If I said that you could get help in the kitchen that could make cooking a little easier, faster, and maybe even healthier, you’d be stoked, right? Well, short of a full-time kitchen assistant, these must-have kitchen tools that are especially great for busy family cooks (like you!) can do all of that—just maybe not all at once.
Can you live without them? Probably. But, considering they’re all under $15, there’s no reason why you should.
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– Updated for 2023 –
Ever since I began using the OXO Good Grips Y-shaped peeler ($11.84), my straight swivel peeler has remained largely ignored. I mean, no one really likes peeling, right? But this little tool makes the job of peeling round vegetables and fruit—think stubborn butternut squash and apples—a lot easier. I also find it more slip resistant and comfortable when plowing through carrot after carrot.
Made of quality stainless steel, the Sunsella Vegetable Steamer ($12.99) is a must-have kitchen tool for families. The basket’s collapsible design allows it to fit various sized pots—perfect whether steaming veggies for one or for the whole family. Once collapsed, it can be stored easily and it’s dishwasher safe. Plus, I like that it motivates me to steam, which is one of the best cooking methods to retain a vegetable’s nutrients.
If you go into any professional kitchen, you will see stacks of sheet trays (also referred to as rimmed baking sheets). Most of us have the standard half-sheet trays, but once I started cooking “real” food for my kids, I found that the Nordic Ware Quarter-Sheet Baking Trays (around $15) are indispensable. They’re an inexpensive workhorse for roasting a small amount of vegetables, frozen french fries, or two separate items, side by side.
Note that there are many brands available and while I highly recommend Nordic Ware, if you’re comparison shopping, just be sure to choose ones made of high quality aluminum.
I spent too many years using a folded kitchen towel and cotton potholders when reaching for scalding cookie sheets, with burns to prove it, but not anymore. These HOMWE Silicone Oven Mitts ($24 — sorry, price went up since we first published this post!) are heat resistant up to 450 degrees and have a nice soft lining for extra protection. With little ones inevitably running around the kitchen, these sturdy oven mitts offer a confident grip when handling hot pans.
Most of us have spatulas that work just fine. . . until we try to flip delicate fish. Then the spatula cursing commences. The ultra thin Winco Fish Spatula ($8.19) is excellent for sliding under fragile fish, and the slightly larger size is helpful in keeping fillets intact while flipping. But don’t limit this must-have kitchen tool to fish—I love mine for cookies, burgers, and even pancakes.
In fact, I haven’t used a standard spatula in a long time, and I’m not sure that I’ll need to ever again.