The best ice makers we tested in 2021

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Our pick for the best maker for nugget ice, the Opal Nugget Ice Maker, while making ice.
  • Ice makers can replace your ice trays, make ice in minutes, and keep your cooler full all day.
  • The best ice maker overall is the NewAir Countertop Ice Maker.
  • This machine had the most size options and largest water tank of any that we tested.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

If you like to entertain or just want a faster alternative to filling and refilling plastic ice trays, consider a portable ice maker. Most ice makers can produce a handful of cubes in under 10 minutes, and the more powerful models can make upwards of 20 pounds in 24 hours. For comparison, it takes three to four hours to turn water into ice in the average freezer.

Ice makers may be classified as “portable,” but since they’re heavy and typically need to be kept upright and level, you shouldn’t move them around too much. The manuals for every ice maker we tested recommended leaving space between the ice maker and heat sources, like stoves or vents. The higher the ambient temperature, the longer ice will take to form.

Most ice makers make bullet ice, which is cylindrical with a rounded base and a hollow middle. Bullet ice starts to melt fairly quickly, and most ice machines do not have insulated baskets for long term storage, so if you’re running one during a party, you will have to periodically empty it out.

We tested five ice machines and spoke to Ken Ho, co-owner of cocktail creation and consulting company One Cocktail at a Time, about what sets a good ice maker apart from the competition. After our research and testing, we chose the three ice makers below as the best ones you can buy in 2021.

Here are the best ice makers of 2021

Our methodology

Two glasses of water with ice from two of the machines we tested

We put five ice makers through a series of tests to determine which ones performed consistently well. We chose ice makers that produced between 26 and 28 pounds of ice daily. We found this to be the market average.

Speed: Each ice maker we tested promised to make a certain amount of cubes in a certain amount of time, so we tested the accuracy of those claims.

Capacity: We measured the water reservoir capacity by filling it with a quart of water at a time until we reached the max line.

Ice quality: We noted if the ice came out broken or whole, and whether or not the ice cubes made on the same setting were similar in shape and size. 

If the machine had multiple size settings, we evaluated the sizes separately.

We also compared the melting speeds of ice produced by the ice makers and ice from traditional cube trays in two separate tests: one where the ice cubes were placed in glasses of water, and one where the ice cubes were left out. In general, ice from the machines melted slower than ice from the traditional trays.

Noise level: We evaluated if we could have a conversation at normal volume while each machine was running.

Ease of use: We noted how easy it was to lift the machines and keep them level, as well as how much effort it took to drain the machines. We also examined each machine’s interface, and judged them on simplicity and intelligibility.

The best ice maker overall

Our best overall ice maker, the NewAir Countertop Ice Maker in black, on the counter.

The NewAir Countertop Ice Maker‘s three quart water reservoir and three ice sizes are great if you like to entertain or prefer all your drinks chilled.

Pros: Three ice sizes, large water tank capacity, ice is evenly shaped across sizes

Cons: Bulky, small ice is on the thin side 

At three quarts, this ice maker’s water tank had the largest capacity out of all the machines we tested. After running two small cycles, one medium, and one large, there were still over two quarts left. Regardless of the size you select, each ice cycle produces nine pieces of ice and takes under 15 minutes to complete. This speed is standard among ice makers with one or two sizes, but I was impressed by the NewAir‘s consistent timing in all three sizes.

Draining the leftover water was easy because the NewAir‘s drainage port is conveniently located on its side near the bottom, as opposed to underneath the machine. If you shut off the machine mid-cycle, any ice formed will drop back into the water tank. 

The small ice started losing shape just from the heat of my hand; the medium and large ice cubes were more substantial. However, this was the case for all of the ice makers I tested.

Countertop Ice Maker (button)
The best budget ice maker

Our best budget ice maker, the Magic Chef Portable Ice Maker in white, on the counter.

With a small countertop footprint and two ice sizes, the Magic Chef Portable Ice Maker is perfect for small spaces and camping.

Pros: Can be used outdoors, runs quietly, small and large ice produced in under 10 minutes

Cons: Not easy to drain, white finish attracts dust

The Magic Chef doesn’t have many bells and whistles, but it delivers on its key promise: you will get nine pieces of small or large ice in 15 minutes or less. This is enough ice to fill an eight ounce glass. The ice came out fully formed and the cubes were identical in size and shape. The large ice cubes did not take much longer to form than the small ones, and I found that the Magic Chef actually over-delivered on its claim: both sizes were ready to use in under 10 minutes. The noise level was no higher than other machines, which is especially useful if you’re bringing the ice maker into a small space.

The drainage port is on the underside of the machine, so it requires some finagling to open it and place a vessel for catching the excess water underneath. I did notice that some hair and dust particles stuck to the machine and were super visible on the white exterior. The Magic Chef can be used outdoors, but as with all ice makers, the manufacturer recommends that you leave it in its final position for about an hour before using it.

27-Lb. Portable Countertop Ice Maker (button)
The best ice maker for nugget ice

Our pick for the best maker for nugget ice, the Opal Nugget Ice Maker, while making ice.

The Opal Nugget Ice Maker does one thing and does it well: it makes chewable nugget ice.

Pros: Runs quietly, one water tank is enough for an hour of ice production

Cons: Bulky, takes longer to produce enough ice to fill a glass

Nugget ice has its devoted fans, but there are few countertop nugget ice makers on the market. Unless you have an ice maker built into your refrigerator, making the perfect mint julep can feel impossible. Enter the Opal Nugget Ice Maker: it’s a portable machine that produces one pound of crushed ice in an hour. 

The Opal is about $200 more than our other picks, but that’s a pretty standard price for a nugget ice maker. The machine took about half an hour to produce enough nugget ice to fill a 12 ounce glass from top to bottom. This is not surprising, since nugget ice is small and condenses in glasses. After running the machine for an hour, you’ll have enough ice for two or three full glasses.

The ice pieces are frozen solid and evenly shaped. The interface is simple and the machine is sleek; though it takes up over a foot of counter space, it is not an eyesore. 

Part of the machine’s bulk can be attributed to a side water tank, which enables you to triple the Opal‘s water capacity and continuously make ice for several hours in a row. It was easy to connect with a clearly labeled tube in the back of the machine.

Opal Nugget Ice Maker (button)
What else we tested

Frigidaire Portable Compact Maker: This ice maker is almost identical to the Magic Chef. It was relatively quiet and made nine cubes in nine minutes. However, it only makes one size of ice and it cannot be used outdoors, which is why it lost out on a top spot.

Luma Comfort Clear Ice Maker: This was the only machine that produced traditional cube shaped ice and claimed to make clear ice. While the ice was noticeably less cloudy, there were a few other flaws that kept this ice maker from being a top pick. The ice cubes froze into a solid rectangle and were not easily broken apart. Additionally, the small cubes had divots in the middle, which increased the surface area and therefore led to faster melting.

What we look forward to testing

Igloo Portable Ice Maker: This machine is similar to the bullet ice makers we tested, and its selling points are a three quart water tank and a small countertop footprint. Our current top pick has a three quart tank, but takes up more space. 

Igloo Flip-up Door Portable Crushed Ice Maker: This is more multi-purpose ice maker than the others we tested; it produces crushed ice and two sizes of bullet ice, and dispenses water. We are curious to see if it performs all of those tasks equally well.

FAQs

Semi-clear ice cubes frozen together from the Luma Comfort Clear Ice Maker.

How do you clean your ice maker?

All ice makers have specific cleaning instructions in their manuals, and the process was largely the same for the five machines we tested. Dilute basic detergent with room temperature water and wash the inside of the water tank and ice basket with a soft cloth.


How does an ice maker work?

Portable ice makers use the same mechanical freezing cycle as refrigerators and freezers, just on a smaller scale. Because they’re not connected to a water line, you have to fill up the ice maker’s water reservoir to make the ice. Unlike a chest freezer, a high ambient temperature can significantly slow down the speed of a portable ice maker.


Why does bullet ice melt faster than cubes or spheres?

Melting speed is determined by the surface area to volume ratio. Large ice spheres melt slower than traditional ice cubes because spheres have a lower ratio. Bullet ice, with its hollow center, has a higher ratio and therefore melts faster. 

“The two main purposes of ice are to chill the cocktail and to dilute it. With that in mind, depending on how you build a cocktail and how you like to enjoy it, ice plays different roles,” said Ho. Fast-melting ice results in a diluted but colder drink, while slow-melting ice keeps a drink concentrated but not as cold.

You can read more about when and why to use different ice shapes and sizes here.

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The 7 best KitchenAid attachments we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • The best KitchenAid mixer attachments can make a variety of foods and replace several appliances.
  • Our favorites include a pasta maker, a meat grinder, a spiralizer, a food processor, and more.
  • Don’t own a KitchenAid mixer? Check out our guide to the best KitchenAid stand mixers.

When it comes to mixers, KitchenAid stand mixers are in a class of their own. In addition to mixing batters and kneading doughs, these mixers work with a wide array of attachments.

If you own a KitchenAid already, you are only one attachment away from making your own pasta, straining and grinding fruits and vegetables, making sausage, spiralizing vegetables, creating homemade ice cream, grinding your own flour, or turning your mixer into a food processor.

Most of the attachments in our guide work with all KitchenAid mixers. The Pasta Extruder Attachment is the only accessory on our list that doesn’t fit every model.

We pored over the expert and user reviews to find out which attachments are worth buying based on value, long-lasting performance, and versatility. We chose the KitchenAid attachments for our guide after assessing the most common positive and negative attributes of the most popular accessories available.

Here are the best KitchenAid attachments:

The best KitchenAid attachment for pasta

best kitchenaid attachments 2021 pasta roller cutter

With the KitchenAid 3-Piece Pasta Roller & Cutter Attachment Set, you turn your stand mixer into an all-inclusive homemade pasta maker.

Pros: Built to last, easy to use when you follow the directions

Cons: Takes a little practice to get the pasta just right

If you have ever had fresh pasta, you know the pre-packaged dry stuff doesn’t compare. With the KitchenAid 3-Piece Pasta Roller & Cutter Attachment Set, you turn your KitchenAid stand mixer into a one-stop pasta shop. This set comes with a pasta roller that rolls six-inch sheets of pasta to eight different thicknesses, a fettuccine cutter, a spaghetti cutter, and a cleaning brush. All of the pieces are made in Italy.

How does it work? First, you prepare the dough using the mixer, then you flatten the dough and feed it into the rollers on the 2-speed setting. This will knead it. You repeat the rolling process until the dough is smooth and pliable. You slowly decrease the thickness of the dough until it is at your desired thickness. Then, to make the noodles, you either feed it through the spaghetti cutter or the fettuccine cutter.

It took me some practice to get the dough just right to feed it through the rollers, but once I got the hang of it, it was easy and fun. I’m impressed with how durable the pieces are. They feel heavy duty, and I haven’t had any issues with them in the two years I’ve had them.

I also appreciate that the attachment provides an excellent rolling and cutting speed, and the attachments are easy to switch out. 

The best KitchenAid attachment for straining

best kitchenaid attachments 2021 fruit and vegetable strainer set and food grinder

Whether you want to make your own sausage or you have a bounty of garden produce to process, the KitchenAid Fruit & Vegetable Strainer Set with Food Grinder Attachment can handle a broad range of tasks.

Pros: Handles any soft meats, fruits, vegetables, or cheese

Cons: Made of plastic, not suitable for all meats

The KitchenAid Fruit & Vegetable Strainer Set with Food Grinder Attachment is really two accessories in one set. The strainer converts cooked pears and apples into sauces for immediate consumption or preserving. Making fresh tomato sauce is also a popular use.

The grinder comes with fine and coarse plates for making fresh hamburger, processing vegetables for salsa, and grinding your own cheese. These accessories work with any KitchenAid stand mixer, and if you want to make sausage, we recommend adding the Sausage Stuffer Kit Attachment to your order.

This attachment can even be used to create a sorbet base to use with the Ice Cream Maker Attachment.

The best KitchenAid attachment for spiralizing vegetables

best kitchenaid attachments 2021 spiralizer with peel core and slicer

The KitchenAid Spiralizer Attachment with Peel, Core & Slice is ideal for low-carb eaters, paleo dieters, individuals sensitive to gluten, and anyone else who wants an easy way to peel, slice, core, and spiralize vegetables, fruits, and more.

Pros: Mostly metal construction, convenient storage for the four blades

Cons: Stops short of spiralizing the entire vegetable

The KitchenAid Spiralizer Attachment comes with a versatile system of four quick-change blades plus a peeling blade. The blades include:

  • Fine Spiralizer Blade for sweet potatoes, beets, and zucchini
  • Medium Spiralizer Blade for sweet potatoes, potatoes, and zucchini
  • Spiral Slice Blades for Small and Large Cores for zucchini, apples, beets, and pears
  • Spiral Peeling Blade for potatoes and apples

All of the pieces fit into a simple storage case, and the set comes with a one-year replacement warranty.

The attachment is also backed by a respected manufacturer and made of durable metal so it’s long-lasting. This attachment is useful for peeling potatoes and the quick-change blades make meal preparation simple and fast. While a hand crank spiralizer, typically takes a couple minutes to spiral a zucchini, with this attachment it’s a matter of seconds.

However, a few buyers have noted the device leaves about half an inch of the vegetable at the end, and the thinnest the spirals get is about 3/8-inch thick.

The best KitchenAid attachment for extruding pasta

best kitchenaid attachments 2021 pasta extruder

If you are looking for an easy way to make fusilli, rigatoni, macaroni, bucatini, and several other types of pasta, the KitchenAid Pasta Extruder Attachment is the best attachment for you.

Pros: Sturdy design, intuitive assembly, fun to use

Cons: Expensive, hard to clean

The KitchenAid Pasta Extruder Attachment provides a fun way to make traditional Italian dishes at home. It comes with a combo tool, cleaning brush, six pasta plates, a wrench, pasta ring, and auger and hook. All of the pieces store snugly in the included case.

How does the Extruder differ from the 3-Piece Pasta Roller & Cutter Attachment Set? There are four major ways. First, unlike most other KitchenAid stand mixer attachments, the Extruder only works with certain models. On the Amazon page, you can type in your model number to see if this attachment is compatible with your machine.

Another way they differ is that the Pasta Roller & Cutter is basically only good for making two types of pasta: fettuccine and spaghetti. The Extruder allows for many other options. Also, the Pasta Roller & Cutter requires less effort to use and clean up. However, the Extruder is also more expensive.

A negative is the pasta ring breaks easily. To avoid this, you should skip the dough recipe found in the user manual since it produces a dough that is stiff and could lead to problems. Instead, consider using a recipe like this. Also, do not put too much dough in the attachment at once. 

The best KitchenAid attachment for milling grain

best kitchenaid attachments 2021 all metal grain mill

If you use your KitchenAid mixer to make bread and are always looking to improve the flavor profile, the KitchenAid All Metal Grain Mill Attachment will be a real game-changer.

Pros: Easy to clean and use

Cons: Loud, has trouble with larger tasks

The KitchenAid All Metal Grain Mill Attachment is designed to mill any non-oily, low-moisture grains, such as barley, rice, rye, wheat, millet, buckwheat, oats, and corn. Do not put coffee or peanuts in this attachment because it could damage the grinding mechanism. Before you use the attachment, clean it with a mild detergent to remove any oils used to protect the device from rust. Also, the mill is not dishwasher safe so use the brush that comes with the kit to clean it off or wash by hand if you need to.

The mill can produce cracked to extra fine consistencies. The mill features symbols for the finest grind and the coarsest grind, and there are several notches in between. First, you choose a setting, put the grain in the hopper, and start the mixer at speed 10. If the grind is not precisely to your liking, adjust the knob until you get it as coarse or fine as you want. If the mixer appears to be overheating, turn it off for at least 45 minutes before continuing.

Those who enjoy multigrain bread and cracking grains for porridge will like that this accessory can mill very coarsely. However, be wary of milling massive amounts of grain on the finest setting at high speeds.

Be aware that the mill seems to work best with newer models in the Professional and Artisan series and is geared toward the home baking enthusiast who needs about two or three pounds of flour per week.

The best KitchenAid attachment for food processing

best kitchenaid attachments 2021 commercial food processor

Drastically decrease the time it takes to prep ingredients for your meals by using the KitchenAid Commerical Food Processor Attachment to slice, shred, and julienne vegetables, cheeses, and fruits.

Pros: Streamlined design is easy to clean, durable

Cons: Unlike your standard food processor, it does not mix food together

The KitchenAid Commercial Food Processor Attachment (model KSM2FPA) comes with shredding, julienning, and slicing discs. Plus, the ExactSlice System has a lever that allows you to adjust the thickness of the slicing. It is made out of plastic with metal blades and comes with a one-year replacement warranty.

This attachment does everything a top-quality food processor does, without the need for a new appliance that takes up extra space in your kitchen.

This Commercial Food Processor Attachment is the pricier sibling of the similar KSM1FPA. The main differences between the two is the higher-end KSM2FPA comes with a storage case, commercial-style dicing kit, and currently costs a bit more. If you purchase the KSM1FPA and find you cannot live without the storage case or dicing kit, you can purchase them separately.

The best KitchenAid attachment for meat grinding

best kitchenaid attachments 2021 metal food grinder

If you like burgers, sausages, and other dishes that call for ground meat, the KitchenAid Metal Food Grinder is a must-have attachment.

Pros: Produces better tasting and more affordable ground meat, easy to clean, works well for sausage making

Cons: There’s a small amount of wasted meat

The KitchenAid Metal Food Grinder Attachment is not the first mixer attachment that can handle meat, but it is the first put out by KitchenAid that is made entirely of metal. This makes it ideal for heavy-duty grinding projects and ensures long-term durability.

The attachment comes with the main housing, a removable tray, a grind screw, the blade, three grinding plates, the collar for securing the plates, a plastic sausage stuffer plate, small and large plastic sausage stuffer tubes, a food pusher, and a cleaning brush.

KitchenAid sent me the grinder to test, and I fell in love with it. I no longer buy ground meat. I do it all myself, and the results are always far superior to what you would buy pre-packaged at the store. I keep my grinder in the freezer so it’s always ready to go when I want ground meat. It’s important to chill the grinder to protect against temperature increases that could lead to bacteria growth while grinding.

One of my favorite creations was half pork jowl bacon/half beef burgers. I also made beer bratwurst for the first time with spectacular results.

And, cleanup was a snap. All of the metal parts should be washed by hand, and I recommend cleaning the grinder immediately after use or rinsing it off at least. Otherwise, bits of meat dry onto it and are hard to remove.

I’ve used this attachment for three years now, and I haven’t seen any degradation in performance.

Read our full review of the KitchenAid Meat Grinder Attachment.

Learn how to grind meat and make sausage with your KitchenAid and attachments. 

See more great kitchen buying guides

kitchenaid artisan

The best KitchenAid mixers

The best KitchenAid mixers serve as an indispensable tool as you bake cakes, pies, bread, cookies, and other delicious treats. They can knead the toughest dough for long periods of time, and they are versatile enough to make pasta and sausage. We’ve rounded up the five best models in our buying guide.


The best blenders

When selecting a blender for your kitchen, you’re going to want one that’s powerful enough to do whatever job you need, whether it’s creating a simple smoothie or crushing ice. Although blenders all seem to perform the same task, there are a few different types, each with its own unique features: conventional, multi-function, personal, and immersion. These are our favorites.


The best food processors

One of the unsung heroes of this electronic kitchen revolution is the humble food processor. While not as common as electric ranges and microwaves, a food processor is one of those appliances that will leave you wondering how you ever lived without one. Here are the best options.


The best juicers

The nutritional benefits of starting your day with fruits and vegetables are undeniable, but so is the financial hit of being a juice bar regular (if you go five times a week, we’re talking hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars a year). With a juicer, however, you can offset the cost of your healthy habit by squeezing your own greens at home. These are the best juicers on the market.

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We tested 9 popular bread machines – these are the 3 best ones you can buy in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A bread machine is a valuable kitchen tool if you enjoy making bread at home.
  • Most bread makers require quick prep work and take about three to four hours to make the bread.
  • We tested nine machines, and the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus is our top pick.

While I like the concept of making bread entirely from scratch, the lag time is significant between realizing that warm carbs are what’s missing in my life and actually holding a freshly-baked brioche. Many recipes involving yeast require kneading, refrigerating, or babysitting, making spur-of-the-moment bread out of the question. That is, unless, you have a bread machine.

Most bread machines require about 10 minutes of prep time, which is mostly spent measuring ingredients and putting them into a pan. After that’s done, you pick a setting, turn on the machine, and three or four hours later you (ideally) have a warm, golden-brown loaf. But with so many bread machines on the market, how do you choose the right one?

“At a minimum, I’d want a machine with a standard cycle, a whole grain or whole wheat cycle (if you enjoy whole-grain bread) and a dough cycle, which simply mixes and kneads the dough, then keeps it warm as it rises,” said P.J. Hamel, senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour and author of the James Beard Award-winning cookbook “The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.” “After that, you can make pizza crust, cinnamon buns, or any number of yummy treats.”

That’s why I put each bread machine in this guide through a series of tests to see how they handled basic white bread, wheat bread with mix-ins (in this case, sunflower seeds and flax seeds), and gluten-free bread. I also assessed the ease of use, setting options, baking times, noise levels, and special features like pre-programming. You can read a more in-depth explanation of my testing methods here, and a few tips for getting the most out of your bread machine here.

The 3 best bread machines of 2021

Our testing methodology

The inside of a bread machine, showing the basket for dough.

Before I began testing, I spoke to Marsha Perry, the writer behind the popular Bread Machine Diva blog, and P.J. Hamel, senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour and author of the James Beard Award-winning cookbook “The King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion.” Both have decades of experience testing and adapting bread machine recipes and providing their respective readers with bread machine tips. 

On their recommendation, I followed the recipes featured in each bread machine’s guidebook, since they’re calibrated to accommodate unique temperatures, mixing speeds, proofing techniques, and baking times. In future testing rounds, I plan to see how each machine fares using a universal bread machine recipe. I baked, at most, two loaves of bread per day in each machine, waiting several hours between baking sessions to allow the breadmakers to cool completely.

Here are the criteria I looked for during each test:

Bread quality: A bread machine has one job — to make good bread. I tested how each one handled basic white bread, wheat bread with mix-ins (in this case, a combination of sunflower seeds and flax seeds, to see how the machines dispersed mix-ins of different sizes), and, for the machines with a gluten-free setting, gluten-free bread. I used the same ingredients throughout testing, all of which are basic items you’d find at any grocery store.

I dialed the crust setting to “Medium” on each breadmaker. White bread was baked on the “White” setting (sometimes labeled as “Basic,” depending on the machine), wheat bread was baked on the “Whole Wheat” setting, and gluten-free bread was baked on the “Gluten-Free” setting.

Each loaf of bread was then examined for consistency of texture, a golden color throughout, and an even rise; points were docked if the domed top fell. I cut several slices of bread from each loaf to look for air pockets and under or over-baked spots. 

Size: Most bread machines take up a lot of counter space, so while it wasn’t a deciding factor, extra consideration was given to more compact options.

Capacity: While every bread machine I tested — aside from the Zojirushi Maestro — was built with a two-pound loaf in mind (aka the size you’d find in a grocery store), I made note of the models that had the ability to bake loaves in three or four different sizes; one pound was the smallest I saw, and 2.5 pounds was the largest. 

Noise: Extra noisy machines were dinged, as were ones that “hopped” across the counter during the kneading cycle. The top three picks above all operated at a low hum, and were, as far as I could tell, motionless.

Unique features: I noted setting options (some machines had special cycles for things like jam, yogurt, and pasta dough), especially fast baking times, and special features like pre-programming or auto-dispensers for mix-ins. 

The best bread machine overall

Zojirushi bread maker, with a black top and stainless steel body.

This bread machine kneads thoroughly, bakes evenly, and, unlike many of its competitors, turns out standard-sized loaves. 

Pros: Produces standard-sized loaves that rise evenly and are a consistent color, a wide variety of settings, ability to customize your own settings, pre-programmable, 1-year warranty

Cons: Expensive, takes up a lot of counter space

The Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus is my top pick for home bakers, thanks to its stellar reliability and variety of settings. After putting nine different machines through three rounds of tests (or two, for machines without gluten-free settings), I found that this was the only one to turn out perfectly domed, uniformly browned, and consistently fluffy bread with evenly distributed mix-ins every time. To check for consistency, I made two more loaves of white bread after those initial tests, and both were slam dunks. 

It was also one of the few bread machines to pass the gluten-free test with flying colors, producing bread that was similar in color, size, and texture to your standard white loaf. For her own experiment, the Bread Machine Diva blog’s Marsha Perry — who name-checked the Virtuoso Plus when I asked her for a bread machine recommendation — made one gluten-free loaf using the “Gluten-Free” setting and another using its regular “White” setting, and said the first loaf was markedly better. 

The Virtuoso Plus’ custom bread cycles feature is especially helpful for those who have moved beyond the machine’s guidebook recipes. Interestingly, Hamel of King Arthur Flour uses her Zojirushi’s “Jam” cycle to make risotto — a technique that I’m curious to try.

The Virtuoso Plus can be pre-programmed (a feature that worked perfectly and allowed me to wake up to the smell of fresh bread during testing), and the machine’s 5-minute power backup means you won’t automatically lose your bread-in-progress if the power flickers, as Hamel noted.

The Virtuoso Plus also stops kneading when you open the lid, which is useful if you want to add mix-ins to your bread. And if you need to measure those mix-ins, the machine comes with four nested measuring cups, one liquid measuring cup, and a double-ended measuring spoon — add-ons that are unnecessary, but appreciated. 

This machine makes two-pound 9-by-5 loaves that are, as I mentioned, about the size and shape of sandwich bread you’d find at the grocery store. Timing-wise, the white and wheat loaves of bread took about 3.5 hours to bake, while the gluten-free loaf was done in 2.5 hours. The clock displays the time your bread will be done, rather than the hours left, which I found helpful when planning my day. 

I’ve been using this model at least twice a month in the four months since my initial testing, and find that it still runs smoothly, with no discernable changes in quality of bread, reliability of programming, or noise levels. 

All of this being said, the Zojirushi is on the expensive side, so if you’re just trying out bread-making before you fully commit to the hobby, I’d recommend our budget pick. It’s also probably not the best choice if you have limited counter space, as the other machines in this guide are more compact.

The best bread machine on a budget

Oster bread machine, an all white body with curved edges.

The Oster Expressbake is a solid starter machine that mixes, kneads, and bakes evenly, and with 13 settings, it’s notably more versatile than competitors within its price range. 

Pros: produces bread with an even rise, makes three loaf sizes, affordable, compact, fast baking time, variety of settings, window, pre-programmable, 1-year warranty

Cons: Somewhat noisy, loaf size isn’t quite standard, slightly thicker crusts than our top pick

The Oster Express Bake‘s name refers to the fact that it can turn out a two-pound loaf of bread in less than an hour on its Express Bake setting (our top pick‘s “Rapid” cycle takes about 2.5 hours). While the results are certainly better than your standard grocery store loaf, I found that bread baked on this machine’s namesake setting turned out denser and shorter than loaves made on its Basic cycle (a near-universal bread machine problem, according to experts we spoke to). 

But most people don’t choose a bread machine based on its ability to bake two loaves of bread in the time it takes to watch an episode of “The Bachelorette,” and Express Bake results aside, the Oster’s white, wheat, and gluten-free loaves of bread were the best — golden brown and evenly risen with a fine crumb, a smooth, domed top, and evenly distributed mix-ins — out of the five machines in its price bracket that we tested. The only flaws that placed its loaves under the Zojirushi’s in testing were their unconventional shape (shorter in length and taller in height, with bread slices whose tops stick out slightly from your average toaster) and thicker crusts.

The Oster was also a bit more finicky in terms of exact measurements; when I relied on measuring cups instead of a kitchen scale, my loaves turned out flatter on top — a problem I didn’t have with our top pick. And while this machine’s gluten-free bread was solid, it was a bit less soft than the Zojirushi’s. 

I also tested the Express Bake’s predecessor and found that loaves baked in the original turned out slightly darker on the sides and paler on top. The brand swapped the Express Bake’s Bagel Dough setting for Pasta, which isn’t necessarily an improvement but does seem more practical, given the complicated process of making bagels from scratch.

Like the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus, the Oster Express Bake comes with a liquid measuring cup and a double-sided measuring spoon (but no set of nested dry measuring cups). It’s less bulky than our top pick, although perhaps not ideal if kitchen space is tight (if compactness is a priority, check out the Zojirushi Maestro, below). It can be pre-programmed and will beep instantly after finishing its bread cycle before switching to the warm mode for 60 minutes, then beeping again and automatically shutting off.

The best compact bread machine

Zojirushi Maestro, a tall and narrow white body with a loaf next to it.

The Zojirushi Maestro is specifically calibrated to bake excellent one-pound loaves of bread, making it a solid choice for one or two-person households. 

Pros: Produces an even bake, perfect for small households, variety of settings, ability to customize cycles, pre-programmable, compact, 1-year warranty

Cons: Loaves are oddly-shaped, bread can be difficult to remove from pan

Since I’m typically baking for one or two people, most standard two-pound loaves of bread go stale before I can finish them. (In other words, I’ve made a lot of croutons lately.) Typically, bread machines offer 1.5-pound loaves as their smallest option, and those that do begin at one pound aren’t necessarily calibrated to excel at loaves that small. When I tried making a one-pound loaf in Cuisinart’s Compact Automatic Breadmaker, for example, the results were dense, with a thicker crust than I would have liked. 

Zojirushi’s Maestro, however, is designed with small households in mind, and during my tests, it consistently turned out solid one-pound loaves that ticked every box on my bread checklist: golden-brown color, domed top, fine crumb, evenly risen, and evenly-distributed mix-ins. That being said, the Maestro’s pan is aligned vertically, meaning its loaves are oddly-shaped — even cube-like – and the bread is a bit more difficult to pry from inside. 

I appreciate the fact that Zojirushi didn’t scale down its flagship breadmaker’s features just to make smaller loaves; the Maestro can be pre-programmed in advance and includes a 5-minute power backup (as mentioned in our Virtuoso review, this can really save your loaf in the event your power flickers). 

The Maestro’s narrow dimensions make it easy to store in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen. It’s also the only bread machine I tested that features a convenient top handle, making it easy to transport. Its interior top handle, however, isn’t as solidly constructed; I yanked it off the first time I pulled the pan from the machine (although it popped back in easily).

What else we tested

Three bread machines with stainless steel bodies that we tested next to each other on the counter.

What else we recommend and why

Breville Custom Loaf ($299.95): This was a close second to the Zojirushi, but my first attempt at white bread came out slightly darker at the sides than on top, and the gluten-free bread wasn’t quite as fluffy as our top pick’s. The Breville Custom Loaf has 13 automatic settings, nine customizable settings, and two features we didn’t find in any other machine: a paddle that collapses after kneading, so there’s no paddle-sized hole when you pull the baked bread from the pan; and a fruit and nut dispenser that will automatically add any mix-ins at the appropriate time in the bread cycle. I’d recommend this machine for confident bakers who are interested in programming their own bread cycles to match go-to recipes.

Cru X GG Bred ($169.95): A collaboration between Cru and Ghetto Gastro, a collective of chefs who use food to empower communities and advance social justice, the Bred was definitely the boldest, sleekest, and most compact out of all the machines we tested. And, with 15 settings, it was also one of the most versatile. Since the bread it produced was on par with the significantly cheaper Oster Express Bake, it didn’t make the cut, but perhaps you’re willing to pay a little extra for an appliance that’s attractive enough to leave out on the counter.

What we don’t recommend and why

Oster Express Bake (older model, $68): While the previous iteration of the Oster Express Bake is still available online, we found that the newer version performs better in terms of producing evenly-baked bread. And, importantly, the latest Express Bake includes a gluten-free setting – a feature commenters on retail sites had been asking for. 

Cuisinart Convection Breadmaker ($154.95): With 16 settings, this is one of the most versatile machines I tested. However, while my white and wheat loaves were top-notch, both of my attempts at gluten-free bread resulted in collapsed domes. 

Cuisinart Compact Automatic Breadmaker ($129.95): Again, my gluten-free bread didn’t rise as I had hoped, and the machine’s white and wheat loaves of bread weren’t quite as professional-looking as those from the latest version of the Oster Express Bake. 

Hamilton Beach Artisan Dough and Bread Maker ($75.32): The white and wheat loafs came out slightly underbaked in the middle, while the gluten-free bread was denser compared to the ones our top three picks made.

Getting the most out of your bread machine

best bread machine

Don’t throw out the manual

Most breadmakers come with a few recipes, and they’re often tucked away in the back of a guidebook. These are crucial since they’re calibrated to work well with that particular machine’s features and specifications. “Once you’ve made some of those and understand how the machine works — how much flour it can handle, how long each rise cycle and bake cycle are — you can start to adapt any of your own favorite yeast bread recipes to bake in the machine,” P.J. Hamel, senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour, said. 

Have fun with the dough cycle

By taking care of the mixing and kneading, it allows you to start a little closer to the finish line if you’re making other yeast-based baked goods. The Bread Machine Diva’s Marsha Perry recommends it for pizzas and dinner rolls.

Experiment with settings

But master the basics first. “If your machine is programmable — that is, you can program in your own mixing kneading, rising, and baking times — you’re golden,” Hamel said. “Your machine is then simply a mini oven, ready to bake macaroni and cheese, apple crisp, bread pudding, cheesecake — even soup, stew, or lasagna! Once you get to know your machine, and if it has that ‘homemade menu’ capability — it becomes so much more than a machine that bakes bread.”

Use good ingredients

“Cheap ingredients yield a crummy (rather than crumb-y) final product. Flour and yeast quality are super-important,” said Hamel. “You don’t have to use bread flour in your bread machine, so long as you use flour with a protein content higher than 11.5% or so.” All of my bread were made with King Arthur bread flour and gluten-free flour (both of which I purchased before reaching out to PJ) and Whole Foods 365 whole wheat flour.

Invest in a kitchen scale

Bread machine baking is all about precision, and measuring your ingredients by weight will clear up any confusion as to whether or not that tightly-packed cup of flour is more like a cup and a half.

FAQs

Is bread from a bread machine different from oven-baked bread?

Yes. In terms of appearance, most loaves made in a bread machine will have a hole in the bottom where the mixing paddle was. Taste-wise, bread machine bread is pretty universally light and fluffy. 

“You won’t be making crusty artisan bread in your bread machine (though you can certainly make the dough for them on the machine’s dough cycle),” Hamel said. “Bread machine bread may taste a bit yeasty, but beyond that, it’s up to you to add flavor with spices, herbs, dried fruit, and nuts. Most bread machines won’t deliver loaves with the rich, nuanced flavor of an artisan loaf, since that flavor comes from a series of long rises, some of which may be in the refrigerator. Bread machines simply don’t have that capability.”

How long does homemade bread last? 

If kept at room temperature, homemade bread will be noticeably stale by day three. If you’re pretty sure you’re not going to finish an entire loaf in that amount of time, you can always wrap a portion tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer. 

How do I store homemade bread? 

If you’re storing homemade bread for a day or two, plastic or foil will help lock in moisture. Since direct sunlight can cause bread to overheat, it’s best stored in a cool, dry place like a bread box or cupboard. 

Any tips for keeping homemade bread fresh?

There is one slicing technique that can help extend the life of your bread. As Hamel wrote on the King Arthur blog, “If you start slicing at one end, you’ll always be dealing with an open-end ‘leaking’ moisture. But if you slice the loaf in half down the middle, cut a slice from one of the halves, then press the two halves back together before wrapping, no open surface will be exposed — which means less chance of moisture evaporating.”

Check out our other great guides for home cooks

The Best KitchenAid Stand Mixers
Read the original article on Business Insider

The best blenders we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A blender is an essential tool for most kitchens, whether for the occasional smoothie or daily use.
  • We tested 11, and the user-friendly, high-powered Vitamix 5200 is our favorite.
  • It blends everything from smoothies to nut butter faster and more consistently than the rest.

Whether you’re a daily smoothie drinker or you tend to use your blender for everything from soups and purees to nut flours and butters, the right blender makes the process of blending, preparing, and cleaning remarkably more seamless.

Your main considerations with a blender are power, functions, and size. Most blenders can handle making a basic smoothie well (and quickly) enough, but when it comes to pureeing, or preparing any number of ingredients for baking, or making nut butter, a little guidance in the way of programming can be an immense help. That’s not to say that you can’t make just about anything in a reasonably well-built and powerful blender – all of the blenders we tested did everything we asked them to with enough coaxing – but the right one for your needs will make it all the easier.

During our tests, we made everything from frozen berry smoothies and kale smoothies to nut flour and butter, and also timed how long it took for each blender to grind up eight ounces of ice cubes into a uniform shave-ice-like consistency.

We also consulted multiple experts, who told us not to overlook how easy a blender is to clean – a factor worth considering when it comes to any expensive, hard-to-wash kitchen appliance. You can read more about our methodology below.

Here are the best blenders in 2021

Our testing methodology

The best blenders our methodology

We consulted Erika Wong, PureFish’s in-house registered dietitian and nutritionist, who also worked as a counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Her biggest concerns when choosing a blender are power (her favorite blender carries 1,380 watts), speed (at least a handful of speed settings beyond “high” and “low”), and simplicity. Too many buttons or settings corresponding to specific foods can become confusing, especially when you vary ingredient amounts. “Simplicity is key, and the control panel needs to be easy to use.”

With all of that in mind, here’s how I evaluated each of the 11 blenders I tested: 

Ice: The blenders we ended up recommending were all able to evenly reduce ice cubes into shaved ice in under 10 seconds. Along with the almond flour and almond butter tests (more on those below), the ice test really set the fast, powerful machines apart from their slower, slightly rougher competitors.

Frozen strawberries: We put six ounces of frozen strawberries in each blender and set them to high in order to see how fast they turned the fruit into mush. The more powerful blenders achieved the task within about 10 seconds. The weaker ones, as well as those with a wider jar design, struggled to finish the job, leaving stray larger pieces to the side or in many cases lacerating but not separating the frozen berries.

Strawberry-banana smoothies: We made strawberry-banana smoothies using frozen strawberries and fresh bananas because of the difference in texture (and also this particular flavor combo’s popularity). Across the board, we ran into almost no issues with all of the blenders we tested. The only real difference was the time it took, which corresponded almost perfectly with increments of price. Still, it came down to about 10 to 15 seconds.

Kale smoothies: Because kale is relatively light and airy (we used curly kale), it did prove a little trickier for blenders that didn’t make a narrow vortex like the Vitamix 5200 and the Cleanblend 3HP, and the blenders with wider pitchers almost invariably required the use of a tamper. This wasn’t a big deal, but it might be a consideration for some.

Almond flour: While our budget and smoothie-only recommendations didn’t quite manage an even flour (there were chunks of almond still left behind while the flour at the bottom was beginning to turn into butter), our top recommendation performed the task flawlessly.

Almond butter: Almond butter was by far the most demanding test of them all. While we’re confident that with practice and more intimate acquaintance with each blender we could pull it off with any of them, it was a real chore with most, and several didn’t make it past the flour stage on the way to almond butter. Again, the wider jars performed the most poorly, as did the lower-powered blenders. In every case save for the Vitamix 5200, we still had whole or nearly whole almonds lingering amongst the flour while at the bottom, the flour was turning to butter. 

Settings: While we tried to work with presets on those machines that had them available, they’re only useful if the set portions make sense for your needs — most of us don’t really want to make 32 ounces of nut butter at once, for example.

Wattage: We found that at the lowest end of the blenders we tested, 600 watts was still plenty of power to achieve a uniform smoothie. Similarly, while our budget pick packs 1800 watts, our overall pick carries only 1,500 watts, but runs much more smoothly and processes much more quickly. Wattage doesn’t always dictate how a blender will perform.

Cleanup: We stated this above as well, but again: Don’t underestimate the value of an easy cleanup. Some blenders had a lot of hard-to-reach spots that even a dishwasher might not always effectively hit. Others were downright perilous to clean, and we have the scars to prove it. All of our recommendations above took these considerations into account.

The best blender overall

vitamix 5200

The Vitamix 5200 is an easy-to-use, easy-to-clean blender with the power and speed variation to handle any task.

Pros: Simple but sufficient controls, powerful enough for any task, the best pitcher shape of any blender we tried

Cons: Tall, doesn’t easily fit in or under many cabinets

The Vitamix 5200 is possibly Vitamix’s most popular blender, and we think it’s the best blender out there, period. It has the power to tackle any task within reason, it accelerates and decelerates as smoothly as a finely-tuned sports car, and the design of the jar minimizes splatter.

Out of all of the blenders we tested, none performed so quickly or consistently. Through every test we ran, the 5200 came out shining, and it was the only blender to produce both almond flour and butter without any assistance (we didn’t even need to use the included tamper). 

Rather than getting stuck in the corners and sides of the blending jar — as we found to be the case with other blenders, — the pile of almonds automatically and neatly folded back onto itself as it was ground first into flour and eventually butter. While there are plenty of blenders out there with a dizzying list of presets, we found this simplistic design — with nothing more than a power dial, on/off switch, and a high-power switch (which functions like the 5200‘s overdrive mode) — the easiest to operate and adjust.

Cleaning this blender was relatively easy. There are no tough-to-reach grooves or gasket channels and the blade is simple enough to work around (though it’s best to remove it for proper cleaning).

As a further vote of confidence, we went around Brooklyn noting which blenders smoothie stands were using, and this one was by far the most popular. 

Now, there’s no way of getting around that this blender costs half a grand, but it will likely last you well over a decade. If spending this kind of money on a blender is out of the question, we have perfectly capable recommendations below for less than half the price.

Best mid-priced blender

Cleanblend 3HP Commercial Blender

The Cleanblend 3HP Commercial Blender can handle most any task nearly as well as some blenders more than twice its price.

Pros: Powerful, easy-to-use design

Cons: Not as smooth as others, bottom can’t be unscrewed for cleaning (voids warranty)

The Cleanblend 3HP Commercial Blender is a surprisingly powerful machine for its size and price. It can take on any basic task with absolute ease, and while making nut butter and almond flour is a bit of chore, it will get the job done.

We found that we needed more than the included tamping tool to scrape the butter-in-the-making off the sides multiple times before we got anywhere near the final product, and ended up having to turn the machine off and use a spatula to do so.

I’ve been testing this blender for two years and while it doesn’t operate as smoothly as some pricier options, it has no trouble reducing ice cubes to uniform shave ice in almost as little time as the Vitamix 5200, and I’ve easily made 100 smoothies and blended drinks without any issues. 

Cleaning, as with the Vitamix 5200, is about as easy as it gets for a blender. The shape of the jar and the positioning of the blades doesn’t leave much in the way of hard-to-reach spaces, there are no strangely-placed gaskets, and the lid and lid cap are easy enough to take apart and clean. 

The only downside is that you can’t unscrew the bottom to give that region a thorough wash. Still, in two years of testing, we haven’t noticed any alarming signs (such as mold) that would suggest anything is getting trapped in the bottom.

If you want something close to the Vitamix 5200 but just can’t reason spending so much on a blender, the Cleanblend is a great alternative and almost identical in design. Nut butter and almond flour aside, it works and cleans almost every bit as well for less than half the price.

Best budget blender

KitchenAid K150 blender

If all you’re making is the odd smoothie, the Kitchenaid K150‘s timeless design will more than suffice.

Pros: Simple single dial, easy to clean and operate

Cons: Not very good for making almond flour or nut butter, relatively low power

If you’re the type of person who only makes smoothies or frozen cocktails from time to time, you probably don’t need a state-of-the-art blender. But you still want something that will last. We should note up top that the Kitchenaid K150 is half the price of our budget pick, but that’s because we didn’t find it particularly effective if you need something that can perform a wide array of tasks outside of smoothies, soups, and purees.

When it came to making nut butters and flour, we were unable to produce either. But that’s okay; if you’re not getting too ambitious with what you blend, the Kitchenaid K150 is all you need. It has a no-fuss design with one control knob and three settings, plus a pulse setting for crushing ice.

Speaking of ice, when we were comparing blenders, one of the most telling tests was how quickly and evenly they could reduce eight ounces of ice cubes into shaved ice. This one wasn’t the fastest, but we still got the results we were looking for within about 10 seconds. We then followed with strawberry-banana and kale smoothies using ice as well. Again, it wasn’t the fastest, but within 30 seconds every time, we had perfectly thick smoothies with no inconsistencies, chunks of fruit, stalks, or leaves. Frankly, we couldn’t differentiate smoothies that came from this blender from what came from our top pick (more than four times the price).

We also like that the K150 is extremely lightweight, easy to store, and doesn’t take up much counter space. And, if you’re after the classic Kitchenaid aesthetic but want a slightly beefed-up blender, look at the larger K400, which packs 1,200 watts, five dial settings, and four presets.

What else we tested

What else we recommend and why:

Breville Super Q: Despite being a large, heavy blender with lots of buttons, this is a truly powerful appliance that runs every bit as smoothly as our top pick, but it wasn’t as convenient to clean or store (or move). If you have your eyes set on stainless steel appliances, this is a great one.

Kitchenaid K400: This model worked only marginally better than the K150, and while it holds its aesthetic, we think spending just a bit more to get the Cleanblend 3HP, our budget pick, is the wiser move. That said, if you like the looks of it (it’s our favorite blender to look at) and only ever make smoothies or frozen drinks, it won’t do you wrong.

Ninja Chef: This is Ninja’s older model, which we like better than the Foodi. As far as electronics go, this one is highly intuitive, with a dial and recommended settings that light up. As was the problem with any of the more advanced blenders we tested, the recipe settings are calibrated to produce certain amounts, which may not fit with your needs.

Vitamix 750 Professional Series: This is similar to the Vitamix 5200 in almost every way, except it’s slightly less powerful, and the jar is shorter and wider. We found the jar shape of the 5200 to be the best, and highly recommend it over any other Vitamix, unless you are preparing for larger households or parties.

What we don’t recommend and why:

Cuisinart Hurricane Pro/CBT-2000: Perfectly sufficient for making smoothies, the jar for this model was too wide for other applications, and we found bits of food tended to clump together around the edges and evade the blades.

Ninja Foodi: While this machine is affordable and offers an impressive interface, we found the basin of the jar too large for the blades, and we also found out the hard way that the blades are not affixed to the jar, so when you pour something out, the blade comes with it. We think that by and large, this needs to be addressed by the manufacturer. That aside, it obliterated ice with the best of the blenders we tested.

Vitamix A3300: This is clearly a very powerful machine, but the electronics on it were puzzling, and while we’re aware of the initial error in our ways when first loading it (not enough liquid), we received a series of error messages with no option to resolve, even after turning it on and off again. This is far too complex for most people who just want to turn a blender on and get on with their food or drink preparation.

Oster Versa: This is a heavy-duty piece of machinery, and it’s priced competitively. We just found that it didn’t blend particularly well due to the shape of the jar. If you have short storage space either in or under your cabinets, though, this one is much squatter than most other models.

What we’re testing next

Calphalon Auto-Speed Blender ($159.99): We’ve recommended this blender in the past, but haven’t tried it side by side with our new top picks. We’ll look to retest it soon, as it’s competitively priced and powerful enough to contend for our budget recommendation.

Nutribullet Full Size Blender ($99.99): This is a powerful blender for the price, and also might contend for a budget pick. We’ll plan to try it as soon as we can and report back.

Oster Blend Active Portable Blender ($29.99): We’re looking to recommend a portable, personal-sized blender as soon as we’ve tested enough available options, and will update our guide accordingly. This is currently at the top of our list, and we have already used it for smoothies, which it blended perfectly well.

FAQs

The best blenders FAQ

What’s the difference between a blender and a food processor?

Blenders and food processors have some overlap, but blenders are better for things like smoothies, thinner purees, and whipping fresh fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens into an even consistency.

Since a food processor isn’t designed to create a vortex to suck everything in toward the blades the way that a blender is, it’s better for thicker sauces and purees, like hummus. It’s also better for things that might require fine knifework, like chopping onions or grating parmesan.

In the end, if you spend a lot of time prepping in the kitchen, you may want both, but while a blender isn’t always the best option, a good one like our top recommendation can get the job done well enough, especially with a little practice.


What’s the best way to clean a blender?

If you have a dishwasher and your blender is dishwasher-safe, the best way to clean it with confidence is to disassemble the entire jar as much as possible, taking care to separate the bottom cap and blades, where a lot of bacteria can hide out. This is also true if you’re only washing by hand, although removing and cleaning those parts is a fussier process. 

The best blenders allow for easy and safe removal of the blades, some. If your blender’s blades don’t come out, your best bet is to soak it in lots of hot, soapy water, and use a coarse brush with a long handle so that you can safely and efficiently scrub at and around the blades.

Check out our other small appliance buying guides

Breville 98xl juicer

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 4 best sous vide machines we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • Sous vide is a precise way of cooking that ensures your food is always cooked perfectly temperature.
  • Sous vide machines – also known as immersion circulators – make the process easy by heating to an exact temperature.
  • The best sous vide machine is the Anova Nano because it’s easy to use, inexpensive, and accurate.

Sous vide is a method of very precise cooking where you seal food in plastic bags (some foods can be prepared in glass containers) and immerse it in a water bath set to a relatively low temperature, usually your desired final cooking temperature of the food. As the food sits in the bath, it slowly comes up to the same temperature of the water.

While it may sound futuristic, sous vide cooking has quite a few advantages: the long, slow cook time can turn tough cuts of meat incredibly tender; the sealed environment helps contain moisture so food doesn’t dry out; and because the temperature is so low, there’s almost no risk of overcooking. With the right equipment, sous vide cooking can be safe and easy, and help you produce some of the most delicious meals you’ve ever had.

I’ve been testing and writing about sous vide machines since 2014. My sous vide reviews and research have been published in Cook’s Illustrated magazine, aired on “America’s Test Kitchen,” and published in “Sous Vide for Everybody.” For this guide I tested seven popular sous vide machines, running each through a series of time, temperature, and cooking tests. You can read more about how we tested here.

Here are the best sous vide machines in 2021

The best sous vide machine overall

best sous vide machine 2021 anova nano

The Anova Precision Cooker Nano offers accuracy and ease of use at a price unmatched by other sous vide machines.

Pros: Accurate, onboard controls are incredibly easy to use, compact for easy storage, can be paired with an app via Bluetooth, accommodates a range of vessel types and depths

Cons: Preheating takes awhile, app can be buggy

After years of testing sous vide machines, I’ve found that one thing matters above all when it comes to finding a machine you’ll want to cook with: ease of use. The simplest, most easy to use product we tested is the Anova Nano, and there’s no better sous vide machine you can get at this price. 

The Anova Nano isn’t the fastest or most powerful machine we tested; it took almost 20 minutes to heat four quarts of water to 130 F. But for most home cooks, we think the $100+ savings in price compared to more powerful machines is probably worth the extra 10 minutes you’ll spend pre-heating the bath (a process that is totally hands off). 

What it lacks in power and speed it makes up for in effortless controls, accuracy, and usability. I didn’t even need to read the instruction manual to get the Nano set up and cooking. The onboard controls are intuitive and it can be paired with Anova’s app via Bluetooth. I found the Bluetooth connection to be much more stable and reliable than Anova’s other sous vide machines, which pair via Wi-Fi and seemed to frequently lose connection. That said, all the Anova machines use the same app, and I found it to be fairly buggy. Most folks will find the onboard controls easier to use. 

In all, this slender, inexpensive machine has everything you’ll want or need to get started with sous vide cooking, and is the best option for most home cooks. 

The best sous vide machine with an app

best sous vide machine 2021 breville joule

This nimble, compact machine heats water quickly, can work in a wide range of vessels, and is operated entirely through a helpful app.

Pros: Accurate, fast, compact for easy storage, app connected, accommodates widest range of vessel types and depths, has a magnetic bottom for standing in pots

Cons: Lacks onboard controls and relies on an app for use

I’ll be honest: the Joule is my personal favorite sous vide machine and a very close contender for our top pick. The only reason why it was edged out by the Anova is because it lacks onboard controls and relies on an app for all functionality. If you don’t mind being tied to your phone or smart device to cook, the Joule could very well be the better option for you. 

The Joule has several features that distinguish it from the Anova. First, it’s incredibly fast. In my tests, it was able to heat four quarts of water to 130 F in seven minutes; faster than any other machine in this guide. Second, it’s the smallest of all the machines we tried, but one of the most versatile. It can work with a minimum of 1.5 inches of water and a maximum of 8 inches, so can be used in something as small as a coffee mug or as large as a cooler. I love that I don’t have to break out the big Dutch oven every time I want to sous vide a couple of eggs. A magnetic bottom helps it stand in smaller metal pots for better stability.

I really love the Joule app. It’s the only app I tried as part of this testing that didn’t give me trouble. It connected to the unit easily every time, gave clear and accurate alerts, and has a robust selection of recipes for getting started. 

The best sous vide machine for restaurants and pros

best sous vide machine 2021 breville polyscience hydropro

This powerful sous vide machine has thoughtful settings for pro users, like an adjustable flow rate and built-in memory for frequently used recipes.

Pros: Extremely accurate, heats quickly, built-in collection of recipes, can program to remember frequently used settings, adjustable flow rate, comes apart for easy cleaning

Cons: Doesn’t have an app, bulkier, takes many steps to toggle between Celsius and Fahrenheit settings

Sous vide is a popular restaurant cooking technique because it allows the chefs to hold large quantities of food at the perfect serving temperature without risk of overcooking. For example, by holding steaks at 125 degrees F in a sous vide bath, a steakhouse can take each out as orders come in, give them a quick sear, and send off perfectly cooked steaks to diners in record time. It’s a technique used in both Michelin-starred restaurants and chains like Starbucks and Chipotle. 

But, if you own or work in a restaurant, or are otherwise well-acquainted with sous vide cooking, I’m probably not telling you anything you don’t already know. For restaurant folks and pros who are looking for something with more commercial features than the sous vide machines marketed for home cooks, I highly recommend the HydroPro.

The machine is thoughtfully designed for precision and repeatability. A touch screen lets you control time, temperature, and flow rate (three speeds), and offers a robust collection of built-in time and temperature algorithms for cooking and pasteurizing a wide range of foods, including grains, custards, and a whole host of meat cuts. You can save any settings in “my presets” right on the device, so you can easily repeat recipes night after night. The machine is ultra accurate and fast, heating to 130 F in just eight minutes. 

The adjustable flow settings were key when cooking eggs. I was able to lower the flow rate and angle the outport away from the eggs so none broke during cooking. The clamp is fully adjustable, the body comes apart for easy cleaning, and the machine can purportedly heat nearly 12 gallons of water when the bath is covered. In all, a powerful and thoughtfully designed choice for more experienced users or those working in a commercial setting.

The best multitasking sous vide machine

best sous vide machine 2021 InstantPot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer

The Instant Pot Duo Crisp is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, air fryer, and sous vide machine all in one, making it one of the most useful and economical small appliances we tested.

Pros: Multi-use appliance that sous vides, pressure cooks, slow cooks, sears, and air fries; easy to use

Cons: Slow to heat, more limited capacity than immersion circulators

Sous vide is still a pretty niche cooking technique, and not one that most people use every single day. For folks who are interested in trying sous vide but don’t want to buy a dedicated machine, we recommend the InstantPot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer, which has a sous vide setting. 

I’m usually skeptical of products that tack on sous vide settings to a completely different product, as I’ve found they usually don’t have the precision temperature control needed for proper sous vide, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the InstantPot Duo Crisp. The machine reminds me a bit of traditional water ovens — the original sous vide machines before circulators came onto the market — which are essentially big heated boxes of water. Of course, the Duo Crisp also has the added benefit of multicooker functions like pressure cook, slow cook, sear, and even air fry. While I’ve tried all these settings over the last few months, for this guide, I focused on how well it could sous vide.

The machine took about a half hour to bring four quarts of room temperature water to both 130 and 190 degrees in separate tests, which was longer than other machines. However, the temperature was fairly accurate — only 1 or 2 degrees off from the target temperature at most — and not enough to impact the cook on most foods. 

Aside from the slow heating and the more limited capacity compared to versatile immersion circulators, I actually really liked using the InstantPot to sous vide. It was easy and intuitive to use, and makes for one less appliance I need in my house. If you’re sous vide curious but not ready to invest in a dedicated machine, the InstantPot Duo Crisp is a great first step.

What else we tested

what else we tested

What else we recommend and why:

  • Anova Precision Cooker ($199.00): The mid-priced option from Anova, this circulator also has both onboard and app controls. I found it almost identical in usage and features to the Nano. The only difference most home cooks will encounter is that this model heats a tiny bit faster and the clamp is adjustable. However, in my opinion, these upgrades don’t justify the $100 jump in price over the Nano.
  • Anova Precision Cooker Pro ($399.00): An even bigger step up in price from the Anova Precision Cooker is this Pro model. It’s billed as being the fastest and most precise of Anova’s machines, but we found Anova’s other models just as accurate. Usability wise, it offers the same app and onboard controls of the other Anova models, but is designed to withstand accidental dips in water, has an adjustable clamp, and comes apart for cleaning. Once again, we don’t think these features justify the huge jump in price for most home cooks. It might be a good option for restaurant kitchens or pros, but we think the Breville | Polyscience Hydro Pro still offers more power, speed, and functionality for expert users.

What we don’t recommend and why:

  • Tribest Sousvant Complete Sous Vide Circulator ($275.10): This tabletop water oven looks and sounds a lot like a fish tank. It heated quickly and was easy enough to use, but for a unitasking appliance that takes up a lot of room, it lacked many of the features we like in a good sous vide machine. For starters, it doesn’t make any sound to let you know the water is up to temperature so you can start cooking, and its timer is more like a stopwatch; you can’t set it for a certain time and it starts counting up the second the water is up to temperature, whether you’ve added the food or not. The manual recommends against stacking individual pieces of food vertically on top of each other in the bath, but the machine is much taller than it is wide or deep, leaving little other choice than to stack vertically if you want to cook multiple pieces. We think you can get much more versatility with a smaller, less expensive machine.

Our testing methodology

best sous vide machine 2021 methodology

I’ve been testing and reviewing sous vide machines for seven years. During that time, I’ve interviewed pioneers in sous vide cooking like Dave Arnold, Scott Heimendinger, and Tony Maws, and followed the growth of many brands in this guide since their startup phase and first-generation prototypes. My sous vide machine reviews and research on the history and safety of sous vide cooking have been published in “Sous Vide for Everybody” and Cook’s Illustrated magazine. Over the years, I’ve learned that the best sous vide machines excel at speed, accuracy, and — above all — ease of use. 

For this guide, we tested seven sous vide machines, running each through a series of time and temperature tests; measuring fit in a variety of vessels; and evaluating ease of setup, use, and cleaning. We also cooked 63 C runny “onsen” eggs and 130 F steaks with each machine.  Here’s the criteria we looked at:

Speed: I timed how long it took each machine to heat four quarts of room temperature water to 130 F and 190 F. The best machines were able to do this in under 10 minutes and under 25 minutes, respectively. (It’s worth noting that you can speed this process by covering the bath with plastic wrap, which we didn’t for this test.)

Versatility: A good sous vide machine can be used in a variety of vessels to suit your needs. Models with a large range between minimum and maximum fill lines offered the most flexibility in this area.

Accuracy: Sous vide is a precision cooking technique, so accuracy is paramount. We regularly used a lab-calibrated thermometer to see if the actual temperature of the bath matched the temperature we set with the controls.

Ease of use: Sous vide is a somewhat niche cooking technique, so if your experience with it is frustrating or difficult, it’s likely that your sous vide gear will end up in the donation pile. The best sous vide machines have bright, clear displays; are intuitive to operate; and easy to set up, clean, and store. We also looked at app connectivity for smart sous vide machines, though we ultimately prioritized models that have onboard controls, since they’re the most user-friendly and versatile. 

Cooking: Of course we looked at how well the machines cooked food. Generally speaking, if a sous vide machine is accurate, it’ll cook just fine. But we also made eggs and steak with each machine to see if any machines had issues that impact cooking. The biggest issue we found was that machines with adjustable flow rates and outports were gentler on eggs, while machines without this feature often jostled eggs so much during cooking that they cracked.

What we look forward to testing

Breville | Polyscience HydroPro Plus ($599.95): In addition to the HydroPro, which we were able to test for this guide, Breville | Polyscience released an upgraded model called the HydroPro Plus in the first quarter of 2021. This model is geared towards pros and restaurant cooks, and features a similar design to the HydroPro, but with a built-in probe for monitoring the temperature of food as it cooks. This makes it easier to do what sous vide aficionados call Delta-T cooking, where you cook the food at a higher water temperature than the final desired food temperature for faster results. It also can log temperature data for HACCP compliance — not something you’ll likely need unless you work in a restaurant, but a great added benefit if you do. While these features are probably overkill if you’re just a casual sous vide user, I’m looking forward to testing this model for our “prosumer” readers.

FAQs

What is sous vide?

Sous vide is a method of cooking food where the ingredients are sealed in plastic (though glass jars can be used for some applications) and immersed in a water bath set to (typically) the final cooking temperature of the food. As the sealed food sits in the bath, it slowly comes up to the correct internal temperature, so there’s no danger of overcooking. 

What types of foods can you sous vide?

Sous vide cooking works best with meat, vegetables, and eggs. It particularly excels as a method of rendering tough cuts of meat juicy and tender; the low and slow temperatures allow tough collagen and fat to render slowly over many hours. Sous vide can also be used as a method of pasteurization for foods like eggs or homemade mayonnaise. 

Do I need a vacuum sealer for sous vide?

No. You can sous vide in any zipper-lock bag as long as you first remove the air. The easiest way to do this is place the food in the zipper-lock bag, press as much air out as you can, and then use the zipper-lock to seal all but a small corner of the bag. Slowly submerge the partially sealed bag in the water bath until all but the unsealed corner of the bag is submerged. The water will push out almost all of the air. Once the food appears tight against the bag, seal the final corner and drop the bag into the bath to cook.

If you regularly sous vide large or irregularly-sized cuts of meat, you may want to purchase a vacuum sealer, which does a more complete job of removing air.

Do I need to vacuum seal eggs?

No. Whole eggs in their shells do not need to be vacuum sealed. You can place the whole egg directly in the water bath. The shell will act as its own little vacuum sealed environment.

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The 4 best KitchenAid stand mixers we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • KitchenAid is a brand synonymous with stand mixers and has been making them for more than 100 years.
  • Its stand mixers are great for tasks that take a lot of effort to do by hand, like whipping and creaming.
  • The Artisan Series 5-Quart Tilt Head Stand Mixer is the best stand mixer because it balances power and size.

A stand mixer is the crowning jewel of a kitchen, and KitchenAid’s stand mixers have been the standard for over a century. They make efficient work of tasks that typically take a lot of time or effort to do by hand, like whipping egg whites to soft or stiff peaks, turning cream into whipped cream, churning out big batches of cookies, and kneading tough, heavy bread doughs.

I’ve used a KitchenAid stand mixer daily – sometimes all day – while working in professional kitchens for more than a decade. I have years of experience with each stand mixer in this guide: I’ve broken them, repaired them, purchased them for my own personal use, and am intimately aware of each model’s advantages and limitations.

But I didn’t just rely on my previous experiences. I researched eight models and put four top-selling KitchenAid stand mixers through a standard set of tests for this guide. I used a King Arthur recipe for bagels, a stiff dough with a 10-minute mixing time; I prepared Compost Cookies (kitchen-sink cookies with five cups of mix-ins including chocolate chips, potato chips, and pretzels) from New York City’s Milk Bar; and put each mixer through additional tests to evaluate its capacity, mixing capability, and ease of use. You can read more about how I tested KitchenAid stand mixers in our methodology here, along with how to shop for a KitchenAid and what to make with it.

Here are the best KitchenAid stand mixers in 2021

The best overall

best stand mixer overall 2021 kitchenaid

This popular model balances power, capacity, and size for a mixer that is perfectly designed for most home bakers; plus it comes in more than 45 fun colors.

Pros: Easily accomplishes common cooking tasks, lots of customization options, work bowl has a handle

Cons: Too underpowered if you regularly make a lot of stiff or wet doughs

The Artisan Series 5 Quart model strikes a great balance of power, size, and design. During testing, it quickly became my favorite mixer to use. Tilt-head stand mixers have a smaller base than bowl-lift stand mixers so the bowls tend to be narrower and can feel cramped. You often have to stop the mixer and tilt the head back whenever you want to scrape down the mixing bowl. This wasn’t the case with the Artisan mixer; the large bowl of the felt open enough that I could scrape the sides without adjusting the head. The bowl also has a sturdy handle for easy lifting, and provided plenty of room for pouring in ingredients — particularly helpful when adding more than five cups of mix-ins for Compost Cookies. 

While it shook a bit when I made bagel dough, it was never overly noisy and I didn’t feel like I had to babysit it for fear of it walking off the counter. That said, I don’t think I would make multiple batches of bagels in a row to avoid overheating the mixer’s lower-powered motor. 

This model also offers customization, allowing you to choose from almost 50 color options, engrave your stand mixer or switch out the standard bowl for a patterned ceramic or glass mixing bowl.

Since initial testing, we’ve continued to use this model at least once a week. It’s worked its way through pierogi dough and filling, multiple babkas, and many batches of holiday cookies, and still functions as well (and looks as good) as it did when I first received it. We’ll continue to use this model regularly and report on its long-term durability.

Best budget

Best KitchenAid stand mixer Classic Plus

The least expensive model made by KitchenAid, the Classic Plus has all the quality components of more expensive mixers but it’s compact, efficient, and powerful enough to accomplish most tasks for casual bakers. 

Pros: Relatively inexpensive, spacious but still maneuverable, can handle most common tasks and occasional tough doughs 

Cons: Work bowl doesn’t have a handle, relatively low-powered motor, not ideal for heavy use

If you’re an occasional baker or just starting to dip your toes into cooking, the KitchenAid Classic Plus 4.5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer is a great model to get started with. It’s made with the same metal parts as more expensive KitchenAid stand mixers, has a strong motor, and a relatively roomy work bowl. While on the smaller side, it still easily accommodates single batches of common recipes. 

An earlier version of the KitchenAid Classic Plus was, in fact, my first mixer. I used it heavily for about five years until it gave out on me while kneading dough for hand-pulled noodles (a notoriously tricky dough, and one known to tax stand mixers). This issue first highlighted to me how most stand mixers break and the importance of choosing a model built for your typical usage. 

I tested a new version of this mixer for this guide, and while it happily worked through cookies, egg whites, and even hefty bagel dough without issue, it’s possible that with too much heavy use, like making many batches of bagel or pizza dough back-to-back, the mixer can overheat or — in the case of my old mixer — wear down its gears. While the issue is repairable, it requires seeing a KitchenAid repair specialist, which can be expensive, so you’re better off purchasing a stand mixer with a wattage that meets your needs from the get-go. 

Best for bread

Best KitchenAid stand mixer Pro Line Series 7-Quart Bowl Lift Stand Mixer

The KitchenAid Pro Line Series 7-Quart Bowl Lift Stand Mixer is the largest, most powerful KitchenAid mixer you can buy without venturing into commercial models, which makes it perfect for avid bakers. 

Pros: Largest capacity of any residential model, bowl-lift design provides stability when mixing, wide mixing bowl for adding ingredients, powerful motor that can handle all kinds of doughs, work bowl has a handle

Cons: Heavy, takes up a lot of space, only comes in a few colors

Stiff or heavy doughs like bagel dough, pizza dough, and some noodle doughs require a large amount of power to knead properly, which can be taxing on many stand mixers. The 7-Quart Pro-Line model has a 970 watt motor for powerful and thorough kneading without overheating the mixer. The wider bowl-lift design also provides more stability during mixing, so the mixer doesn’t “walk” or shake as much during use. 

This is the model I primarily used during a decade of work in professional kitchens. The machine is reliable, nimble, easy to use, and remarkably quiet for such a large mixer. It can handle everything from whipping two egg whites to mixing triple batches of cake batter. KitchenAid claims the 7-quart size can make up to 14 dozen cookies in a single batch, and while I haven’t ventured to test the limits of that claim (I love cookies, but I don’t need 14 dozen), it made double batches of compost cookies and bagels with plenty of room to spare. 

The wide bowl is easy to remove from the mixer, has a large comfortable handle, and provides lots of space for adding ingredients during mixing. Avid bakers and especially those who make bread will appreciate its reliability — these mixers saw heavy daily use when I worked with them in professional kitchens and rarely needed repairs. If you take care of this mixer, it’s likely to last you decades. 

That said, it’s a hefty machine and not the sort of mixer you want to lug around, so it’s best for those with ample counter space to devote to its large footprint.

Read our full review

Best for small spaces

Best KitchenAid stand mixer Artisan Mini

The smallest of KitchenAid stand mixers, this model is the perfect size and strength for occasional bakers, new cooks, and those with petite kitchens.

Pros: Perfectly sized for small kitchens, easy to maneuver, makes single batches of most recipes well, ideal for occasional bakers, a good size for kids, work bowl has a handle

Cons: Too small for double batches, shakes a lot when running at high speed

When I moved into a 600 square foot apartment, every inch felt precious. Since counter space was limited, I needed a mixer light enough that I wouldn’t mind hauling it out from a cabinet every time I wanted to bake. The KitchenAid Artisan Mini 3.5 Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer hit all these marks for me. 

Measuring just over 11 inches wide, the Mini is about 25% smaller than our best overall pick. While this may not seem like a drastic difference, the Mini is much more maneuverable, and I love that it fits easily under my cabinets or on a shelf. Less surface area also means less to clean, and the Mini’s work bowl doesn’t hog space in my sink or dishwasher.

Despite being more petite, the Mini is perfectly capable of whipping up a single batch of cookies or biscuits. I’ve made muffins, pasta dough, bread dough, pizza dough, cake, frosting, and more cookies than I can count in the Mini with no issues or changes to the mixing times called for in the recipes.

When I put my Mini through strenuous tests for this guide, it showed some of its limitations. The work bowl was just able to fit all the mix-ins for compost cookies, but it started to overflow a bit when I turned on the mixer. Bagel dough also came together fine, but the mixer shook and “walked” around the counter during the long kneading time, enough so that I felt like I had to keep an eye on it for the whole 10 minutes it was mixing. 

That said, if space is your primary concern or you’re an occasional baker, the Mini is a great option for an unobtrusive machine that can do just about anything a full-size mixer can do.

What else we considered

What else we considered, KitchenAid Stand Mixers

We also researched other KitchenAid models for this guide that we ultimately didn’t end up testing. Here are the products that didn’t make the cut and why: 

  • KitchenAid Classic Series 4.5 Quart Tilt Head Stand Mixer ($279.99): Previously our best budget pick, the Classic is identical in both function and design to our new affordable pick, the Classic Plus. We confirmed this with KitchenAid, who said the only difference is that the Classic Plus is available in a silver color. There used to be a slight difference between the Classic and the Classic Plus with the former having 250 watts, a slightly less powerful motor than the Classic Plus’ 275 watts. However, both models are now being made with 275 watts and are priced the same. Both are great options, and since KitchenAids have been in short supply, buy whichever you can get your hands on. We’ve seen some retailers still selling the 250-watt version of the Classic, so be sure to check the specs before you buy. 
  • KitchenAid NSF Certified Commercial Series 8-Qt Bowl Lift Stand Mixer ($699.99): Unless you’re running a bakery, you don’t need a mixer this large or this powerful. That said, if you are operating a bakery or food business, this is the only KitchenAid mixer that is certified by NSF International for commercial use. It has a two-year warranty (double the time of their other mixers) and a strong, durable motor for heavy use. However, home bakers are unlikely to need these extra features, which are designed to withstand hours of heavy use each day. 

Our testing methodology

While I drew from my own experience as a food editor working in professional kitchens and using these mixers over many years, I also put each model through a standard set of tests to see how they’d compare to each other. Here’s how I evaluated KitchenAid stand mixers:

Size, capacity, and ease of use: I weighed and measured all the stand mixers, including comparing the stated versus functional capacity (the capacity when measured from the bottom of the work bowl to the top of the mixing attachment) of each work bowl. I carried the mixers around and noted how comfortable they were to move and handle.

Power: We consulted the company to learn the power of each motor in watts. Residential stand mixers range from 250 to 970 watts, and mixers with higher wattage motors can mix heavy, wet doughs more readily. 

Whipping: I whipped two egg whites to stiff peaks in each mixer, which tests the mixers’ control during gradual ramping up of speed. It also tested the larger mixers’ ability to function well even with a very small volume of ingredients. 

Creaming: I used each stand mixer to make Milk Bar compost cookies, which have more than 5 cups of mix-ins. Not only did this test the functional capacity of the mixers, but also their ability to operate on different speeds — high speed for creaming butter and sugar, and low speed for incorporating delicate mix-ins like chips and pretzels without breaking them. 

Kneading: Each mixer was used to make a batch of King Arthur bagels; a stiff dough with a long, 10 minute mixing time. I made a note if any of the mixers shook or walked, struggled, or made excessive noise during this tough task. 

Durability: The true test of a stand mixer is how it performs over time. While I included information from my own experience working with these models over nearly a decade, I’ll continue to use the stand mixers in this guide and report back on any durability issues.

What we’re testing next

Our picks encompass most of KitchenAid’s offerings, but there are two models we’re interested in testing that we weren’t able to include this time around: 

  • KitchenAid Professional 5 Plus Series 5 Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer ($419.99): Previously our best KitchenAid for making bread, this model was out of stock at the time of this testing. I’m of the mindset that if you’re going to upgrade from our best overall pick (which is also 5 quarts), it should also offer an increase in capacity. However, this model may be a good fit for those who prepare a lot of heavy, wet doughs but either don’t make large batches or are prioritizing cost. 
  • KitchenAid Pro 600 Series 6 Quart Bowl-Lift Stand Mixer ($499.99): This model offers a slight jump up in capacity from the 5-quart professional model and was also unavailable at the time of testing. It offers 15 colors; the most colors of any of KitchenAid’s bowl-lift models. We’d like to see if the slight increase in capacity justifies the big jump in price.

FAQs

What is the warranty on KitchenAid stand mixers?

Almost all of KitchenAid’s stand mixers come with a limited one year warranty, though you can purchase an extended service plan for another three years of coverage. 

What do I do if my KitchenAid stand mixer breaks?

When a KitchenAid stand mixer stops working, it can usually be repaired. The machines are designed so that inexpensive gears fail before the core part of the mixer; oftentimes a repair is as simple as replacing a gear. If your stand mixer is still within warranty, you should contact KitchenAid for a replacement. However, in my experience, don’t expect much from KitchenAid customer service if you’re out of warranty. While plenty of KitchenAid repair videos exist online, you’ll get the best results from a paid repair from the KitchenAid factory or by visiting a reputable appliance repair service. Keep in mind that you can void your remaining warranty if you attempt to repair your stand mixer on your own.

Will my KitchenAid stand mixer last a lifetime?

With proper care, it’s possible! Keep in mind that technology changes, so it’s never a guarantee that a small appliance like a KitchenAid stand mixer will be forever compatible with modern home wiring or safety specifications. (Your grandma’s toaster or microwave may still work, but it might not necessarily be safe.) While your stand mixer might not become a family heirloom, you should get many years of use out of it. 

How do I use my KitchenAid stand mixer?

I’d start with a solid recipe for something you like to eat often, like cookies or bread. Once you know what you want to make, a well-written recipe should guide you through when to add ingredients, what speed to use, and even when to scrape down the bowl. Recipes from cookbooks or food magazines are usually well-tested and thoroughly written. Some good cookbooks to start with include “Pastry Love,” “Black Girl Baking“, “Bravetart,” “Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book“, “The New Way to Cake,” and “The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook.” It’s also good to keep best practices in mind: avoid overloading the mixer or adding too many ingredients at once, and turn up the speed slowly to avoid kitchen messes. Only operate your stand mixer on a stable countertop or table, and don’t leave it unattended while it’s running. 

Can I use an electric hand mixer instead of a stand mixer?

Electric hand mixers are best used for light batters or frostings where you want to incorporate a lot of air, and it doesn’t take a lot of mixing to bring the ingredients together. While the electric mixer is spinning the whisks, you’re still responsible for moving the mixer around the bowl. This is much less efficient than a stand mixer where the whisk is rotating, but also moving in a circular motion around the work bowl. Electric hand mixers also aren’t very good for heavy doughs or recipes with a lot of varying textures since these tend to get caught in the smaller tines of the beaters. While an electric hand mixer is an efficient way to whip up a batch of brownies or frosting, stand mixers are much more versatile.

How to choose a KitchenAid stand mixer

How to choose, KitchenAid Stand Mixer

KitchenAid makes an overwhelming number of models. Here are some considerations to help you narrow down your selection.

Wattage: The higher the wattage of the motor, the more powerful the mixer will be. Mixers with higher wattage — like the 970 watt motor on the KitchenAid Pro — glide through tough doughs and don’t easily overheat. If you bake at least once a week or you regularly make a lot of heavy, wet doughs like pizza or bread dough, then you’ll benefit from a larger, more expensive model with a high wattage motor built for power and durability. However, if you’re the kind of person who breaks out the stand mixer once a year to make holiday cookies, you don’t need the Cadillac of KitchenAids. Occasional bakers will be perfectly well off with 250 or 275-watt models, like the Artisan Mini or the Classic Plus. Lower wattage models can also handle the occasional tough task like kneading bagel dough a few times a year. Be mindful that tough kitchen tasks can be hard on the gears of smaller machines, so give your machine time to cool down between uses if you’re making a hard dough in a lower wattage model. 

Capacity: The advertised capacity of a KitchenAid mixer is not its actual capacity. The advertised or stated capacity refers to how much the work bowl can hold when completely full. Not only would you have a big mess on your hands if you tried to use a mixer at full capacity, but it also wouldn’t operate effectively since the ingredients would actually cover the mixing attachment. Instead, the functional capacity is measured from the bottom of the bowl to the top of the mixing attachment and it’s usually about 1 to 1.5 quarts less than the stated capacity. One quart is about the size of a large deli container, so if you have a recipe that regularly makes enough dough to fill four or five of those, opt for a mixer with a larger stated capacity of 6 or 7 quarts. It’s also a good idea to buy a mixer with a larger capacity if you make a lot of bread since the mixer needs a fair amount of clearance to knead the dough effectively.  

Maneuverability and storage: The bigger the capacity and more powerful the mixer, the heavier and larger the mixer will be. The largest KitchenAid mixers in our guide can weigh almost 30 pounds. Unless you’re comfortable regularly lifting an appliance of that size, you’ll either need to consider a small mixer or have dedicated counter space. Larger mixers will take up about half the width of a standard size counter and may not fit readily under your cabinet overhang. If space is at a premium, consider a smaller, less expensive mixer.

Colors and customization: For some people, the most important factor in choosing a KitchenAid is the color. If a fun color is your priority, opt for a mixer from KitchenAid’s Artisan series. Our best mixer for small spaces and best overall pick are both Artisan mixers and are available in up to 47 different colors. Our best overall pick also offers further customization with interchangeable decorative work bowls in various patterns and materials. The Classic and Pro Line series offer a much more limited color choice — just red and a handful of neutrals.

Why buy a KitchenAid stand mixer

While there are a number of other stand mixer brands out there — including Breville, Sunbeam, Oster, and Bosch — none are as ubiquitous or revered as the KitchenAid stand mixer. Some people consider purchasing a KitchenAid stand mixer to be a life milestone, and according to The Knot, a KitchenAid stand mixer was the most-wished-for product on wedding registries in 2019. Julia Child’s KitchenAid mixer even lives in the Smithsonian Museum. But what makes KitchenAid stand mixers so special?

KitchenAid stand mixers have been around for more than a century. According to KitchenAid, the brand got its name in 1919 when an executive’s wife called the first home model stand mixer “the best kitchen aid I’ve ever had.” The name stuck and KitchenAid has been synonymous with stand mixers ever since. While there are a number of great stand mixers from other brands out there, KitchenAid still stands out in a number of ways.

Durability: I’ve tried almost every brand of stand mixer out there in my seven years reviewing kitchen products, and KitchenAid mixers are the only ones that use an almost all-metal construction. Other brands cut costs by using plastic in part of the design: either in the body of the mixer, on knobs and dials, in the mixing attachments, or even in the gears. Mixers made with a lot of plastic are usually lighter and less expensive, but much less durable. KitchenAid mixers can last for decades because of their strong metal parts. While this stronger construction comes at a premium — KitchenAid mixers are among the most expensive out there — their durability makes them a great investment. Even the most affordable KitchenAid mixer shares this same hearty construction and powerful motor and will last for decades with proper care. There is also a robust network of authorized KitchenAid repair technicians who can repair your stand mixer if something does break.

Stability: The all-metal design makes KitchenAid mixers much heavier than most other brands. While they can be a pain to lug around, the added heft produces an important benefit: more stability when mixing. Lighter machines can shake or “walk” off countertops. The heaviness of KitchenAid mixers helps them stay put. 

A mixer for everybody: Many brands that make stand mixers only produce one or two models. KitchenAid makes almost a dozen models with different capacities, power, and price points. This allows you to choose a model that meets your needs and excels at the tasks you perform most.

Attachments: KitchenAid is the only brand that has produced a robust lineup of attachments that extend the versatility of its stand mixers. These attachments can turn your KitchenAid into a food processor, meat grinder, ice cream maker, spiralizer, pasta machine, and more — eliminating the need to buy separate appliances that are often larger and more expensive. 

Colors: It’s undeniable that one of the major selling points of a KitchenAid mixer is the sheer number of colors available to choose from. KitchenAid offers its mixers in 47 different colors — no other brand even comes close to that much customization. While choosing an appliance based on color may seem silly to some consumers, the ability to pick out a color that matches your personality or decor is one of the reasons people feel such an affinity to KitchenAid mixers.

Glossary

KitchenAid Glossary

Tilt head: A common mixer design where the work bowl twists onto the base of the mixer. The head of the machine tilts forward for operation and lifts back so you can attach a paddle, whisk, or dough hook; add ingredients to the work bowl; or use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. These machines have a lever that allows you to lock the head in place so it doesn’t accidentally lift during mixing or moving. This style is common in smaller capacity mixers and is contrasted to a bowl-lift design.

Bowl lift: A mixer design where the work bowl sits on a Y-shaped arm extending from the body of the mixer. A lever allows you to raise and lower the bowl. A raised position brings the bowl closer to the mixer head for operation, while a lowered position allows you to more easily add ingredients or add/remove the paddle, whisk, or dough hook. This design allows for more stability during mixing but comes at the cost of a larger footprint. 

Hub: A circular port at the front of the mixer head where you place KitchenAid branded attachments such as the meat grinder, pasta cutter, or spiralizer. When not in use, the hub is usually covered by a silver medallion with the KitchenAid logo. 

Paddle: A flat, open mixing attachment included with every KitchenAid stand mixer. The paddle is used for mixing ingredients together when you don’t want too much air incorporated, such as when creaming butter and sugar, mixing cookie dough, and combining some batters. Think of it as the stand mixer equivalent of a wooden spoon. 

Whisk: A balloon-shaped wire whisk mixing attachment included with every KitchenAid stand mixer. The whisk attachment is used when you do want to incorporate a lot of air into the ingredients you’re mixing, like when whipping cream, making meringue or frosting, or mixing cake batter. It’s used in similar ways to a hand whisk.

Dough hook: A corkscrew-shaped mixing attachment included with every KitchenAid stand mixer. The dough hook is used for kneading bread dough. Typically you’ll mix the dough with another attachment such as the paddle, and then use the dough hook to form the dough into a ball and knead it. The corkscrew shape pushes the dough against the sides of the work bowl in an action that approximates kneading by hand. 

Attachment: Can refer to the paddle, whisk, and dough hook that come with the mixer, but also used to describe the various accessories you can purchase to extend the versatility of your stand mixer such as the ice cream maker, food processor, or meat grinder.

What to make in your KitchenAid stand mixer

What to make with KitchenAid Stand Mixer

We’ve put together a number of how-tos for making the most out of your KitchenAid stand mixer. KitchenAid makes more than two dozen different attachments that expand the versatility of your machine and let you make everything from zoodles to sausage to ice cream and more. Most of the attachments operate from the “hub” of the mixer — the portion underneath the metal disk on the top front of the machine. Since all KitchenAid mixers have this hub, almost all the attachments are compatible with every KitchenAid model in our guide. If you’re interested in KitchenAid attachments, we reviewed them all here

Here are some of our favorite things to make with our KitchenAid mixers and attachments:

Fresh pasta: This is one of those tasks that shows the true versatility of a KitchenAid stand mixer. You use the stand mixer and work bowl to make the dough, and then the KitchenAid pasta sheeter or pasta extruder to form the pasta shapes. Read more about how to make pasta in your stand mixer

Bagels: Chewy bread like bagels are one of the hardest and most arduous tasks to do by hand, which means they’re the perfect recipes to outsource to your stand mixer. While writing this guide, I used this recipe by King Arthur and it churned out perfectly springy bagels that reminded me of home in New Jersey.

Sausage: KitchenAid makes several attachments that allow you to grind your own meat for homemade sausage. Read more about how to grind meat and make sausage with a KitchenAid stand mixer.

Pizza dough: This type of dough is really wet and sticky, but a stand mixer excels at pulling it all together. Here’s a recipe I really love for pizza dough made in a stand mixer. 

Ice cream: KitchenAid makes a special bowl that fits on all stand mixers except the Artisan Mini that makes homemade ice cream. Read more about how to make ice cream in your Kitchenaid stand mixer

Check out our other kitchen appliance guides

Best espresso machine 2021 gaggia classic pro

The best KitchenAid attachments


The best espresso machines


The best blenders


The best food processors


The best juicers

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best air conditioners we tested in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • A good air conditioner is energy efficient, runs quietly, and cools your space quickly.
  • The Friedrich Chill Premier Smart Window Air Conditioner is our pick for the best air conditioner.
  • It did the best in our cooling tests, features app connectivity, and is Energy Star-certified.

For those who don’t have central air to cool their space, window air conditioners are the next best thing. They can fit in most windows for convenient cooling, and if you choose one that’s Energy Star certified (which most of our picks are), your bills won’t run up too high.

Despite what you may see in the movies, window ACs are relatively easy and safe to install as long as you follow each unit’s instructions, and many models come with brackets that keep the air conditioner in place and prevent potential burglars from pushing units in and getting inside your home.

To determine the best air conditioners, we tested 10 models (details on our testing methods here) and consulted with Matt Brown, the merchant for home comfort, air quality, and floorcare at The Home Depot, and Enesta Jones, a spokesperson for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees the Energy Star program. Our guide features units that performed well in our tests, have useful features, and are energy efficient.

If you are searching for portability, we’ve included our top portable AC pick in this guide, but you might also want to check out our guide to the best portable air conditioners.

Here are the best window air conditioners in 2021

The best overall

best air conditioner overall 2021 friedrich

If you have a medium-sized room, the Friedrich CCF08A10A Chill Premier Smart Window Air Conditioner is your best option with its impressive cooling abilities, smart connectivity, and long warranty.

Pros: Did the best in our cooling tests, smart connectivity with a useful app, fits a wide array of window sizes, five-year warranty on sealed refrigerant system, Energy Star-certified

Cons: One of the loudest units in our tests

Of the 10 units we tested for this guide, the Friedrich CCF08A10A Chill Premier Smart Window Air Conditioner did the best job of cooling our 650-square-foot test room. During the one-hour testing period, the temperature dropped 5.3 degrees Fahrenheit. 

It was also easy to install, taking only 20 minutes plus an extra 10 minutes to install and connect the smartphone app (available for iOS and Android), which lets you set schedules and control your AC from anywhere. 

The Friedrich Chill Premier is Energy Star-certified, and in our tests, it was in the middle of the pack in its power consumption. It used 0.4 kWh of energy while we blasted it on high for one hour. 

Our only complaint is that it was one of the loudest ACs in our tests, registering 56.3 decibels on high, which is a little bit louder than the average refrigerator. Even on low, our sound meter registered 54.8 decibels, which is quite noisy. 

Best budget

Best budget air conditioner 2021 GE

The GE AHY08LZ EZ Mount Window Air Conditioner is your best bet if you’re looking for a cheap way to cool your room, with its low-decibel output, outstanding cooling, and easy installation.

Pros: Energy Star-certified, performed well in cooling tests, easy to install, quiet operation

Cons: Unable to access smart features, unimpressive CEER rating, minimal warranty

The GE 8,000 BTU Smart Window Air Conditioner (model AHY08LZ) features a relatively light weight of 54 pounds and is simple to install. I had it up and running within 20 minutes of opening the box, and it fit my slender 24-inch-wide window frame.

More importantly, it’s a workhorse. In our test room of 650 square feet — nearly twice what the unit is rated for — the GE was able to decrease the temperature by more than 3 degrees F in an hour. It did this while remaining fairly quiet, registering only 55 decibels on high, which makes it suitable for bedrooms and home offices.

Its control panel shows the temperature in large, easy-to-read numbers and automatically dims to keep light to a minimum if you’re using it in the bedroom at night. The face also features adjustable louvers that allow you to send cool air precisely where you want. 

The GE has Wi-Fi connectivity and can be operated remotely, but I could not get it to connect with GE’s Comfort app (available for iOS and Android). After several tries, I still couldn’t use any of the smart features. Based on the 2.9-star rating in the Google Play store and 1.9-star rating in the App Store, I’m not alone. 

I reached out to GE about the app issues, and it responded quickly. According to the company, it’s a known issue for some users but it did not have a timeline for when it would be fixed. However, even without the smart features, this is an outstanding unit.

Best energy-efficient

Best energy efficient air conditioner 2021 midea

The Midea MAW08V1QWT U Inverter Window Air Conditioner features a unique U-shape design that allows you to open the window when it’s installed, and it’s one of only a few ACs to earn Energy Star’s “Most Efficient” certification.

Pros: Unique U-shaped design, Energy Star “Most Efficient” certification, easy to install in a wide array of windows, comes with a support bracket, quiet 48-decibel operation, smart connectivity that works well

Cons: Can only change airflow direction horizontally

The Midea MAW08V1QWT U Inverter Window Air Conditioner has a unique U-shaped design that offers more secure installation when combined with the included support bracket — hardware rarely included with AC units — and allows you to open and close the window to let in fresh air. 

It’s the first window AC to receive the Energy Star “Most Efficient” certification, and it remains one of only three models to receive that designation — another is the LG Dual Inverter AC, our pick for the best AC for large rooms. 

The Midea U uses inverter technology to achieve such impressive efficiency numbers. Inverter compressors have variable-speed motors that adjust to maintain the desired temperature. This constant low-level operation is actually more efficient than cycling high output on and off like traditional units do. According to my smart plug, the Midea U consumed 9.6 kWh over a 24 hour period, which works out to 0.4 kWh each hour.

Installation was quick, though the instructions could be a bit clearer. Still, I had the unit up and running within 25 minutes of opening the box. Connecting to the smart app was also quick and let me control the Midea U with my voice using Alexa.

I was impressed with how quietly the AC runs. The sound meter registered 48 decibels when it was operating on its highest setting. 

The only reason the Midea U isn’t our top overall pick is its lukewarm performance in our cooling tests. It only decreased the temperature of our 650-square-foot room by 1.7 degrees in the first hour — comparable to our budget pick. 

Best for small rooms

best air conditioner for small rooms 2021 haier

The Haier ESAQ406TZ Window Air Conditioner is ideal for bedrooms and home offices thanks to its ultra-quiet design.

Pros: Good cooling for its size, quiet operation, easy installation, seemed to improve air quality during testing, Energy Star-certified, multi-directional vent control

Cons: Requires a window width of at least 26-1/16 inches, minimal/standard warranty

The Haier ESAQ406TZ Window Air Conditioner registered the lowest noise output of any of the units in our testing. On low, our sound meter measured 41.9 decibels, which is almost as quiet as a library. Even on high, it was only a little louder than a normal conversation at 51.4 decibels. Coupled with the low Btu output, this is the ideal unit for bedrooms and home offices.

Installing the Haier AC was relatively easy and didn’t require any special steps. The process took me about 25 minutes. However, I found it surprising that such a low-Btu unit would require such a wide window opening.

The Haier was in the middle of the pack in cooling. It brought the room’s temp down by about two degrees in one hour. This is impressive considering it was one of only two units with less than 8,000 Btu that I tested. (The other, the GE AHQ06LZ, did a much poorer job.) I like that there are multi-directional vent adjustments so you can send the cool air where you want it most.

During testing, I used a handheld monitor to measure any changes to air quality, and it showed a significant reduction in VOCs and particulate matter.

Lastly, it’s Energy Star-certified, and that lined up with my experience with it. After an hour, it had used 0.3 kWh of electricity. It has an estimated yearly energy cost of about $52 according to government data.

Best for large rooms

best air conditioner for large rooms 2021 LG

The LG LW1517IVSM Dual Inverter Smart Window Air Conditioner provides an impressive combination of quiet operation, outstanding performance, and energy efficiency.

Pros: Good performance in our cooling tests, quiet operation, certified Energy Star “Most Efficient,” Wi-Fi connectivity with support for Alexa and Google Home, can be controlled remotely with a smartphone app

Cons: Pain to install, underwhelming one-year warranty, only works in windows at least 27-inches wide

This LG unit was one of the best in our cooling tests, dropping the temperature in a 650-square-foot room by 3.3 degrees in one hour. It was also one of the quietest, registering just 53 decibels when on high. 

LG was the first to use inverter technology in its air conditioners. The dual-inverter compressor of the LG LW1517IVSM Dual Inverter Smart Window Air Conditioner helped it earn the rare Energy Star “Most Efficient” certification.

Home Depot’s AC expert Matt Brown is a fan of this model. “LG inverter units are exciting because they offer the best smart connectivity, are much quieter than standard units, offer customers significant power and utility bill savings, and look very sleek and modern,” he said.

This is the main air conditioner I use on the ground floor of my home. Even on the hottest days, the LG LW1517IVSM keeps us cool. And, it remains quiet enough to facilitate normal conversation.

Installation was difficult, however. It took me two hours and included steps like removing and reinstalling parts from the unit. Uninstalling it for the winter was a task. Usually, I can carry air conditioners on my own, but I had to enlist the help of my teenage son when putting it in storage.

The LG can used with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. You can also use LG’s SmartThinQ app (available for iOS and Android) to schedule the unit and perform other remote operations.

Best portable

best portable air conditioner 2021 LG

The LG LP1419IVSM Dual Inverter Smart Wi-Fi Portable Air Conditioner is a well-rounded, energy-saving unit that can be controlled by your phone or voice.

Pros: Can be controlled and scheduled using your phone, voice control, easy to move, performed well in cooling tests, fits a wide array of window types and sizes

Cons: Set up took longer than others, one-year warranty, terrible energy efficiency compared to window ACs

*Editor’s note: This model frequently goes in and out of stock at many retailers. We’ll continue to update this post with availability.

Portable air conditioners have their benefits: namely portability and the ability to work with any outside opening. However, they vastly underperform compared to window ACs and no portable models are currently certified by Energy Star. While window AC units suck in hot air and vent it directly out the window, portable ACs rely on a long tube to carry air from your room to the outside. Along the way, heat radiates from the tube and stays in the room, so it takes a lot more energy (and money) to cool a room with a portable AC than a window AC. 

If you have a window that will accommodate it, we always recommend a window unit over a portable model. If that’s not an option, however, the LG LP1419IVSM Dual Inverter Smart Wi-Fi Portable Air Conditioner is your best bet.

The LG portable AC is our top pick from our guide to the best portable air conditioners because it’s quieter and more efficient than most portable models due to its dual-inverter compressor. It’ll take about double the time to cool a room than a window unit, but it’s very easy to install and use. 

After an initial 30-minute installation time (including connecting to the app), it was super simple to move from room to room. It only took about a minute to reinstall it in a new room thanks to its handles, smooth casters, and a dedicated slot for the window slider when in transport. We like that it can accommodate a wider range of windows than the other units in this guide.

It’s Alexa-enabled and also has smart capabilities through the LG ThinQ app (available for iOS and Android), which lets you schedule when the unit runs.

What else we tested

best air conditioner 2021 what else we tested

We’ve tested 10 air conditioners over the last year, and there are several that barely missed the cut for our guide but are worth considering.

What else we recommend and why:

Frigidaire FHWW083WB1 Smart Window Air Conditioner ($359): There’s a lot to like about this AC, but I couldn’t find a category that it was tops in. It did well in the cooling tests, the app works well, it fits a broad range of window sizes, and it seemed to improve the air quality while operating. The negatives are that it’s kind of loud and wasn’t particularly energy efficient. It’s occasionally on sale at a lower price than our budget pick. If you are looking for a deal and happen to find this Frigidaire unit marked down, I strongly recommend picking it up.

Windmill Smart Window Air Conditioner ($395): This was the loudest AC I tested at 63 decibels on high. It was also among the biggest power users and isn’t Energy Star-certified. Plus, you can’t adjust where the air flows. The Windmill was in the middle of the pack in cooling performance bringing the temp down by about two degrees in an hour. I also liked how incredibly easy it was to install and that it fits windows as small as 23 inches wide.

What we don’t recommend and why:

Friedrich Kuhl Series KCQ08A10A Window Air Conditioner ($869): This AC performed poorly in our cooling tests, and I spent half an hour trying to get the weird browser-based Wi-Fi connectivity to work without any success. On the plus side, it comes with a nice warranty, fits a lot of window sizes, and doesn’t use much power. But, at this price point, there are much better options out there.

GE AHQ06LZ Window Air Conditioner ($250): The only positives with this unit are it fits a wide range of window sizes and it doesn’t use much power. It did the worst in our cooling tests, only has bidirectional vents, didn’t come with insulation for the side curtains, and it seemed to have a negative impact on air quality.

GE PHC08LY Profile Smart Window Room Air Conditioner ($395.10): This was another model that I thought deserved a spot in our guide but didn’t quite fit anywhere. It was runner-up in our cooling test, decreasing the room temp by five degrees in an hour. However, it fell short in so many areas. Only the Windmill used more power. This unit only has left/right vent control and not up and down. I couldn’t get the app to connect to it. And, our air monitor showed a decrease in air quality, though it didn’t reach harmful levels.

Testing methodology

best air conditioner 2021 methodology

I personally tested all of the air conditioners in this guide. There are several objective tests I put each model through. The most important factors I consider are cooling abilities, energy efficiency, and special features.

Here are the main attributes we look for and how we test them:

Cooling: I set the unit up in a 650-square-foot test room. I measure the temperature from the opposite side of the room, run the AC on high for an hour, and then compare the readings. 

Noise: I use a sound meter positioned six feet away from the air conditioner as it runs on high. I also adjust the fan speeds and set point temperature to see if these changes cause off-putting sounds that could startle people nearby.

Extras: At a minimum, an air conditioner should come with a window installation kit, a remote control, dehumidifier and fan modes, and a delayed on and off switch. I also look for additional conveniences, like including foam to seal and insulate the openings around the AC. Wi-Fi-enabled smart capabilities are also a major plus, but I found there’s a lot of room for improvement in this area.

Energy efficiency: I look at whether the unit is Energy Star-certified as well as the unit’s combined energy efficiency ratio (CEER). The CEER is calculated by dividing the Btu output of the unit by the energy consumed while it’s operating and in standby mode. To receive Energy Star certification, most units need a CEER of at least 12 in addition to other requirements. I also perform my own tests using a smart plug to measure the power consumption while running the AC on high for an hour or more.

Installation: Though installation will likely only be a small part of your relationship with your AC, it’s an important one. Windows between 27 and 36 inches wide will accommodate most ACs, but if you have a 25-inch-wide window, it gets dicey. We look at what windows different models fit, how long it takes to install, if you need special tools, and how difficult it is to uninstall and reinstall it since you will likely need to do this each fall and spring.

Air quality: This is a newer test that we don’t weigh as heavily. We take air quality readings using a monitor to determine changes in the carbon dioxide, volatile organic compounds, and particulate matter in the room while the AC is running. The air quality didn’t enter the “harmful” range while running any of the ACs. However, we did note that the air quality readings changed significantly with some units. We’ve noted these in the guide.

What we’re testing next

We’re always looking for air conditioner models to test to ensure our guide is as comprehensive as possible. Here’s what we’re looking forward to testing before the next update:

Frigidaire Gallery Inverter Quiet Temp Smart Room Air Conditioner ($479): As of this writing, the new Frigidaire Gallery AC isn’t available anywhere. But, it’s already earned the Energy Star “Most Efficient” certification. Along with the Midea U and LG Dual Inverter, it’s one of three ACs to earn that distinction. We’re looking forward to testing it when it’s more widely available.

LG Smart Window Air Conditioner ($439.99): This is similar to our pick for best AC for large rooms, but it doesn’t use inverter technology. We’re curious to see how the cooling and efficiency numbers compare.

LG Window-Mounted Air Conditioner ($449.99): This model is similar to the one above, but it’s not Wi-Fi-enabled. Many reviewers recommend this unit, and we want to see if it lives up to the hype.

How to choose the right air conditioner

Best air conditioner 2021 how to choose

Matt Brown, the merchant for Home Comfort, Air Quality and Floorcare at The Home Depot says there are five primary factors to consider when shopping for an AC: Btu, room size, outlet type, window size, and extra features.

The room size, outlet type, and window size are entirely dependent on your space, and the extra features are dependent on your personal preferences. One thing you can’t compromise is the Btu of your air conditioner.

“ACs are rated by Btu (British thermal units) and range from 5,000 to 24,000 Btu, which correlates to 150 to 1,500 square feet. The larger the Btu, the larger the room it covers,” Brown says. “It’s critical to not get a unit too big or small for a room for maximum cooling and efficiency.”

The Department of Energy provides a helpful guide for determining the BTU that is right for your room size. If you get a unit that is too big for your room, it will cool too quickly without removing the moisture, which will create a cold, clammy environment. Alternatively, an AC that is too small will be overworked, which can boost your energy bills. 

It’s common for model numbers for the same units to vary by one or two digits. This is usually to denote different Btu ratings and colors, so it’s important to choose a model number that reflects the Btu rating right for your room.

How to turn any AC into a smart AC

A trend you’ll see in high-end window air conditioners is smart connectivity. This allows you to operate the unit remotely through an app on your phone, provided it’s connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network. This lets you turn on the AC before you arrive home from work, or turn it off if you had forgotten before you left the house. Some units even offer voice operation via Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Apple HomeKit.

As useful as this feature may be, not all ACs have smart connectivity. And, we’ve found it doesn’t always work properly even when units do have the capability.

If smart connectivity matters to you, an option is to connect the unit to a good smart plug. This option will turn any AC into a smart appliance, giving you the aforementioned benefits. Some can even monitor the energy being used, so you can keep track of usage. Unlike an AC with smart connectivity built-in, the downside of using a smart plug is that you can’t adjust the temperature setting or modes — a smart plug simply turns the unit on and off, so you would have to adjust those settings in advance. You should also make sure that the smart plug can handle the voltage that the AC requires and is the correct outlet type.

One of the best smart plugs we’ve used recently with an air conditioner is the BN-Link WiFi Smart Plug Outlet. It’s easy to set up and we’ve had no issues connecting to it remotely from a smartphone — it also supports Alexa for voice operation when we’re at home. It’s very affordable, and it doesn’t require a hub — just your home’s Wi-Fi. Check out our guide on the best smart plugs and outlets if you would like more options.

FAQs

Best air conditioner 2021 FAQs

How can you use your air conditioner efficiently?

According to Enesta Jones, a spokesperson for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees the Energy Star program, there are several best practices:

  1. Make sure the unit is level.
  2. Don’t put lamps or TVs near the AC thermostat because the extra heat will cause it to run longer.
  3. Set the thermostat temperature only as high as is comfortable to save energy and money.
  4. Set the fan speed low on humid days to remove more moisture. 
  5. Use an extra fan to spread cooled air around.
  6. Remove the unit or use an appropriately sized cover at the end of the cooling season to minimize heat loss.

We’d also add that you should try to install your AC in a window that is shaded for maximum efficiency.


Can I use an air conditioner in a room without windows?

The short answer is yes, but you need to have some way for the hot air produced by the air conditioner to leave the room. If you don’t, you won’t experience any of the cooling benefits of the air conditioner. Most window air conditioners vent hot air out of the back and sides of the unit, but some only produce hot air out of the back. This variety can typically be installed in an outside wall. 

Portable air conditioners afford you more options since you just need an opening to the outside that is as big as the ventilating hose.


Which is better: a portable air conditioner or a window/room air conditioner?

“In general, a room air conditioner is a more efficient choice over a portable air conditioner,” says Jones. “Portable air conditioners are not part of the Energy Star program.”

Our testing backs this up. Our top portable air conditioner, which uses an energy-efficient inverter compressor, still used 60% more electricity than our top window air conditioner. Our top window AC also did a much better job of cooling and costs much less both upfront and to run.

The main reason portable ACs are so inefficient is that they send their hot air outdoors through a hose that is located indoors. So, a lot of the heat stays in the room. Window air conditioners on the other hand are mostly outside so the hot air has a harder time entering your room.

So, if you have a double-hung window with the right dimensions for it, we strongly recommend choosing a window air conditioner. Only opt for a portable AC in spaces where a window AC isn’t an option.

Glossary

In the heating and cooling industry, there’s a lot of jargon to wade through. What do all of those acronyms and terms even mean? Here are the definitions for a few that you’ll commonly hear:

Btu: This is short for British thermal units. One Btu is equal to the amount of heat needed to raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. In cooling, Btu is used to measure how much heat is removed from a room. The more Btu per hour an air conditioner is rated for, the better job it does cooling.

CEER: “The CEER, or Combined Energy Efficiency Ratio, is a measure of energy efficiency for a room air conditioner,” Jones says. “The higher a room air conditioner’s CEER value, the more efficient the room conditioner is when comparing across models with the same cooling capacity.” The CEER is measured by dividing the Btu output by the amount of energy consumed both while the unit is running and while it’s in standby mode.

Compressor: The compressor works to push the hot air outside so cold air can circulate in your room. The gas refrigerant within the cooling system takes on the heat from the air, and the compressor turns the hot gas refrigerant back into a liquid. It works with the condenser on the air conditioner’s hot side to dissipate the heat from the refrigerant. Along with the condenser and evaporator, the compressor is one of the three main components of any air conditioning unit.

Energy Star: This is a program run by the US Department of Energy and EPA to promote energy efficiency. “Any window AC model that earns the Energy Star label is independently certified to save energy, save money, and help protect the climate,” says Jones. 

kWh: This is short for kilowatt-hour. It’s a unit of energy that most electricity utilities use to measure your power use, and it’s what we use to measure the energy consumption of the air conditioners we test.

Check out our other home heating and cooling guides

best air conditioner 2021 more guides
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The 5 best blenders in 2021

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • When selecting a blender, you’re going to want one that’s powerful enough to do any job you need.
  • The Calphalon Auto-Speed Blender is our best pick as it has a  powerful motor, is affordable, and is easy-to-use.
  • We also recommend other blenders that have powerful motors, rival professional models, and more.

A blender seems like a simple kitchen tool, and for the most part, it is. Blenders give you a variety of settings to help you achieve the consistency you need for a particular recipe. And even if you don’t use it specifically for cooking, a blender is essential when you want to whip up, say, kale smoothies or homemade vanilla milkshakes.

Although blenders all seem to perform the same tasks, a good blender has a powerful motor, and can handle blending everything from frozen drinks and smoothies to fruits and vegetables. A blender is a great investment if you enjoy having smoothies frequently, make a lot of dips and sauces, or if you simply would like some help prepping and chopping ingredients while cooking. We tested several blenders and recommend the following options due to their power, affordability, and versatility in blending several kinds of foods.

Here are the best blenders in 2021

The best blender overall

calphalon blender

True to its name, the Calphalon Auto-Speed Blender automatically senses the correct speed for the ingredients you’re blending and can be used for smoothies, dips, and milkshakes.

Pros: 1100-watt motor that automatically senses ingredients and adjusts for best results, four preset functions, 10 adjustable speeds, easy to clean, features durable stainless steel blades, comes with a Blend-N-Go jar for added convenience

Cons: Lid that goes with smoothie cup is slightly awkward to use

The Calphalon Auto-Speed Blender has four preset functions, 10 adjustable speeds, and a 1100-watt motor that automatically senses the thickness of your ingredients. 

I put the Calphalon Auto-Speed through its paces, and it’s held up well to daily use, resulting in thick, silky smoothies. It do much more than make smoothies, however, which makes it a great multi-purpose tool to have on your kitchen counter. The pulse feature allows for food prep and chopping — and makes great salsa. There are also four preset functions for dips, milkshakes, frozen drinks, and smoothies as well as adjustable speeds for more hands-on control.

I especially like the addition of the reverse pulse button which helps pull the ingredients further down into the blade if necessary to prevent any jams, resulting in a smooth blend. The 6-point stainless steel blades are durable and easy to clean thanks to the way they’re angled.

Presets and speeds are controlled by a dial on the front that’s clearly labeled, and you can start, pause, pulse and reverse pulse at the push of a button. The easy to read digital interface shows you how long you’ve been blending, or counts down to the finish if you choose to use one of the presets.

Each part of the blender that attaches to the base is also dishwasher safe for further convenience. I’ve cleaned each of these parts in our own dishwasher multiple times with no issue.

When blending, you can either use the 2-Liter pitcher for larger quantities, or the convenient 25-ounce Blend-N-Go Jar for single-serving-sized smoothies and drinks. While I liked using the Blend-N-Go Jar, I did find the drinking lid that comes with it slightly awkward to use. It prevented any spills, but the attached cap was sometimes more of a nuisance than anything else. — Kylie Joyner

The best blender on a budget

blender

The KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender is a solid, affordable blender that can make soups and smoothies easily.

Pros: Sturdy, affordable, makes good smoothies, decent motor, five speeds

Cons: Not as powerful as others

Although you certainly can spend hundreds of dollars on a blender, you don’t have to if you only want an occasional smoothie, soup, or blended dessert. I’ve owned the KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender for several years, and it’s still going strong.

The Die Cast Metal Base is sturdy, so it doesn’t shake as it blends, which is something that a lot of cheap blenders tend to do. Although it’s not as powerful as many of the blenders in our guide, the KitchenAid has a perfectly capable motor that helps the stainless steel blades blend just about anything with little effort.

KitchenAid’s Intelli-Speed Motor Control tech ensures that ingredients are blended equally. The 56-ounce BPA-Free pitcher is easy to clean, as is the two-piece lid. Years of use haven’t harmed the sturdy plastic pitcher or the lid, which still fits snugly. — Malarie Gokey

The best high-powered blender

blender

The Ninja Professional Blender delivers plenty of power to crush ice and blend a variety of ingredients to create perfect smoothies every time.

Pros: Perfect option for creating smoothies at home, good price point, offers many different kinds of blending options, works to crush ice, blends many kinds of foods successfully

Cons: Unit’s lid can be difficult to clean, blades are sharp when you take blender apart for cleaning

If you’re looking to create great-tasting smoothies at home, you’ll want a blender with plenty of power to ensure the ingredients are well mixed and delivered at the desired texture. The Ninja Professional Blender has the features needed to pulverize ice and create the highest quality smoothies possible.

It boasts 1,100 watts of power with three speeds, a pulse setting, and a single-serve function. Ninja also includes two 16-ounce to-go cups so you can take your breakfast smoothie with you. The blender’s 72-ounce pitcher is a good size and it has a form-fitting lid and a nice big handle.

Guides Editor Les Shu has seen the Ninja in action. The multiple sharp blades that run up the core of the blender cup, while befitting of the Ninja name, look both frightening and ridiculous. When it’s running, the blender is jet-engine loud. But it did a terrific job cutting through ice and fresh pineapple for piña coladas.

Indeed, the Ninja blender does a great job with all kinds of blending needs, including crushing and pureeing for smoothies. It’s the perfect choice for people who don’t want to invest in our top pick but still need a powerful blender.

As for downsides, the Ninja blender is difficult to take apart and clean, in large part because of the sharpness of the blades. The lid also has some crevasses that are tough to clean properly. But otherwise, this is a great pick. — Kyle Schurman

The best professional-style

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The Vitamix Professional series 750 offers everything you need in a blender, and its proven longevity makes it worth the price.

Pros: Consistent, powerful motor, strong blades stay sharp, 7-year warranty

Cons: Price tag

We know this is a lot to spend on a blender, or anything, really. But if you want the most consistent consistency, and you use your blender on a daily basis, it’s easily justified. When you go to a smoothie shop, you’re probably paying well over $5 per drink, and if you do so even two or three times a week, that adds up (I’m a writer, so I’ll let you do your own math).

The Vitamix 750 is a professional-grade, 1440-watt blender built to last the better part of a decade, and Vitamix’s 7-year warranty is enough to attest to that. Sure, you may have some 20-year-old anvil of a thing living on your counter that still works, more or less, but I’ll bet your smoothies turn out to be laden with large, blade-neglected chunks of your chosen fruits. I’ll also bet it’s not the prettiest thing in your kitchen, either.

The Vitamix 750 has 10 speeds as well as four automatic settings for smoothies, hot soups, frozen desserts, and purées. These settings allow you to walk away from the blender while the automatic drive on the blender assesses the power and speed needed to acquire the proper consistency of your desired dish.

For those who use their blender only every so often but still demand perfection, the Vitamix 5200 is of comparable quality, just with a less technical interface and no automatic drive for setting your blender to smoothie mode and walking away. — Owen Burke

The best vacuum blender

breville the super q z

The Breville Super Q Blender isn’t inherently a vacuum blender, but together with Breville’s Vac Q attachment, it becomes one of the best.

Pros: Extremely powerful, versatile, automatic shut off/hands-free

Cons: Expensive, not as easy to manually operate as a Vitamix if you’re getting technical

Breville’s Super Q Blender is a great blender on its own, but when you add the VacQ attachment to it, it becomes a vacuum blender and removes all air from your concoctions.

An 1800-watt motor that drives steel blade tips at 186 miles per hour; it’s a remarkable feat of technology for blending (and nearly juicing) just about anything you can get your hands on. The Super Q also has five programmed presets for easy use.

Insider Reviews editorial director Ellen Hoffman and I set up shop at Insider Reviews Headquarters (otherwise known as our office kitchen) where we stuffed the Breville Super Q with every fruit and vegetable we could get our hands on. We ended up with a host of perfectly consistent, sometimes strange-tasting concoctions (through no fault of Breville).

Two things impressed me about this blender in comparison with the Vitamix. First, the Super Q is unbelievably quiet. We were able to carry on with a conversation at normal volume while the motor was whirring away somewhere between a whisper and a barely vocal growl. This is, far and away, the quietest, albeit most powerful blender I’ve ever put to use. 

What really makes the Super Q a solid buy, however, is the Vac Q, which, unfortunately, comes separately. That’s my only gripe with this machine so far. A small-handled vacuum about the size of a coffee mug that you place over the top of the pitcher or smoothie cup, the Vac Q pulls as much air out of the container as would seem possible. This process creates such a tight seal on the lid that it’s almost impossible to open without using the depressurizing cap, which reduces oxidation and bubbles.

In short: It makes your juice taste better and last longer. The more foam and froth in juice, or anything you’re blending, the more nutrients you lose. Sure, there are many reasons we drink juice, but most of us are taking nutrition into account, too. — Owen Burke

Breville Vac Q Attachment

Breville Super Q Blender

The best personal blender

breville boss to go sport

For the smoothest smoothies, shakes, and juices, the powerful Breville Boss To Go Sport is your go-to personal blender.

Pros: Powerful, blends ice and harder foods, two travel cups and lids

Cons: Only one speed

The Breville Boss To Go Sport is a perfectly sized blender for on-the-go smoothies in the morning or smaller blending jobs. But don’t let its compact form-factor fool you: This is a powerful 1000-watt blender that can pulverize ice and hard fruits.

Besides the powerful motor, the Boss To Go Sport uses what Breville calls a Kinetix blade. The unique curved design of the four blades helps to create smoother foods — great for silky smoothies and shakes, not so much if you like chunky guacamole. And it does things fast, which is great if you’re short on time in the morning.

The blender comes with two travel cups and lids, one 23-ounce and one 15-ounce. There’s only one speed, however. But like all Breville products, the Boss to Go Sport looks industrial-sleek. 

The Boss To Go Sport is pricey, but like many Breville products, we believe it’s a good investment and it’s backed by great customer service. You can purchase personal blenders at half the price (or more) of the Boss to Go Sport, like those from NutriBullet. However, in our experience, NutriBullets are notorious for leaking and their motors tend to blow out too easily. — Les Shu

What to look for in a blender

Here’s what we look for in a great blender:

  • Power: The motor is the most important part of any blender, and the higher the wattage, the better the performance. Always get a blender with a motor that’s more than 500 watts. If you want to make frozen drinks, you may need one with 1,000 watts of power.
  • Blades: Some blenders have blades made for solid objects like ice, while others are better equipped for blending softer foods. Stainless steel blades are best.
  • Size and materials: We look for durable, wide blender jars with tight-fitting lids. 

Types of blenders

There are a few different types of blenders, each with its own unique features: conventional, multi-function, personal, and immersion. 

  • Conventional: A conventional blender is the most common type for use in your home kitchen; it can perform a variety of functions from making soup to blending smoothies.
  • Multi-function: Multi-function, professional-style blenders have powerful motors and are often used in restaurants. F
  • Personal: These small appliances make single servings and may run from a battery for portability.
  • Immersion: These stick-like handheld blenders can be placed directly into a pot or other container to puree soups, sauces, and smoothies. We left immersion blenders (also called hand blenders) off of this list because they have their own comprehensive buying guide, which you can check out here.

Check out our other small appliance buying guides

Breville 98xl juicer

 

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