9 cheap kitchen tools recommended by our readers
Jun 19, 2023
Even though my kitchen is already bordering on overflowing, I’m always interested in hearing about cheap kitchen tools that can make cooking — and cleaning — easier, faster and neater. And our readers do, too, based on the feedback we’ve gotten to stories we’ve written on the topic.
Often, the comments are as informative, or even more so, than the lists we’ve compiled with suggestions from the Voraciously team. So this time we decided to go straight to you and solicit your must-have inexpensive kitchen tools. Here are some of our favorites, collected from a recent live online chat and call-out in our weekly Recipes newsletter. (Some responses have been lightly edited for grammar and style.)
8 cheap kitchen tools we use all the time
Silicone bowl covers
Chat commenter toki doki keeps multiple sizes on hand and uses them to cover a mixing bowl or teacup, as well as dough rising in a bowl. In an email, Jane H. lists a variety of other uses for them, including covering bowls of soup or salad in the refrigerator, as well as leftover lasagna and cobblers. “The smallest ones even cover a cut lemon, orange or grapefruit. … In short, there is pretty much never a time I don’t have something in my fridge that isn’t covered by one of these handy gadgets.”
Five cheap kitchen tools that make cooking and cleaning way easier
“I’m sure many people will nominate this one!” predicted email reader Mary O., who bought one for the mayonnaise jar but “now I use it for everything: scraping, mixing, sauteing, etc.” Daniela M. treasures a mini spatula attached to a jar of sauce purchased at T.J. Maxx 15 years ago and finds it particularly helpful for scraping out “every last drop of delicious, daily smoothie from the blender.” I love my jar spatula for maintaining my sourdough starter in a half-pint canning jar, but it’s invaluable for mustard, honey, jams and more. On a related note, several people nominated flexible bowl scrapers.
6 reader suggestions for cheap kitchen tool tricks we wish we’d thought of
One chatter who admits to getting married in “the year of the fondue pot” says the forks you find included in these retro kits are ideal for spearing food out of narrow jars (think olives, cornichons, etc.). Similarly, chat commenter 1bobknowles is a fan of “granny forks, those forks with wooden handles and longish tines,” which get used for “stirring, whipping, picking up small pieces of food, pricking pie shells and other tasks. They’re so easy to grab and go, easy to clean and make me feel hands-on and in control.”
“You’ll get my apple corer away from me when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers,” says chat commenter Only the truth will do. They prefer the type that only removes the core, not the version that also slices. I agree, as I’ve been putting mine to good use creating pretty rounds of apple for a cake topping.
I’m clearly not the only one who has struggled with filling zip-top bags. A chat participant recommends a foldable adjustable holder that’s ideal for when you need both hands to stash food in bags for the freezer. The brand they like is Jokari. Commenter ElectricLion is already intrigued: “I fight with bags multiple times a week and I think you may have just changed my life.”
How to turn single-purpose kitchen tools into multiuse gadgets
Metal fish spatula
These thin, flexible spatulas are helpful for much more than fish. Chat regular Jack Russell Terrier says they’re ideal for maneuvering anything wobbly, including eggs. Commenter Boss of Me likes how long and narrow they are. Just one word of caution: Metal utensils can scratch, so be extra careful if using one in your nonstick skillet or skip it in favor of something non-marking. Need a few more ideas for the fish spatula? Scott Kathan at Cook’s Country recommends using it for flipping burgers or pancakes, stirring roasted vegetables, lifting bacon out of a pan and moving delicate cookies.
Via email, Barbara W. recommends a grapefruit knife. In addition to the obvious use on citrus, the tool can remove an avocado half from the skin. “The slight bend in the grapefruit knife works well with the curve of the avocado,” Barbara says. Laura P. recommends it for opening boxes: “Cuts right through any kind of tape, and the curve keeps you from cutting the contents by accident.”
This tool also got multiple nominations, including from the aforementioned Boss of Me. Chat commenter Sschafer agrees: “With these five-bladed scissors, I can easily chop my fresh herbs so they be used immediately or lay them out to dry.” I see them being especially helpful for quickly cutting even pieces of such longer foods as scallions or chives.
Email correspondent Susan B. is a fan of the multi-bladed pastry cutter for incorporating butter into flour for pie crusts, biscuits and more, “but I also use it for getting just the right texture for avocados when making guacamole and prepping bananas for banana bread.” It can also help slice hard-boiled eggs.
Clarification: An earlier version of this article left out the entry on apple corers. This version has been updated.