18 Kitchen Gadgets Pro Cooks Actually Use at Home
Bonus: Most of them are $20 or less.
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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.
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.
Big wooden cutting board
James is all about Boos cutting boards, which come in all shapes and sizes. Check out the grooved styles-these are super helpful when it comes to cutting juicy things, like roasts or tomatoes. Juices run into the grooves instead of over the edge onto your countertop. And be sure to have a few boards on hand to avoid cross-contamination (designate at least one no-garlic, no-onion cutting board, so you can cut up fruit without adding a funky taste). Learn more about the reason you need multiple cutting boards.
Nylon pan scraper
According to Peggy, cleanup’s a cinch with a nylon pan scraper. It loosens cooked-on gunk more quickly than a scrub brush. “You’re basically paying for a little piece of plastic, but I love it,” she says.
Sometimes, a big knife just isn’t going to cut it. Or, rather, it just might cut you. More-detailed tasks, like peeling apples or cutting slits in meat, call for a tool with a finer blade. “What I can’t do with my chef’s knife, I’ll work on with a paring knife. My favorite is the Zwilling Four-Star Paring Knife,” James says. While you’re browsing Amazon, check out some of these kitchen products people can’t stop buying.
Big into yeast breads? Get a couple of Norpro scrapers, says Lauren Knoelke, one of Taste of Home‘s food stylists. A stainless steel scraper helps lift and divide dough, while a flexible plastic one gets every last bit out of the bowl. “I love these two tools for handling doughs,” she says.
Precut parchment paper is one of Sarah’s secret weapons. “I always have a package on hand. It’s perfect for measuring dry ingredients onto a sheet, then carrying it over to the mixing bowl and sliding everything right in,” she says. “I also use it to line baking sheets when I freeze fresh-cut fruit for morning smoothies.” You can grab it at your local grocery store. Even skilled chefs might not know about these secret uses for ordinary kitchen gadgets.
“Many of our Test Kitchen practices have followed me home,” Beth says. One of them is using a digital kitchen scale. “I weigh ingredients for baking across the board now.” This takes the guesswork out of consistently measuring dry ingredients.
Another digital must, says Sarah, is a Thermapen by Thermoworks: “I use it to temp stuff all the time.” These handy thermometers work almost instantly, and they come in a rainbow of colors. Once you have one, make sure you know these tips for how to properly clean a meat thermometer.
Taste of Home Recipe Editor Irene Yeh hits the office supply aisle when she’s kitchen-gadget shopping. “Binder clips secure opened bags of anything: spices, frozen peas, pastas,” she says. Get a cute set in bulk. “And I use magnetic clips to attach recipes to the refrigerator door. They’re easy to look at without being in the way.” Use them to secure these surprising foods you didn’t know you could freeze.
Last, keep your smartphone on hand to help look up cooking queries while you’re in the thick of it. Browse for inspiration in recipe collections. “They also make Thai food appear almost magically,” adds Beth. Once your kitchen is fully stocked up, make sure you’re not making these 50 common kitchen mistakes.
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