Gift Guide: 10 MUST HAVE Kitchen Tools for Less Than $20

Gift Guide: 10 Kitchen Tool Must Haves Under $20 |

Holiday shopping is in full swing.  Don’t listen to all those people and advertisements that are telling you there isn’t any time left!.  I for one have found my shopping gets later and later every year but part of that is online retailers are set up to support later shoppers with quick shipping, gift wrapping and great discounts too.

I find ideas don’t spring to mind always as early as I’d like, but candidly I’d rather get a great gift later and hit the gift-giving nail on the head, than buy something to ‘check the box’ in early December.  I personally have learned early present purchases often end up stealthily hidden and forgotten so I end up over-buying too.  All this to say, you aren’t too late!  There’s plenty of time to keep shopping!

I am asked often about my favorite kitchen appliances, tools and brands I use and love.  There are definitely some things I use often, if not daily, that I can’t imagine my cooking life without.  Some are mainstream and others less common but life changers in my kitchen prep.  I’m sharing a list of 10 MUST HAVES today, all of which are under $20!  They are great to fill out your kitchen tools or to start a new home chef to equip them for all cooking challenges.  Some cost significantly less than $20 making them great choices for stocking stuffers.

You can click on any of the photos below to learn more specifics or to purchase.  Below the photos I’ll share a few thoughts on each!


Batter Dispenser: I bought mine a few years ago as part of a pancake gift and have used it for many things ever since.  It’s perfect for controlled dispensing of batter when making pancakes or waffles, but I love it for cupcake and muffin batter too.  Gone are the days of globs of cake batter on the muffin tin.  It’s easy for kids too.

Citrus Press:  I have three sizes of hand-held citrus presses (orange, lemon and lime) and use them whenever I make smoothies, for general recipes and cocktails.  They extract a maximum of juice while holding back the seeds.  Tip:  put the citrus fruit in the microwave for 10 seconds before juicing to even more juice!

Instant Read Thermometer:  These have replaced my older style thermometers for checking meat temps or for making marshmallows and candy too.  They register temperatures immediately so no more waiting for the mercury to rise.

Cast Iron Skillet: These classics are a kitchen must have.  They work on the stovetop, oven and on the grill.  You can use them for frying, cooking, baking and the heavy cast iron evenly dispenses heat.  They are easy to care for and will last a lifetime.  A 9-inch Lodge (made in America) Skillet is less than $20 too!

Kitchen IQ Zester:  I have shared this zester on Boulder Locavore before, given it for gifts and can’t imagine life without it.  It zests citrus rind like butter.  The removable plastic back measures the amount of zest as you work and slides off to remove the zest with no mess.

Jumbo Timer: we have at least 5 of these floating around our house.  The numbers are big so easy to see from across the kitchen.  It’s easy to set and turn off the timer with messy hands.  It comes in a variety of great colors too.

Garlic Peelers: Peeling garlic cloves can both be laborious and leave your hands smelling of it no matter how much you wash them.  Pop a few cloves into one of these tubes, press down like you are rolling dough, and voila, out come peeled cloves.  Easy peasy.

Corn Zipper: I received mine as a gift and candidly shrugged it off as a latest gadget; until I used it. The curved side of the zipper is placed against the cob of corn and in one pull down the length of the cob all the kernels are removed without any of the cob or leaving part of the kernels behind.  Made my Kuhn-Rikon the blade is fantastic and it’s a steal of a price.

Silicon Basting Brushes:  I upgraded my old basting brushes a few years ago after resisting silicon.  I wish I hadn’t waited so long.  Great for basting meats in the oven, anything on the grill, pastries or anything where something needs to be brushed on.  The brush pops off and can go through the dishwasher for easy cleaning (not the wooden handle).  I love the wooden handles of these brushes; they are sturdy to use and long enough that you won’t be burned in the basting process.

GIR Spatulas: I use spatulas constantly and have tossed many away from eventually breaking them or for their feel (too soft, not pliable enough, the edge doesn’t scrape a mixing bowl well, etc.).  My friend Erin lent me hers while we were making a baking video recently and could not stop talking about them.  She’d gotten one as a gift and has never looked back stocking her kitchen fully with them.  After using it myself I totally understand why!

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  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says

    I would love a bunch of new kitchen tools. I use them so much and so many of my things need to be replaced!

    • says

      I too have found all brands are not created equal. Spending a bit more can lead to tools that function better and last far longer, making them cheaper in the long run!

  2. Catherine S says

    These all look like great kitchen tools. I just told my husband the other day that I would like to get a cast iron skillet.

  3. says

    My husband loves to cook and spends a lot of time in the kitchen, so new gadgets are always welcome. We could definitely use that corn zipper since I always take my kernels off the cob and my oldest is getting braces, which will force her to do so too!

  4. says

    I must have been living under a rock because I never knew garlic peelers existed! I use my garlic press nearly every day because I love garlic! I also use my cast iron skillet daily! This is a great list!

  5. says

    I thought I had every kitchen utensil known to cookkind until I saw the Taylor Timer and realized how nice it would be for me. I can keep it right by the computer and stop the constant running to the kitchen to see if the one on the oven’s gone off. Thanks for the great suggestions!

    • says

      I love that timer! I have had several but between the large numbers, the cute colors and the ease of setting and stopping it when my fingers are glommed up with dough, it’s a keeper! And so affordable too.

  6. Jeanine says

    I could use so many new items in my kitchen, all of these look like something I could use. I don’t have any of it! I am loving all the colours of everything!

  7. Kim Croisant says

    Would you know I have every one of those kitchen tools, except the Instant Read Thermometer. I’v not ever cooked using one – but then again, my husband is the cook, but he doesn’t use one either. Great list for sure!!

    • says

      I have used one for about a year and it is a life changer. I use it for meat, making candy type things, really anything a thermometer is needed for. It registers so immediately there’s no wait. I really love it.

  8. Crystal says

    You know what I asked Santa for? A collapsible colander. I thought that was all I wanted…and then I saw this post. Need it all!

  9. Crystal says

    You know what I asked Santa for Christmas? A collapsible colander. That’s all I though I wanted…and then I saw this post. Need it all!

  10. Nicole says

    Thanks for all the great posts Toni (particularly the infusions and cocktails). In the spirit of returning gifts – a tip for you… Garlic and onion smells on fingers/hands are easy to get rid of. You can buy a stainless steel soap (a soap bar in the shape of stainless steel – that you use like a soap). better yet, if you have a stainless steel sink, you can wet your hands and run them back and forth over the sink’s surface (with or without soap if that reduces the friction – I just use water) and that should remove the smell. I still have and use the silicon garlic peeler – but a girl still has to chop.

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