25 Best Kitchen Tools Under $25
By Brandon Muhawi
Senior Food Writer at Pro Home Cooks
A small mortar and pestle are essential for any Pro Home Cook. No small appliance can quite replace the crushing, pulverizing, and grinding that a mortar and pestle provides. Fresh-toasted spices, curry pastes, pesto, and guacamole are just a few of the ways this dynamic duo gets used each and every week.
A grease guard is the pinnacle of practicality in the home kitchen. Whether you’re pan-frying some fresh fish you picked up from the market or making a first foray into tempura, high-temp oil at home is a recipe for splattery mess. Do yourself a favor and pick up a grease guard and let yourself make some mess-free fried foods at home.
Part of becoming a Pro Home Cook is realizing that there is no shame in using the kitchen tools available to you. An instant-read thermometer is a cheap and simple tool that will save you plenty of disappointment and heartache in the kitchen. Test your oil temperatures and roast that chicken to perfection.
If you’re often cooking for 1, sometimes the 8-cup food processor in the cabinet isn’t the best option. For tired evenings or when the recipe happens to call for a ton of minced garlic and ginger, a mini food processor will save the day.
A reliably sharp pair of scissors is a must-have for any kitchen. From opening packages to splitting shrimp shells, there are tasks that your handy chef’s knives just aren’t cut out for. Even small tasks like grabbing some basil from your windowsill or cutting a quesadilla are easier with a good pair of shears.
The serrated knife is a favorite of home cooks and professional chefs alike and has received high praise from people like Anthony Bourdain. The serrated knife simply does tasks that a normal chef’s knife isn’t suited for. Bread and tomatoes are where these knives really shine. These knives are nearly impossible to sharpen at home, so it’s best to grab a decent one and simply replace it when it begins to perform poorly.
By far the most versatile spatula or turner to live in your stove-side utensil crock. Its triangular shape, thin silhouette, and offset construction make it incredibly maneuverable, perfect for getting underneath and lifting food from the pan. The slotted design keeps it light, flexible, and helps drain oil and juices when your food is being moved around.
The ability to eyeball ingredients is an essential skill for any home cook. So is the ability to know when it’s time to weigh your ingredients. A digital scale is a must-have for any home cook, especially those who want to try their hand at baking or fermenting. Cooking is chemistry, and certain tasks require precision if the best results are to be desired.
The bench scraper receives the most use of any tool in my kitchen. Moving ingredients, separating dough, cleaning the workstation, etc. No meal is cooked to completion without the use of my bench scraper at some point, whether in prep or clean-up. If you don’t have one, do yourself a huge favor and pick one up.
Even the best knife skills can’t replace the consistency and speed of a mandoline slicer. Paper thin veggies whenever you need them in mere seconds. Perfect for those onions on an Oklahoma onion burger, or thin crisp radishes to beautify your plate on taco night.
Pro-tip: work slowly and use the provided guard or cut-resistant gloves while using a mandoline slicer. These tools don’t discriminate against fingertips.
You do not need a garlic press, zester, and small-hole cheese grater taking up space in the kitchen drawers. A microplane does all of these tasks, and it does them very well. Grab one and don’t look back.
How long has this chipotle aioli been sitting in the fridge? When was this herb-infused oil made? What on earth is this jar of mystery brown sauce in the back of the fridge? When you do a lot of cooking and meal-prep in the home kitchen, it’s impossible to keep track. There’s a reason restaurants are notorious for their blue tape. Label and date your food containers. Thank us later.
Chopsticks are one of the most versatile tools for the stovetop. Scrambling eggs? Flipping that pan-frying tofu? Need to fish out that bay leaf in your ragu? Don’t grab those coated chopsticks from the silverware drawer. Get yourself an extra-long, sturdy, heat safe pair of wooden chopsticks to use at the stove.
One lid to rule them all. The deli container will completely alleviate the headache of the Tupperware drawer and affordably organize your kitchen and fridge. Clear and stackable, these containers are a staple for my pantry and meal prep. Glass containers are great for lunches or food that need to be microwaved, but for everything else these do the trick.
A spider is one of those tools that will make you wonder how you ever cooked without it. From potato chips to boiled wontons, a spider will make your job in the kitchen a thousand times easier. Perfect for fishing foods out of hot oil or boiling water. One of the most useful applications is pasta; transfer it straight from the water to the sauce and keep all that hot pasta water on the stove for ease of use.
Parchment paper will always have its place in the kitchen, but most sheet tray baking will benefit from a silicone mat. Naturally non-stick, perfect for everything from cookies to oven-baked empanadas. Save some paper!
I love an aesthetically pleasing ceramic or wood bowl as much as the next person, but the utility of stainless mixing bowls is undeniable. They’re lightweight, easy to clean, and stack to an incredibly low profile. Whether I’m making dough, tossing salads, or whisking up a quick dressing, I’m always reaching for the wide stainless steel mixing bowls.
Plastic squeeze bottles aren’t the prettiest, but they sure are useful. Perfect for keeping your cooking oils next to the stove or storing some meal-prepped condiments in the fridge.
If the goal is to level-up your cooking skills, you must start seasoning your food by hand. There is no replacement for the three-finger pinch of salt. No more shakers or salt grinders that light-up the plate with an LED (are there no lights in the kitchen?). Get a small cellar to keep your salt on the counter and start seasoning your food like a Pro Home Cook.
- French Rolling Pin
A dowel-shaped rolling pin (tapered or not) is a great addition to any kitchen arsenal. Compared to a traditional rolling pin with handles, these simple rolling pins are easy to clean, easy to store, and an overall pleasure to use.
My favorite uses for a grill press have nothing to do with its intended purpose. This glorified paperweight is perfect for smashing garlic or ginger, pressing tofu, smash burgers, and making paninis. Of course, it does wonders for getting that perfect sear on a piece of meat.
A salad spinner might seem like a waste of space but is a huge game changer for leafy greens. Instead of wasting several paper towels haphazardly drying your herbs or lettuces, a quick spin in the salad spinner will do the trick. No more soggy salads and no more dripping herbs.
Heat-safe flexible spatulas are incredibly versatile. Stirring sauce in a pan, scraping aioli out of a mixing bowl, or getting every last drop of cake batter are all easier with a silicone spatula. This pack from OXO comes with two colors, making it super easy to distinguish between one for desserts and one for savory foods.
There is no worse feeling than smelling something burn and realizing you forgot something in the oven. Becoming a more advanced home cook means efficient multitasking, but it is far too easy to lose track of time. A timer is a must-have to keep your cooking efficient and precise. Sticking a digital timer to your fridge or apron is way more convenient than the one on your phone.
We love fermented foods at PHC, and they are so fun and easy to make at home. A few glass fermentation weights are super useful in keeping everything pressed or submerged in brine. Sanitation and safety are very important when fermenting, so a weight helps ensure there will be no possibility of anything undesirable growing in your jar. Far more convenient than a plastic bag filled with brine!
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