Five countertop appliances.
Photo: Ted and Chelsea Cavanaugh

The kitchen is the command center of the home, and the counter is where all the action happens: food prep, grocery lists, dishing up finished meals, cleanup, homework, and much more.

So, do you really want to sacrifice some of that real estate for a new small appliance that doesn't hold its weight? Or for one that might be a flash in the pan?

More on Small Appliances

That depends on your cooking style and what your family likes to eat. Do you have kids who play sports and need a quick meal after practice? Then an air fryer might speed up your chicken nuggets and fries. Do you work a long day but enjoy a hearty beef stew? Then consider a slow cooker or a multi-cooker that you can set and forget.

Consumer Reports tests a bevy of small appliances from kitchen stalwarts such as toasters and drip coffee makers to newbies like air fryers to cult favorites like the Instant Pot. The results of our rigorous lab tests will help you decide which ones deserve a spot on your counter—and which may end up collecting dust in a cabinet.

Read on for the bottom line on our top countertop appliances.

Blenders

Invented as a way to whip up malted milks in the 1920s, blenders have remained a kitchen staple for almost a century. But the range of what this countertop appliance can do has widened considerably in just the past decade—far beyond the classic milkshake. Our experts cut through the swirl of blender options so that you can pick the right one for your needs.

For more information and full ratings, see our blender ratings and buying guide.

Coffee Makers

Today’s coffee makers do far more than brew a pot of joe. Some grind beans, others froth milk for specialty drinks such as lattes and macchiatos, and a few even brew iced coffee. Others just make one perfect cup. Consumer Reports’ extensive lab tests can help you zero in on the machine that’s right for your kitchen.

For more information and full ratings, see our coffee maker ratings and buying guide.

Food Processors

This workhorse can chop, slice, shred, and purée many different ingredients. If you regularly cook for a crowd or like to prepare multiple batches of a recipe, you might want a bigger model, with a capacity of 11 to 16 cups. Otherwise, a 7-cup model is fine for most tasks and takes up less space.

For more information and full ratings, see our food processor ratings and buying guide.

Multi-Cookers and Slow Cookers

Designed to simmer foods at a low temperature for hours, a slow cooker is perfect for soups, stews, and tough cuts of meat. The more versatile multi-cooker can take on tasks that usually require multiple appliances—pressure-cooking, steaming, sautéing, and slow-cooking. One-pot meals or stews that would typically take half a day to cook can be done in half the time.

For more information and full ratings, see our multi-cooker and slow cooker ratings and buying guides.

Toasters and Toaster Ovens

We always say that if you just want to make toast, buy a toaster and not a toaster oven, which takes up more counter space. But if you want an extra oven or a mini-oven, a toaster oven does everything its bigger siblings can but in smaller batches. Newer models even have features such as air-frying, convection cooking, and slow-cooking.

For more information and full ratings, see our toaster and toaster oven ratings and buying guide.

Waffle Makers

You may think a waffle maker does one thing and one thing only. But this simple appliance is a versatile ally in the kitchen that can cook many meals in addition to breakfast. Use it to get hash browns extra-crispy, reheat leftover pizza, and even cook omelets. And, of course, make crispy waffles.

For more information, see our waffle maker ratings.

Air Fryers, Electric Kettles, and More

Thanks to the promise of (nearly) guilt-free french fries, the air fryer has solidified its spot as a hot countertop appliance. Using little or no added oil, it relies on a fan to circulate hot air to cook food in a flash. Electric kettles let you keep hot water at the ready for tea, oatmeal, or other cooking tasks.

For more information, see our air fryer ratings and buying guide and electric kettle ratings.