With the prices of blenders, food processors, and coffeemakers bubbling up, it can be difficult to find an affordable gift that you know will perform reliably. Fortunately, Consumer Reports has scoured the marketplace and found some top-notch kitchen gear that won't bust your budget. Here are 12 top picks from our tests for $100 or less. Still too much? Then check our earlier story on "Small appliance gifts for $50 or less."
This Cuisinart drip coffeemaker is the plain cousin to one that costs twice as much and is decorated with Swarovski elements. But this one was also a gem in our tests. First, it's one of the only models that can brew a full 14 cups. Brew performance was top-notch matched by a carafe we found easy to handle. It's programmable, with both a small-batch setting and brew-strength control.
This 4-slot Cuisinart toaster turned turn out evenly browned toast, batch after batch. It was very good at toasting at a range of lights and darks—ideal if your family or guests have different preferences. It also aced toasting a single slice, leaving it nicely browned and not overdone. Special features include settings for bagels, warming and reheating, and defrosting. Its sleek stainless-steel housing and straightforward design should appeal to most tastes and it looks good on the countertop.
Oster is known for making inexpensive small appliances that often perform well, and this toaster oven is another example of that. It proved particularly adept in our tests at baking and broiling, and it's roomy enough to accommodate a 4-pound chicken. It's not quite as easy to use or keep clean as models that cost more, due to its fairly basic design. But if value is your top concern, this Oster is definitely worth a look.
Breville's immersion blender beat out other models in our tests by a sizable margin. It was superb at blending frozen fruit and yogurt for a smoothie, and it also did a great job in our soup puree test. It comes with chopper and whisk attachments as well as a separate beaker.
This 2.5-cup chopper is part of the Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004, which also includes a blender container, as well as a mid-sized processing bowl. So you're getting a lot for your money. The chopper aced our grating test and was very good at chopping and pureeing. The Ninja features a top-mounted motor that you push down to operate.
KitchenAid's 7-speed hand mixer delivers superb power for folding chocolate chips into stiff cookie dough. It's also very good at whipping, for example when you're beating egg whites for meringue. In terms of features, we like this model's easy-to-clean wire beaters and its separate whisk attachment. On the downside, it lacks the slow-start option that prevents splatters and it doesn't come with a dough hook.
For some, the name Ginsu is synonymous with hammy 1970s-era infomercials, but this a serious cutlery company. Its 8-piece set offers incredible value, providing the cutting performance and handle comfort of knives costing three and four times as much. The set includes a chef's and santoku knife, but not a slicer.
This 10-inch Swiss Diamond nonstick frying pan was very good overall. Food cooked evenly and when the pan was new, food released easily. This pan was very good at withstanding our nonstick durability test in which steel wool is rubbed over a pan for up to 2,000 strokes. The handle is sturdy and stays cool to the touch. Cleanup was a snap. The pan is made of aluminum and comes with a lifetime warranty.
This instant-read thermometer is simple and easy to read with large digits and a folding probe. A backlight can assist in low light. The thermometer notes minimum and maximum temperatures and after using was a cinch to clean.
This iron was superb at ironing and delivers plenty of steam. It's the lightest of the recommended irons in our tests. The steam surge button releases a burst of steam when you need help removing stubborn wrinkles. The vertical steam feature lets you remove wrinkles from hanging garments and drapes. The soleplate is stainless steel and the ready light tells you when it's hot enough to use. There's a self-cleaning feature and the auto-shutoff turns off the iron when it's left stationary for a short time.
This Sunpentown tabletop humidifier was good in overall performance, and is intended to humidify areas up to 500 square feet. Moisture output was excellent and it also gets top marks for convenience, noise level, energy efficiency, and its output with hard water. Daily output was 2.31 gallons.
In our tests, this space heater quickly heated a standard size room and also quickly warmed up an individual sitting in the room (spot heating). The heater is cool enough to touch during high heating and it's safe around combustible materials such a drapes. We found the controls easy to use and the heater easy to move. The Vornado has a multiple speed fan that's pretty quiet.
—Mary H.J. Farrell (@mhjfarrell on Twitter)