There are enough small kitchen appliances on the market that, assuming you had the cash, you could use a different one each night for dinner for an entire year. With this in mind, I’ve narrowed down the most critical ones to the three that I most frequently use. Two of them are very similar, but do very different things; and the other is a low-tech tool that can be used for nearly every meal.
Food processor – I have two food processors that I always use. A 3-cup KitchenAid Chef’s Chopper and the 14-cup Cuisinart Custom 14 food processor. Both of them get equal use, but for very different things. I love to make peanut butter and hummus with the large one, and sauces, dressings, and bread crumbs with the small one. Both machines are built like tanks and have had no issues during their lives.
Blender – In essence, a blender does nearly the same thing as a food processor. It uses a blade to mix and chop food. Have you ever tried to make peanut butter in a blender? It doesn’t work. The biggest use for a blender (aside from margaritas) is turning chunky sauces in to smooth, creamy ones. This is critical for making pastas, jerk sauce, and BBQ sauce.
Microplane – a microplane is an extremely low tech invention that functions like a cheese grater, but works much more efficiently. There is a plastic adapter that slides onto the microplane that allows you to slide back and forth without scraping your finger tips, a very smart $5 investment. With a microplane you can grate garlic, onion, and carrot so thin that they melt in the saute pan, which is perfect for starting any pasta sauce.