The best kitchen gear for a breakfast of champions

5 things you need to make a great breakfast and a couple you don’t

Published: September 26, 2013 12:00 PM

Even though nine out of 10 people believe breakfast is the most important meal of the day, in our rush to get to work or school many of us skip it. Then along comes the weekend when life is more leisurely and you can take the time to make a restaurant-style breakfast or brunch at home. Whether you’re in a hurry or not, it helps to have the right kitchen gear. Here are four affordable small appliances and one frying pan recommended by Consumer Reports that’ll make your first meal of the day your best.

Frying pans
The Calphalon simply Nonstick 10-inch omelette pan, a $40 CR Best Buy, beat out models from All-Clad, Le Creuset, and Rachael Ray in our cookware tests. It is superb at evenly heating food such as an omelet or frittata, is easy to clean, and shrugged off our tough durability test in which steel wool is rubbed over a pan up to 2,000 times.
Top frying pan. For more than twice as much you can buy the pan that did best in our frying pan tests, the Swiss Diamond Classic 10-inch, $90.

Big enough for a crowd, the 12-cup Mr. Coffee BVMC-SJX33GT, $40, delivers great value and an even better cup of joe. The automatic drip machine gets the water hot enough to bring out the coffee’s full flavor, and we found it easy to set up, operate, and clean. Plus the spill-free carafe is helpful if you’re a bit clumsy before that first morning cup.
Top coffeemaker. In our coffeemaker tests we found another gem, the Swarovski-encrusted Cuisinart Crystal SCC-1000 Limited Edition Perfec Temp, $200.
Food tip. Our top-rated coffee is the Allegro Kenya Grand Cru sold at Whole Foods. We also tested Columbian, Sumatran, Ethiopian, and dozens of coffee blends.

As convenient for that morning smoothie as it is for that Bloody Mary at brunch, the Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004 blender, $60, offers superb performance and outstanding value. It features an unusual top-mounted motor that you press down to operate, and comes with smaller containers for chopping or processing, in addition to the 48-ounce blending jar. It excelled on all our blending tasks, from making smoothies to puréeing soup.
Tied for tops. In our blender tests, the Vitamix 5200 matched the Ninja task-for task but costs $450.
Food tip. If you add Greek yogurt to your smoothie, check the yogurts that did best in our taste tests.

There’s nothing like fresh-squeezed juice in the morning. In our juicer tests it was a cinch to use the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Pro 67650, $80, which was very good at extracting juice from apples, oranges, carrots, and tomatoes but was a bit noisy.
Top juicer. The top-rated Juiceman Pro JM503, $180, barely beat out the Hamilton Beach Big Mouth Pro but was a little quieter.
Food tip. For whole food juicing, which retains the pulp and skin, you’ll need a capable blender like the Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004, mentioned above.

For a quick slice of toast or a bagel, the two-slice Hamilton Beach Digital 22502 toaster, $35, is one of the least expensive in our Ratings but managed to achieve one of the highest scores overall. Toast popped up evenly brown with nearly every batch, and the toaster offers very good control over color range in case some in your household like dark toast and others like it light. Special features include a digital display, bagel and defrost setting, and slide-out crumb tray for easy cleanup. Its brushed-finish metal housing looks good on the counter.
Top toaster. For $20 more, you can get our top-rated Calphalon Stainless Steel 2-Slot HE200ST, $60, which was very consistent at making one batch of toast after another in our toaster tests.
Food tip. In our taste tests of 12 kinds of frozen waffles we found seven good enough to recommend.

Two gadgets you don't need

Hamilton Beach Breakfast sandwich Maker, $30. Ads claim that you can “prepare a 5-minute breakfast sandwich with your own fresh ingredients,”  with an appliance that “cooks every layer of your breakfast sandwich to perfection.”
The check. In the sandwich Maker, we assembled and cooked combinations of English muffins and mini bagels, meat, cheese, and eggs.
Bottom line. Sandwiches made in the Hamilton Beach sandwich Maker were good, but not as good as those made with a conventional toaster and frying pan, and not fast—the process took about 9 minutes. The bread was toasted only on the outside, the cheese became very melted and goopy, and the egg extended beyond the bread. (We cooked other breakfast foods and found that pancakes came out great.)

The Rollie EggMaster, $30. Ads claim it's “the fast, easy, pan-free way to make perfect eggs every time! Just crack your egg, pour it in, and watch it pop up in minutes!” Burritos, pizza rolls, and cinnamon rolls are other Rollie options.
The check. In the Rollie, we cooked eggs (alone and in various meat combos), cinnamon rolls, and other staples.
Bottom line. Watching the Rollie eject food can be fun, but it often did that too early, leaving us with runny eggs. Also worrisome: Its conical top isn’t heated and may retain raw egg, which could come in contact with cooked items. Rollie is underpowered at 210 watts, which is not much more than some large lightbulbs, so cooking two eggs (and most other dishes) took about 10 minutes. A single Rollie would take hours to make the lavish spread of rolled food shown in the infomercial.

—Mary H.J. Farrell

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