Bonus: Most of them are $ 20 or less.
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What to buy?
Head to the kitchen section of your local big-box store and you’ll be inundated with kitchen gadgets rumored to make food prep easier (mango slicer!), meals tastier (sous vide!!) and cleanup simpler (automatic microwave cleaner!!!). Do professional cooks really use the fanciest gadgets in their own homes? Here are the kitchen gadgets you really need, according to the pros at our sister site, Taste of Home, who spend their days with food: dreaming up recipes, testing recipes, and styling amazing magazine shots. On the other hand, find out the kitchen gadgets we think are a waste of money.
Note: Prices listed were accurate as of press time; pricing fluctuations may occur.
“I love, love spatulas!” says Peggy Woodward, one of Taste of Home‘s food editors. “I use a giant one for stiff cookie dough and have medium and small ones, too.” Look for a spatula with a slightly flexible plastic handle that won’t snap when you’re working with a really thick batter. Use the gadget while making this amazing, three-ingredient cookie recipe that over 40,000 people have viewed.
If you ask Peggy, no kitchen is complete without at least one trusty wooden spoon. “I have three,” she says. They come in all sorts of shapes, including slotted, the classic rounded head, and squared off (which makes hitting the edges of high-sided pans easier).
If you want to go old-school and skip the kitchen electrics, Taste of Home’s Kitchen Operations Manager Beth Jacobson says you need one of these: “I tend to do things more slowly at home and often forgo electronic gadgets entirely, so if I’m whipping heavy cream? Hello, balloon whisk!” They’re also efficient for salad dressings and stirring up flour (no sifting necessary).
You knew this was coming. “I firmly believe a good chef’s knife is key to almost anything you’re going to be doing,” says Food Editor James Schend. “I’ve got a lot of knives, but there’s one I reach for all the time: the 5-1/2-inch Shun Classic Hollow-Ground Santoku Knife.” Want less of a splurge? Try this classic. Plus, here’s a handy tip for keeping your kitchen knives sharp.
“The microplane grater is my favorite tool,” says Taste of Home Food Stylist Shannon Roum. “I use a ton of citrus to add flavor in both sweet and savory dishes.” These precision hand-held tools, which come in multiple shapes and sizes, are famous for their zesting abilities, plus they do a mighty fine job of grating cheese, mincing herbs and turning gingerroot into a paste.
Swiss vegetable peeler
Speaking of sharp things, if you ask me, a Swiss vegetable peeler needs to be a part of your collection, too. These Y-shaped gadgets seem to stay sharp forever. Mine is going on ten years old, and I use it nearly every day. You don’t have to pony up for an expensive one—mine was $ 5 at a farmers market. You won’t believe that these unique and weird kitchen gadgets actually exist.
Peggy and Beth both love cookie scoops. “They’re perfect for consistent and easy portioning from cookies to meatballs,” says Beth. For a smoother release, go for the spring-loaded split-handle variety instead of the type with thumb release.
Talk about versatile, says Taste of Home Culinary Director Sarah Thompson. “Mine goes from the mixing bowl to the skillet, and I can use it for spreading jams on toast or mayo on bread.” It’s like a spoon and a spatula in one. Do you have any of these other kitchen gadgets that do pretty much everything?
Another tool that earned double points, offset spatulas are for serious home cooks, a category where both Peggy and Sarah belong. “A small offset spatula is ideal for evenly spreading frosting, melted chocolate, even batter,” for a cake roll, for example. “It helps you make your food look great!” Peggy says. Check out these other kitchen gadgets you’ll wish you had years ago.