Space-Saving Countertop Appliances for Small Kitchens
These 12 top-performing appliances from CR's tests deserve a coveted spot on your counter
Any chef worth his or her salt can cook a meal using a sharp knife and a pot or pan—but even the pros welcome a little help.
“I adore my Vitamix blender,” says Jehangir Mehta, chef of restaurants Graffiti Earth and Me & You in New York City. “If I had to choose one piece of equipment, that would be it.” The 100-square-foot kitchen at Me & You has room for little more than an induction cooktop and convection oven, but Mehta managed to squeeze in a food processor alongside his blender. “I have one at home, too, for prepping just about anything, from purees and sauces to breadcrumbs and doughs,” he says.
Crunched for space? Whether you're cooking in a pint-sized bistro or a tiny home kitchen, the trick is relying on gadgets that earn their keep while occupying the least amount of real estate on the counter.
Opt for multipurpose appliances that offer efficiency and convenience when it comes to food prep. Some even go the extra mile and cook entire meals for you. But even among the top-performing multitaskers, there can be a big difference in terms of size.
We pored over our ratings for coffee makers, multi-cookers, microwaves, toaster ovens, food processors, and blenders to highlight the models that perform well and don’t require as much space as the competition. Below, CR's top picks.
CR’s take: The top scoring single-serve coffee maker in our ratings also happens to be the smallest. The slim profile allows it to be neatly tucked in between other appliances or it can occupy that random sliver of counter space that every small kitchen seems to have. The Pixie rates Excellent for speed and Very Good for the ability to adjust brew strength. Its height is also adjustable, so you can brew a shot of espresso as easily as a large mug of drip coffee.
Footprint: 12.8 inches deep x 4.3 inches wide x 9.3 inches high
CR’s take: An Instant Pot may deserve a spot on your counter (or inside a coveted cabinet) if you’re tight on space—especially if you often host a large group for dinner. The Duo rates Excellent for pressure cooking and can hold its own against a Crock-Pot in the slow-cooking department, too, though it may require more time. It also takes up less space than even the smallest slow cookers from our ratings. And if the 6-quart’s size still intimidates you, Instant Pot also makes a 3-quart version (we haven’t tested it) that is 2-inches tighter all-around.
Footprint: 12.25 inches deep x 13.5 inches wide x 13 inches high
CR’s take: It’s bigger than a standard toaster, but this compact Panasonic is still smaller than the smallest microwave from our tests. Plus, a toaster oven can do so much more than toast bread; it can broil burgers, bake cookies, and heat up leftovers, too. Corn muffins and frozen pizza came out nicely in this Panasonic in our tests, and slices of bread turned out evenly browned in a snap, earning the oven an Excellent score for full-batch toasting and toasting time.
Footprint: 12 inches deep x 13 inches wide x 10 inches high
CR’s take: This tool can do so many things in the kitchen, from chopping nuts and grinding nut butters to dicing vegetables and blitzing them into purees. The Cuisinart Prep’s large 11-cup capacity comes in handy for making pie dough or prepping family-size meals. It performed very good in our onion-chopping and cheese-grating tests, which means you’ll shave many minutes off prep time. There’s convenient cord storage tucked underneath the base, too.
Footprint: 9.5 inches deep x 7 inches wide x 14.75 inches high
CR’s take: Don’t discount how much you can do with a Mini Prep food chopper. Some things may need to be done in batches, but the smaller 3-cup capacity is more efficient at chopping herbs and blitzing small amounts of garlic, nuts, seeds, or sauces. Plus, this lil’ guy weighs 3 pounds and takes up as much countertop space as a postcard.
Footprint: 7 inches deep x 5 inches wide x 9.25 inches high
CR’s take: Rather than buy a separate blender and food processor, consider this Oster that consolidates both machines onto one tiny 8x7-inch base. The 6-cup blender jar and 5-cup processor cup are more than large enough for most kitchen tasks, and it also comes with a 24-ounce blending cup for sauces or smoothies-to-go. The Oster rates Excellent for grating cheese and Very Good across the board in all other food processing tests. In our blending assessment, it earns Very Good scores for crushing ice and making smoothies.
Footprint: 8 inches deep x 7.25 inches wide x 14.25 inches high (with blender jar)
CR’s take: Since the discontinuation of Vitamix’s space-saver series, the classic 5200 is once again the brand’s slimmest model. Its height can be awkward for some kitchens though, too tall to fit underneath standard cabinetry. If you’re willing to forgo an extra square-inch of counter space for a low-profile jar, consider paying $80 more for the Vitamix 7500.
Footprint: 8.75 inches deep x 7.25 inches wide x 20.5 inches high
CR’s take: Maybe you don’t need a super-duper powerful blender that monopolizes the counter or cabinet. Not only is this pint-sized blender powerful enough for a party of one, earning it an Excellent rating for icy drinks and smoothies, it also treads lightly on your wallet: Use it three times and you’ve more than covered the cost of a Jamba Juice addiction.
Footprint: 6.3 inches deep x 6.3 inches wide x 14.5 inches high
CR’s take: This skinny stick blends food just as well as a high-powered countertop blender and fits in a drawer. The Breville Control Grip is the only immersion blender we recommend. It beat out other models in our tests by a huge margin, snagging Excellent ratings for blending smoothies and pureeing soups. It’s also great for making a small batch of pesto or quickly chopping an onion in the provided container.
Footprint: 2.5 x 3 inches wide x 16.25 inches long
CR’s take: A KitchenAid stand mixer takes up a considerable chunk of counter space, but could be worth it for the serious home cook. The iconic KitchenAid Classic rates Excellent in our tests for whipping cream, mixing cookie doughs, and kneading bread, so it’s a no-brainer for bakers. But it can do so much more: You can buy attachments that transform it into a pasta roller, meat grinder, vegetable spiralizer, and ice-cream maker. KitchenAid also now has a mini version (we haven’t tested it) that’s 20 percent smaller—but costs about $40 more.
Footprint: 14 inches deep x 9 inches wide x 14 inches high
CR’s take: If you don’t want to sacrifice counter space for a stand mixer—or only need an electric mixer for the annual bake sale—this Cuisinart can be stashed in a drawer between batches of brownie batter. It earns an Excellent rating in our lab’s chocolate chip cookie dough test and a Very Good score for whipping heavy cream into fluffy peaks.
Footprint: 8 inches deep x 3.5 inches wide x 6 inches high
Tell us how you prioritize counter space in your small kitchen—and which appliances make the cut—in the comments below.