It’s no secret that I love to cook. I think the reason that some people shy away from it is that they don’t have the proper tools which make the job hard and the outcome uncertain.
But let’s say that you decide to give it a go. If you watch cooking shows or hit up a kitchen supply store, it’s likely that you’ll be presented with a plethora of great gadgets for every purpose under the sun. They’re all pretty, clever and cute items that insist you NEED them in your kitchen. Anybody want to shell out $20 (each) for a butter warming knife, cheese gun or garlic roaster? $30 for a breakfast sandwich maker? How about $15 for some finger tongs so you don’t have to actually touch the food you’re eating? (No, I’m not kidding. I even posted some of the crazier ones I came across!)
This just makes me chuckle. I have a kitchen full of very basic and inexpensive tools that I use all the time so stash your credit card for just a sec while I show how economical it can be to outfit your kitchen with my list of 17 essential kitchen tools that won’t break your budget.
Take Time To Appreciate The Little Things
These are the true unsung heroes of the kitchen! Every single one is under $20 (most are under $15) and they make everything run more smoothly.
Call me crazy but this is my favorite vegetable peeler. It’s simple and basic but has many uses. Peeling fruits and vegetables, of course, but also use it to shave chocolate, Parmesan or soap, peel the zest off citrus fruits and de-string celery.
Any peeler can do all that but the reason I stick with this particular style is that of the pointy end. Use it to dig out potato eyes and bruised spots or hull strawberries. After cutting the top off a pepper, you can easily slide the end of this peeler inside to remove the seeds and pith while leaving the pepper intact, which is especially useful for smaller peppers such as jalapeño.
I know a lot of you will disagree with me about this one. I’ve even seen plenty of articles that mock this item as a waste of money and space but I do not care. Trying to hang onto that slippery egg to cut it into any sort of uniform shape adds unnecessary stress to my life.
With this handy-dandy egg cutter, you just pop it on and lower the lid, using the stainless steel wires to cut through the hard-boiled egg. A quick 90° rotation and one more snap of the cover will give you perfect, tiny, egg squares that you can simply dump into the bowl straight from the cutter. And it just rinses clean.
I love egg sandwiches and make them in dozens of combinations. These little egg rings make perfect egg rounds to fit on an English muffin, bagel or biscuit. The silicone design makes a tight seal to the pan to prevent leakage and will not scratch. When the egg is cooked, you can pick the ring up by its little head without the fear of heat transference. And it matches my egg slicer. That counts as coordinating my kitchen, right?
Despite the name, I don’t ever use these to make cakes or pastries (although you certainly could!) I use them for making sandwich rolls from homemade bread dough. I originally got them to make brioche rolls (which has thinner dough and actually does need a mold) but now I use them for shaping whatever breads I make. The rolls come out perfectly shaped and in matching portions, which is something I’m never able to achieve when shaping rolls by hand.
I did learn that the rings should be greased well before each use (I use cooking spray) to avoid sticking. I portion my dough out into 8 rings per loaf-sized dough ball on the final rise but you could make more or fewer rolls as you see fit. When they’re done baking, I simply use kitchen tongs to lift the rings off the (perfectly shaped and totally even) rolls.
Side note: The reason I make rolls, not loaves, is that I’m single and would never use a whole loaf of bread before it goes stale. I can freeze rolls for up to 3 months AND I can make a variety of different flavors to have on hand.
These are far superior to quilted oven mitts or potholders. They can withstand much higher heat without it penetrating through to your hands and they don’t wear thin as the quilted ones do. You can use either the mitt or potholder to protect countertops when setting down hot items.
I do have one caveat, however. There’s definitely a learning curve as these do not flex or mold to surfaces as well as cloth. I recommend a practice run before attempting to pull a hot pan out of the oven!
I have this exact set and I love them! These tongs are made from 1mm stainless steel which makes them sturdy without being too cumbersome. They have a unique pull ring on the top to ensure that your tongs will never be locked closed when you want them opened and vice versa. The best part is the silicone tips and grips which provide a non-slip surface for your fingers and the item you’re picking up. whether it be a delicate wonton or one of the heavy gauge steel molds I mentioned above.
This colorful grater set makes short work of anything you have to grate. I find that the 13” length makes it easy to use when grating or zesting. It comes with 3 separate graters (held together with a silicone band) which will ensure you have the right size for any job!
Use this once and you’ll never look back! It makes prep work ridiculously easy and mess-free. It has three thicknesses for perfectly even and precise slices every time!
The non-skid base and ridges allow you to put this right on top of a bowl or (cool) pan and drop all the ingredients right where they need to be.
This just makes my life easier. I like the fact that it contains the mess when I’m working with dough (just pick it up and dump the “remains” in the trash!). It’s easy to peel your pastry off, takes the guesswork out of measuring it to fit in a pan and cleans up easily.
Because it’s silicone, it also doubles as a baking sheet and oven liner which is a great way to reduce one-use items such as parchment paper and aluminum foil. It won’t be long before you recoup your cost by reducing your purchase of throw-away kitchen lining products!
I love this gigantic 18” x 12” board because it’s big enough for any job. It’s easier on your knives than plastic and, because bamboo is a grass, it’s more sustainable than wood.
Feel The Power!
Time to get plugged in with some awesome electric appliances. Again, I’ve listed the less expensive, basic models here but they do the job as advertised!
This gem is great for chopping just about anything. I’ve had mine for well over 20 years (yes, this exact brand) and I use it all the time. It’s especially handy chopping onions into little tiny pieces to hide in food, (don’t tell my kids ;-)) but it can also be used for any vegetable, nuts, salsa, salad dressing, herbs, bread or cracker crumbs. The pulsing action gives you plenty of control while the bi-level stainless steel blades stay sharp, providing long-lasting performance.
I know there are fancier models out there but I have this basic blender in my kitchen. There’s a very real possibility that I just don’t know what I’m missing but this baby has always done everything I’ve asked of it. Smoothies, salad dressings, sauces, shredding cooked meat, ricing cauliflower and broccoli. I like the glass jar because it won’t get scratched or hold flavors.
I finally got a KitchenAid Mixer when a total stranger gave it to me at his company Christmas party. (He had won it) While I’d love to give this a rom-com ending and say we lived happily ever after, it ain’t true. I never saw him again. I’m happy to report, however, that my KitchenAid and I have never had a cross word between us!
I love this thing so much I could write a whole article about it. Oh, wait…I did!! Take a gander at this to find out why I would never use another mixer
Yes, it cooks rice. But if you mix some cubed meat and chopped-up veggies in with the rice and water, you have a delicious one-pot meal in less than 30 minutes! Suspend food in the steamer rack to cook separately (with or without rice on the bottom). It will even keep your meal warm until you’re ready to eat.
It makes oatmeal, mac and cheese, soups, chili and stewed fruit. You can even use it to bake bread and cakes. An important feature to me is that it’s compact, easy to use and easy to clean.
I’ve saved the most important for last. What good is having all the above-mentioned tools if your food is not cooked to perfection? If you want to know when something is done, a thermometer will never do you wrong.
I think we all know that meat and poultry should be cooked to a certain temperature but when was the last time you took that leftover lasagna out of the microwave and sat down to have a good nosh only to find out it was still cold in the middle? A perfectly heated (or reheated) food should read 160℉ so next time stick a thermometer in it!
What about baked goods? Sure you can jiggle your puddings and poke your cake but did you know that you can have a better gauge by using a thermometer? Bread comes out of the oven at 190℉, while cake prefers to be around 205℉.
Bonus? Every single one of these thermometers is under $10.
This is a nice, light thermometer that can be used to monitor smaller or more delicate items such as bread, cake or meatballs. It’s dishwasher safe and the stainless steel construction ensures that it will last for years to come. It can even be calibrated! I’ve used this kind of thermometer in an industrial setting so I know that it will hold up for years!
I like this one for larger items as well as meat and poultry. I like that the recommended temperatures are right on the face and moveable target temperature indicator can be placed at the desired temperature so I can easily know when the item is ready to be removed from the oven. I have not had good luck with putting these in the dishwasher as the steam penetrates the housing and the resulting condensation makes the face hard to read.
I hate it when the bottoms of my biscuits burn before the tops brown! Since I’ve placed one of these in my oven to make sure the temp is accurate, it’s never happened again.
Let The Adventure Begin!
I know you’re want to get busy outfitting your kitchen. I just wanted to take a minute to let you know that I use every single one of these items on a daily basis so I can vouch for how valuable they are.
What’s your favorite unsung kitchen hero? Let me know in the comments below!
All my best,