How stocked is your kitchen arsenal? I’m talking about the kitchen gadgets and appliances you turn to every day. Is it well-stocked? Bare as can be? Do you keep your favorite, most-used items organized neatly, or are there gadgets and measuring spoons falling out of every cupboard?
A worker is nothing without his tools, and the same goes for a cook in the kitchen. However, a quick stroll down the kitchen aisle in Target tells you there are likely way more gadgets you could ever use or need in the kitchen; the trick is figuring out what’s a must-have, and what’s a must-not.
After all: all the fancy ingredients in the world don’t really matter all that much if you don’t have a can opener!
So what’s a cook, especially one who’s hoping to streamline their kitchen processes, to do?
Which gadgets do you make sure you have, which to get rid of, which do you own but keep out of the kitchen in the name of reducing clutter?
Which kitchen gadgets do you really need?
For this next post in my ‘Make the Most of Your Kitchen‘ series, I’ll go over the 5 essential gadgets/appliances I think every good kitchen really should have, plus a few gadgets I consider helpful if you’ve got the room, but not in the category of essential.
Ready? Let’s go!
Note: this post contains some affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Also, Amazon changes their prices often. The price listed here may not be the price on their site. All prices were correct at the time of posting.
Before I begin: You have a good knife, right? I consider a good chef’s knife so completely essential that I’m not even going to list it here as a must-have. Needing a good knife in the kitchen is like ‘needing’ CO2 to convert air into oxygen; it’s that important. So make sure you’ve got a good one, keep it sharpened (more on that below) and let’s start with the rest.
We use our small, hand-held grater just about more than anything else in the kitchen, with the exception of a knife and cutting board. I use it to grate garlic when I don’t feel like mincing, and to finely grate cheese into the kids’ omelets in the morning. I grate nutmeg into cookies and smoothies in the winter. I’ve even grated stale bread into breadcrumbs when I forgot to buy more and needed them for a recipe!
Tip: Make sure your grater has a handle that is comfortable and won’t slide off after a few years of use. I also like the plastic protector on this one; ours got lost years ago. We now have to keep it up and away on a higher shelf, so tiny fingers don’t get cut when ‘helping’ in the kitchen.
Replace your grater every 3-5 years or so, so the holes stay sharp. The difference between a sharp grater and a dull one will amaze you.
I Recommend: This OXO Good Grips Grater, $10
Great Budget Buy: Culina Hand-held Fine Spice Grater, $5
Make this with it! Chilled Tomato Soup
I can’t mom without a slow cooker. This is the exact model we have here at home, and it’s a steal at only $19.
It’s inexpensive but does the job, for sure. I feed our family of four using this Crockpot slow cooker at least once a week in the winter.
Pros: It cleans up easy, is light to transport, and has an even heat distribution although I feel it runs a little on the hot side.
Cons: This particular brand is round, so I can’t fit oddly shaped cuts of meat or a whole chicken comfortably inside. The lid rattles during cooking, meaning that occasionally I have to tie the lid down using rubber bands attached to the handles
I Recommend: This Black and Decker Teal-Colored Beauty. $33. It would look amazing in my kitchen #noshame
Great Budget Buy: (pictured) Crock-Pot 3-Quart Round Manual Slow Cooker, $19
Make This With It: Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork
3. Hand Mixer
Besides being great for mixing cookie dough and cake batter, whipping egg whites, creaming butter, and all other baking activities, I love my hand mixer because it makes such fabulous homemade mayonnaise and Caesar salad dressing.
Have you ever made either from scratch? It could not be easier with a hand mixer, especially if your mixer comes with a whisk attachment as well as beaters. Not only that, but freshly made Ceasar dressing keeps for up to two weeks in the refrigerator and tastes a million times better than anything you’d buy bottled. (Want the recipe? Click the ‘Make This With It recipe below!)
I Recommend: KitchenAid 7-Speed Digital Hand Mixer, $66
Great Budget Buy: (pictured) Hamilton Beach 62695V Power Deluxe Hand Mixer, $27
Make This With It: Homemade Caesar Dressing
Likely one of the more expensive items on this list (though still under $100!) I love my food processor. If the house was burning and I knew my husband and kids were safe, I would grab my food processor.
I use it constantly, especially when making chicken nuggets, meatballs, soup, patties, hummus, and so much more. (There’s a recipe for chicken nuggets below, in the free download!)
I Recommend: This KitchenAid 7-Cup Food Processor, $79
Great Budget Buy: Hamilton Beach 10-Cup Food Processor, $36
Make This With It: Chicken and Spinach ‘Nuggets’
There is something lovely about chopping vegetables with a well-made cutting board.
This may seem like a silly investment, but for under $20, it totally upgrades your cooking experience. A good quality wooden board just feels nice under your knife.
To properly care for your wooden cutting board, follow these tips:
- Make sure to wash in extra-hot and soapy water
- Rinse well
- Hand dry immediately to prevent cracks or warping. Every once and a while,
- Every once and a while, rub it down with mineral oil.
I Recommend: I adore my Martha Stewart brand rosewood cutting board with nonslip feet, but they don’t make them anymore. If you’re feeling like a splurge, I popped this guy into my cart earlier today while browsing for this post. $40
Great Budget Buy: (pictured) Extra-Large Bamboo Cutting Board , $19.99
Make This With It: 10 Minute Apple and Cabbage Slaw
More kitchen items I recommend:
Regarding the chef’s knife: it’s so important. You don’t have to go out and buy a Wusthof in order to have a good chef’s knife; this does not need to be an expensive investment.
My number one request of your chef’s knife? Keep it sharp, please. You have a better chance of cutting yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one. If you don’t know how to sharpen your knife or don’t care to learn, have it sharpened a few times a year by a professional. Most hardware stores will do it for you.
Immersion Blender, $26: I’ve had this little immersion blender for almost 10 years now and it is a total workhorse. It’s mid-range on price but a powerful kitchen tool. I use it mainly for blending soups right in the pot, although I have also used it to make baby food and smoothies.
Mandoline, $30: perfect for slicing potato chips, zucchini chips, crinkle fries, and potatoes for a dauphinoise or Spanish tortilla.
Pyrex Glass Measuring Cups, $7 : I rely on these just as often as I do my smaller, individual measuring cups. I prefer to use these for liquid measures and my individual cups for dry measures. (Check out this post for a recipe converter sheet, if you’re ever halving or doubling a recipe!)
3-Inch Mini Strainer, $9 : So cute and so functional. When I’m in a hurry at dinnertime (uh, always) I sometimes give my daughter an individual serving of peas as her vegetable choice. This little sieve makes draining the peas super simple. I also use it for loose tea.
And, that’s a wrap! You really don’t have to break the bank to outfit your kitchen. Oh, and don’t forget the coffee maker. My kitchen would look naked without a coffee maker. My brain would feel naked without the coffee the coffee maker gives me. It’s important.
Check back next week for the final post in the series! I’ll be covering how organizing your fridge and pantry can save you oodles of money. It’s a keeper.
Did you see the recipe suggestions for these favorite items? If you’d like them all in a printable pdf sheet, leave your email below to grab the download.