The Tramontina 6.5-quart Enamel Cast Iron Dutch Oven gets the nod at this price point, retailing for around $50.
A large cast-iron pot with an enamel finish, the Tramontina is perfect for deep frying, baking bread or cooking soups and stews, McManus says.
"It's a kitchen workhorse at an unbelievable price," she says.
Plunk down around $300 and you can buy what McManus considers perhaps the world's best coffee maker: the handmade Technivorm Moccamaster.
The Dutch-built Moccamaster features special copper coils that heat water to a 195-205 degree range in six minutes -- the perfect time and temperature needed to extract maximum flavor from ground coffee.
By contrast, most other coffee makers McManus has tested take around 24 minutes to hit the correct temperature range, then only stay there for about one minute.
"If the water is too hot or too cold when it hits the coffee, you get all of these bad compounds that affect taste," McManus says. "The Moccamaster is one of the only coffee makers that applies the correct science to making coffee."
One more tip: Get the Moccamaster KBT741 model, whose stainless-steel coffee pot preserves coffee's flavor longer than the KBG741 model's glass container does.
$500 and up
At this top-of-the-line price point, McManus recommends the $500 Vitamix 5200 blender.
"(The Vitamix) is the ultimate dream-worthy blender," she says. "You just say that name to anyone who's a chef and they'll say, 'Ooh, that's a nice blender.' It's very expensive, but very powerful."