Treat Yourself: Use Your Gift Cards on These Top Home Products
Spend those holiday bucks on cookware, an air fryer, a vacuum, and more from CR's tests
The presents have all been unwrapped, the leftovers stowed in the fridge, and you find that you're the proud owner of a whole bunch of gift cards. So what should you spend those holidays bucks on? From a new Dutch oven to a trusty air fryer, we think you should treat yourself with a nice gift ... to yourself, starting with these top-performing home products from Consumer Reports' tests.
Go to Consumer Reports' Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more.
This nonstick, cast-aluminum frying pan earns a CR recommendation for its even cooking ability, sturdy construction, and durable surface. Its handle stayed cool to the touch during cooking, and the nonstick coating stood up well to the steel wool abrasion test in CR’s labs. It comes with a lifetime warranty.
For more options: Best Nonstick Frying Pans
Lodge has been making cast-iron frying pans in its Tennessee foundry since 1896. This 12-inch Lodge is top-notch at browning scallops and earns an Excellent rating for searing a steak. Baking is only so-so, though. Heating evenness is also mediocre. It weighs 7.8 pounds, which is about average in this category.
For more options: Best Cast-Iron Frying Pans
The 12-piece Cuisinart Green Gourmet nonstick set aces all our key cooking tests. Pancakes brown evenly in the frying pan, and eggs slide out one after another without sticking. We were able to easily maintain sauce at a low simmer, and the 6-quart Dutch oven quickly brings water to a near-boil. This top-scoring set is made of anodized aluminum, which hardens the surface. One of the pieces is a steamer insert.
For more options: Best Cookware Sets
The 5.5-quart Le Creuset Signature tops our ratings in this category. It earns an Excellent rating in our browning tests, the only Dutch oven to do so, and is a cinch to clean. It weighs 12 pounds, less than most, and has an 8-inch cooking diameter. The loop handles are nice and wide.
For more options: Best Dutch Ovens
This Cuisinart drip coffee maker with a stainless steel finish and glass carafe earns an Excellent rating for brew performance. It’s programmable and features a water filter, a permanent coffee filter, a cleaning mode, a cleaning indicator, and auto-shutoff. The machine also allows you to adjust the strength of your brew. For the money, this model offers style and features that are hard to beat.
For more options: Best Drip Coffee Makers
The Nespresso VertuoLine Evoluo Deluxe is the best VertuoLine model in our tests. It offers a superb brewing range as well as solid first-cup speed and cup-size consistency. And Nespresso machines earn a rating of Excellent for owner satisfaction in our surveys. In terms of features, this machine offers a removable water reservoir, a height-adjustable drip tray, and an auto-shutoff function. And the Evoluo Deluxe can brew both coffee and espresso, depending on the VertuoLine capsules you use.
For more options: Best Pod Coffee Makers
In our evaluation of cold brew machines, the Cuisinart Automatic Cold Brew Coffeemaker DCB-10 performed better than automatic models that cost almost twice as much. It does well across all our tests, and it's the only model to receive a Very Good rating for ease of cleaning. Most parts are dishwasher-safe, unlike the other models in its class. This Cuisinart comes with a glass carafe (not plastic, like some competing models) and brews a full 35-ounce carafe in 25 to 45 minutes—a snap compared with the 12 to 14 hours it can take without an automatic brewing machine.
For more options: Best Cold Brew Coffee Makers
The Oxo Brew Conical Burr Coffee Grinder is a fantastic grinder and one of the more affordable models that does well in our tests. It receives strong scores in our grind performance tests, making it a good choice for any brew method you want to use. It also earns a Very Good rating for convenience, thanks to its clearly marked and easy-to-use controls. Our testers find it extremely easy to clean, too, because it has a removable hopper. It features 15 grind settings, a 12-ounce bean hopper (one of the largest), an auto-stop feature, and a timer.
For more options: Best and Worst Burr Coffee Grinders
Small Kitchen Appliances
A CR Best Buy, the GoWise GW22731 has measured capacity of 4.9 quarts. Its touch buttons and programmed settings are among the easiest to see and use, earning an Excellent rating in our assessment. And this is one of the quietest air fryers we tested. The exterior’s crevices and the basket’s nooks and crannies take some effort to clean, however. It comes with a one-year warranty.
For more options: Best Air Fryers
The Chefman was the only waffle maker we tested to snag a CR Best Buy designation. For far less money than most of the competition, this machine churns out evenly browned round waffles. It garners a Very Good rating for its color-range settings, meaning there’s a remarkable difference between waffles made on the darkest setting (brown and crispy) and lightest setting (light and fluffy). It has an indicator light to let you know when the waffles are ready, the option to store it vertically to save space, and a batter cup for precise portioning. However, the handle and latch get uncomfortably warm during cooking, despite the “cool touch” claims, so you may want to use an oven mitt when opening and closing the lid.
For more options: Best Waffle Makers
The 6-quart Zavor Lux LCD gets perfect scores in our tests for pressure-cooking succulent, fall-off-the-bone ribs; steaming broccoli and carrots; and slow-cooking thick, tender chili (a test most pressure-cook models don't excel at). The 1,000-watt cooker has a stainless steel insert, which proved to be more durable than nonstick coated inserts in our tests.
Despite the name, the Instant Zest 8-cup is actually a 4-cup rice cooker. (The “8-cup” refers to cooked rice; most rice cookers go by dry measurements.) Like most of the rice cookers in our ratings, this one scores a Very Good rating for cooking rice. One taster on our trained panel said the brown rice made in the Zest had a good texture and a nice bite. However, many tasters found that while the white rice was cooked through, it often came out a little sticky.
For more options: Best Rice Cookers
The Hamilton Beach Eclectrics 63221 is top-notch at whipping and mixing, and almost as good at kneading. It has the distinction of being the quietest model in our tests, earning an Excellent rating for noise: Whipping cream in this mixer is much quieter than making a smoothie in a blender. The 12-speed mixer comes with a 4.5-quart stainless steel bowl, flat beater, dough hook, and wire whisk. At 17 pounds, it’s the lightest of our recommended stand mixers, and you can’t use it with power attachments like you can with the other models. It comes in white, black, red, and stainless steel.
For more options: Best Stand Mixers
The 600-watt Instant Pot Ace Multi-Use blender earns an Excellent rating in our icy-drinks tests, which means whoever receives this as a gift can expect smoothies with a smooth, consistent texture, though it's better at blending bananas and other soft fruits than puréeing carrots and apples. There are settings for blending milk made of nuts, rice, or soy, and one for blending and cooking hot soup. We made a cannellini cauliflower soup in about 25 minutes following an Instant Pot recipe, and it turned out nice and hot, thanks to the blender's 700-watt built-in heater. The container is glass.
For more options: Best Blenders Under $100
The Black+Decker 8-Slice Digital Extra Wide TO3290XSD snags a Very Good rating in our reheating test, evenly reheating a single serving of lasagna in 15 minutes. In other words, it won't take you long to get leftovers on the table. This 1,500-watt toaster oven has a temperature range of 150° F to 450° F, and there are three rack positions. The additional functions are what you'd expect—reheat, bake, and broil—and there are settings for bagels and pizza.
For more options: Best Toaster Ovens
Bed & Bath
A CR Best Buy, the Vicks V5100NS cool mist model can humidify a room up to 400 square feet, which makes it a great size for the bedroom. It garners an Excellent rating in hard water output, something to consider if the water supply contains significant amounts of calcium and magnesium. They can clog the humidifier, decreasing moisture output. As for features, there’s automatic shut-off, but that’s it.
For more options: Best Humidifiers
Remington Smart Beard Trimmer (MB4700)
Do you need a little help keeping that facial hair neat during the pandemic? The Remington Smart Beard Trimmer ranked the highest among our users in a recent study conducted by CR. Users appreciated the trimmer’s smart features, such as the digital setting to auto-adjust the trimmer length and the travel lock. Most users expressed no discomfort to their skin or hair while using this model. One user did note that this model is not user-friendly for left-handed people, given that the travel lock button is on the right side of the trimmer.
For more options: The Best Beard Trimmer for You
Give the gift of less toilet paper anxiety: The Tushy Classic bidet attachment has a dial to adjust the water pressure, as well as three settings fore and aft. A few users in our recent study of bidets said it was easier to move themselves rather than adjust the nozzle, so if your intended recipient has limited mobility, this bidet may not be a great option. Some users found that it shifted a bit under the toilet seat. And one said the water pressure could be quite strong: “A 2 or 3 on the dial will give you a blast!” Most users found the Classic easy to install and had no trouble figuring out the water-pressure dial or nozzle adjustment switch.
For more options: Bidet Review: 'I Have Less Toilet Paper Anxiety'
About half of the volunteers on CR's electric toothbrush panel lauded the Philips Sonicare ProtectiveClean 6100 for leaving their teeth with a clean feeling. It has three brushing speeds, three brushing modes, and a pressure sensor, timer, and charge level indicator. Its easy-start option allows it to gently increase speed during use.
For more options: Best Electric Toothbrushes
One of the latest iRobot models to hit the market, the S9+ is pricey, but it delivers. This vacuum earns top scores down the line in our performance tests, and it’s the best of the best at cleaning along the edges of walls and on bare floors. It's also a self-emptying model that empties its dustbin into a dirt bag, no hands required. Like the e5 and the 960, the S9+ earns a Good rating for data privacy and a Very Good rating for data security.
For more options: Best Robotic Vacuums