Someone adjusting an air fryer, which is a multifunctional appliance.
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All in one

Multifunctional Appliances - Is 3 in 1 Always Better? What to Know.

Steve Hansen
November 15, 2023

Keeping a household running smoothly is a lot of work, and we all need some “hardware” that helps us from day to day to get the tasks done. Some of that hardware is in the kitchen, some is in the laundry room, and other stuff is scattered around here and there. You always have the option of buying one unit, or appliance, for example, to handle one task. But we also often have the option of buying products that purport to handle two, three, and even more tasks. Do those units really work? Is that a more efficient purchase? And what other advantages might they provide?

What’s the Point?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering buying multifunctional appliances:

The first question, for me, is, what’s the point? Do you save money? Do you lighten your environmental load? I definitely like to minimize my impact on the earth with all the stuff I buy. So if one product really can handle three or five tasks, that seems to be more efficient, and it helps me do my part. And do you save space? That could be a huge benefit for those of us who live in small spaces.

And what exactly are you achieving with this focus on multifunction machines? And what is the tradeoff? Do you have to pay more? Or accept a somewhat lesser performance? I still need the appliance or tool to do its job, after all, especially if it’s a daily-use type of item, such as kitchen gear. Especially kitchen gear. Anything I use every day just has to work really well. So let’s start there, in the kitchen.

Kitchen Appliances

Does it seem that the days of the big oven are more or less over? If you don’t need to cook a 15-pound turkey, you don’t really need to crank up the big oven very often. Small appliances can handle the job just fine and probably save energy, as well.

This air fryer/toaster oven combo unit, for example, caught my attention. I live in a small space with minimal counter space, so adding an air fryer that can toast bread means it would certainly replace my toaster oven. The bin-type or drawer-type air fryers can’t do that, so this one seems much more versatile. It will handle six slices of bread or a normal-sized pizza, and it cooks faster than a toaster oven. Not as fast as a microwave oven, no doubt, but it will make your food crispy. This seems like a winner!

The Instant Pot Pro, like all Instant Pot models, can do so much. They are crazy versatile for people who really cook, as opposed to just reheating food in a microwave. The pressure cooker function cuts cooking time by a lot for things like beans and rice, and you also get a bunch of programmability. You can put all the goods into the pot in the morning, set it up to be ready for dinner, and then go off to work. Viola! That’s the magic of the slow-cooker function, and it’s so handy. I don’t see why you would use a saucepan on the stovetop when you have this at your disposal.

Some folks do like their microwave ovens, and combining it with a convection oven makes it a lot more versatile with no drawbacks. In fact, a convection oven is much like an even better version of an air fryer. Like an air fryer, a convection oven uses a fan to circulate hot air, but a convection oven will have both top and bottom heating elements for more even heating. One criticism I keep noticing of air fryers is that they can cook too quickly. Your food can be overcooked, burnt, dried out, and so on. So keep an eye on that as you learn to cook with this appliance and note your cook times will likely be shorter.

There’s also a substantial difference between reheating and actual cooking. When you’re reheating, you’re just getting the food to the temperature you want. It’s already cooked and safe to eat. With actual cooking, you are getting the food to a safe temperature for human consumption, and that’s especially important for foods like chicken and fish. So, having precise control as you do with a convection oven will never let you down.

This brings up another point: when you use a digital appliance like this, you get about a million times more control and precision compared to using the stovetop. You can literally program that machine to have dinner ready at 6:30 p.m. Your oven may be able to do that as well, but these devices are more efficient.

Cleaning and Upkeep Appliances

Laundry is always going to be a big task. That’s life. If you have limited space, you might consider having just a washer/dryer combo unit instead of the standard washer and dryer. But holy cow! They are expensive! I am only seeing name brands like GE and LG for more than $2000! I guess that is asking one machine to do a lot, so it has to be a pretty complex machine. So, while I’d like to show you a magic laundry machine for $800 that will wash and dry your grubby duds, I don’t see them. I see newer brand names, and I wouldn’t expect much from them. A clothes washer is a heavy-duty machine. It has to work bloody hard, and I would only trust top brand names. Maybe next year, some reliable manufacturer will step up and hit this niche. But for now, this is a luxury item, at best.

Other cleaning tasks, though, are more accessible. This steam mop is pretty reasonable at $70. You can keep your hard floors clean without harsh chemicals, and it has attachments so you can take the wrinkles out of your clothes, as well. I’d have to say that this seems like a good idea. I have a cheap little sponge mop, and it’s junk. After the first use, it’s dirty and it’s ready for the trash. You can’t replace the cleaning part, and that’s so wasteful. The whole thing has to go into the trash. Bad purchase on my part, for sure. This steam mop, however, comes with replaceable cleaning pads, so you could experiment with washing those and reusing them. And even if/when you can clean and reuse, you’re not trashing very much.

Multifunction Is Often the Better Way

It looks like single-function products are often not a great idea. Why use up all that space and resources for one function when two or three functions will combine quite well? This is just a smarter way to do things.

Editor’s note: If you make a purchase through our affiliate partner links, we may receive a commission. This does not impact the recommendations we make.

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