Inside Good Housekeeping's Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab

- Should you spend $500 on a Vitamix blender? Will a $6,000 professional stove top help you cook like a chef?

I visited the Kitchen Appliances and Technology Lab at the Good Housekeeping Institute to sort out the must haves from maybe nots, with Director Sharon Franke.

The day I visited, Sharon was testing 8-inch chef's knives. If you buy one knife, she says, this is the one to have. You can use it for just about anything: chopping, slicing, and mincing.

Sharon and her team recently tested the best coffee makers for your buck. One of their picks: a Black and Decker, under $30, that makes a nice cup of coffee, keeps it hot, and was a very cleanly designed product.

A staple at the Good House Keeping Institute for 30 years, Sharon has looked at a lot of kitchen gadgets and says less is more. You need essentials and you need them to be high quality. Sharon suggests cookware that's sturdy and has some heft. She also suggests good, sharp knives that feel good in your hand.

But, she doesn't think you need to get a food processor. Sharon says she can't think of many things that a food processor does that you can't do in another way.

And while the KitchenAid mixer is the best out there, if you don't bake often, Sharon says you don't need that either.

She also doesn't think you need to spend a fortune on a blender. While the Vitamix is a great product that does a good job, Sharon says unless you're going to make smoothies every morning for breakfast, you can buy any good blender that will puree soup and make an occasional smoothie for you.

When it comes to refrigerators, she says, stainless steel, French doors, and freezers on the bottom are the trend right now.

The last time the lab tested refrigerators, Haier, an American brand, came out on top and was one of the least expensive units they tested.

If you want to save some money but still get quality, look no further than your range. Sharon says a few years ago they looked at a $600 Hotpoint that performed as well as a $6,000 professional range.

They love finding less expensive products like that in the Kitchen Appliances lab. Sharon says there are certain brands that always test well in the lab, year after year.

Henckel and Wusthof knives, All-Clad and Calphalon cookware, and Breville and Cuisinart electrics are always standouts. But they often find surprises like that under $30 coffee pot. If you don't have to have the fanciest appliances out there, you can find some great deals.

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