Every chef (or busy mom who throws food on the table on a semi-regular basis) needs the best kitchen tools for the job. Take a peek at this gift guide of my favorite cooking essentials; they will save you time and energy, and will make cooking more fun.
Disclaimer: This post is completely unsponsored. I’m just sharing things that I love. However, I have included affiliate links to the products mentioned. As always, feel free to shop around for the best deals. See my full disclosure here.
I love to cook. As I’ve mentioned before, I come from a family that regularly texts each other pictures of the family recipes we are making for holidays. I usually get things like spatulas and garlic presses in my Easter basket, and kneading bread is one of my favorite ways to get out any aggression.
What can I say? I love to eat good food, and I love the process of bringing it into being. I’ve collected a pretty good arsenal of cooking tools over the years, and today I thought I’d share with you some of my favorites.
All of these are things that I have personally purchased, or that I have received as gifts from friends and family (i.e. – I’m not getting paid to tell you I love anything…I’m just telling you anyway). These are the kitchen tools that I use regularly and pretty much cannot imagine life without.
And the best part? They are all under 20 dollars. No fancy gadgetry for me…just good, time-saving tools that get the job done and make cooking more enjoyable. Although, I will share my ONE splurge item (the best wedding gift I didn’t ask for!) at the end.
So, whether you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone, or you just want to treat yourself, take a look!
Best Kitchen Tools Under $20
This is my FAVORITE thing to cook with. I know what you’re thinking…it’s just a whisk. But you’re wrong. This whisk it amazing. It’s smaller than most whisks, but that means that the wires are closer together and stiffer, so you have more control over your stirring. I use this ALL. THE. TIME. We’re talking multiple times a day. I use it to beat eggs, make sauces, make batter. Basically, if I have to stir something, this is the first thing I reach for. I have bought it for multiple friends and family members as gifts because I think everyone needs this whisk. Yep…I’m a food nerd. I’m okay with it.
These measuring spoons changed my life. I found them randomly at TJ Maxx one day (and sadly have never seen them there again). I was intrigued because I hate how most measuring spoons are a pain to use and keep track of because you either have to take them off the ring they come with, or you have to hold the others awkwardly out of the way to use the one spoon you want. These spoons are brilliant. They are magnetic, so they separate and snap back together easily. They are also double sided, so you can choose which shape fits best into the container you’re measuring from. Plus, using both sides = fewer dishes. Hooray! It took me awhile to track down where to buy these, but now I have given them to quite a few people as gifts because I think they’re so clever and awesome.
Funny story about kitchen scales. My wonderful husband bought me one a few years ago for Christmas, and I actually returned it because I didn’t think I’d use it that much. Little did I know. A few months later, I started noticing that some of my favorite food bloggers use scales regularly in their cooking. Now, I weigh dough to get equal-size rolls and meat to get hamburgers the size I want. It’s great for recipes that give you weight rather than volume. Plus, it doubles nicely as a postal scale. (Did you know it’s cheaper to mail things if you weigh and print the labels at home? Plus, then you don’t have to wait in super long holiday lines at the post office.)
I got this set of bowls for my wedding seven years ago, and they still look pristine. I threw away all my old mixing bowls in favor of these three workhorses. They are practically perfect in every way: non-slip bottom, nest inside each other, a handle to stabilize, and a spout to pour batter easily. Technically, they cost a little more than $20, but you’re getting three bowls, so they’re only about $8 each. Totally worth it.
This is more of a gadgety tool, but I love it. I have fond memories of turning the crank on our apple peeler growing up and then playing with/eating the loooong string of apple peel that resulted. But beyond just being fun to use (my boys love to help me with it now), it’s a super fast way to peel apples (or pears) for a variety of recipes. I use this for pies, muffins, crockpot applesauce, and for my favorite caramel apple bundt cake…among other things. I suppose it’s not a kitchen necessity, but I love it, and it definitely cuts down significantly on prep time when I use it.
When we got married, my husband didn’t know what a ramekin was. We received some for our wedding, and I was super excited. He, on the other hand, thought we should return them. I won (smart man), and he has since been converted to the wonderful versatility of the ramekin. We use them for holding the au jus when we make my fave French dip sandwiches, we put toppings for Hawaiian haystacks in them, we use them to hold salsa or dip, and about a million other things. Not to mention they really are good for making creme brulee (which, incidentally, is not as hard as I thought it would be). I actually want to get a few more because we use them so often.
I’ve long said that I could probably live off of just fresh fruit and pasta. And pasta is so much better with real Parmesan cheese (not the grainy stuff). My husband bought me this grater for our first Christmas together (he knows me well), and I have loved it! We use it all time for grating cheese on top of dishes, but it’s also good for when you want to make a good alfredo sauce or fondue (the grainy cheese just doesn’t work well for those). A simple tool, but it makes a big difference in taste.
My college roommate Holly introduced me to a bench knife (AKA – bench scraper). If you do much baking, this is an essential tool. Dough can be a pain to get off of counters and cutting boards, but this little guy makes clean up a breeze. It can also be used for dividing dough, scooping chopped veggies and such into a pan, and I also use it in my family’s favorite cherry braid recipe. It even has a little ruler on it for recipes that require a little more precision.
How did I cook before I had a thermometer? I honestly don’t know. I never serve meat without checking the temperature first. A good thermometer is definitely a kitchen essential in my book, especially if you want your meat done but not dry. I couldn’t actually find the same thermometer that I have, but this one is pretty similar and gets awesome reviews. FYI – I used to have a thermometer that had a long cord attached to the probe so it would just stay in the oven while the food cooked, but neither of the two I bought that were that style lasted very long, so I recommend the pen-style instead. I’ve had my current thermometer for several years and it’s still going strong.
When we first got married, my husband told me he didn’t really like homemade pizza. Then I taught him how to make pizza MY way…soft inside, but not doughy, and perfectly crispy on the bottom. My secret? A super hot oven, this fool-proof recipe, and a pizza stone. There are all sorts of fancy pizza stones you can buy, but mine is super basic, like the one above. Besides pizza, it’s also great for baking nice bread loaves.
All of the things above are super affordable, but I also want to share my VERY favorite tool in my kitchen. It definitely costs more than $20, and I probably wouldn’t have bought it (I’m frugal to a fault) except that I received it as a wedding gift. It wasn’t on my registry–I didn’t even know such things existed–but my husband and I often refer to it as the best wedding gift we didn’t ask for. In fact, if it ever breaks, I will definitely invest in a new one.
It’s the Breville Compact Smart Oven. Isn’t she pretty? It looks like a toaster oven, but it’s SO much more. If you’ve ever wanted a second oven but don’t have the money or space for one, this is the answer. It’s small enough to fit comfortably on a countertop, but it’s powerful enough to cook like a normal oven. When we were first married, I hardly ever used our normal oven because the Breville heats up faster, and the smaller cooking space was all we needed for two people most of the time. I’ve toasted bagels, cooked chicken, roasted veggies, baked rice, and even made brownies in it. It’s amazing.
There you have it: my votes for the best kitchen tools under twenty dollars (plus my favorite splurge).
Do tell…what are the kitchen tools that you couldn’t live without?I regularly link up here.