These days, it seems like there’s an appliance for everything. From the Ninja CREAMi to the nugget ice machine, it can sometimes feel like you need at least 30 appliances to stock your kitchen, at least according to internet influencers. But do you really? Those gadgets and gizmos can be costly, hard to clean, cumbersome, and often useless.

So how do you determine which appliances and kitchen items you actually need? How do you choose the right brand and price point? We conducted a survey with the Spoon community to find out what home cooks think about these four popular kitchen appliances: air fryers, cast iron pans, chef's knives, and immersion blenders. Here are the kitchen essentials home cooks recommend.

Air fryers are very useful or a complete gimmick.

Photo by Claudia Totir/Getty Images

Air fryers are very controversial. We all know at least one evangelist (“it will literally change your life!”), but many air fryer owners admit to rarely using them. In our survey, over half of those who own an air fryer use it weekly, while 20% confessed to never using this trendy gadget. When it comes to cost, most air fryer owners spent between $50 and $170.

Despite mixed opinions, 56% of participants recommend an air fryer to someone moving into their first kitchen. One respondent noted, "It's mostly a gimmick, but extremely useful at random times." Air fryers were praised for their versatility and meat-cooking abilities. However, some felt they were too large and round, taking up precious space in small kitchens. To make clean-up easier, users suggested using liners or silicone bakeware.

Cast iron pans just keep getting better.

Photo by Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian from Unsplash

Since the advent of nonstick pans in the 1960s, cast iron pans have often been cast aside as “old-fashioned” and hard to care for. Many home cooks fear that they will accidentally ruin a cast iron pan. But the classic cookware has recently experienced a resurgence in popularity, as people realize they are more sustainable than nonstick pans, which have to be replaced after around five years, and free of potentially harmful chemicals.

Over half of our survey participants use their cast iron pan weekly or more, and cleaning the cast iron wasn’t an issue for over 80% of respondents.

More than three-quarters of cast iron owners recommended them to home chefs stocking their first kitchen. Users raved about its utility and superiority over nonstick cookware. As one enthusiast exclaimed, "Once you get it seasoned, it is indispensable. Better than any nonstick cookware at any price." Although the weight was occasionally mentioned as a drawback, users agreed that cast iron pans were worth the effort. At any rate, you’ll get super buff from all the heavy lifting!

Chef's knives are a good value at any price.

Photo by Kevin Doran from Unsplash

With over 85% of survey participants owning a chef's knife, it's clear that this tool is essential for first kitchens. Most use it weekly, if not daily.

Cost-wise, chef's knives are distributed across a wide range. Survey respondents spent as little as $11 up to over $170, but the greatest percentage fell between $70 and $120. As one survey taker put it, "You don't need an expensive knife, just a sharp knife."

Over 95% of knife owners recommended a chef's knife to someone setting up their first kitchen. Users emphasized the knife's versatility and necessity for cutting proteins, chopping veggies, and even opening packages. One respondent said their chef’s knife was “My most used tool by far,” and another called it “the only knife you really need!”

Immersion blenders are kinda nice, but only if you know how to use them.

Opinions on immersion blenders were (*cringing at myself*) mixed. According to one respondent, “[immersion blenders] have very limited use and are impossible to clean.” Another respondent gushed “SO much easier than a blender, way less cleanup, you NEED this.”

Usage varies. While just over half used it once a month, 15% admitted to never using it.

Interestingly, less than half would recommend an immersion blender to someone stocking their first kitchen. Some respondents believed it was unnecessary unless you know how to use it effectively. Others suggested opting for a more versatile food processor instead.

So, do you really need that kitchen item?

In our survey, chef’s knives and cast iron pans came highly recommended, while air fryers and immersion blenders were more divisive. We hope these results have helped you determine what appliances you actually need. Of course, every home chef has a unique cooking style and recipe repertoire, and thus varying appliance needs. There’s no one size fits all. Before making your choices, consider your cooking needs and preferences to equip your kitchen with the essentials that work best for you.