Friends often ask me for advice on the pros and cons of kitchen equipment they want to buy. Having been through a fair few pots and pans and different food processors, blenders, etc. and just about every different kitchen gadget and gizmo I can get my hands on, I have a lot of first-hand advice I can impart!
Here is a list of my all-time favourite pieces of equipment in my kitchen and some tips about choosing for yourself so you can avoid the duds I've discarded over the years!
Vitamix S30 Personal Blender
(or Vitamix A2300 (Ascent Range) for a larger option)
Summary: The Vitamix S30 Personal Blender is compact but powerful and has a useful option of switching between a single-serve cup and a larger jug.
Uses: making smoothies, pasta sauces, dips, soups, dressings
What to look for in a blender:
- Power - You need a powerful blender to whizz up nuts and fibrous greens like kale.
- Size - Ideally it should be able to live on your worktop but you also need it to be big enough for your needs. Will you be making smoothies for the whole family or just for yourself? Will you be making small amounts of dressings and dips, in which case you might like having the option to have a small bowl too (like the Vitamix Ascent range offers).
- Ease of cleaning - With all blenders you can run it with soapy water to give it a quick clean but there will always be bits of fibrous vegetables or other parts that might get stuck on the blades and are not cleaned properly. If the blender jug unscrews from the blade section at the bottom, it is much easier to clean than a jug that is all in one with the blade because that is going to be much harder to get the washing up brush in around the blades to clean it really well. (But... also check where the seal is because Nutribullets have a seal inside the blade section which is really hard to clean under.)
- Super powerful – makes velvety smooth cashew cream without even needing to soak the cashews.
- Small base so you can leave it on your kitchen worktop.
- Versatile – two different-sized blending jugs – 1 large and 1 small for single-serve smoothies or for blending spice pastes or salad dressings.
- Easy to wash – the jug screws onto the blade part at the bottom so the blades are very accessible for washing*.
- Variable speeds so you can either blend completely smooth soups and smoothies or make slightly chunky things like tapenade.
- The larger jug is 1.2 litres which may not be big enough for large families. (I usually end up having to do two batches if making smoothies for our family of 5). For this reason, if we move to a house with a bigger kitchen, I would switch to the larger A2300 Vitamix instead.
* I used to have a nutribullet which I loved for its size and convenience but I hated how difficult it was to remove the rubber seal inside (and if you don’t remove it, check out how much mouldy gungy stuff is in there next time you use it... yuck!). The Vitamix has the rubber seal on the outside of the base unit so it is much easier to remove and wash clean.
** I also had a Blendtec blender in the past. I wasn't able to get super smooth smoothies in the Blendtec whereas the Vitamix makes dreamy smooth soups and smoothies easily.
*** Vitamix have a confusingly wide array of blenders for sale. Many of the more expensive options include touch screens and special smart functions. I prefer actual buttons and knobs to touch screens so, for this reason, I think the cheaper A2300 is the best option for the larger Vitamix blender. It is the cheapest model of the newer Ascent range which includes options for small mixing bowls and single serve cups as well as the large jug.
Useful Blender Recipes:
Recommended Food Processor: Magimix 5200 XL
(or if you have a larger budget, the Thermomix is my all-time favourite!)
Summary: Magimix food processors are extremely powerful and come with lots of useful attachments for slicing and dicing.
Uses: chopping up vegetables or nuts, chopped salads, whizzing up dips and sauces, making pastry, making bread doughs, thinly slicing potatoes (with slicing attachment), grating vegetables (with grating attachment).
What to look for in a food processor:
- Power - the higher the power, the better the food processor will be.
- Ease of cleaning - if you're anything like me, you're likely to avoid using it as often as you should if it's too annoying to wash up. Go for something that's easy!
- Size and weight - this is likely to live in a cupboard and you'll need to lift it out when you need it. If it's too heavy, you won't use it as often. The other alternative is to find a home on a countertop so that you don't need to lift it ever!
- Extremely powerful.
- Lots of useful attachments for slicing and dicing.
- Very easy to use.
- Comes with 3 different sized bowls.
- Annoying to wash up all the different parts.
- Big and heavy so need an easily accessible place to keep it.
* I have used many different food processors including Magimix, Cuisinart and Kitchen Aid but I can safely say the Magimix is by far the best (except the Thermomix...). I loved that you can use the different sized bowls for whizzing different amounts, or thinly slice potatoes, or grate carrots or chocolate with such ease. However, I found it big and heavy and annoying to wash up so that used to impact how often I could be bothered to get it out.
** Nowadays, my food processor is my Thermomix. The Thermomix is a breeze to wash up and lives on my worktop because I use it for so many other things too! I won’t dwell on this though since a Thermomix is an investment on a whole different level! It took me years to make my decision to finally invest in one 7 years ago but I have never regretted it. Search for Thermomix in your area and you will find a local sales rep for them (I’m not a sales rep). You can email me if you have any questions from a non-sales, user perspective.
Useful Food Processor Recipes:
Recommended Mixer: Kitchen Aid Classic 4.8L Mixer
Summary: A kitchen work-horse that makes cake mixes, batters, doughs and meringues with ease. These machines are made to work hard, look gorgeous, and last a lifetime.
Uses: effortlessly mixing making cake mixes and batters, mixing and kneading bread doughs, whisking aquafaba for meringues, mixing cookie doughs.
What to look for in a mixer:
- Power - again, you need a lot of power to have versatility in what you can use the mixer for.
- Versatility - look for mixers that include dough mixers and whisks as well as the main batter attachment. Grating, slicing and spiralizing attachments are useful too.
- Size and weight - like the food processor, this is unlikely to live on your kitchen worksurface, so make sure it is a weight that you are able to comfortably move from wherever you are planning to store it.
Kitchen Aid Pros:
- Built to last.
- So many useful attachments that you can buy. I frequently use the grater and slicer attachments as well as the spiralizer attachment.
- Versatile – whisk aquafaba for perfect meringues, mix cake batters or biscuit mixtures, or knead bread dough.
Kitchen Aid Cons:
- Big and heavy. You need a convenient space to keep this (not the back of a cupboard or you’ll never use it!).
* I have nothing but praise for this amazing machine! My Kitchen Aid is about 20 years old and is just as reliable today as it was on the day I bought it. These machines are so well made and are built to last so it really is worth investing in it, knowing you won’t need to replace it in a few years time like some cheaper models.
Useful Mixer Recipes:
Recommendation: The jury's out on this one!
Summary: I love using the air fryer but I don't have a definitive recommendation for you because, to be honest, I haven't found my perfect air fryer yet!
Uses: quickly roasting vegetables or tofu to make tasty "fried" foods.
What to look for in an air fryer:
- Size - able to fit on your worktop. Large enough basket to fit enough food for your family. It is also really useful to be able to fit in small baking tray or oven-safe dishes.
- Power - the higher the power, the quicker you can cook your food.
- Ease of use - you want something that is intuitive and easy to use. I find manual controls easier than lots of different buttons for different foods.
I used to have a Philips XL Air Fryer but I replaced it due to the basket being a bit small, the non-stick coating peeling off, and the food sometimes flying up and burning onto the heating element. (I see they have fixed the non-stick coating by bringing out a new version with a better looking basket...)
I replaced it with a new Instant Pot Vortex Plus Air Fryer. Whilst this solved the issues I had with the Philips air fryer, it also its own pros and cons and I often find myself missing my old Philips Air Fryer. So, it is not ideal either!
Here are the pros and cons of each machine.
Philips Air Fryer
- Very efficient. Works very well to quickly and evenly heat food. It was quicker to cook things than the Instant Pot air fryer.
- Easy to transfer the cooked food safely as the basket lifts out of the drawer with an outside handle.
- Quite small. Even the extra large model is not big enough to fit in most small muffin pans and oven dishes.
- The main drawer is harder to wash up due to the shaping (which is also a pro because it helps to swirl the hot air around really well).
- Fan pulls lighter food up to the heating element where it burns.
Instant Pot Vortex Air Fryer
- Large capacity. Plenty of space for fitting in small oven dishes or laying out more food in a single layer for even cooking.
- No problem with food floating up to the heating elements and burning.
- When you tip the drawer to empty the food out, the tray always falls out with the food and you risk burning yourself on it.
- Really irritating temperamental touch screen and constantly beeping at you to tell you to do things!
- Not as efficient at heating and doesn't get food quite as crispy so quickly.
Recommended Pressure Cooker: Instant Pot Duo
Summary: A safe, easy to use pressure cooker for speedy cooking of dried legumes and beans and one-pot meals. With a cult following, there are plenty of recipes online.
Uses: Cooking dried legumes and beans quickly and safely (often without needing to pre-soak), making yoghurt, making soups and no-mess one-pot curries and stews.
What to look for in a pressure cooker:
- SAFETY! I have always been too scared of pressure cookers but Instant Pots have a lot of safety functions so that fear factor has gone!
- Ease of use - if it is tricky to use, you'll end up never using it!
Instant Pot Pros:
- Lots of built-in safety features.
- Easy and intuitive to use.
- Lots of accessories for sale and recipes online.
Instant Pot Cons:
- Big and bulky.
* Instant Pots have a cult following although I wouldn't say I'm quite in that camp yet. It's useful for pressure cooking but I don't use it for all my meals. (Thermomix is far superior for that purpose but obviously far more expensive too). It is great though for those times when you need to cook something but don't want to stand over a stove stirring a pot. You can brown everything in the pot, then add your liquid, put the lid on and leave it to cook the food while you get on with something else like helping with homework, setting the table or sitting down with a book!
** As for sizes, I originally had the 8 qt pot (Duo) but then I bought the 6 qt pot (Duo Mini) and find that to be plenty big enough for most of the things I make for our family of 5. I intended to sell the 8 qt but I've ended up keeping both as the 8 qt is occasionally useful for large batches of curries or casseroles.
Recommended Bread Machine: Panasonic SD-YR550
Summary: Reliable bread maker that's easy to use, fairly compact and consistently makes a good loaf.
Uses: making bread. (Many bread machines (this one included) also have settings for making cakes, jams, and other things but I haven't tried them. I use it solely for making bread!)
- Consistency – never fails to make a good loaf.
- Easy to use. (I have used this many a time returning late from a night out and suddenly remembering we have no bread for the morning!)
- Easy to adapt to different bread recipes. I use it to make my own gluten-free vegan bread machine loaf recipe and it works brilliantly.
- Fairly compact (as bread machines go…) and fits neatly onto a worktop.
- The bread never sticks to the tin.
- The dough mixer at the bottom sometimes gets stuck inside the bread. (but it's easy to get it out)
- Big and more expensive than other machines (to weigh up against its longevity and consistency).
* I use this bread machine almost every day for regular bread for the rest of my family and weekly for my gluten-free vegan bread. I recently replaced my old bread machine with a newer model of the same machine because, after looking at all the other brands, I realised this machine ticks all the boxes for me, consistently giving a good loaf.
* Note, I don’t use it to make doughs, cakes, jams, etc. so I can’t comment on those settings.
Useful Bread Machine Recipes:
Ice Cream Machine
Recommended Ice Cream Machine: Cuisinart Professional Gelato, Ice-Cream, Frozen Yoghurt and Sorbet Maker, 1.5L
Summary: Reliable ice cream machine that churns and freezes the ice cream without needing to put the bowl in the freezer. Consistently makes fabulous ice cream in less than an hour!
Uses: making ice cream, gelato, sorbet and frozen yoghurt!
Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker Pros:
- Hardwearing and able to cope with thick ice cream - the stirrer is solid durable plastic not like the flimsy ones in cheaper machines that break or just stop stirring when the ice cream gets too thick.
- Always ready – no need to plan ahead or store the bowl in the freezer. This machine has a condenser built in and freezes the mixture while churning.
- Easy to use – literally make up a flavourful liquid, pour it into the bowl and start churning. That’s it! Ice cream is ready in an hour or less.
Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker Cons:
- Big. You need space to store this bad boy! Lucky for me, we have a back kitchen and it lives there on the countertop next to the bread machine, always ready for use whenever we feel the need for ice cream!
- Expensive. For something that is certainly not an essential piece of kitchen equipment, this has a luxury price tag to go with it...
* This Cuisinart Professional ice cream maker is truly a game changer in the kitchen! Before moving to Qatar, I decided to splash out on a really good ice cream maker for all that hot weather we were about to experience. During lockdown, we got into the habit of making different crazy flavours of ice cream every few days. It was such fun and so easy.
** Over the years, I’ve had many cheap ice cream makers and they’ve all ended up either broken or unused at the back of a cupboard because of their inherent inadequacies. The plastic stirrer is too soft for actually churning ice cream once it has frozen and you never have the bowl in the freezer when you want to make ice cream so you always have to plan ahead. The bowls also take up precious space in the freezer and get in the way. If this has also been your experience, I highly recommend ditching the cheap ones and splashing out on the big mama ice cream maker! We haven’t looked back!
Ice Cream Maker Recipes:
My favourite saucepans: Le Creuset 3-ply stainless steel pans
Summary: A solid set of pans that will cook evenly and efficiently (with no hotspots) and will last a lifetime. They also work on induction hobs.
Le Creuset Pros:
- Long-lasting – mine are 20 years old, used every day and still going strong.
- Cook evenly with no hot spots.
- Efficient – holds heat well so you can cook on a lower setting.
- Healthy – stainless steel is inert so won’t leach anything into your food.
- Easy to clean – you can scrub stainless steel without fear of damaging it (unlike non-stick pans)!
- Works on induction hobs too.
- Can be used in the oven as well as on the hob - due to the handles and lids also being stainless steel.
Le Creuset Cons:
- Expensive (but weigh that up against the fact that you will never need to replace them!).
- Heavier than aluminium pans.
* If there’s one thing you should spend your money on in the kitchen, it’s a good set of pans. Go for the best you can buy. You’ll be rewarded with cookware that lasts a lifetime and cooks evenly and efficiently.
** I can’t say this strongly enough – cheap cookware is such a waste of your money! It doesn’t cook well, it’s bad for the environment (both in the materials used and the fact that it ends up thrown away in a short time) and it’s often not good for your health (bad non-stick coating can scratch easily and then leach chemicals into your food).
Casseroles (Dutch Ovens)
My favourite casseroles: Le Creuset ceramic coated iron dutch oven
Summary: Heavy-duty cookware that cooks evenly, looks beautiful going from oven to table, and lasts long enough to become a family heirloom.
Le Creuset Dutch Oven Pros:
- Iron cookware is fantastic for slow cooking because it keeps a really even constant temperature so that your food doesn't get burnt.
- Because these casseroles are ceramic coated, they don't need seasoning or kept so preciously unwashed like uncoated iron pans do.
- Easy to clean - the ceramic coating makes it somewhat non-stick but with an inert safe coating and without making it so non-stick that you don't get the good sticky bits you need for flavouring a casserole!
- So beautiful in so many shapes and colours!
- Heavy - especially when full of food!
- Expensive (but, again, weigh that up against the fact that you will never need to replace it!).
* It's worth investing in the best casserole you can afford since a good ceramic coated iron casserole pan will serve you well for a lifetime. Staub is an equally good brand (although I don't personally own any).
** I’m a big fan of Le Creuset pots as was my maternal grandmother who apparently never used any other brand. I wish I had some of her Le Creuset pots passed down to me but I am lucky enough to have a few from my mother-in-law which I cherish! These pots are made to last and last so although it is a big investment, it will pay you back over a lifetime!
*** As for sizing recommendations, I have 3 Le Creuset casseroles! I have:
- a 29cm oval casserole (5qt) - used mainly for weekend cooking or entertaining;
- a 24cm round casserole (4.5qt) - good for every day family cooking; and
- a 26cm shallow braising casserole (1.5qt) - I used to use this all the time when it was just my husband and me but because it's a bit small, it's not so well used now our family is larger.
Recipes for Casserole Pots:
Recommended Roasting Tins: Scanpan Non-Stick Roasting Tins
Summary: Heavy duty roasting tins that will cook the food evenly without hot spots and without burning. Perfect for roasting in the oven or for making gravy afterwards on the stove.
Uses: roasting vegetables or tofu or tempeh for easy suppers or sides, one-pan meals roasted in the oven, brownies!
Scanpan Roasting Tin Pros:
- Perfectly even cooking with no hot spots.
- Non stick so food doesn’t burn onto the tin and cleaning is a breeze.
- Not as heavy as the iron-clad roasting tins like Le Creuset and Staub.
Scanpan Roasting Tin Cons:
- Non-stick coating can peel in the corners when the metal racks are used inside these roasting tins so you need to be careful with them (not such a problem for vegan cooking as you don't tend to need the roasting racks!).
- I have found that Scanpan customer service is not as good as Le Creuset.
* Getting a good set of roasting tins totally transformed my roasting skills. They say a good workman never blames his tools but there’s a reason why some tools are more expensive and more popular than others!
** I used to burn things all the time in the oven until one year I invested in this heavy-duty Scanpan roasting tray for our Christmas turkey (before I went vegan). It was a revelation for me. Nothing ever burned again – things just got more caramelized and more yummy when I left them in the oven too long. It didn’t take me long to go back and buy every size of these Scanpan roasting tins!
Roasting Tin Recipes:
Recommendations: Choose knives that are comfortable in your hand and have steel that is easy to sharpen. I like Global knives (expensive - need infrequent but difficult sharpening) and Ikea knives (cheap - need frequent but easy sharpening).
I have this Global knife that I absolutely love because it is resilient, comfortable in my hand and doesn’t need sharpening too often.
However, some of my other favourite knives are Ikea knives - this Ikea cook's knife in particular! So, here is where I think you can cut costs a little with your kitchen equipment if you are savvy.
Cheaper steel is softer so it will go blunt and need sharpening more frequently. However, being softer makes it easier to sharpen too. So, if you have a good sharpener, you can go for cheaper knives and just make sure you sharpen them often.
When you buy a new knife, these are the most important things to look out for:
- It needs to feel comfortable in your hand.
- The blade must NOT be bendy – these are the WORST kinds of knives and are super dangerous too since they can slip onto your fingers while you’re cutting something.
Recommended Tofu Press: Tofuture Tofu Press
Summary: Easy and neat way of pressing tofu without any effort.
(Sure, this is not essential but it is one of my favourite kitchen gadgets!)
* Yes, you can easily press tofu with a plate, some kitchen towel and a heavy pan on top, but this tofu press is so mess-free and convenient! It is small and relatively inexpensive and I use it at least a few times a week.
** To use this tofu press, all you have to do is pour the liquid out of the tofu packet then put the tofu into the top layer of the tofu press and fasten the lid. Leave it in the fridge for a while and then pour out the liquid from the bottom. It’s so easy! Well worth the small investment if you eat a lot of tofu!
Recommended Lemon Juicer: either the yellow ones that have long handles that you squeeze together or the jug type (but must have sharp squeezer section).
There are many types of bad lemon juicers so do not be fooled into thinking this is a simple purchase! A good lemon juicer needs to be:
- Efficient – you want to be able to quickly squeeze all of the juice out of the lemon halves - make sure if you buy the jug type that it doesn't have a really blunt squeezer section like the glass ones do;
- Catch all of the pips – there’s nothing worse than having to fish out pips from whatever you squeezed the juice into.
- Easy to wash up – I love things that are easier to wash up!
- Resilient - buy a good quality long-handled type as I have found the cheaper ones can snap quite easily.
My new all time favourite juicer is this yellow long-handled type* that you just place your lemon half in and squeeze shut. It’s so quick and simple and very easy to wash.
However, it is not as efficient as this jug type of juicer which is slightly more annoying to wash but really does get every last drop out of the lemon.
I have both of these and use them for different purposes. The yellow one is for when I need a quick squeeze for adding to hummus, say, or adding to soup. The other jug one is for when I need a larger amount of lemon juice and I don’t want any waste.
* Note there are also lime squeezers and orange squeezers like this lemon one but I have not found them to be as reliable (they both broke quite early on!).
These classic microplane graters are my favourites. I have one extra coarse one that I use for chocolate and vegetables (and cheese for the kids) and one fine one that I use for citrus zest, garlic and ginger, and spices. They are invaluable in the kitchen and a must-have in my opinion!
Make sure to choose graters that have sharp grating parts that are not flimsy otherwise they will be too much effort to use and may break easily. My microplane graters are years old and still as good as they were when new!