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Slow Cookers

Slow cookers. Crock-pots. Is there a difference? No. Does it matter which brand you buy? Probably a little, but not really.

Rival Crock-Pot with manual switch
Rival Crock-Pot with manual switch

A little more detail! Crock-Pot is a brand name given to the original slow cooker (the very original name being the “Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker”) by the Rival Company when it bought Naxon in 1970. This can still be confusing, as seen by Google Shopping – it lists Crock-Pot and Rival as two different brands. Generally, you will see the little Rival logo above the Crock-Pot logo, but not always. The kicker? Rival is now owned by Sunbeam. My guess is that’s why not all of them have the Rival logo.

Ok, was that clear as mud? Simplified – slow cooker is the official term and Crock-Pot is a brand name. It’s like Kleenex and tissues. That’s the BEST kind of marketing, because it’s free! (Marketing major over here, kids.)

Alright, now that we’ve cleared that up, the next thing to discuss are the differences between all these slow cookers. Generally it will be the capacity size and how many buttons/cooking options are offered. All slow cookers will have an electric heating base, a ceramic cooking pot/crock (get it? Crock-Pot!), and a glass lid with or without a vent hole in it.

Kitchen Aid 6-qt. slow cooker
Kitchen Aid 6-qt. slow cooker

Capacity is clearly something you need to decide for yourself. How many people do you usually cook for? What types of things are you hoping to cook in your slow cooker? Remember, you can always make less in a larger vessel, but you cannot make more in a smaller one! You just need to adjust your cooking times and temps. 😛 Considering shape, there are both oval and round slow cookers. It might be easier to fit a small bird, a roast or other meat into an oval shape, but the choice is purely personal preference.

Cuisinart 3.5-qt. slow cooker
Cuisinart 3.5-qt. slow cooker

I think Cuisinart makes the smallest slow cooker at 3.5-quarts. This isn’t counting any of the smaller buffet serving warmers (key word ‘warmer’ – they don’t cook!), like the Slow Cooker “Little Dipper” 16-oz. warmer that usually only comes as a free gift with a larger slow cooker. (You can usually find them for sale alone at Goodwill, however!) Several brands make an 8-quart, which is the largest I think you can find. This is an improvement because a couple of years ago it was hard to find larger than 6- or 7-quarts.

Cooking options are generally very simple on most slow cookers, having 2-4 settings that include: Off, Warm, Low, High. Warm is not a cooking mode, it just keeps the food at temperature when cooking is done. Crock-Pot makes a lot of cool buffet serving warmers that only keep already cooked food warm – they don’t cook, but they’re great for people who entertain a lot!

Crock-Pot Hook Up series buffet servers - you can mix and match the pieces you want to hook to each other!
Crock-Pot Hook Up series buffet servers – you can mix and match the pieces you want to hook to each other!

Programmable slow cookers will automatically switch over to “Warm” mode after a certain amount of hours on a cooking mode, however, I have only come across one that will turn itself completely off. The Cuisinart programmable slow cookers all have an 8-hour “Warm” mode maximum, at which point it will beep five times and turn itself off automatically.

Ah, but alas, technology has caught up with us! I have discovered another one that you can control via an app on your cell phone! The Crock-Pot 6-quart Slow Cooker with WeMo. In searching through the manual and FAQs, it seems like this will be the first slow cooker that you could load food into and start at a later time – but beware, as the reason no one else has done this is for food safety reasons – you don’t want to leave uncooked food out for very long, so I think the idea behind this smart cooker is that if you’re running late, you can easily turn it off or down to warm until you can get home to it, not that you can dump everything in and leave it sitting out to spoil for a few hours before you turn it on.

Crock-Pot with WeMo (smart slow cooker!)
Crock-Pot with WeMo (smart slow cooker!)

Vent Hole in Lid

I can’t seem to find a reliable source of information from vendors or consumers about some slow cookers having vent holes and others not. I did find this site that claims, as many others do, that newer slow cookers run much hotter than those of the old days. So my final thought on the matter is that the manufacturers are adding these holes to prevent explosions. This isn’t a pressure cooker – you don’t want a perfectly tight seal, or else you will get a pressure build-up and potentially blow-up your dinner.

Hamilton Beach slow cooker with digital probe thermometer
Hamilton Beach slow cooker with digital probe thermometer

A lot of folks will encourage you to wrap your entire cooker and lid with aluminum foil to try and make the seal impenetrable, but the vent hole is too small to let THAT much moisture out that your food will dry out. You can always add more liquid if you notice your cooker is drying up faster than what the recipe calls for.

If you let your food cool inside of the crock pot, it can create a vacuum seal that can make removing the lid extremely challenging, so this is another reason for the vent hole. Some slow cookers come with a meat probe and the probe fits in the vent hole and rests there nicely.


Cuisinart multi-cooker
Cuisinart multi-cooker

Everyone is coming out with multi-cookers over the last couple of years, and depending on the brand, they can usually do at least three things – slow cook, brown/saute, and steam. Some can also bake, cook rice, roast, or even pressure cook! Since all brands and models are so new to the market I can’t fully back buying any one over the other. Cuisinart, Kitchen Aid, and Oster are usually good bets – I am pretty certain that Cuisinart put out the very first one and everyone else followed suit.

I do personally own a Ninja 3-in-1 cooking system, which is considered a multi-cooker because it has a slow cooker setting, a stovetop setting (brown/saute), and an oven setting (bake/roast). There is now a 4-in-1 that also has a steam setting.

So far I really like the Ninja – I’ve had it for almost a year and have used it quite a bit. I have personally never been much into slow cooking and when I finally got a little 4-quart Crock-Pot a couple of years ago, I hardly used it. I was annoyed by recipes that claim you can make things like pulled pork in your slow cooker and have it turn out like it normally would. (Maybe this happens for other people, but not me! Haha) And don’t get me started on using another pan and starting on the stovetop, then transferring to slow cooker….and/or transferring afterwards to the oven! No! Slow cooking is supposed to be easy, one-pot cooking in my mind. And the Ninja accomplishes that because you can cook the meat on the stovetop setting and then plop everything else in and turn it over to slow cooker mode. Roast a chicken then immediately make your stock! Beautiful!

Ninja 4-in-1 cooking system
Ninja 4-in-1 cooking system

That being said, I think any multi-cooker would bring me the same satisfaction. However, the downside is that all of these have nonstick aluminum cooking pots inside of them, which of course they all claim are dishwasher safe, but the dishwasher detergent is just too harsh for nonstick and I got scratches on mine after one wash. Lesson learned – I leave it out of the dishwasher now! So I would advise the same on any of these other multi-cookers, also. The ones with glass lids, at least the lid can go in the dishwasher (the 3-in-1 doesn’t, so I have to hand wash, but the 4-in-1 comes with glass). Kitchen Aid is elusive about the material of their cooking pot, but call it the “CERAMASHIELD™nonstick cooking pot with pouring spout” and emphasize that repeated dishwashing can reduce the effectiveness of the nonstick coating, so I feel secure in saying it’s probably also an aluminum pot with nonstick coating, just this specific brand of coating.

The Ninjas are both 6-quarts, as is the Oster brand. Cuisinart’s and Kitchen Aid’s multi-cookers are only 4-quart capacity. They all come with a small roasting rack included, and some of them have other accessories you can purchase to go with them, including a ‘stir tower’ for the Kitchen Aid model!

Kitchen Aid multi-cooker with optional Stir Tower attachment
Kitchen Aid multi-cooker with optional Stir Tower attachment


Read The Kitchn’s tips on what mistakes to avoid when using your slow cooker.

Food Processors and Mini Choppers

I am so glad that I waited to write this blog because Kitchen Aid just recently came out with their new model, so we can include that in the review. Huzzah!

Cuisinart mini choppers

Food processors can be pretty expensive, and a lot of the time you can do the same thing by hand or with a blender, so it’s a tough call deciding on whether or not you really need one. If you do a lot of food preparation, a food processor can save you sooooo much time in the kitchen, and it can do a lot of things a blender can’t do, so that’s a plus.

Mini Choppers

I want to start out by discussing mini choppers. A lot of people refer to these as food processors, but the distinction is that it only has a chopping blade, no discs for slicing or shredding. Most of these you’ll find are in a $20-50 price range and will usually just have two speeds. It might say “chop” or “grind” but in all honesty, they are just “fast” and “faster”. I mentioned these in my “Coffee Grinder” blog because a lot of people buy these to grind their coffee beans with.

Black & Decker ergonomic chopper
Black & Decker ergonomic chopper

Mini choppers are usually 2-3 cups in size, and like most larger food processors, can’t handle a ton of liquid. They are quite handy for small jobs, like chopping up veggies really quick or making a small batch of hummus or salsa. With the limited abilities of the mini chopper, I don’t think that brand really matters. Like with a big food processor, I don’t think any of these will work unless all the pieces are properly snapped into place, meaning you can’t accidentally chop your fingers or splash food everywhere. (If there’s too much liquid, that will probably escape and make a mess.) This is actually the one item Cuisinart does NOT put a 3-year warranty on because people so often misuse them. (Read: they should have purchased a blender or a real food processor and burned it out.)

Some immersion blenders come with a mini chopper attachment that the stick’s motor can power. These are usually one cup and not very useful, so I wouldn’t base your purchase of the immersion blender solely off of that optional feature.

Salad Shooters

Presto Salad Shooter
Presto Salad Shooter

I noticed a few of these while image shopping, so figured it was worth a mention. The term “salad shooter” is trademarked to the original product by Presto, so everyone else seems to call these “salad makers” or “mini food processors”. These machines contain rotating discs that “shoot” the end product out and you have to have a bowl or something to catch it. These only slice and shred, they cannot chop, but nonetheless, pretty handy.

Food Processors

Alright, so moving along to the big machines, the ones that do it all! Obviously there’s a larger motor, meaning a heavier base, so keep that in mind if you don’t have counter space! Having to get it in and out of a cupboard or pantry might be too much effort. 

Chopping blade
Chopping blade

Any brand of food processor will come with a metal chopping blade, a stem piece to attach the discs, and a slicing and shredding disc. Sometimes these are combined in a reversible two-sided disc, meaning you’ll only have one disc; one side shreds, one side slices. You will have buttons that say “On”, “Off”, and “Pulse”. “Pulse” will spin once and you have to keep hitting it repeatedly to keep the blade going. There will also be a feed tube and some sort of pusher to help push your items into the machine as well as prevent splashing. Sometimes they also include a plastic dough blade, as well. Like I mentioned with the mini choppers, they make these super safe, as they won’t work unless all pieces are properly snapped into place.

Cuisinart DLC-2011CHB
Cuisinart DLC-2011CHB

As for brand, that truly does matter with the larger food processors. The only choice, in my opinion, is a Cuisinart, and you can’t go wrong with any model. The motors they put on these things just don’t die! The kitchen store I worked at does a trade-in event annually, where you can bring in your old chopper or food processor, working or not, and get money towards a new Cuisinart. People would bring in 20 year old Cuisinart food processors and tell us that they still worked, they were just finally ready to upgrade to a newer model with more features. Color me amazed!

Remember my mantra: Kitchen Aid for stand mixers, Cuisinart for food processors.

Cuisinart also puts astounding warranties on the motors of their food processors. The warranties vary by model, but none are less than 5 years, most are 10, and some are as much as 20! Nobody else in the industry puts more than a 1-year warranty on their motors, so to me, it’s worth the money!

Cuisinart DFP-14BCN
Cuisinart DFP-14BCN

I’m not going to say one model is better than any of the others, with the exception of their newer models in the Elite collection! Those are the best, just because of the amazing features they have, which we will discuss very shortly. If you don’t have a need for all the new features on the newest models, older models still have amazing motors that won’t disappoint. You’re basically comparing what size work bowl you need for your home since they all pretty much do the same thing. There’s a 14-cup model that is less expensive than some of the smaller bowl models because it has a very basic design and no “Pulse” button, just two paddle buttons for off and on.

Cuisinart Elite 14 cup
Cuisinart Elite 14 cup

Ok, ok, so these Elite food processors. They’ve been around for a few years at this point, and I really don’t see the need to make any improvements. The standard food processor hasn’t changed much other than aesthetics and feed tube sizes getting larger or being multiple pieces. But the largest complaint about all food processors has always been the liquid fill line always being about an inch from the bottom of the work bowl, making it really hard to make soups and other liquidy things. Kitchen Aid had come out with a multi-bowl food processor, but using the small bowl always made a big mess in the larger bowl anyway, so what’s the point?

Cuisinart Elite 14 cup anatomy
Cuisinart Elite 14 cup anatomy

Cuisinart fixed that! They put a silicone ring in the lid so that the liquid fill line in both the large bowl and the mini-bowl (nonexistent for the mini-bowl in previous Kitchen Aid models) was almost to the very top of the bowl!! No mess in the bigger bowl if you wanted to use the small one for a little job. The Elite comes in a 12-cup model, which includes a 4-cup, as well as a 14-cup model, which includes both an 11- and a 4.5-cup bowl. The bowls all also contain a slight pouring lip to make it easier to pour the liquid out. Genius!

Julienne, shred and slice discs
Julienne, shred and slice discs

The next thing Cuisinart did was combine the slicing and shredding discs into multi-discs so customers didn’t have to a) purchase multiple extra discs and b) have extra clutter for all the different discs they owned. So the slicing disc has an adjustable knob that gives you 6 different thicknesses on the blade and the shredding disc is reversible with coarse on one side and fine on the other.

Multi-piece feed tube
Multi-piece feed tube

They also made the motors even stronger, so the largest size, the 14-cup, has a 20 year motor warranty. I should note that Cuisinart has always offered the largest feed tubes on their lids. Speaking of feed tubes, a lot of the brands now have multi-piece feed tubes, which confuses people. There’s multiple pieces so you can choose which piece is large enough for your food to fit through. That way if you have something small, you don’t have to potentially get splashed by using the largest opening to drop it into the processor. All two or three pieces have a flat base to act as a pusher for the food you’re dropping in, as well.

Kitchen Aid’s new model has copied all of these new ideas, which is great. I haven’t seen one in person yet, but have watched some demonstrations on TV and the silicone ring doesn’t look as thick as Cuisinart’s. Since they obviously couldn’t copy everything exactly, the way to adjust their slicing disc is a lever on the front of the base of the machine, not on the disc itself like Cuisinart (they’re calling it ExactSlice), so you can adjust the thickness mid-slice. 

New Kitchen Aid ExactSlice food processor
New Kitchen Aid ExactSlice food processor

Looking at specs of the Kitchen Aid machine online, I’m also noticing that their liquid fill line is only a little over the halfway point of the work bowl, whereas Cuisinart’s is almost to the top. I can’t see it on the mini-bowl, but it does say the smaller one can handle liquids, too. I was so excited by the prospect of them copying Cuisinart I almost bought one. Who can resist those fun colors?! But, it’s still expensive. And so, looking back at the warranty issue, I was convinced, personally – you might not care – of the quality and paying a bit more to have the luxury of knowing I will never have to make this purchase again in my lifetime.

Last (bad!) model of Kitchen Aid food processors
Last (bad!) model of Kitchen Aid food processors

One thing to note is that the Kitchen Aid food processor is extremely new and a lot of stores aren’t selling it yet. The last model of Kitchen Aid food processors were performing so badly that the kitchen store I worked at stopped carrying them, and looking at all of the big kitchen stores now, it looks like nobody currently carries any Kitchen Aid food processors at all. I am wondering if with all the aesthetic changes that Kitchen Aid bothered to fix the technical issues with this new model and stores will renew their faith and start selling them again. Time will tell!! 

Cuisinart blender/food processor
Cuisinart blender/food processor

The Cuisinart food processor/blender 2-in-1 was mentioned in my “Blenders” blog, but I will mention it again, almost verbatim. I am always leery of anything that is a 2-in-1 as it calls to mind those TVs that had the VHS player embedded in them, and the VHS player ALWAYS broke. I love Cuisinart, and I’m sure this is a solid machine, but I wouldn’t put my trust in the performance of either being as high caliber as a stand-alone. Personal opinion, only, of course!! 😛 The food processor is only 3 cups like a mini chopper, however, it can slice and shred, which a mini chopper cannot do, so that is definitely a plus. This does not come with the same motor warranty as the other Cuisinart food processors, so again, I don’t think it’s in the same realm when comparing.

Cuisinart disc storage case
Cuisinart disc storage case

There are accessories you can purchase extra with most of the brands, including specialty cutting discs (like french fry and julienne) and cases to store your discs in.

Black & Decker food processor
Black & Decker food processor

Hamilton Beach, Black and Decker, and Delonghi all make various models of food processors, as well.

Immersion Blenders & Blenders

Immersion (Stick/Hand) Blenders
Kitchen Aid immersion blender and accessories
Immersion blenders are pretty handy little tools, great for someone who makes simple smoothies and soups. An immersion blender cannot crush ice at all, believe me, I tried it. 😉 Doesn’t even really chip at it. As long as you remember to submerge the base blending piece before turning it on, it should not splash at all. Immersion = immerse. Make sure the parts are completely covered in liquid and you’re all set!
I personally don’t believe you need speeds on an immersion blender. It’s either going to blend or it isn’t, going faster or slower isn’t changing anything. Kitchen Aid seems to have realized this and toned it down a little. They originally had a 9-speed, but now offer a variety of new models with less speeds: 5, 3, or 2. No singles.
Kitchen Aid is big on accessories, as well. Usually a wire whisk (which I got lots of complaints about them breaking and/or not working very well), and a mini chopper. The mini chopper is handy if you don’t already have one.
Cuisinart Smart Stick immersion blenders
My favorite recommendation is the Cuisinart Smart Stick. You should be able to find it for under $30 (a lot of times for $26 so shop around!) and it comes with their 3-year warranty. That’s nuts for under $30!! I’ve had one for at least four years, and I don’t use it daily, but I use it for smoothies, milkshakes, and especially in soups. It’s great not having to dump your soup in a blender and then back into the pot.
Cuisinart does also make a couple of models with speeds and accessories, as well as a cordless, rechargeable (plugs directly into the wall) model.And of course there are the usual suspects floating around, including Oster, Proctor-Silex, and Hamilton Beach. They all seem to call them “hand” blenders.


Oster blender

Blenders can be a tricky subject. People buy them and abuse the heck out of them, so you get a lot of mixed reviews and it’s hard to say what’s the best blender for the individual. If you aren’t looking to invest a lot of money, the Oster blender is pretty standard and a lot of people have them (and sometimes refer to them as the “Osterizer”). Of course there are also the usual brand name competitors like Proctor Silex and Hamilton Beach.

If you are looking for something with a little more power and you’re wanting to invest a little bit more, you’re probably looking at the following brands.

Blender FYI: 48 ounces used to be standard size, but a lot of brands now have 56 ounce carafes.
Waring Pro – a lot of people had these for over a decade with no issues, but they did start outsourcing them and I was noticing a few more issues here and there, but no mass returns or anything like that. A solid brand name that makes commercial-style items for the residential home, a lot of people prefer the simplicity of two-speeds and love that it’s a glass carafe and has that classic blender look.
Waring Pro blenders
Cuisinart – If you’re looking for a glass blender with more options, the variety of blenders Cuisinart offers might be for you. It’s got a lot of speed settings and an unusually large carafe for being glass on their PowerEdge series of blenders. Of course Cuisinart offers its 3-year warranty which is great for a blender.
Cuisinart PowerEdge blender


Cuisinart PowerBlend Duet
Blender/Food Processor

Cuisinart also makes a food processor/blender 2-in-1. I am always leery of anything that is a 2-in-1 as it calls to mind those TVs that had the VHS player embedded in them, and the VHS player ALWAYS broke. I love Cuisinart, and I’m sure this is a solid machine, but I wouldn’t put my trust in the performance of either being as high caliber as a stand-alone. Personal opinion, only, of course!! 😛 Also, the food processor is only 3 cups so it can’t really do much beyond slicing and shredding. However, the tiny food choppers you can purchase (they are not processors, although a lot of people call them that) are usually 3 cups, too, so this 2-in-1 is actually a processor because it shreds and slices, as well as chop.

The carafes on the following brands are all made from BPA-free polycarbonate (not just plastic!), and that’s also what airplane windows are made out of, so you know these babies are tough! If the blender you’re looking at doesn’t specifically say “BPA free”  or “polycarbonate” you might want to figure out what kind of plastic they are using and consider either a glass carafe or one of these brands!

Kitchen Aid – The Kitchen Aid Diamond Blender boasts the same blade as their previous blender model, which they have always claimed is the sharpest and strongest on the market. I know they have a patent on it, and the blade is mentioned in a comparison video I link to below. The new carafe has a unique diamond-shape that helps to create the more powerful blending vortex. They are consistently rated the best ice chopping blender on the market, and I would strongly recommend either this new model or the one before it as being superb quality for purchasing.
Kitchen Aid Diamond Blender

Ninja – Ninja blenders are newer to the game than its competitors, but people seem to love them! They have quite a few models, from small food choppers to machines that rival the Vitamix. I know a lot of people who have different ones and all of them seem to love them and I’ve never really heard a complaint, but I have no personal experience with them. A video below shows a side-by-side comparison against the new Kitchen Aid blender and I am not convinced of the Ninja’s superiority! However, if you’re looking for a small food processor as well as a blender, some of their models are basically like the Cuisinart PowerDuet mentioned above, and Ninja’s seem to be pretty powerful food processors.

Ninja 1500 Mega Kitchen System
blendtec – This brand is highly regarded in the juicing world as being the best blender on the market for making smoothies. However, after watching a performance test video I have linked below, I am not sure I am convinced this is worth all the money! I don’t have any experience with this brand, so don’t take my word for it.



Vitamix 5200

Vitamix – OK, so this is supposed to be the Cadillac of blenders, right? There are, however, a lot of models, and most reviews, etc. refer to the 5200 model. I’m not sure why this is the go-to model to review, but unfortunately, as with the other blenders, everyone has had a different experience. This is part of their C-Series blenders, which are their strongest motors, which also means they are very loud. Also, depending on which model you’re specifically looking at, the carafes might not fit under your kitchen cabinets.

This comparison chart on their website will help you to determine what “series” of their blenders you should at least start with, based on your preferences. The G-Series addresses some issues with the C-Series, still with the most powerful motors, but adding a sound dampening technology to make your blending experience a little quieter. They are low-profile machines, too, meaning they should fit under cabinets on countertops in most homes.
CIA Vitamix Professional Series

The only Vitamix I am certain doesn’t require using different carafes for wet or dry, and is backed by the Culinary Institute of America, is the Vitamix CIA Professional Series. The CIA is the only culinary school that can dub someone a “master chef” and so having their endorsement on something is a HUGE deal. These are the ones I used to sell, the only ones our company carried, because they have proven to never fail and work beautifully every time. So if you’re going to spend that kind of money, spend a little more and get the best of the best! The CIA Vitamix is part of the noisier C-Series, so I’m sure the new Professional Series models in the G-Series lineup works just as well but more quietly, it just doesn’t have that CIA endorsement.

Final Thoughts

OK, so I actually started putting together this blender post because I am finally getting serious about buying myself a blender. Knowing all I knew already, there are new machines on the market, and like I said, a LOT of people seem to be buying Ninjas right now, so I wasn’t sure I was still making the right choice for myself, as I had always drooled over the old Kitchen Aid model [in green apple! ;)]. And I haven’t sold blenders since Kitchen Aid came out with their new diamond model, so I had to check out the specs on that, of course! [And now I have to pick a new color because I don’t like the green apple as much on the new look! (First-world problems!)] Check out these test videos I found online:
Ninja 1100 Kitchen System

Ninja vs. KitchenAid video – This video show the NEW Kitchen Aid and proves how fast it works compared to the Ninja Professional NJ600. She chose that Ninja because it’s the same price range as the Kitchen Aid. The gal casually mentions the blendtec like “of course” everyone who juices knows how amazing that one already is. However, the video below paints an extremely different story about the blendtec, and it honestly looks like the worst model.

5 Blender Show-Down by Popular Mechanics – This is by Popular Mechanics, so I trust the source quite a bit. She’s using the old Kitchen Aid model, so I am over here picturing the new one doing an even better job!! And I’m sad about the Vitamix and wish she had used the CIA model since I have heard so many mixed reviews about the 5200 model. I have personally used the CIA model and it destroyed everything we put in it, however I obviously didn’t do this exact test.

However, the results of that side-by-side test really push me towards what I thought was the best choice for me all along, which is the Kitchen Aid. I’m not planning on making my own flours, sugars, nut butters, etc. I just want a strong, sturdy blender that will crush ALL the ice. If I did want to do all that other stuff, I might look a little more into the different Ninja models and see how they test out, but ultimately the CIA Vitamix would be my choice if I wanted to lay down a lot of money for a machine that can do a lot. They also offer a 30-day trail period so if you’re unhappy with your purchase, you can return it without a hassle, which is great since it’s such a big monetary investment.
*Also remember that if you are wanting to juice and extract more nutrients out of your produce, particularly using wheat grass or other leafy greens, make sure to compare notes about juicers. The Omega Nutrition Center can make nut butters and can end up being the right choice for a lot of folks who thought they only needed a blender!

Electric Grills

George Foreman “original”
Electric grills are one of those appliances that all the manufacturers seem frequently produce new models so it’s hard to keep up, so just keep in mind what options you are after and stick with a trusted brand name. If you treat it well, it should last you more than a few years, but always remember that they do not build appliances to last anymore!!
A lot of manufacturers now offer a multitude of options on the countertop grills, so think about how much versatility you’re looking for. Any of these styles will have a nonstick coating on the grill plates (silicone, plastic, or wood utensils only!) and should come with some sort of a removable grease drip cup or pan, FYI! Keep in mind that that most household electrics don’t have the power to get really high temperatures that some people prefer for grilling meats, so if you’re one of those folks, one of these probably isn’t going to satisfy your wants.
Standard/Basic/“Classic” Grills
Cuisinart Grill & Panini Press
A standard countertop grill is something like the “classic” George Foreman grills. (I like the way they designate the categories on their site, so I am going to utilize those! Brilliant!) The grill plates do not come off, and on most of them the back hinge isn’t adjustable, so it seems to hinder what you can cook on some of the grills if they are not large enough. I actually knew a few people that had two or three different sizes of these so they could cook exactly what they needed on the right size grill. (The Breville Panini Grill has a floating hinge so you won’t have this issue – read more about floating hinges below!) Some offer the feature of opening up flat to increase your grilling surface, like the Cuisinart Grill & Panini Press.
Proctor Silex grill
A lot of brands that make smaller ones call them sandwich or panini grills but you can fit small cuts of meat on these. BE CAREFUL! There are also actual “sandwich makers” that make pocket sandwiches, a whole different ballpark! This size makes a great gift for a single person. I had a Proctor-Silex sandwich-sized grill for years (looks like it’s just an earlier version of what they are still selling today – mine was white!) that never let me down and I ended up gifting it to a friend when I finally upgraded to a multi-plate grill/griddle.
These can be a pain to clean up – be prepared to waste a LOT of paper towels!
Cuisinart Sandwich Maker – not a grill/panini/griddle!
Removable-Plate Grills
George Foreman removable plate
Removable-plate grills are basically the same as the standard/classic grill except that the grill plates are removable for easier cleanup. Usually they can go in the dishwasher, but I really wouldn’t recommend it. I put mine in the dishwasher once or twice and I’m pretty sure that helped the nonstick coating come completely off in a few spots where it was beginning to wear down, and it also looked very dull. The good thing is that reputable manufacturers will be able to sell you replacement grill plates, so your machine could end up lasting a lot longer since that’s usually why people end up getting rid of their classic models, not because they’re broken.
Multi-Plate Grills
Multi-plate grills are really cool, because they offer more versatility in helping you keep your kitchen clear of a few more appliances! Usually they are grill/griddle options, but a few manufacturers have now come out with waffle plate options, which is really cool.
George Foreman 6-Plate Grill
I own the original version of the Cuisinart Griddler (mine has a drip cups instead of a built-in drip tray like the one in the link) and I’ve had it for many years now. I mainly use the grill plates, but the griddle plates have definitely been handy when moving and the stove is covered in boxes!! I have decided to start making more pancakes and am going to start using the griddle plates on my Griddler instead of frying pans to see if I fare any better at making decent-looking pancakes! (They taste fine, but boy are they ugly!)

My Cuisinart Griddler cooking up some grilled cheese!

For this newer version of the Griddler, you can purchase waffle plates separately, which I find interesting since their “Deluxe” and “Elite” models don’t have waffle plates and cost more. Those models have an added “top melt” heating feature and can sear at 500 degrees for two minutes at a time, which is a huge benefit because most countertop appliances cannot attain that high temperature. One of these models would definitely be what the high-heat griller in your life is looking for!

Breville Smart Grill
Black & Decker makes a 3-in-1 machine that has reversible grill/waffle plates and separate griddle plates, although their website doesn’t show images of the grill plate sides at all.
There are larger electric reversible grill/griddle appliances that are an “open” grill, meaning there’s no lid to put pressure on what you’re grilling, so you’d have to actually flip your food over to cook it like a real grill. These can be good for large families or people who do a lot of entertaining because they are generally much larger. A few examples are Cuisinart, Wolfgang Puck, & Hamilton Beach.
Wolfgang Puck Reversible Electric Grill/Griddle
Floating Hinge
One thing I love about my Griddler is the “floating hinge” feature, and I strongly recommend finding a model with an option similar to that because I think it helps cook larger items more evenly by putting an even amount of pressure on the items. With my old Proctor-Silex I always felt the front of burgers weren’t getting cooked and was constantly turning them. Now I can make thick panini sandwiches and use a potholder to push on the top of the grill to make sure it is perfectly flat and cooking the sandwich evenly. It looks like Breville uses a floating hinge on both their Smart Grill and their Panini Grill.
Breville Panini Grill floating hinge
Indoor/Outdoor Electric Grills
You can now find a variety of freestanding electric grills to cater to the growing market of consumers who aren’t allowed to have propane or charcoal grills in their apartment complexes but still want to grill! The great thing about these is that they can be used inside or outside, the bad news is you might not have that much room in the house. Also, if you are using a larger grill at full capacity, it might produce too much smoke to use indoors.
George Foreman indoor/outdoor electric grill
There’s now actually a really cool George Foreman indoor/outdoor grill that comes apart so you can use it as a countertop model indoors – the others all need to remain on their stands if brought inside.
Outdoor Electric Grills
Generally you are not going to be using anything over 1500 watts inside of your home, so anything above that is going to be able to reach higher temperatures and need to be utilized outside. The majority of outdoor electric grills are tabletop design as the intended audience are folks living in small spaces like apartment complexes that don’t allow propane or charcoal grills. Some of the popular propane and charcoal grill companies make electric outdoor grills now, which I’m sure are as good of quality as their counterparts.
Cuisinart actually makes several propane and charcoal grills, but they specifically make a tabletop outdoor electric grill or you can get it with a three-position telescoping base for the option to make it taller like a real grill.
Char-Broil outdoor electric grill
My Griddler with original grill plates
– still going strong!



Juicing in and of itself can be daunting to those who are new to it, let alone the part where you have to pick out a new appliance to accomplish all the cool new things you want to try to do. My first recommendation would be to find some books on the topic that interest you to see if there’s a particular trend in the type of appliance the authors are recommending. I would also make a list of things you intend to juice that you think might be awkward in just a regular blender, that way you can ask your salesperson qualifying questions about all the machines you might encounter to find the best fit for your individual needs.
Do NOT get suckered into whatever your friends tell you is the new best hot thing, unless your friend has been using said item for a number of years heavily and you trust their opinion. 😉 Fads come and go – these machines cost a lot of money! They will last forever if you get the right one that works for you.
As with anything, look at the type of warranty they offer and look at both positive and negative reviews to see if their customer service is reputable in case you have an issue. These machines are expensive and should last you many years if treated properly!!
Question 1 – Do you want to juice wheatgrass or other leafy greens?
Ok, you’ve decided it’s time to take a step up from your regular blender. You hear about how amazing the VitaMix is, but then there’s all these juicers, too, what’s the difference?
A VitaMix is still a blender, while an extremely powerful blender, everything you put into it pours out into your glass to drink, so if you want to add wheatgrass, you’re going to have some issues. I did find some tricks to extract the juice from the wheatgrass without a juicer, but it seems like a lot of extra work to me, personally.
VitaMix Professional Series blenders
If you don’t care about greens, then a VitaMix might be all you need. You can do all sorts of awesome things in the VitaMix like make your own nut butters, confectionary sugars, etc. so it’s a great addition to your home if you want to make more of your own pantry staples as well as juices and smoothies.
One last thing to remember is that blending your fruits and vegetables adds more oxygen (and with the VitaMix, possibly heat) which in turn reduces the amount of nutrients you are actually extracting from them.
(Don’t worry, I will cover the VitaMix and blenders in more detail in another blog post! This is just to help you figure out super-blender vs. juicer.)
Question 2 – What’s the difference between the types of juicers? (Or, as one friend said, “There’s more than one type of juicer?!?”)
Alright, so you do need to step into juicer land. But there are so many!! At least with the blenders, you know VitaMix is the next step up and that’s it! (Ok, that’s not really it, there’s a bazillion different VitaMix models and now the Ninja with their bazillion different models, too…another time!) But juicers…where to begin?!
The main difference between any juicer on the market is whether it is centrifugal, masticating, or triturating. What???
Centrifugal —> Masticating —> Triturating in this order is equal to:
Cost – lowest to highest
Nutrients extracted – lowest to highest
Speed – fastest to slowest
Foam produced – most to least
Noise – most to least
Assembly – easy to complex
Weight – light to heavy
Versatility – least to most
Omega centrifugal juicer
Centrifugal Juicers
Omega centrifugal juicer parts
Did you ever get to use a centrifuge in science class or see them use it on the TV shows when they are looking at blood samples? It’s a spinny-thing. 😉 It spins around really fast and separates substances of different densities, so with blood, you can tell what percentage of red blood cells are in it. It uses “centrifugal force”, thus its name. So, from this we can deduce a centrifugal juicer must spin around, yes? 🙂 On a juicer, it is basically a metal drum that has teeth inside of it to help rip the pulp to extract the juice.
These are the least expensive of the various juicer models and don’t have a lot of parts. Because they spin so fast, a lot of foam is produced. You also don’t retain a lot of the nutrients from what you’re juicing, so it’s recommended to drink the juice immediately after juicing to reap the benefits. The amount of juice extracted from the fruit and vegetables will also be lower than with the other styles, and they also aren’t as effective with wheatgrass or other leafy vegetables.
Breville Juice Fountain
I personally think they are kind of messy to clean up because you have to get all the pulp out of the interior. I know the Omega brand centrifugal juicer has the option of purchasing filters to make cleanup easier, but even using those I still found it to be quite messy. The Breville Juice Fountain comes with a pulp container, but I would assume the interior still needs to be cleaned like the Omega. However, I don’t have experience with this! It just makes sense as to how they work; the Breville obviously just pushes most of the pulp into another receptacle after tearing it apart in the centrifugal portion. The Juice Fountain does claim to extract more nutrients because its design reduces contact in the centrifugal piece, which is where the oxygen is coming into play.
Jack LaLanne’s Power Juicer is a centrifugal style juicer. It has a really large feed chute, which is really all that I can tell that sets it apart from other centrifugal juicers. There are different models, some of which have similar features to the Breville Juice Fountain. Remember that you do still need to take large, hard pits out of fruits, so you might still have to do a little prep work despite its large feed tube. I had a roommate who really loved these, but mentioned that she often had to replace parts on it, yet she still swore by them. She found the machines and/or their parts at Goodwill frequently and purchased them anytime she found them so that she’d have the spare parts! That doesn’t scream endurance to me, but obviously she liked it.
Jack LaLanne Power Juicer Pro
De’Longhi, Cuisinart, and Krups now also make centrifugal juicers, too!
Masticating Juicers
Masticating style juicers are what most serious juicers are probably going to own, or wish they owned, at least. These folks are more into their wheatgrass and greens and extracting more nutrients out of what they are juicing, as well. Why does that word sound familiar? Masticate. Ah – Chewing! Crushing food by grinding. And they do utilize an auger, just like a food grinder. Crazy! They actually make these in horizontal and upright styles, and each can do different things.
Omega Vert juicer
I am going to assume the mindset of folks owning these is similar to my own, which is that all serious electric juicers are expensive, so you might as well get the one that pulls more nutrients out of the produce you’re spending all that money on, while not completely breaking the bank on the even more expensive triturating style juicer. While these do have more parts than a centrifugal juicer, I personally find clean up to be much more simple because very little fruit remains on the individual parts and they are also small and easy to rinse under the faucet.
Omega Vert juicer parts
Omega’s Vert Juicer has a pulp ejection container as well as the juice container, so that makes it easier if you want to use the pulp – and there ARE ways to utilize your pulp afterwards! (Google, people!) I think this juicer is just extremely fun to use and really simple, so it’s my personal favorite. You literally just shove fruit and veggies into the top and it does its thing and plops the juice into one container and the pulp in another. Voila!
Omega Nutrition Center
The Omega Nutrition Center Juicer is their original masticating juicer, and it’s pretty simple to use, too, but since it can do so many more things besides juice, there are a lot more interchangeable parts. This machine is horizontal (Vert is…you guessed it, vertical!) and can also extrude pasta and soy milk, grind and mince coffee and herbs, make baby food, nut butters and frozen desserts. So this is obviously an amazing choice if you need the machine to do a little bit more of what you might want to do in a blender and makes this more of a comparison to a VitaMix than the other juicers. This machine doesn’t necessarily come with containers to catch the juice and the pulp (there is one small container with a sieve piece to help filter your juice more afterwards if it’s still pulpy); the juice comes out of the bottom of the “drum” and the pulp or anything else you make with the machine comes out of the front end of the “drum cap”.
Nutrition Center parts (similar pieces are interchangeable)
Omega seem to be consistently rated the top juicers in the ‘masticating’ category on most juicing sites I have discovered, and I honestly never had any customer complaints or returns with their machines, so I would definitely highly recommend Omega. However, there are other brands!
The Breville Juice Fountain Crush just came out in 2013 so there aren’t a lot of reviews available yet, but their centrifugal Juice Fountain is so highly regarded, I am sure this is going to be a really good model to try. Other brands that seem relatively popular include Hurom, Kuvings, Champion, & Big Boss. Krups has also just come out with a masticating juicer, too.
Breville Juice Fountain Crush
Triturating Juicers
Trituration is the act of grinding, like with powders in a mortar and pestle. Triturating juicers are the most expensive on the market and I have no experience with them at all, unfortunately. This type of juicer will extract the most juice of all the options because it uses very powerful twin gears that crush almost anything you put into them dry.
Angel juicer
Since triturating machines grind and crush, you can also use them as a food mill. They work rather slowly in order to keep the oxygen out and retain the nutrients, but because of this are virtually silent when operating. Very little foam is produced using this method and of course wheatgrass and greens are great in them. They can even crush harder fruits like guava, and also crushes seeds to extract their juices, too! (Be cautious – some pits can have poisonous effects and are not recommended to be eaten so know your pits and seeds!) Triturating juicers are of course very large and heavy, so storage space and having to move it around frequently might be a concern.
I would say these machines are for people who definitely have the money and the space, and to spend this kind of money on a juicer you are probably extremely serious and juice several times a day, or really just have a lot of money to spend on stuff you don’t need! 😛
Green Star juicer
The only two brands I can really seem to find, but both seem very highly recommended on juicing sites are Green Star & Green Power Juicers and Angel Juicers. Green Star & Green Power were the mostly widely recognized name and several models seemed to be recommended across several sites.
Wheatgrass Juicers
Weston manual wheatgrass juicer
You can get both manual and electric wheatgrass-only juicers. I’ve never actually utilized one of these. The Miracle brand seems to have a few electric wheatgrass juicer models that can also handle other leafy greens, soft fruits and berries, but normally these machines are only for wheatgrass.
Miracle electric wheatgrass juicer
Electric Citrus Juicers
Just to add clarification, there are a lot of juicers made by all the brand names you are used to seeing on your other kitchen appliances. Most of these look very similar to a countertop glass or ceramic citrus juicer on the top, and that’s because that’s the only thing they can juice are citrus fruits. These are great for people who just like to make their own fresh orange juice or have a home bar and like to squeeze fresh citrus juice quickly and easily. Or, a summertime lemonade stand! 🙂
Cuisinart electric citrus juicers
I have always had good luck with the Cuisinart juicer, and a lot of customers were excited when Bodum released theirs because it has two speeds, although it doesn’t look like Bodum is marketing the juicer anymore so perhaps production has stopped. There are still a lot of places to purchase it online and the price doesn’t look any lower, haha!
Breville citrus juicer
Breville also makes one, as does Black and Decker, Waring Pro, Krups, Proctor Silex, Hamilton Beach, and many more!
Manual Citrus Juicers
We might as well round it out with the classics since we’ve talked about EVERYTHING else! We’re almost done, I promise!
You’ve got your basic glass or ceramic citrus juicer that’s kind of like a dish. Pretty much all stores sell the same brands from the same distributors like Harold Import Co.
Ceramic countertop citrus juicer
Brands like Chef’n and Prepara have gadgetized that classic idea with storage and measuring devices for the juice to fall into. I really like the Chef’n Juicester because of the measuring piece – it even has small measurement markings. Cleverly, I must say, you can just tilt the Juicester to the small measurement side to see how many teaspoons you’ve got! (The Juicester XL does NOT have the measurements, presumably because you want a lot of juice, not a little!)
Chef’N Juicester measuring teaspoons!
You’ve got citrus reamers – in plastic/melamine, stainless steel, and wood. (You want something non-reactive since citrus is acidic.) Oh, and now there’s even silicone!
Zak! melamine citrus reamers
Hand-held citrus squeezers (I really like the idea of the 2-in-1 Lemon & Lime juicer at the bottom!).
Chef’n hand held lime squeezer
And then there’s the big honking manual bar juicers. Most actual bars will own a commercial juice press, and popular brands include Cilio (search through the “Products —> Bar”), Amco’s OrangeX (I am wondering if I can’t find a direct manufacturer link because the juicers are sold through commercial distributors only??), Metrokane, and the Hamilton Beach Commercial Citrus Juicer.
cilio commercial juice press
Alright guys & gals, I am juicer-ed out! I learned a ton researching this blog – I would have been a WAY better salesperson if I had to write an essay like this about them, haha!. I must admit that in doing all this research that I also feel it’s the most comprehensive thing I’ve seen about juicers online, so take that, internet! 🙂