My Favorite Kitchen Tools Under $20
As much as I dream of raiding every Williams Sonoma west of the Mississippi, when I honestly evaluate the tools in my kitchen, many of the ones I reach for the most are among the least expensive. Whether you are looking to add a few fresh items to your kitchen, stock it for the first time, or help a college student in culinary need, these 15 items under $20 are practical, affordable, and make cooking easier too!
Fish Spatula. Good for SO MUCH MORE than fish. I cannot adequately express how often I use mine. It’s perfect for turning and serving roasted veggies, flipping a delicate pancake, and serving any piece of meat (or fish, of course), and it even makes over-easy eggs, well, easy. If you buy one thing on this list, make it this one!
Baker’s Half Sheets. OK, I lied about #1 above. You need two items on this list, the fish spatula AND a set of baker’s half-sheet pans. These kitchen workhorses are my go-to for roasting anything and everything, from a quick batch of roasted broccoli to an entire sheet-pan chicken dinner, complete with Brussels, sweet potatoes, and more.
Silicone Baking Mats. Rather than go through sheet after sheet of parchment paper, line your baking sheets and cookie sheets with one of these babies. They make clean up a breeze, and I notice that for whatever magical reason, they help my cookies bake more evenly too.
Digital Instant-Read Meat Thermometer. The easiest, most accurate way to determine if meat is done and avoid overcooking it. Use this tool and never eat another dry chicken breast.
The Best 8×8-inch Baking Pan Ever. Everything from brownies to banana bread bakes evenly with nice edges and sharp corners in this pan, and nothing sticks to it. I have several pieces from the same line of bakeware and love them all. (Best cookie sheets too!)
12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet. YES. You can purchase a decently sized cast-iron skillet for less than $20. I’m still breaking mine in, but so far, I love using it to make one-pan meals and ensure my breakfast potatoes are nice and crispy. Bonus: you can bake in it too (reference: Giant Skillet Healthy Peanut Butter Cookie; Skillet Red Velvet Pancakes; many stellar cornbread recipes). For a few dollars more, this brand is excellent and a bit heavier duty.
Citrus Juicer. This juicer extracts every last drop from lemons, limes, and oranges, without those pesky seeds infiltrating your food. After watching my friend painfully juice limes by hand for a round of margaritas, I gave him one too. The report: life (and lime) changing.
9-Inch Whisk. Now that I’ve experienced the ease of working with this smaller whisk, I almost never use a standard-sized one. The 9-inch is much more versatile and easier to use, especially for wet ingredients such as dressings, melted chocolate, and beaten eggs, and I find it combines dry ingredients more effectively too.
Cookie Scoops…in every size. I love the medium one for portioning cookie dough (same-size cookies = even baking), the small one for no-bake energy bites or smaller cookies, and the large one for muffin batter. Pro tip: if you use a cookie scoop to scoop and drop your muffin batter into the pan, the muffins tend to rise better and be fluffier than if you use a spatula or spoon.
Metal Measuring Cups. Scoop with confidence. And without those annoying, bendy handles.
Two-Sided Measuring Spoons. If you too loathe interrupting your baking to wash the spoons in between ingredients, you will LOVE these. Bonus: they are magnetic, so they stay together neatly in the drawer.
Non-Slip Cutting Board. Easier and safer than cutting boards without the non-slip feature, and it’s dishwasher safe. I have one for savory ingredients such as onion and garlic and one for sweet ingredients such as chocolate and fruit. Keeping the two separate ensures that my Paleo Brownies never come out with hints of garlic. I mean, I’d probably still eat them, but it would be more of a battle.
Less-Obnoxious Cheese Grater. This plane-style grater is much easier to use and clean than box-style graters.
Microplane Zester. My favorite for zesting lemons and oranges directly into the bowl so that you don’t lose any of their wonderful oils (and thus flavor). Also, if you aren’t grating your own ground nutmeg from whole nutmeg yet, you are in for a delightful flavor upgrade once you start.
Parchment-Paper Sheets. Although I love my silicone baking mats, parchment paper still has its place. Although a roll of parchment works just fine, I find the precut sheets are worth the time they save. One sheet cut in half is perfect for lining an 8×8-inch pan, and I also like them for lining larger-sized pans when I’m cooling messy things dipped in chocolate, such as these Pistachio Truffles.
What are some of your kitchen must-haves? I’d love to hear from you!