15 Essential Cooking Tools Under $15
These clever kitchen helpers can be your sous chef on a shoestring.
Whether you're a cooking pro or a curious novice, there's a little something for everyone in this gallery of basic but useful cooking tools. The best part? Each of our picks will set you back less than $15, and that's truly the least interesting thing about each item in this roundup. From multitaskers and hidden gems to humble workhorses, we're sharing a selection of great buys for your kitchen.
It doesn't really matter how much kitchen storage you have—it still feels good knowing you're bringing home a tool that can have a couple of different uses. The Microplane is one of the most common examples of a multitasker. As the darling of many home cooks, its ability to zest, grate, and mince makes it a must-have tool. But did you know that the humble shelf liner can wear a few different hats? It can moonlight as a jar opener, or—better yet—as a grip pad for stabilizing a slippery cutting board.
It's also nice to have a few good kitchen tools that are both functional and appealing to look at. After all, if something is nice enough to be set out on the counter or table, you'll be more likely to see it and remember that it's there to help. We're recommending a ceramic pie bird that's so pretty, when it's not keeping your double-crust pies from overflowing, it can be set on your kitchen windowsill and act as a ring holder. And once you try out a butter keeper, you'll never want to spread dry toast with the cold stuff again. It's a good thing the stoneware item we recommend will look nice on any countertop.
There are also a few utensils that may seem superfluous at first look, but once you try them you may wonder what you ever did without them. A bench scraper can almost always be found nearby a professional cooks station and you'll quickly understand why: It's great for cleaning up a mess on the cutting board, transferring chopped veggies to the skillet, or for cutting biscuits or cookie dough into shapes.
From cooking everyday dinners to fancier affairs, these nifty tools can be your sous chef on a shoestring.
A coil whisk (also called a spring whisk or galaxy whisk) uses an up and down motion to whip air into ingredients like eggs and cream, as opposed to the grand side-to-side whipping done with a traditional whisk. This means it excels at smaller batches—you can deftly beat an egg for a scramble or mix up a batch of vinaigrette in a jar or ramekin without making a sloshy mess on the counter.
Shop Now: Sur La Table Stainless Steel Galaxy Whisk, $14, surlatable.com.
Essential kitchen tools can be as colorful as the food you are chopping, and we love that these knives come in at least ten colors. It's a bonus that you'll always be able to find this paring knife in your utensil drawer. The main deal is that this handy tool is an all-purpose prep knife with a long-lasting sharp blade and a nonstick coating so food releases from the blade. The sheath helps keep the blade safe and sharp when stored in a drawer.
Shop Now: Kuhn Rikon Straight Paring Knife with Safety Sheath, $10.50, amazon.com.
Scraping your knife across the cutting board to scoop up chopped vegetables isn't just dangerous—it also dulls your knife. Use this metal bench scraper to transfer the goods over instead, and pretty soon it will feel like an extension of your hand. This model from KitchenAid also serves as a hand-held reference for common cooking measurements.
Shop Now: KitchenAid All-Purpose Scraper, $9.99, target.com.
A favorite of the Martha Stewart test kitchen, this one-size-fits-all citrus reamer is both economical and effective at squeezing every last drop of juice from your lemons, limes, and more. Even with its simple design and small stature, it puts all of the other fancy, more expensive juicing contraptions to shame.
Shop Now: OXO Good Grips Wooden Citrus Reamer, Beech, $6.99, amazon.com.
A retro baking accessory that is worthy of a comeback, the pie bird is a hollow ceramic tool that you place in the center of a double crust pie. It serves two purposes during baking: It prevents the filling from bubbling over, and it allows steam to escape through its vent during baking, resulting in a gloriously crisp double crust. There's a third, non-baking use though that makes this a particularly sweet gift idea: It's the cutest ring holder in the nest.
Shop Now: Le Creuset PG1875-0467 Stoneware Pie Bird, $12.95, amazon.com.
From cutting twine to snipping herbs to trimming chicken, a pair of kitchen shears is an essential tool in the kitchen. These affordable and super-sharp shears come with a sheath for safe storing.
Shop Now: KitchenAid Utility Shears, $7.99, target.com.
Prepare to be delighted come toast time. This old timey stoneware uses a simple water seal to keep air out, meaning you can have soft, spreadable butter on your counter for up to 30 days (just make sure to change the water out every few days).
Shop Now: Norpro Glazed Stoneware Butter Keeper, $7.57, walmart.com.
When a rich broth or sauce is chilled, the fat that naturally rises to the top will form a solid cap that you can then easily spoon off. But when you're short on time and need that gravy ASAP, a fat separator can really save the day. This pitcher-style model comes with a silicone plug that creates enough air pressure to prevent any fat from sneaking into the pour spout.
Shop Now: OXO Good Grips Four-Cup Fat Separator, $14.99, oxo.com.
This cooking accessory does more than keep your stovetop clean when frying: It also protects the cook from marinara sauce eruptions and bacon grease burns. Splatter screens take the brunt of whatever is simmering in the pan, so buy one that that is easy to clean and dishwasher-safe.
Shop Now: Sur La Table Silicone Splatter Screen, $15, surlatable.com.
What looks like a basic shelf and drawer liner is actually an ace tool for stabilizing cutting boards. Simply cut the rubbery material to size, then slip it under your board before you start to chop and dice. When you're done, give it a quick rinse (or pop it in the dishwasher) and store in a drawer until next time.
Shop Now: Duck Brand EasyLiner Shelf and Drawer Liner, $8.97, amazon.com.
Not all peelers are equal: some make prepping carrots or potatoes or cutting strips of zest from citrus for cocktails or cooking much easier. This peeler has a comfortable handle that's suitable for right or left handers, and a carbon-steel blade that stays sharp through peeling apples for many pies.
Shop Now: Kuhn-Rikon Original Swiss Peeler, $7.95, walmart.com.
Is your oven running hot, or is it taking longer than usual to bake a cake? Often it isn't that your oven is broken; temperature inaccuracy can happen when the appliance's built-in thermometer is placed near a hot spot or drafty area. Adding a thermometer that can hang off the rack right in the center of your oven is your best bet to ensure consistent, reliable results.
Shop Now: Taylor 3506 TruTemp Series Oven/Grill Analog Dial Thermometer, $5.60, amazon.com.
Microwave Food Cover
Covering food when you microwave helps to keep things moist and prevent a tragic splatter scenario. Paper towels can work in a pinch, but consider getting a dedicated cover to cut down on waste. This space-saving option is dishwasher safe and collapses for smart storage.
Shop Now: Charcoal Microwave Collapsible Food Cover, $7.99, crateandbarrel.com.