21 handy cooking tools we rely on in our own kitchens

Every time I go to my local grocery store, a general home goods store, or Target, I’m surprised at the sheer amount of kitchen gadgets and cooking tools that exist. It seems like there’s a slicer, dicer, peeler, and chopper for just about every fruit and vegetable. There are different spatulas and pans for cooking all sorts of things. You can even get machines that are made to only make waffles.

When shopping for your kitchen, many of these little gadgets and tools may seem frivolous. You may be left to wonder, “Will I actually use that avocado slicer? Or would a regular knife suffice?”

To help you answer that pressing question, and others like it, we rounded up our favorite handy kitchen gadgets and cooking tools we’ve come to rely on.

Keep reading for 21 clever cooking tools you didn’t know you needed:

A foldable cutting board

A foldable cutting boardAmazon

Joseph Joseph Foldable Cutting Board, available at Amazon, $16

If you do a lot of batch cooking or you tend to prepare meals that require lots of chopping, you need this cutting board. The handle makes it easy to hold and maneuver around the kitchen, and the foldable sides ensure that nothing falls off the board while you do so. — Remi Rosmarin, Insider Picks Reporter

A handheld citrus juicer

A handheld citrus juicerAmazon

Cucisina Lemon Juicer, available at Amazon, $6.88

If you frequently cook with lemons or limes, or you just make a lot of guacamole, you need this $7 tool in your drawer. It stops seeds falling into your food and ensures you get every last drop of juice. — Ellen Hoffman, Insider Picks Senior Editor

A hand mixer

A hand mixerAmazon

Breville Hand Mixer, available at Amazon, $129.94

I don’t have the space for a KitchenAid stand mixer in my small New York City apartment, so I opted for a Breville hand mixer instead — and woah, I did not realize how effortless it could be to prepare cookie doughs and cake batters. I especially like this mixer’s easy-to-adjust speed control and built-in light. It comes with three different types of attachments and a see-through container to store both the attachments and the device itself. — Ellen Hoffman, Insider Picks Senior Editor

A splatter screen for frying pans

A splatter screen for frying pansWilliams Sonoma

Williams Sonoma Silicone Splatter Screen, available at Williams Sonoma, $24.95

Williams-Sonoma’s splatter screen has helped me crack down on kitchen grease big time. The screen’s small perforations let steam escape so that my food never gets soggy, but they keep in all the grease that would have otherwise ended up all over my stove and the areas that immediately surround it. — Ellen Hoffman, Insider Picks Senior Editor

A potato ricer

A potato ricerAmazon

Bellemain Stainless Steel Potato Ricer, available at Amazon, $18.95

My time-saving hack for silky-smooth and creamy mashed potatoes is a potato ricer (you also need to add lots of butter and sour cream). You simply place boiled potatoes into the ricer and give it a squeeze, forcing the potatoes through the many tiny holes and into a bowl. It’s much less arm work than a regular masher, and the results are 1,000 times better. No lumps, no problems! — Ellen Hoffman, Insider Picks Senior Editor

A waffle maker

A waffle makerAmazon

Krups Belgian Waffle Maker, available at Amazon, $59.91

A waffle maker is one of those single-use tools most people are unsure about, but Krups’ has earned its place in my kitchen. It turns out perfectly shaped diner-like waffles in about 10 minutes, and has become a regular part of my weekend routine. Plus, its grates pop off, so you can easily clean it without risking any damage. — Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks Associate Editor

A miniature spiralizer

A miniature spiralizerAmazon

Vegetti Spiralizer, available at Amazon, $9.99

Get your laughs out now, everyone. I know the name of this gadget is not great, but it works really well for such a simple tool. Each end makes veggie noodles in a different size, and all you have to do is twist your zucchini, cucumber, carrot, or other long veggie around to create them. It takes up a lot less space than those huge spiralizers, but one thing to watch out for is that you don’t catch your finger on the blades inside when you get down to the last little bit of whatever you’re spiralizing. — Sally Kaplan, Insider Picks Editor

A sous vide tool

A sous vide toolAmazon

ChefSteps Joule Sous Vide, available at Amazon, $159

Sous vide cooking, which uses an immersion technique that involves putting food in sealed bags and cooking it in a water bath, used to be restricted to restaurants because of its expense, but ChefSteps puts that power into the home chef’s hands with the Joule. This tool cooks meats and vegetables perfectly by bringing them up to a pre-set temperature, and doesn’t let anything overcook. — Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks Associate Editor

Note: We also named the Joule Sous Vide the top pick in our Buying Guide — you can check it out here.

A utensil holder

A utensil holderAmazon

OXO Good Grips Stainless Steel Rotating Utensil Holder, available at Amazon, $19.95

If your kitchen drawer can’t easily open or close because it’s overstuffed, OXO’s utensil holder is the answer. It has three sections, and holds everything from my spatula to my citrus press, and its rotating bottom makes it easy to get at whatever I need. — Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks Associate Editor

Adhesive hooks

Adhesive hooksAmazon

Fufcu Adhesive Wall Hooks (16-pack), available at Amazon, $8.28

Another tool I use to clean up my drawer is this set of adhesive hooks, which line the wall behind my sink and counter. They’re the perfect size to hold awkwardly sized utensils, like a burger mold or measuring cups. — Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks Associate Editor

A silicon muffin pan

A silicon muffin panWilliams Sonoma

Silpat Silicone Muffin Pan, available at Williams Sonoma, $49.95

I was perfectly content using regular muffin pans until I had the opportunity to try Silpat’s. Now I’m ruined. What makes this pan so good is its non-stick material, which allows you to pop out the muffins without letting them cool first or using grease. — Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks Associate Editor

Seconded! Brandt and I are both obsessed with these muffin pans. I threw out my metal one immediately after trying this for the first time. We tested out the Silpat muffin pans together a little while back in case you want a more in-depth review. — Sally Kaplan, Insider Picks Editor

A coated cast-iron skillet

A coated cast-iron skilletMilo

Ultimate Skillet, available at Milo, $65

The most used tool in my kitchen is a cast iron skillet, and Milo’s is the one I trust the most. Its enameled coating makes it easier to clean that raw cast iron, and it doesn’t need to be seasoned regularly. — Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks Associate Editor

A smart speaker

A smart speakerAmazon

Echo (2nd Generation) Smart Speaker, available at Amazon, $69.99

I’m an amateur cook, and one reason why I don’t do it often (and thereby don’t get any better) is because I hate having to continually refer back to a cookbook or a recipe on my phone. This lets me ask cooking questions to Alexa without taking my hands off the cutting board or having to pause my podcast or music — since I’m probably already using the Echo to listen. It also helps with the boredom I still feel whilst cooking. — Mara Leighton, Insider Picks Reporter

A juicer

A juicerAmazon

Breville Juice Fountain Plus Juice Extractor, available at Amazon, $146

I don’t know if this counts as cooking, but it’s definitely an unexpected key player in my kitchen. It’s pretty big and bulky, but it’s relatively easy to clean and makes a flawless eight-ounce. cup of juice in only five seconds. — Mara Leighton, Insider Picks Reporter

An indoor grill press

An indoor grill pressAmazon

George Foreman 4-Serving Grill and Panini Press, available at Amazon, $35.49

Upon learning that my meals mostly consisted of whatever I could boil, my father sent me this handy $40 George Foreman Grill to make cooking full meals — including protein — easier and therefore more appealing. It really has been a lifesaver. It makes a quick healthy meal of chicken and veggies in minutes, and it works as a panini press. The plates are removable and easy to clean, and it’s extremely versatile for how affordable it was. It also doesn’t hurt that the sloped surface drains about 42% of the fat. — Mara Leighton, Insider Picks Reporter

A set of just the essentials

A set of just the essentialsMaterial

The Fundamentals, $175, available at Material

If you’re a minimalist whose goal is to pare down, not add to the clutter of your kitchen, you’ll want to take a look at kitchen essentials brand Material. Its Fundamentals Set comprises two knives, a pair of tongs, a wooden spoon, a metal spoon, a slotted spatula, and a wooden base to hold it all together, but my favorite is the tongs. You can lock and unlock the tongs simply by squeezing and flipping with one hand, giving you the power to multitask and the feeling of a pro chef who knows exactly what they’re doing. — Connie Chen, Insider Picks Reporter

An air fryer

An air fryerAmazon

Krups 2.5-Liter Air Fryer, $129.95, available at Amazon

I’ve used this appliance way more than I expected because it basically acts as a speedy convection oven. I hate cranking up my oven just to re-crisp my leftovers or make a small side dish, and this air fryer is the perfect alternative. It’s easy to use and clean, and helps you make healthier versions of your favorite fried foods. — Connie Chen, Insider Picks Reporter

Silicone oven mitts

Silicone oven mittsAmazon

Honla Silicone Oven Mitts, available at Amazon, $11.97

I tend to take things very literally, so to me, the “hand-iest” tool that I use in the kitchen has to be these silicone oven mitts from Honla. While there is nothing flashy about these mitts, they perform exactly as you would hope a pair of oven mitts should. They slip on and off easy, the silicone exterior provides a solid grip on whatever you may be pulling out of the oven, and they do not let any heat through to your hands. — Danny Bakst, Insider Picks Content Producer

A fish spatula

A fish spatulaAmazon

New Star Fish Spatula, available at Amazon, $5.95

I think I’ve told everyone I know about this fish spatula. I’m actually a vegetarian, so I don’t even use it for fish, but it’s designed precisely to be able to handle and flip delicate foods. So yes, it’s great for fish (probably) but it’s also great for literally anything else you cook in a pan. It’s flexible with a razor-thin edge so you can get underneath anything to flip it without dislodging that crispy crust or perfect sear you worked hard to achieve. Throw away your other spatulas and replace them with these — you won’t be sorry! And if you need further convincing, here’s my in-depth review on this fish spatula— Sally Kaplan, Insider Picks Editor

A citrus zester and cheese grater

A citrus zester and cheese graterAmazon

Microplane Coarse Grater, available at Amazon, $15.71

Whether you’re zesting lemons or grating Parmesan cheese or even fresh nutmeg, this is the best possible tool for the job. The top has a little rubber cover that keeps the grater stable on a cutting board, and the handle provides a comfortable grip. It’s dishwasher safe, very sharp, and extremely effective. I store mine on a hook for easier access I also really appreciate that there’s a built-in loop for hanging. — Sally Kaplan, Insider Picks Editor

A detachable grater

A detachable graterAmazon

Chef’n Tower Grater, available at Amazon, $39.99

This clever tower grater from Chef’n is a new favorite for me. Each of the three sides, which have differently-sized grating holes, can be removed from the base and used on their own. If you keep the tower intact while you grate, your cheese or veggies will stay safely tucked inside. — Sally Kaplan, Insider Picks Editor

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This article was written on 06 Feb 2019.