Considering a small kitchen appliance purchase? Read about which ones are the best investment for cooking real family dinners on busy nights.
Small kitchen appliances are so popular for a very good reason--busy families are desperate for just about anything that will help get dinner to the table a little bit easier or faster.
But is investing in air fryer worth it? Will an Instant Pot really give you an instant dinner?
The set of small kitchen appliances you need all depends on what you plan to do with them.
After testing hundreds of family-friendly recipes on my own family, I've narrowed down the top favorite appliances that actually help you get a real family dinner on the table that:
- tastes great
- has the best texture
- helps you cut corners on the dinner prep
- is worthy of your kitchen storage space
You can use the table of contents below to jump to the review of each kitchen appliance you are most interested in, but don't miss the shopping list at the bottom of the post!
Full Size Instant Pot
Has anyone else noticed the Instant Pot trend may be slowing down in favor of air fryers?
Our family still relies on this amazing gadget to get dinner on the table at least once a week.
Why I LOVE the Instant Pot
I work from home most days and I don't prefer to smell our dinner for 7 hours as it simmers in a slowcooker.
I love that I can pop into the kitchen and get a slowcooked taste and texture in just minutes using an Instant Pot.
It's also super helpful for the days when you might forget to put the dinner in the Crock Pot early enough and you still need to cook the dish.
But one of my very favorite features of the Instant Pot is the Saute function.
Being able to brown ground meat or saute vegetables like onions right in the pot saves me dirty dishes when I'm using it for building soups and sauces, too.
Favorite Full Size Instant Pot Recipes
An Instant Pot definitely gives meat a very tender texture. It is perfect for shredded meats or fall-apart chicken.
We love the full size Instant Pot for making vegetable soups or big batches of food that I want to prep for the freezer.
Some of our family's favorite Instant Pot recipes are:
Mini Instant Pot
This is my husband's favorite appliance in the kitchen.
This smaller sized Instant Pot is often running any time we need rice for our meal, whether the bigger Instant Pot is cooking the main dish or something else entirely.
We use it several times a week for rice or absolutely perfect hard boiled eggs in just 5 minutes.
My husband is often in charge of prepping the rice while I work on the rest of the meal and we love how the Instant Pot just keeps it warm and ready for whenever the dinner finishes.
Favorite Mini Instant Pot Recipes
We make so much more than just plain white rice in our Instant Pot. Don't miss my favorite recipes that are perfectly sized for the smaller Instant Pot:
My husband bought me an air fryer as an unexpected gift and it was the hit of my Christmas season.
Now we use this for making everything from salmon and chicken to vegetables and potatoes.
I love having a quick and easy way to get a crispy side dish or main entree cooking while I use my oven for something else.
An air fryer is perfect for cooking something that needs a different temperature than whatever is in my oven.
But the truth is, we often prefer the texture of the air fryer food over oven baked anyway!
In the summer months, you'd often find both the air fryer and an Instant Pot working on my counter at the same time so I could avoid turning on the oven and heating up my kitchen.
Favorite Air Fryer Recipes
I love how crispy the edges get on anything we cook in the air fryer and yet meats and fish remain delicate and tender on the inside.
The air fryer is responsible for getting my kids to LOVE green beans, too.
Crock Pot Slowcooker
You can't talk about busy family dinners and not mention a Crock Pot.
When we're out and about all day, it is amazing to come home to dinner ready in this magic appliance. I definitely use it when we're going to be out of the house and not around to smell the food cooking for too many hours.
But, in the last few years I've discovered that my slowcooker is actually the perfect way for keeping an already-cooked dinner warm on a busy afterschool activities night.
Sometimes I'll cook the dish on the stovetop first, particularly if it requires browning. Then I'll pop it into the slowcooker to keep it ready for a later dinnertime.
Crock Pots are also amazing tools for hosting large parties or holiday feasts. There are so many side dishes you can keep warm for long periods of time in a slowcooker and just have them ready for your guests to help themselves.
Which Crock Pot Capacity is Best?
As a food blogger that specializes in family dinners, I hope it doesn't shock you to learn that I own all three of these sizes of Crock Pots.
I use them all for different reasons, but if I had to pick just one, it would be the 2 qt capacity for keeping dinner warm (like one of these 16 slowcooker sandwich fillings) or making a small batch of my very favorite CrockPot hot chocolate at Christmas time.
7 QT Slowcooker
This is a very generous sized slowcooker that is essential for making a large pulled pork or big batch of any recipe that you want to prep for the freezer or serve a crowd.
If you're cooking IN the slowcooker, this bigger size is super handy for soups, stews, or large quantity recipes.
4 QT Slowcooker
This size slowcooker is better suited for most smaller families or using as a side dish prepper for the holiday season.
I make my Thanksgiving mashed potatoes right in here and they keep warm while I finish the turkey.
2 QT Slowcooker
I confess this is my favorite size. It is small and easy to store in my kitchen and has proved itself to be so practical for how I like using a Crock Pot.
I was able to fit my entire batch of Crock Pot sloppy joes inside to keep warm on a busy night.
Favorite Crock Pot Recipes
Want to see how I use my three sizes of slowcookers? Here are some of my favorite recipes:
You can see the recommended slowcookers for purchase in the shopping list at the bottom of the post.
Breakfast for Dinner anyone?
In all honesty, this griddle is perfect for making a big batch of grilled sandwiches for a family meal, too.
It is so nice to get them all done at once vs. just 1 or 2 at a time in a skillet on the stove top.
My mom gave me a griddle for Christmas when my first daughter was born and we've used it for years and years for so much more than pancakes!
If I tell you my slowcooker is on the counter, you can guess there's a bread machine running right next to it.
We LOVE warm bread with our cozy crockpot dinners or Instant Pot soups and nothing tastes as great as one that was prepped in less than 5 minutes and comes out crispy and fresh.
We gave five different bread machines a workout while writing The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook.
I shared my thoughts on which model works best for different families in my thorough bread machine review article here.
Still wondering is a bread maker is worth it? Check out some of my favorite bread machine recipes here:
While the other appliances help get the final dinner done, this list wouldn't be complete without a mention to a few handy tools that help make my job so much easier.
My Cuisinart food processor is so wonderful for making a from-scratch pie crust in under a minute and my kids always love our homemade salsa.
I can't imagine making something that requires a lot of grated vegetables like my make-ahead potato latkes without this amazing tool.
Favorite Recipes that are Easier with a Food Processor
Hand Held Immersion Blender
I avoid using my countertop blender like the plague. Absolutely any chance I get, I would rather reach for my hand held immersion blender.
It is easier to store, easy to clean, and makes quick work of pureed soups and sauces right in the pot where I cooked them so there's less mess in my kitchen.