There’s a countless array of kitchen appliances you can buy that all promise to make your life easier, put dinner on the table quicker or turn you into a super chef at the touch of a button – but how do you know which ones will actually suit your lifestyle and cooking habits and which are a waste of money?
Chantelle Dart has tested hundreds of products in the CHOICE kitchen lab.
No one has endless amounts of space in their kitchen cupboards, so rather than be swept up in the hype and find yourself clogging your pantry with a bunch of gadgets you don't really need or use, it pays to invest in a few good buys wisely.
CHOICE kitchen expert Chantelle Dart is here to help.
She has tested hundreds of appliances in the CHOICE kitchen labs so is well on top of which appliances are worth spending your money on, and which ones you can safely skip.
"It's important when buying a kitchen benchtop appliance to think about how and what you like to cook," Chantelle says.
"For me personally, I think a food processor and a slow cooker or a multi-cooker are great kitchen companions to have, which are going to save you time and money in the kitchen. They're definitely worth the space they take up!"
Worth it or a waste of money? CHOICE kitchen expert Chantelle Dart shares her take on the three most useful benchtop appliances that will save you time and money in the kitchen.
Why buy a food processor?
- Easy cutting and chopping of vegetables
- Makes food prep much quicker
When it comes to a multi-purpose kitchen helper, you can't go past a food processor. It helps make light work of chopping vegetables and assisting with food prep, which is great if you have dexterity issues or looking to save a bit of extra time and money by doing more of your own prep and making more of your own meals."Food processors are a great helping hand," says Chantelle.
"They're great for making meal prep quick and easy, such as chopping vegetables for soup and salads.
A food processor is quite versatile, too: it's not just for shredding carrots.
"I also really like to use mine to save on my grocery bills, so I make things from scratch like homemade mayonnaise, hommus, protein balls, and even doughs for quiches and pies. Not only is it cheaper to make these things yourself, but you have control over what goes into them."
Which food processor is the best to buy?
Our CHOICE experts have put a huge range of food processors to test in our kitchen labs over the years and they've consistently found that while there are many expensive, high-performing food processors on the market, you don't need to spend a fortune to get a good food processor.
"While we have tested food processors that cost around $900, we have also tested some really great ones that only cost around $100," she says.
"The cheaper models do come with fewer attachments and accessories – but that's not necessarily a bad thing, especially if you're a bit limited for space in your kitchen."
Why buy a slow cooker?
- Great for one-pot meals
- Easy to use
- Helps save money on grocery bills
Winter will be here before we know it and as energy prices and the cost of living go up, we're all looking for ways to save a bit of cash on our grocery bills by making the most of cheaper cuts of meat and batch cooking instead of resorting to takeaways.
A slow cooker could well be your secret weapon when it comes to saving time and money.
"With a slow cooker, you can just add in all the ingredients, then set and forget," Chantelle says.
"They're great for saving money on your grocery bills as they're perfect for batch cooking meals such as soups and curries that are great for leftovers. Plus, they're perfect to help you make the most of cheaper cuts of meat and bulking out dishes with dried beans and legumes.
"There's no stirring required and at the end of it you're left with a really rich and flavoursome meal."
Which slow cooker is best to buy?
Like food processors, you don't have to spend top dollar to get good performance.
"You can pick up a great slow cooker for under $50," says Chantelle.
"Even though they don't have some of those extra functions that the more expensive models will have, we find that the simple models really perform well."
Why buy a multi-cooker?
- Multiple functions in one appliance
- Saves storage space
As the name suggests, multi-cookers offer a range of different functions: slow cooking, pressure cooking, steaming, cooking rice. If you don't already own appliances that perform these cooking tasks, then a multi-cooker could be a space-efficient investment.
"They're essentially replacing several appliances in your kitchen, which means they can be a great space saver," says Chantelle.
"They're perfect for pressure-cooked lamb shanks, slow-cooked curries and fluffy rice, which also makes them handy for cost-saving meal prepping and batch cooking."
Fiona Mair (left) and Chantelle Dart are CHOICE's resident kitchen whizzes.
Chantelle's expert kitchen appliance tips
Don't buy useless accessories
Appliance manufacturers are adding a whole host of accessories to kitchen benchtop appliances these days – but do you really need them?
"When buying an appliance, really look at what accessories it comes with and whether you're going to use them or not," Chantelle says.
Don't forget that you'll need to find somewhere to store all those accessories, too!
Choose appliances that are easy to clean
It might not be top of mind when you're researching a new appliance, but if an appliance is a pain to clean, you might find that you're less inclined to reach for it as often.
"Make sure it can actually fit in your kitchen sink, and find out if the parts are dishwasher safe," Chantelle recommends.
All of our reviews include scores for ease of use, which includes how easy the appliance is to clean.
The appliances you may not really need
"Think about how often you're going to use the appliance, if it's just going to sit out on your bench, or whether you have space to store it in your cupboard," she says.
"Try not to double up on appliances that can do the same thing – so don't buy a slow cooker and a pressure cooker if you can simply replace both with a multi-cooker.
"A lot of people are buying air fryers and pizza ovens, which is great if you've got the space and you're going to use it all the time, but your oven will do essentially the same thing."
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.