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25 Useful Kitchen Tools You Need That Are Under $15

Home chefs should have a few items at their disposal at the bare minimum. A few pots and pans and skillets. One or two cutting boards. A paring knife and a chef's knife. But there are tiny ways to not only up your game when it comes to the quality of the food you're preparing, but also minimize the time you spend in the kitchen. 

It's easy to focus on the big-ticket items, especially if you're making a wedding registry or other kind of gift list. But be sure not to overlook some of the little guys that can help you a lot, regardless of whether you're making a small spread or a giant feast.

Certain products can save you some major elbow grease in the prep part of the meal, the cooking itself, and also the dreaded and inevitable clean-up. We're happy to recommend a list of items that will come in handy and also come with a low, low price tag that's below $15.

1. OXO mini measuring cup

So many recipes just call for a tablespoon of this or an ounce of that. If all you have is a large liquid measuring cup, getting the recipe right can be flummoxing. OXO has you covered with its Good Grips Mini Angled Measuring Cup with helpful measuring guidance printed not only on the sides but on the interior — the exact amount of tablespoons, ounces, and even milliliters are easily visible. 

This product holds two ounces, which is a quarter of a cup. It's also designed with a convenient spout so you can pour the contents without making a mess.

2. Trudeau mini pot holder

When a family-owned company has been around since 1889, you might want to trust its products, especially when it comes to your hardworking hands that go into making a hot meal. Trudeau's Stay Cool Silicone Mini Pinch Pot Holders are small but mighty, and we recommend buying one or two.

These are much more convenient than slipping on a giant oven mitt, and we can confirm from our experience that the construction is sturdy. This is a hardy sculpture of silicone that really stands up to the heat. The design is slender on one side to accommodate just your thumb while the other side is wider to take on the other four fingers. So snap up one or two of these handy grips and you can focus on charring some tasty meat and not yourself.

3. Kuhn Rikon peeler

It's always good to have a quality peeler available in the kitchen. If you want to remove the skins from root vegetables, it's a much better alternative to a paring knife. And if you're a home mixologist, citrus peels are a crucial element to not only the visual garnish but unleashing the oils of the fruit onto the drink you've prepared.

Manufactured not far from Zurich in Switzerland, Kuhn Rikon's Original Swiss Peeler comes in a variety of hues — white and black for those who like a monochrome theme, but there's also a full rainbow available from red to violet. Depending on your preferred color, the price can vary.

4. Microplane zester

A stainless steel zester from Microplane appears unassuming at first, but it is a game changer. When you're looking to season a dish that calls for finely shredded lemon zest or top some Bolognese-covered pasta with gentle snowflakes of Parmesan, you're going to be happy you have a zester from Microplane in your kitchen toolbox.

The company started up in the 1990s and has an extensive line of culinary gadgetry that employs a stamped metal process to ensure maximum sharpness. So if you purchase this zester and become a fan of its quality, scrape up even more items they offer that are geared towards specific ingredients like garlic, ginger, nuts, and herbs.

5. OXO wooden citrus reamer

If you have a bounty of citrus on your hands — perhaps due to a very happy tree in your backyard, or thanks to a bargain deal at the local supermarket — you're going to be juicing soon enough. That's where OXO can lend you a hand with its Wooden Citrus Reamer.

With a sharp, piercing point at the top, this utensil gets right down to business. It's well crafted from beech wood and features a comb of curvy angles that gets all of the juice out of those lemons, limes, and grapefruit. This is an essential item to have around when you're dealing with a lot of citrus — for the kids' lemonade stand, and also for after-hours cocktails with margaritas, Palomas, or daiquiris.

6. The Pioneer Woman meat tenderizer

There are three sharp edges to this meat tenderizer from The Pioneer Woman, and each side delivers a certain smack that gives this utensil extra value. There's smooth, coarse, and fine, which makes this an especially useful tool. If you're looking to grill skirt steak within a minute or two, get chicken parm to the ideal thinness before it hits the oven so it gets an even bake, or show a hefty swordfish who's boss, this tenderizer is truly a utility player.

A tenderizer is also great to use before you dip your protein in a marinade. The more you can break down the tough muscles of the meat, the more it will absorb from the sauce you've prepared.

7. Ozeri kitchen scale

To take your baking wizardry to the upper echelons, you need to have a kitchen scale. You can fuss all you want with the ingredients and amounts within savory stews, marinades, and seasoning blends and generally come out with a decent meal. But, with baking, precision is key. That's where a kitchen scale comes into the picture, and you don't need to spend much money on one.

Ozeri, an award-winning brand that manufactures kitchen appliances, can provide you with a basic kitchen scale at a very reasonable cost. No more complaints about the birthday cake being too dry, the fudge brownies being overly doughy, or the blueberry muffins being limp. With the help of a kitchen scale, you might merit a handshake from Paul Hollywood.

8. Helen's Asian Kitchen stir fry spatula

Whatever ingredients you might want to throw into the mix, and beyond a well-seasoned wok, a quality wooden spatula is a key component to making a tasty stir fry. And, as opposed to a metal spatula, a wooden one is not going to damage your pan.

The ideal wooden spatula for stir frying has slightly sharp edges to scrape the ingredients around, and it's also smooth enough to not break those precious ingredients apart and keep them intact for presentation. And despite being made of wood, this spatula needs to hold up to the high heat. Helen's Asian Kitchen has all of that in mind with its thick wooden spatula that's made from bamboo. 

9. Better Homes & Gardens wood muddler

For those who like mixing drinks at home, a muddler is a must-have item. You'll get a lot more out of the fresh ingredients that comprise the cocktail you're making when you give them a nice massage with this utensil. We particularly recommend getting a muddler if you're a fan of Moscow Mules — the pairing of lime wedges and fresh mint leaves only gets better when you apply this tool.

An inexpensive muddler we would recommend is offered by Better Homes & Gardens. It's carved from acacia wood — and it's both functional as a cocktail helper, and attractive in its simplistic, rustic design.

10. Farberware strainer set

While the color scheme of this trio of finely meshed strainers from Farberware is a bit loud, their exceptional functionality wins the day. The largest of these is helpful to give a big batch of rice a good rinse before you cook it. The mid-sized strainer is great to remove excess liquid from canned beans when you're making a chili. We like using the smallest one to catch pulp and seeds when we're juicing citrus for a cocktail.

Each size comes with a long handle, and two extra knobs come through to form a nice trifecta. You don't need to call for an extra set of hands to help you with the sieve because Farberware's design maintains a balanced composure.

11. Amco Rub-a-Way odor absorber

If there's anything as bad as getting teary-eyed from slicing onions, slicing a filet of fish, trimming the fat off of a slab of raw meat, chopping cilantro, or mincing garlic, it's smelling those pungent ingredients on your hands for hours afterward. Or even worse, the next day. Good news — it's actually fairly easy to remove those odors with the aid of a stainless tell bar from Amco.

The stainless steel absorbs those odious smells and is dishwasher safe. It doesn't need to have water to work its magic and is great to have packed when you're preparing food outdoors, camping, or fishing, and may have limited access to soap or water.

12. Pyrex glass measuring cup

A generously sized measuring cup is an essential item when you're serious about cooking or baking. Arguably the gold standard when it comes to glass kitchen utensils given that it's been around for over 100 years, one that's offered by Pyrex has the benefit of not only functionality but a timeless, nostalgic design that fits into pretty much any kitchen's aesthetic. It's also giving you a lot that you need to know about measurements. It holds two cups and also provides the metrics on milliliters. 

This cup is made of thick glass, so if you or a sous chef are a bit clumsy and drop it during the chaos of prep, it should remain intact. It's also microwave safe, but keep it out of the oven.

13. Norpro silicone pinch bowls

"Mise en place" is a French phrase to embrace when you're a home chef. You'll save yourself a lot of fuss and trouble if you have all of your ingredients ready to go before you start baking or cooking. Norpro is coming through with a colorful quartet of miniature silicone bowls that can hold sauces, herbs, sugars, and spices as you get a meal ready.

Because they're made of silicone, these cups don't retain odors, and they're also dishwasher-safe. They're also pliable – you can squeeze these cups into a spout shape. So if the contents are liquid, you can avoid unnecessary spills when incorporating them into a recipe.

14. Full Circle fruit & vegetable cleaning brush

If you're a fan of going to the farmer's market, you really need to have a good brush to spruce up that produce. Those fruits, veggies, and fungi are always better when they come fresh from the local farm and not the grocery store, but they tend to require a little bit of cleaning before they're ready for consumption.

Full Circle has a produce-cleaning brush that really lives up to its name. Literally — it's shaped like a circle. It's a helpful design in that you can simply hang it from your faucet handle as a reminder to scrub those mushrooms. It's also made from recycled plant fiber, so metaphorically speaking, it's also going full circle.

15. Instant Pot steamer basket

Frozen vegetables are a very easy and convenient way to add a healthy dose of fiber to a dinner meal. All they require is a medium-sized pot with a gentle amount of water — and a steamer basket.

Give it up for Instant Pot with their slickly designed silicone steamer basket. We've utilized metal steamer baskets in the past, but have gotten burnt fingers from the experience. So, one that gets the job done without giving us a scar gets our pick for a recommendation. To get your daily dose of vitamins and minerals, grab a handle on this basket and steam up some broccoli, carrots, green beans, or peas.

16. The Pioneer Woman basting brush

A basting brush is a must-have item to have at the ready within your kitchen arsenal. This is an especially useful tool if you're baking — use it to give biscuits a gentle coating of butter, or to add a sugary glaze to a pie. With grilled meat — especially if it's pork ribs — you're going to want to keep applying dabs of delectable barbecue sauce over a long cook.

The Pioneer Woman was intent on delivering a quality brush for culinary purposes, and comes through with one that has a healthy head of firm boar's hair and a sturdy stem made out of hardy acacia wood.

17. Sweese butter crock

Chilly cold butter is extremely helpful in certain baking situations — notably pastry recipes that require a crispy, flaky texture like croissants and pie dough. But when all you want is add a dab to hot toast or an English muffin, you want that butter to be on the warmer side and ready to melt. And that's when a butter crock would deserve a spot on your kitchen counter.

A butter crock performs the task of storing butter at room temperature and does not require refrigeration. All you need is clean water and a flip of the crock's lid, and you have a vacuum seal that prevents spoilage. Sweese offers an especially attractive butter crock that comes at a reasonable price.

18. KitchenAid all purpose shears

Certain scissors belong in the home office and others are best at home in the kitchen. When you're preparing food, a solid set of scissors is helpful to have around for a variety of everyday reasons. You can easily snip herbs. You can divide a large slab of meat into cubes for a stew, or turn a chicken breast into tender slices for a stir fry. They're just as useful to perform the basic task of cutting open a package of food.

KitchenAid sells a pair of shears very worthy of keeping within arm's length when you're cooking. The brand also offers them in a variety of colors to match the color scheme of your kitchen.

19. ThermoPro meat thermometer

Whether it's coming hot off the grill or straight out of the oven, it's really important that meat be served at the proper temperature. It's not only for the flavor and texture but also for preventing foodborne illness.

Look to ThermoPro for a meat thermometer that will tell you everything you need to know about whether you've cooked meat to the proper degree. It's battery-operated — helpful if you're cooking outdoors and don't have an outlet nearby — and delivers quick and easily visible results. It comes in a slim, compact design as well. The brand is also simpatico with Guy Fieri and donates its products to his charity endeavors.

20. Escali confection thermometer

If you're intending to make candy that requires using high heat, precision is key. If you're off by a few degrees, you're either going to end up with something rock solid that's going to break a few teeth, or a disastrously soft and chewy concoction that wasn't all what you had in mind.

A confection thermometer from Minnesota-based Escali can come to the rescue in these situations. This is also a useful tool when you're going in a savory route and doing a deep fry — it will help ensure that the oil is hot enough. You want to be confident in the temperature if you're making a batch of fried chicken so that it's not only delightfully crispy but also safe to eat.

21. Suuker melon baller

For fans of both fruit and artistry, you're getting an incredible deal with the 4-in-1 tool that's designed by Suuker. You can carve out some incredibly eye-catching food with this versatile utensil. The end result will be a still-life masterpiece and taste just as good as it looks.

For fruit that's a bit on the firmer side, carving them in an especially visually pleasing way can be a challenge that takes up too much of your time. You can use it to peel, carve, scoop, and craft tiny, adorable spheres. Become the Michelangelo of your kitchen and sculpt something fascinating with watermelon, dragon fruit, honeydew, kiwi, or cantaloupe.

22. Gorilla Grip box grater

As Ralph Waldo Emerson allegedly wrote, "If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door," and Gorilla Grip has definitely built a better mousetrap with their design on a box grater. Maybe actually lay out some mousetraps because you're going to be shredding a lot of tempting cheese, but this is also a great device to have around for breaking down vegetables like carrots and ginger.

In addition to its sturdy construction, what we especially like about this item is that it has a container that attaches to the bottom to catch everything you're grating. Gorilla Grip went the extra mile to not only add a base to that base container to prevent it from slipping on your countertop, but also helpful measurements on the side to show you just how many cups, ounces, and milliliters you've accumulated.

23. Marna Beans-Shaped Bottle Cleaning Sponge

These green bean-shaped sponges from Marna are quite a game changer when you're trying to clean a container with a narrow neck. Your hand can't fit in there to give the insides a good scrubbing.

These pods have two lightweight pellets inside, and all you need to do is drop one into a bottle with a bit of soap and hot water, seal it up, and give it a good 30-second shake. The bottle instantly foams up and gets squeaky clean. Pro tip — tie a knot of kitchen string to the hole on the edge for easy retrieval. This is a solid clean-up utensil, and especially so for those who make homemade sauces, home brewers, wine lovers with delicate decanters, or even just for something as simple as getting the grime out of a water bottle.

24. Brieftons Manual Food Chopper

Sometimes aesthetics and plating technique are important ways to show you put some extra effort into a dish. Other times it just doesn't matter at all as long as it tastes good. Why try to cut fruits, herbs, and vegetables to perfection when no one will notice the difference? A couple of examples come to mind immediately — salsa, chili, and chutney.

You don't need an electrical outlet to do a time-saving chop in your food prep. A manual device from Brieftons will get the job done, and for that reason, it's an excellent companion on camping trips. There's a solid trio of blades that fit into the base, and once you load in your desired ingredients and lock in the top, all you need to do is rip the cord. How coarse or fine you want the chop depends on how many tugs you take.

25. Farberware mini colander

A miniature colander offered by Farberware is helpful to have around for the small, but important, kitchen task of washing fruits and vegetables. It's good protocol to do so in order to erase any potential pesticides from the produce that aren't as great for your health as the vitamins and minerals you'll get once they're clean.

This colander is only six inches wide, but that's enough space to rinse off a batch of fresh berries, a few peaches, or a bowlful of Brussels sprouts. And with its smaller capacity, it's less to clean than a bigger strainer that comes in handier when you're making a few pounds of pasta.