15 Surprisingly Useful Kitchen Tools That Home Cooks Say Are Totally Worth It, Starting at Just $4.59
When it comes to kitchen tools and essentials, you probably have the basics down: pots, pans, prep bowls, a good knife, maybe even an Instant Pot, air fryer, or stand mixer. All of these things make mealtimes so much easier and more enjoyable, but if you really want to take your skills to the next level or save precious time when meal prepping, you may need to add a few new items to your kitchen.
Whether you’re mastering baking scones or simply frying an egg for breakfast, these genius gadgets and tools — some of them tiny and others a bit more complex — have changed the cooking routines and kitchen habits of these home cooks for the better, and now they can’t imagine life without them. You may just find they become a standby in your cupboards and drawers too!
1. A Pastry Cutter
Baking requires its own set of special tools to ensure your scones, muffins, cookies, and more come out looking and tasting delicious. The “butter cutter” tool is one such standout, and goes by several names, including pastry blender and dough blender. Whatever you call it, it makes baking life so much easier.
“I make a lot of scones, and a key part in that process is rubbing the butter into the flour until it looks like bread crumbs. Not only does it take forever, but the more you handle the butter, the less flaky your scones end up — and the more sore your hands feel afterwards,” says Alle Connell of Philadelphia. “Enter this Wolverine-looking implement. You literally just punch and rotate this little gadget into your bowl of flour and butter, and it’s blended in no time. Your scones (or whatever) will never taste better.”
2. A Dough Whisk
Early on in the pandemic, Rachel Goldfarb of New York City bought a dough whisk, and it quickly became something she can’t live without. She says it is “so useful for everything from combining bread ingredients before kneading to making pancakes or quick bread batters,” and notes that it’s almost impossible to overmix while using it.
3. A Silicone Popcorn Maker
Lauren Nicholas of Queens, New York, calls her silicone popcorn popper the “greatest purchase” she’s ever made, and it’s changed her snacking game for good. “Popcorn is my favorite snack, but microwave popcorn is so wasteful and not eco-friendly,” she says. Her washable investment piece, however, “lets me make the perfect amount of popcorn, pops every kernel, and it doesn’t require butter or oil, so I can customize how much I put on it. I use it at least once a week.”
4. An Easy-to-Use Chopper
Gadgets that make prep a breeze are essential for many home cooks, and the “pull chopper,” which goes by several different names, has long been a popular choice for fast and simple chopping. “I use it for garlic, shallots, jalapeños, Thai chiles, ginger…” says Elizabeth Cao. “I don’t have a dishwasher and my prep space is pretty small, so if all I need is to chop up some garlic or other aromatics, then I use this since it’s fun to use, faster than mincing stuff up by hand, and I don’t mind the clean-up!
5. A Butter Crock
Brit Prawat of Indiana recently bought a butter crock for her countertop and it made both breakfast and cooking more convenient. “I’d forgotten I liked toast once upon a time, because I had been avoiding it because of unspreadable butter,” she shares. “It’s also useful just to have on hand while sautéing onions and veggies or toasting rice or grains.”
6. Squeeze Bottles
Cooking oils can be one of the messiest parts of prep and cooking, but Bailey Thomas of New York City hacked her routine with small squeeze bottles. “I keep them on the countertop for my various cooking oils, like vegetable, olive, grapeseed … they are SO much more efficient and less messy than trying to get a glug out of the big jug,” she says.
7. A Fish Spatula
Jane Heeter of Virginia’s favorite gadget is a fish spatula, even though she doesn’t eat fish. “I use it to flip everything, divvy up portions, and most importantly, check the underside of my pizzas on the stone to see if they’re done.”
8. A Citrus Press
Tess Lyle of Atlanta uses her Breville citrus press near-daily in her favorite beverages. “My fiancé and I love fresh orange juice (who doesn’t?), but we also like to juice a bunch of lemons at once to use in tea, water, and recipes throughout the week,” she shares. “It’s so much quicker than either a hand press or the citrus juicer attachment for my KitchenAid mixer, and it gets every single drop of juice out. I could write a thesis on how much I love this thing.”
9. A Pasta-Measuring Tool
Michal Stein of Toronto uses her pasta measuring tool faithfully to make sure she isn’t making a massive amount of food that will only go to waste. “I love pasta, but my eyes are ALWAYS bigger than my stomach!” she explains. “It measures up to four servings, and it’s accurate — the other night I made three servings’ worth of pasta for just me and my roommate, and it was, in fact, WAY too much!”
10. An Electric Kettle
Folu Akinkuotu of Boston makes her electric kettle do double-duty when she needs any amount of boiling water for meal preps, too. “[I use it] not only for making tea, but it cuts down on the amount of time necessary for boiling water because that always takes forever on my crappy apartment stovetop,” she says.
11. An Egg Pan
Are eggs a standby of your diet, but you hate using a giant pan to cook them? Jean E. Compton of Chicago solved that issue with a perfectly singular pan and spatula. “I have a tiny little single-egg-sized frying pan and then a tiny little single-egg-sized spatula flipper for it,” she says. “I bought it halfway through 2020, and it lets me make a perfect l’il fried egg for one without dirtying a whole big pan.”
12. A Splatter Guard
Rachel Chodkowski of Denver’s favorite product, the Frywall splatter guard, was originally seen on “Shark Tank,” and she’s thankful the sharks said yes. “I love it for cooking splatters; it has greatly minimized the amount of time I spend cleaning my stove for sure,” she says. “It’s also great for cooking down greens in a pan that might be a little small.”
13. A Pizza Stone
Kristen Zearfoss loves a multitasking product and uses her pizza stone for much more than baking pies. “It’s become such a go-to for us, not only for pizza and pizza-like things, but also sandwiches and roasting vegetables, and it’s become our method of choice for reheating takeout,” she says.
14. A Vacuum Sealer
Cooking isn’t just about chopping, juicing, and frying. It’s also about thinking ahead and making life easier for future you. “Our vacuum sealer was a game changer so we could finally buy big packs of chicken,” says Samm Brush of Durham, NC. “We do one big meat shopping trip a month, cut and season it all, and vacuum seal it. It helps keep our freezer neat and organized!”
15. A Blade Brush
Washing knives can be intimidating, but Alicia Hamilton of Canada’s go-to gadget, the Joseph Joseph Blade Brush, makes it slightly less scary. “I should not be trusted near sharp items. I always cut myself,” she says of her pick. “This brush has made cleaning knives and other kitchen blades much easier and safer.” Your knife does a lot of hard work — why not treat it to a safe and satisfying rubdown when it’s clean-up time?