10 Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets Under $20

I’ll admit it, I am a recovering food gadget junkie.   I used to haunt kitchen supply stores, scanning the shelves for the next “great thing” that promised to take my cooking to new heights.  Many a fetching hand-held beauty would come home with me, only to find itself jamming my kitchen drawer or collecting dust in the back of a cupboard.  I have since seen the light, and after several kitchen cleanses the gadgets that remain are the tried and true (and often the least expensive).  Here are 10 gadgets under $20 that absolutely make me a better cook (including one that will cost you nothing!)

1. Oven Thermometer
You turn the dial to 350 degrees, but is your oven really at 350 degrees?  The only way to know for sure is with this low-tech tool that will save you from baking disasters and timing mishaps.  If you’ve ever cooked (and cooked, and cooked…) a turkey on thanksgiving while hungry people give you the stink eye, you need one of these, pronto.

2. Silicone Spatula
Say what you will about silicone in your bra, but it’s fabulous in the kitchen.  This spatula is heat-resistant and squishy-soft, so it won’t scratch your non-stick pan and wont melt in it either. (I’ve burnt many a plastic spatula in a batch of scrambled eggs— not tasty.)

3. Salt Cellar
Shaker, be gone!  The very best way to control your salt intake is to get up close with how much your using.  I keep my salt cellar full of kosher salt (milder flavor and better for you than the usual table stuff) and right on the counter so that I can grab a pinch for whatever I have simmering on the stove.

4. Bottle Pour Spout
Like the salt cellar, attaching a spout to your bottle of olive oil or vinegar gives you greater pouring and measuring control.  They fit on most bottles you’d buy at the grocery store and they reduce the likelihood that you’ll accidentally glug too much oil into your salad dressing.  Plus, it gives you that Molto Mario feeling in the kitchen.

5. Mini Chopper
Before I owned one, I might have dismissed the mini chopper as yet another unnecessary gadget, but it performs two powerful functions in my kitchen: It takes the tears out of chopping onions, and it gives my kids one more way to get involved in the kitchen.  They can make fast work of chopping garlic, carrots, or whatever you throw under the blades.

6. Kitchen Timer
This is possibly the most valuable thing I own because in spite of my passion for cooking, I’ve been known to get distracted at the most critical of moments and burn an entire dinner.  Whether your boiling an egg or baking a batch of shortbread (and especially if you’re trying to do both at the same time!) your kitchen timer is the most humble and powerful of tools.

7. Silpat Mat
You will never, ever burn your cookie bottoms and nothing ever, ever sticks to it.  Enough said.

8. Microplane
I’m not sure what I did before microplane graters— how did I get billowing clouds of parmesan on my gnocchi?  How did I annoint my latte with chocolate shavings?  There are so many uses for these fabulous tools, you’ll send your old box grater packing.

9. Mandoline
It slices! It dices! It makes you look like a pro in the kitchen!  When you need paper-thin cucumber disks, julienned carrots or waffle-cut potatoes, a mandoline makes fast and easy work of it all… just watch your fingers!

10. Empty Jar
This is my most treasured and totally-free kitchen gadget. I have used an empty pickle jar to make every salad dressing my family has eaten for years. Just throw all the ingredients in and shake— no need to whisk to get that perfect emulsion.

Carley Knobloch is a life coach, productivity expert and the founder of Mothercraft Coaching.  Her weekly newsletter, The Juicebox, helps moms reduce overwhelm and simplify their lives.