It doesn’t matter if you’re a professionally trained chef or a freshly graduated English major hoping to branch out from instant ramen, every cook needs the right tools.
But not all gadgets are created equal, and between late-night infomercials for Japanese knife sets and that set of tiny spoons your grandmother insists any proper kitchen needs, it can be tough to whittle your Amazon cartload down to the essentials. That’s why we put together this list of nine tried-and-true items primed to take the stress out of all your culinary adventures.
With the pull of a string, this tidy little apparatus whirs to life, slicing, dicing, chopping, and pureeing its way to meal prep greatness. Two independent stainless steel blades come together inside its clear, dishwasher-safe walls, paving a clean, speedy, and totally accident-proof path toward chunky salsas, smooth guacamole, fresh chopped salads, and a heck of a lot more. Your fingers will thank you.($14.99; amazon.com)
It may look simple, but this handy contraption has the power to revolutionize your weeknight dinner plan. Its five evenly stacked blades allow you to mince finicky fresh herbs like parsley and green onions like a pro in just a few snips. This one’s a real win-win for any kitchen—you’re cutting down on prep time while also upping your dish’s quality. You can say goodbye to that flavorless spice aisle swill for good. ($13.97; amazon.com)
Repeat after me: Never. Cook. Meat. Without. A. Thermometer. As anybody who’s ever taken a food safety course knows, staying out of the temperature danger zone (i.e., 40 to 140 degrees) can be the difference between a lovely meal and a trip to the hospital.This stylish little collapsible device gives a fast and accurate reading, whether you’re tackling hearty pork loin or delicate, flaky branzino. Its coolest feature, though, is a pre-programmed alarm you can set to go off according your specific protein’s desired temperature, taking virtually all of the guesswork out of the (potentially disastrous) equation. ($34.32; amazon.com)
This is one product that has truly stood the test of time. Good for crushing spices, mashing anchovies for dressing, whipping up creamy pesto and guacamole, and even grinding coffee, the mortar and pestle is the OG of the kitchen tool world and a definite must-have for any home cook.This understated porcelain set takes the cake for being both affordable and well-designed, equipped with an unglazed basin ideal for achieving a more thorough muddle.($16.27; amazon.com)
In a world where the term “smart” applies to everything from cell phones to refrigerators, it only makes sense that countertop cooking gadgets are wisening up too.Enter the Ninja Intelli-Sense, a powerful and versatile machine that not only comes with differently sized attachments but is programmed to detect which vessel happens to be screwed into its base to ensure ultimate portion control every time. There’s also a touch screen loaded with chef-designed recipe presets capable of handling all the pulsing, mixing, and puréeing needed to churn out everything from pizza dough to ice cream.It’s not exactly the cheapest blender on the block, but between its brains and its brawn, it’s well worth the extra cash.($149.99; target.com)
If you haven’t already worked a bamboo steamer into your repertoire, you better get on that pronto. This seemingly innocuous wooden stacker is a lifesaver when it comes to all sorts of vegetables, seafood, fowl, and, of course, reviving last night’s delivery dumplings.Steaming is just as speedy as it is healthy, gently cooking whatever lurks inside to perfection without flavor- and nutrient-reducing direct high heat or the use of butter, oil, or other fats. And because it comes with two woven baskets, you’re getting double the deliciousness in half the time.($25.99; amazon.com)
Curious about spiralizing but not sold on investing in a clunky cranking machine? Set your sights on one of these hand-hand miracle workers. They’re armed with three different blades for transforming carrots, zucchini, squash, and more into your new favorite pasta alternative with an effortless flick of the wrist. Now all you need is a little olive oil, some quality tomato sauce, and a dusting of Parmesan—and voila, dinner is served.($24.95; amazon.com)
If you’ve been keeping up with this column, you’re well aware that a quality cast iron pan is the secret to at-home grilling. And with its three, deep-bottomed compartments, this square-cut number undoubtedly takes your indoor barbecue skills to the next level.The cast iron ensures even heat distribution throughout each section: the two smaller, smooth pockets being perfect for veggies, beans and similar hot sides, while the larger ribbed area works wonders on steaks, chicken, and other proteins. It puts a whole new spin on the concept of a one-pot meal.($30.99; wayfair.com)
I first saw this ingenious, strikingly modern contraption sitting on an old-school Parisian chef’s kitchen counter and honestly couldn’t believe my eyes. You don’t have to be a pro to appreciate its space-saving grace: About the size of a squat cookbook, it stands upright on your countertop like a standard knife block, though that’s about where the comparison ends.Instead of measured slots, the Kapoosh is filled with flexible plastic rods that keep each blade comfortably nestled away no matter how big or small the knife. It’s dishwasher safe, to boot, and comes with a thick, non-skid base to make sure everything remains sharp and secure.($29.99; amazon.com)