooking evenness and good at handle comfort, handle safety and ease of cleaning. The uncoated Bonjour set also worked well with induction cooktops and ranges. It’s dishwasher safe and oven safe to 500 degrees F.
•The Emerilware ($200) nonstick cookware comes in a 10-piece set made of hard anodized aluminium. The pans were excellent at cooking evenness and easy to clean. Handle safety was very good and the nonstick coating was durable.

drill_Craftsman_17310.jpgCordless drills
•The Craftsman 17310 ($100) offers impressive power and speed. Compact, well balanced and lightweight, this cordless drill’s two-speed gearbox allows for slower speeds when driving screws, and the 24-position adjustable torque clutch offers ample flexibility. It comes with a lithium-ion battery that can be recharged in 30 minutes and an LED work light. It’s a CR Best Buy.
•The Craftsman 17586 ($70), another CR Best Buy, has a 3/8-inch chuck and two speed ranges. It comes with one Li-ion battery, a smart charger, and an LED work light. This 12-volt model is a good choice for quick, easy jobs, but not suited to heavy-duty tasks. It’s compact and lightweight for easy handling, with a fast 30-minute battery recharge time.
•The Hitachi DS18DSAL ($170) has a 1/2-inch chuck and two speed ranges. The 18-volt model comes with two Li-ion batteries, a smart charger, and a flashlight. This top-rated Hitachi is very fast and powerful, yet is lightweight and has a particularly comfortable handle. The price makes it a value over other high-performing name-brand drills. Fast and powerful, with easy handling and 40-minute recharge.

processor_Cuisinart_DFP-14BCN.jpgFood processors
•The Cuisinart DFP-14BCN ($200) was very good in overall performance and has a special wide feed tube that can accommodate large items. The 14-cup machine was very good at chopping, slicing, grating, shredding and puréeing and not too noisy.
•The KitchenAid KFP715[WH] ($100) was even quieter. The 7-cup processor was excellent at slicing and very good at shredding, chopping and puréeing.
•The Cuisinart DLC-2011CHB ($200), like its brandmate, was very good at chopping, slicing, grating, shredding and puréeing and not too noisy. It has a capacity of 11 cups.

•The Ginsu Chikara ($75) a CR Best Buy costs hundreds less than other picks and delivers the same excellent cutting performance. The eight-piece Ginsu Chikara is as good a starter set as any we tested. What's more, the Ginsu includes a santoku knife, an increasingly popular cross between a chef's knife and a cleaver.
•The Zwilling J.A. Henckels Twin Professional “S” set ($290) was best overall in our tests combining razor sharp blades and an ergonomic design in its seven-piece set. It was excellent at cutting and handle comfort and very good at handle balance.
•The Kershaw Shun Classic DMS300 ($270) three-piece set was excellent at cutting and very good at handle comfort and balance. But it’s missing a santoku and a slicer.

handmixer_KitchenAid_Architect_Series_KHM920ACS.jpgHand mixers
•The KitchenAid Architect Series KHM920A[CS] ($80) hand mixer exhibited very good whipping time, was excellent at mixing cookie dough and is capable of mixing small quantities of dough using dough hooks. It was also pretty quiet but if you need a mixer with interchangeable beaters, this one’s not for you.
•The Cooks 10-Speed HM820 (JCPenney) ($30) was excellent at whipping time and mixing cookie dough and also sturdy enough to mix small quantities of dough using dough hooks.
•The KitchenAid Ultra Power 5 KHM5AP[WH] ($50), like its brandmate, was excellent at mixing cookie dough and is capable of mixing small quantities of dough using dough hooks. But it was only good at whipping time and the beaters are not interchangeable.

stand_mixer_KitchenAid_Classic_K45SSWH.jpgStand mixers
•The KitchenAid Classic K45SS[WH] ($200) lives up to its name. It was excellent at whipping time, kneading and mixing and very good at convenience without too much noise. It’s a CR Best Buy.
•The KitchenAid KSM450[ER] ($250) sold at Sears—check out the red one—was also excellent at whipping time, mixing and kneading, was just as convenient and, again, pretty quiet.
•The Hamilton Beach Eclectrics 6322[1] ($180) stand mixer is another CR Best Buy. It was excellent at whipping time and mixing and very good at kneading and convenience. It’s also quieter than the other two on this list.

Sewing_Brother_Project_Runway.jpgSewing machines
•The Brother Innov-is 40 ($400), an electronic/computerized machine, is a CR Best Buy. Our test panel thought the Brother was easy to use and ergonomic in its design. Sewing performance was very good—all machines are given technical evaluations on sewing seams, stitch types, button holes, hems, zippers insertion, including sewing on a variety of fabric types and weights.
•The Pfaff Select 3.0 ($800) was also very good at sewing performance. Our testers thought it was easy to use and comfortable too.

iron_Singer_Expert_Finish_EF.jpgSteam irons
•The Singer Expert Finish EF ($60) excelled at our ironing tests which include the ironing of silk, cotton-poly, wool blend and linen. In our tests we also iron a linen table cloth, check the thermostat set point and measure the temperature swing. The steaming rate, which is measured over a period of 10 minutes, was excellent and the iron is easy to use with clear markings and settings. It’s a CR Best Buy as are the other two irons we recommend here.
•The Kenmore 80598 ($75) excelled at the steaming rate test but was not quite as good as the Singer at ironing various fabrics. However, the controls and settings were easy to use.
•The Rowenta Focus DZ5080 ($75) excelled at the two most important tests—steaming rate and ironing fabric. It was very good at ease of use but does not have a digital display.

toaster_oven_Oster_TSSTTVMNDG.jpgToaster ovens
•The Oster TSSTTVMNDG toaster oven ($80) delivered fine baking, broiling and toasting, and can roast a four-pound chicken. It has convection cooking, which uses a fan to distribute heat evenly, but our tests found that the convection didn’t improve baking. The Oster was good at making toast the way you want it and was easy to clean.
•The Breville Smart Oven BOV800XL ($250) was very good in overall performance and was very good at toasting, baking and broiling. It excelled at toasting both full batches and successive batches and has controls that are easy to set. The Smart Oven has a convection oven that can accommodate a four-pound chicken.
•The Breville BOV650XL ($180) was better at toasting one slice of bread than its brandmate but was not quite as good at full and successive batches and doesn’t have a convection oven. Still, you can cook a small chicken in it. The toaster oven was very good at toasting, baking and broiling. The toast shade setting is a timer and is less convenient to use than others in our tests.

water_filter_Lotus_Tersano_LWT-1000.jpgWater filters (carafe style)
•The Tersano Lotus LWT-1000 ($229) was excellent at removing lead and chloroform. The flow was also excellent and the filter retained its flow rate over time, which means it didn’t clog. An indicator lets you know when it’s time to change the filter.
•The Clear2O CWS100A ($15) is a CR Best Buy. It was excellent at lead and chloroform removal and had a steady flow rate. It was very good at not clogging.
•The ZeroWater Z-Pitcher ($35) was very good at lead removal, flow rate and not clogging but was not equipped to remove chloroform.

Mary H.J. Farrell

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