27 Kitchen Essentials That Are Built to Last
Saving money by spending less on essential kitchen supplies has its appeal, but spending more upfront may yield savings over the long term. Products that are built to last can save consumers from continuously shelling out for replacements, not to mention the inconvenience of dealing with kitchen equipment that breaks down in short order. Here are 27 small appliances and tools that may seem costly but stand the test of time. Many come with lifetime guarantees.
If the sole purpose of a blender is to make smoothies or margaritas, spending more than $40 doesn't make sense. But the Vitamix 5200 (starting at about $376, Amazon) is powerful enough to juice any fruit or vegetable, pulverize bread into crumbs, grind nuts or seeds into butter, and turn cold soup into hot. It boasts "aircraft-grade" stainless steel blades, a metal drive system, and a seven-year warranty that covers parts, performance, and shipping both ways. The brand scored highest in a Consumer Reports survey of blender reliability.
Experts agree that burr grinders pulverize coffee beans for the most flavorful brew. The automatic Baratza Virtuoso (starting at $229) carries just a one-year warranty, but it's a sturdy machine with a cast-zinc body and a high-carbon-steel burr, which consumers can expect to last through about 500 pounds of coffee, according to the company. With 6.8 pounds per capita consumed last year in the United States, that's more than 70 years' worth of grinding.
Experts say home cooks need only three or four knives, the most important being an 8- or 10-inch chef's knife that is hefty and feels like an extension of the hand. The Wüsthof Classic 8-inch chef's knife (starting at $140, Crate & Barrel) garners strong endorsements from users and comes with a limited lifetime guarantee, which the company honors as long as the knife has been properly maintained.
The standard collapsible steamer has feet and panels that tend to come loose or bend in short order. The Oxo Good Grips stainless steel steamer (starting at $18, Bed Bath & Beyond) has a telescoping handle and an endorsement from Cook's Illustrated. It's sturdier than supermarket finds and guaranteed against defects.
For a steamer with fewer moving parts, albeit one that hogs cabinet space, turn to the 3-quart All-Clad all-purpose steamer (starting at $60, Amazon). This stainless steel accessory looks like a pot from the side and comes with a lid and lifetime guarantee, plus an average of 4 stars from reviewers.
It's possible to spend $300 on a Dualit toaster, but that's a pretty steep price even for the most ardent toast fans. The Dualit 2-Slot NewGen model starts at about $220 on Amazon, and some consumers recommend scouting Williams-Sonoma outlet stores for prices under $100. This is a professional-grade countertop appliance assembled by hand from parts that are made to be repaired or replaced -- almost unheard-of in small appliances these days. The heating element has a protective layer designed to make it "virtually unbreakable."
Microplane's rasp and paddle graters (starting at $10, Amazon) are favored by professional chefs and have fine teeth ideal for citrus or Parmesan. The brand's patented technology was originally used in woodworking tools, a testament to its durability.
The 16-cup Breville Sous Chef BFP800XL food processor (starting at $369, Amazon) is top-rated in testing by the Good Housekeeping Institute and other consumer product experts. The powerful 1200-watt motor is surprisingly quiet and comes with a 25-year warranty, far longer than any other on the market.
A delicious cup of coffee depends, in large part, on a good coffee maker. The Bonavita BV1900TS 8-cup coffee brewer (starting at $136, Amazon) comes with a two-year manufacturer warranty, but simplicity is its strength. Without bells and whistles like a pre-programming feature, there's very little to break, and a steel lining adds durability. More than 1,300 consumers award it an average of 4 stars.
Locking tongs can be a hassle to open and close when one hand is holding a pan or platter of food. A pair of 12-inch tongs from German kitchen-products maker Rösle (starting at $28, Amazon), in plain stainless steel or with silicone tips, can be manipulated with one hand. Strong enough to pick up a rack of ribs, they come with a lifetime warranty and nods of approval from user reviewers.
It's possible to find a big cutting board at Ikea for $10, but chances are it will warp quickly. Cooking professionals prefer wood cutting boards because they protect knife blades and are biodegradable. J.K. Adams maple cutting and carving boards ($25 to $86, depending on size and style, Amazon) come with a lifetime guarantee and hearty shout-outs from satisfied consumers.
Many people object to using wood boards for some foods, such as chicken. Plastic can be put in the dishwasher but eventually becomes knife-scarred. Bamboo is a renewable resource that is very hard and naturally antibacterial. Pratico's bamboo cutting boards (starting at $14) come with a lifetime guarantee.
Greens should be dry before going into the salad bowl. Enter the salad spinner, a must-have kitchen tool for salad lovers. Although considerably more expensive than most, the Oxo Steel salad spinner (starting at $50, Amazon) has a stainless steel bowl, so it won't crack. It also has a non-slip base and dishwasher-safe parts. Oxo will replace any defective product.
Highly regarded for decades, Le Creuset Dutch ovens (starting at $100, Amazon) are made from enamel-coated cast iron. They weigh a ton and cost a lot but last practically forever and are covered by a limited lifetime warranty. The Dutch ovens heat steadily and evenly, go in the oven or on the stovetop, and have a tight-fitting lid to lock in juices. Scores of reviewers accord them a solid 5 stars.
A good spice mill should be easy to fill, provide different settings that are easy to change, and produce consistent grinds. Peugeot salt and pepper mills (starting at $20, Amazon) have been the gold standard for decades. The grinding mechanisms carry a lifetime warranty.
Cast iron is the ideal medium for cooking anything that requires a crust, like steak, biscuits, and fried chicken. From oven to stovetop, Lodge cast iron cookware is virtually indestructible and guaranteed for life. It comes pre-seasoned and remains nonstick if properly maintained. It's cheap, as well -- 12-inch skillets start at $20 (Walmart).
USA Pan has been making commercial-quality baking equipment for more than 50 years. It's made from partially recycled aluminum, corrugated for strength, topped with an ecologically friendly silicone coating, and backed by a lifetime warranty. The bakeware (starting at $14, Bed Bath & Beyond) commands an average of 4.8 stars in user reviews.
Cookware undergoes its share of daily abuse, making it worthwhile to invest in a set of pots and pans that will endure. A seven-piece All-Clad Stainless Steel cookware set (starting at $400 on sale, Macy's) is heavy duty, oven-safe, and usable on any cooktop. It's backed by a limited lifetime guarantee.
Can openers can be picked up for cheap at grocery stores and drugstores, but poorly made ones rust and dull easily. Unlike most traditional models, Rösle can openers (starting at about $40, Amazon) open cans from the side, leaving a safe, smooth edge. They come with a lifetime guarantee.
A mandoline turns out consistently uniform slices of fruits and vegetables. Chef's versions are quite expensive and somewhat risky for amateurs. For home use, the Progressive International PL8 Professional Mandoline (starting at $58, Amazon) is sturdy, features a safety hand guard, and comes with a variety of slicing blades and thicknesses, as well as a lifetime warranty. Three-quarters of nearly 600 reviewers assign it a solid 5 stars.
Strainers are invaluable for sifting, draining, and separating liquid from solid. A good strainer has strong mesh that won't warp or bend, and a rim or hook for support when set atop a bowl. A set of fine mesh strainers from Live Fresh (about $20 on Amazon) has rubberized grip handles, sealed rims, and a lifetime guarantee. Hundreds of reviews are almost entirely positive, and many laud the brand's durability and customer service.
A whisk incorporates air into foods such as cream and egg whites, emulsifies vinaigrettes, and ensures smooth gravies and sauces. The best wire whisks are light and have a lot of closely spaced wires that are well attached. Cuisipro whisks (starting at $11, Amazon) come in many sizes and styles with stainless or silicone wires. All carry a 25-year warranty and most are highly rated by users.