Kitchen Essential Tools

Kitchen Essentials

Stock your kitchen with a dozen budget smart kitchen tools to help meet your cooking and baking needs.


That sparkling crystal platter you got when you moved to your new place is pretty...but is it practical? Not so much. (We know that's why you're not using it!) Here's a radical idea: Stock your kitchen with tools you'll use–for real. These budget-smart essentials meet loads of basic cook and baker needs.

  • Chef's knife: Chop, dice, and cut like your fave cooking-show star with this knife. Opt for the 8-inch version–long enough to be versatile but small enough to handle even for the novice cook. Use it to prep vegetables, slice fruit, and cut up meat. Tip: Inspect the handle-to-blade construction for a long-lasting connection.
  • Digital food scale: Ever notice that some baking recipes offer both weight and traditional measurements for ingredients? Most pro-level bakers rely on weight, not traditional measuring cups, for recipes. (Many how-tos offer both.) That method offers a preciseness that's the key to every drool-worthy cake, brownie, and bread. (If you have a Wi-Fi connected appliance, you can also take advantage of a DROP digital scale and the DROP app.)
  • Mini food processor: Long ingredient lists are a drag. What's not? The way that a mini food processor makes quick work of all that chopping and prep for everything from homemade pesto to tomato sauce. Most of these appliances have just a few parts that are dishwasher-friendly–another bonus.
  • Hand mixer: Behold, the mighty power of the hand mixer–it's content to sit unobtrusively in your cabinet until you need extra power to mix, whip, and beat to your heart's content. Even better? Find a version that has different beaters, such as ones for kneading.
  • Chopping board: Offered in plastic, bamboo, or wood, a good-size cutting board–about 13 x 9 inches–enables you to handle most prep tasks. Some cooks favor plastic because it's super easy to care for, while others like the hard-as-nails surfaces of wood and bamboo (which require a bit more TLC).
  • Digital thermometer: The worst thing that can happen to a cook on a holiday? Pulling dinner–like a beautiful, swoon-worthy turkey–out of the oven to discover it's not done. That's where a digital thermometer, an invention utilized by cook and baker alike, saves the day. Use it for those pesky tasks like monitoring sugary concoctions on the stovetop or checking the doneness of a roast.
Digital food scale
  • Kitchen shears: Craft scissors are one thing; kitchen shears are quite another. These brawny choppers can snip apart a whole chicken or deftly clip off the edge of a pie crust. Bonus if you find ones that come completely apart into two pieces, making them easier to clean in the dishwasher.
  • Measuring cups: Plastic options are price friendly, metal cups are supremely durable (get a version with the numbers etched in, not stamped, so they don't wear off), and glass is see-through (but prone to breaking if filled with super-hot items). Plunk down a few extra dollars for heavier ones that can sit firmly on their own when full or empty, which frees up your hands to pour ingredients.
  • Cooking utensils: About $50 can get you several tossing-and-turning essentials, including a metal spatula (great for flipping inside and with a grill, too), good-quality wooden spoons, and a rubber spatula for cleaning out bowls. Other good-to-have pieces include a whisk and heavy-duty tongs.
  • Electric rice cooker: It might feel like an indulgence, but a solidly built rice cooker (which often can double as a vegetable steamer) is one of those didn't-know-I'd-love-it-until-I-owned-it pieces. Many now have a timer start and keep-warm function, too.
  • Silicone mats: They feel weird. They roll up. They're virtually indestructible. And durable silicone mats, used to line cookie sheets, also keep sheet pans and other dishes from burning. Plus, they minimize cleanup.
  • Rolling pin: One day, you'll want to roll your own pie crust. One day, you'll need a rolling pin. So why not start now? If you can, get one in marble, which stays cool and smooth while smoothing out dough.
Digital food scale

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