You don't have to spend a lot to give a gift that exceeds expectations. Some of the top-performing small appliances and housewares in Consumer Reports tests are also the most affordable. We call them CR Best Buys and include them on our top picks lists. In our labs we've found such bargains as a knife set for $60, a $30 drip coffeemaker, a versatile blender for $40, and more. Here are some standouts to include on this season's gift list.
At $40, the Mr. Coffee BVMC-SJX33GT is a CR Best Buy. The brew performance of the 8- to 14-cup model was excellent, and convenience and carafe handling were very good. A similar model, the Mr. Coffee BVMC-EHX33CP, is sold at Costco for $30. The 15 drip coffeemakers on Consumer Reports recommended list range in price from $30 to $180. A brew-and-dispense model from Mr. Coffee, the BVMC-ZH1B, is also a Best Buy at $50. None of the three recommended pod coffeemakers were named Best Buys. They range in price from $100 to $150.
Stand mixers are a popular holiday gift but this year none of the four we recommend were tagged as Best Buys. All good performers, they range in price from $180 to $300. If you don't want to spend three figures, our CR Best Buy hand mixer can be had for just $30. It's the Cooks 10-Speed HM820 from JC Penney and it was a whiz on both our whipping and mixing tests.
Toasters and toaster ovens
At about $35, the Hamilton Beach Digital 22502 two-slice toaster, a CR Best Buy, wasn't the greatest thing since sliced bread but it toasted evenly and was a cinch to use. If the recipient has more counter space, you can opt for a four-slice toaster or even a toaster oven. The Oster TSSTTVMNDG toaster oven earned a CR Best Buy and at $80 is a bargain compared to the two Brevilles on our recommended list, which sell for $180 and $250. In addition to making good toast, the Oster was very good at baking and broiling.
The EarthPan Hard Anodized set, $170, was the best of the three sets from this brand we tested and is a CR Best Buy. The 10-piece set (including lids) was very good at withstanding our nonstick durability test in which steel wool is rubbed over a pan for up to 2,000 strokes. The nonstick coating on the other two EarthPan sets wore out before 400 strokes. Cooking evenness was very good and ease of cleaning and handle sturdiness were excellent.
The KitchenAid KFP715[WH], $100, was great at the basics—slicing, shredding, pureeing—but cooks who like to prepare large batches of food may be disappointed by its smaller, 7-cup capacity. It's very quiet, but chopping and grating were not as impressive as some other models. It has touchpad controls and a one-year warranty.
The CR Best Buy of our knife sets was Ginsu Chikara, an eight-piece forged set that can be found online for as little as $60. Our testers said the knives were champs at cutting and the handles were comfortable. Consumer Reports also tested some knives endorsed by celebrity cooks Paula Deen and Rachel Ray but found they didn't make the cut.
The Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004 blender was a whiz at crushing ice and making icy drinks and held up well after multiple ice-smashing sessions. You can find it online for $50 or less. Of the 11 blenders we recommend, it's the least expensive. We also recommended three immersion blenders, the CR Best Buy is the Miallegro Professional MiTutto 9090, which sells for $50 and includes several attachments.
—Mary H.J. Farrell