Depending on your kitchen, it may already some with some things like a microwave, but there is a whole world of other tools out there which you may consider adding to your collection. But do you really need that combination grill-toaster-blender-panini maker in your new abode? Well having bought my fair share of gadgets and gizmos and having many friends who have done the same, here's a small guide as to what you may want to buy for yourself, what you may just want to borrow from a friend, or just skip altogether.
1. How much space do you have?
It seems intuitive and obvious, but many people fall into the trap of buying too much and not having enough space to put it (just look at some people's (aka my own) overflowing clothes closets, for example). Always evaluate how much space you have, that includes counter space, shelf space, and cabinet space. Just because something is off the counter doesn't mean its mass suddenly disappears (if your stuff does do that, some men and women in dark suits and white lab coats would like a word with you). Take a few minutes to measure out your counter space and where you think you may want to store something if you do not plan to keep it out always on your counters. This way you won't buy that 5-rack broccoli steamer and realize too late it's 0.7 inches too tall to fit under your kitchen cabinets.
This also seems obvious, but some kitchens just do not have the electrical capacity to run all the devices you may want. Most kitchens will likely come with at least two sets of plugs, if not more. But if you have a small one, you may be limited to only one set with two outlets. Say you have a microwave and a coffee maker and you want to make toast in the morning. You now have to either unplug one of your appliances or walk across the room to another plug just to get your bread nice and golden. It seems like it wouldn't be a huge deal, but a little annoyance is still one too many.
3. What type of cook are you?
The type of cook you are plays a huge role in what you will likely need or want in terms of small kitchen appliances. Are you a casual cook or a serious party caterer? Here are some examples that I will reference later on. It's not exhaustive of course but it provides some context.
The Amateur Cook - Most people just beginning to learn how to cook or are trying to improve their skills fall into this category. Amateur chefs cook pretty often, usually at least one meal a day or so. Experimentation is big but dishes don't tend to veer into anything too complex or exotic or that would require special tools.
The Baker - While you may like to cook, baking is where you really shine. Cookies, brownies, or pies, the oven is really where you shine and you spend most of your time.
The Host with the Most - You cook BIG batches of food for crowds pretty frequently. Whether it be a weekend brunch for 8 or dozens of cookies for a bake sale, you go big.
The Aspiring Professional - You're beyond the basics and are really starting to get technical. You are experimenting with new techniques, styles, and cuisines.
The Only-if-I-Have-to - The idea of cooking is fun, but you would rather not have to clean up a mess or go through the trouble of buying a bunch of ingredients for one dish. You may have had cereal for dinner three of the last four nights to avoid having to turn on the stove but that's ok!
The Regular - You cook but you do not change up your routine or diet often. Whether it is because of dietary restrictions or maybe you just are a picky eater, you know what you like, you will make what you like, and you ain't changing.
Alright, now that you have these things in mind, let's dive into some common kitchen appliances and gadgets and see if they may be wise purchase for you.
Good For: Everyone.
Skip it if you are: Completely lacking in counter space or can't afford one.
Good For: Avid coffee drinkers, The Host with the Most
Borrow: If you're hosting a large party or cooking something that requires fresh coffee but don't drink it often.
Skip it if you are: Non-coffee drinkers, The Only-if-I-Have-To
3. Rice Cooker/Steamer - One of the most ubiquitous tools in Asian households, most other places do not usually have a rice cooker or a steamer as part of the regular appliance rotation. This makes sense especially if you don't eat rice frequently and since you can make rice easily on the stove as well. That being said, if you do cook rice frequently or are big into steamed foods for health or other reasons, a rice cooker can be wise investment.
Good For: The Host with the Most, The Regular, The Aspiring Professional
Borrow: The Amateur Cook
Skip it if you are: The-Only-if-I-Have-to
Good For: The Host with the Most, The Only-if-I-Have-to, The Aspiring Professional
Skip it if you are: The Amateur Cook
5. Food Processor/Blender - Probably one of the most useful tools for blasting through large amounts of food, getting a food processor or blender can be helpful if you need to do anything in large quantity or regularity. For those who enjoy lots of smoothies, a blender will be useful to have. That being said, it does not make sense to devote any amount of space to either of these appliances if you only cook for yourself or liquefy something once in a blue moon. These tools are also a huge pain to clean, especially if you don't have a dish washer.
Good For: The Host with the Most, The Baker, The Aspiring Professional, The Regular
Borrow: The Amateur Cook
Skip it if you are: The Only-if-I-Have-to
6. Toaster Oven - The toaster oven is good for small meals or foods without having to fire up your massive stove oven. So whether it's reheating pizza slices, pizza bagels, or pizza rolls (non-pizza foods can also work), a toaster oven can be useful. The major downside is that toaster ovens have pretty small capacities yet take up a boat load of counter space. They are the Ford F-250s of the countertop appliance world. They also don't typically cook as evenly or accurately as a full sized oven so baking in a toaster oven isn't the best either. That said, they are easy to use and if you want to avoid trying to use your stove at all costs, having a toaster oven could be worth looking into.
Good For: The Only-if-I-Have to
Skip it if you are: The Aspiring Professional, The Baker, The Host with the Most
Good For: The Aspiring Professional, The Baker, The Host with the Most
Borrow: The Amateur Cook
Skip it if you are: The only-if-I-have-to