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There are some essential kitchen appliances that are really worth splurging on, like a good stand mixer, a multipurpose toaster oven, or an espresso maker if you can’t live without that cup of joe. Kitchen gadgets can get pricey fast (and fill up valuable counter space), but incorporating a couple cooking accessories into your kitchen can streamline your meal-prepping process without breaking the bank.
If you don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on something that might wind up in a cabinet in a few months, or you’re a home cook that’s looking for an upgrade, we’ve found 15 essential kitchen gadgets all under $40. Our top picks will help you chop veggies, brew coffee fast, build a hot sandwich, grill and griddle indoors, and whip up desserts like a pro.
While we know that “unitaskers” (a term coined by Alton Brown for single-use kitchen gear, most likely something that can be done with a knife alone) get a bad rap, we’ve selected accessories that will elevate the food you probably cook the most, or handy tools that will be a serious help for cooking and baking.
Note: All of the accessories below were under $40 when we compiled this list, but it’s possible their price may fluctuate a bit over time.
1. Nicewell Digital Food Scale
If you’re serious about getting precise measurements for baking (or even very specific recipes, like souffles), you’ll appreciate this 9 x 13 inch scale from Nicewell. It has a whopping 22 lb. capacity, which is more than most digital scales can handle, with a function that subtracts the weight of the scale itself so you’ll get an exact readout every time. As a bonus, the sleek, stainless steel finish and backlit LED display will look good on any counter space.
2. KRUPS Simply Brew 5-Cup Coffee Maker
The KRUPS Simply Brew 5-Cup Coffee Maker is designed to streamline your morning routine, delivering a great cup of coffee while you multitask. It features an easy to fill water tank, and a sturdy 5-cup glass coffee pot with a pause function that lets you pour yourself a cup, and then continue brewing the rest of the pot. The coffee maker also has an automatic “Keep Warm” function that keeps your coffee warm after brewing.
3. Crock-Pot 7-Quart Slow Cooker
Crock-Pot’s 7-Quart Slow Cooker is for anyone who wants simple, one-pot meals without a lot of bells and whistles. The spacious manual slow cooker serves 9+ people, fitting 7 lbs. of food, which makes it great for large families or anyone who wants to get meal prep done for the week. The digital display lets you cook meals in 30 minutes to up to 20 hours, with “high” and “low” temperature options and a convenient “Keep Warm” setting.
4. THAT Inventions Spread That Serrated Warming Butter Knife and Spreader
Anyone who’s ever tried to spread butter straight out of a cold fridge knows that it’s a pain. That Inventions Spread That Serrated Warming Butter Knife and Spreader is a game-changer, with a super-efficient copper core that carries the warmth from the palm of your hand to the edge of the blade, softening the butter for an easier spread. The serrated edge can also shave off fine curls of butter straight onto your toast, but it also works well with jams, garlic butter, peanut butter, cheese, icing and more.
5. PUR Faucet Water Filter System
If you’re going to buy the best quality ingredients to make your meals, why shouldn’t your water be just good? This PUR drinking water faucet filtration system claims to reduce over 70 contaminants, including lead, mercury and certain pesticides, even 10x more contaminants than a Brita pitcher. Enjoy cleaner, filtered water straight from your faucet with the easy to attach mounted filter, which is compatible with most faucets.
6. BLACK+DECKER Family-Sized Electric Griddle
Whipping up big Sunday breakfasts can be easier with this electric griddle from Black+Decker, which has 200 square inches of cooking space, all weighing in at a compact five pounds. The cooking surface of the griddle itself reaches 400 degrees, with a built-in warming tray so items like bacon and ham stay crisp while the rest of of the meal is cooking. The entire griddle is dishwasher-safe, including a removable drip tray.
7. Prep Naturals Glass Meal Prep Containers
This five-pack of 36 ounce meal prep containers are easy stack, dishwasher safe, and big enough to store your whole lunch in, so you can make big batches of food in advance. Because they’re made from durable glass, you can directly pop them in an oven or microwave to reheat them up, or freeze them if you’re meal prepping for the whole week. “SmartestLock” locking lid technology also means there won’t be any spills, so you can throw these in a work or gym bag and head straight out the door.
8. Aroma Housewares 8-Cup Digital Rice Cooker
A rice cooker can be more versatile than you think, so whether you’re in the mood for a hearty chili, steamed veggies, or even a delicious cake, you can tackle it all with Aroma Housewares 8-Cup Digital Rice Cooker. It features six unique functions, including four digital pre-sets (with instructions for cooking grains like quinoa and barley), and an automatic “Keep Warm” mode when the cooking is finished. Save time cooking with a delay timer you can set up to 15 hours in advance, and the built-in steamer that can work while any rice, soup, or other meal simultaneously cooks on a separate level.
9. Saferell Instant Read Meat Thermometer
Prevent getting any dreaded undercooked proteins with this compact, lightweight digital meat thermometer, which will give you an accurate temp reading in two to three seconds flat. With a large backlight screen, it lets you see the temp clearly both in dim kitchen light and the bright outdoors. You’ll get tender, well-seared meat with a reading from the 4.6-inch long probe, but it works just as well for reading fried foods since it can also handle heat up to 572°F.
10. Hamilton Beach 6-Speed Electric Hand Mixer
Hamilton’s compact electric hand mixer can easily whip cream, mix dough, and make meringue without the bulk of other, heavier stand mixer models. With 250 watts of power, it comes with six speeds, including a “QuickBurst” function similar to a blender. A built-in groove lets you rest the hand mixer over the bowl, so your batter won’t drip all over your countertop. All the whisk and beater attachments fold up into a snap-on carry case.
11. Cuisinart Pizza Grilling Set
Cuisinart’s Pizza Grilling set gives you all the tools you need to make perfectly charred pizzeria-quality pies at home, without having to shell out for a specialty oven. The set includes a 13-inch cordierite pizza stone, a pizza peel that folds up for easy storage, and stainless steel pizza cutter. The stone is designed to be used on all kinds of grills, from propane, to charcoal and pellet grills, so you can always get that smoke-flavored crust.
12. Magic Bullet Blender 11-Piece Set
The Magic Bullet proves you don’t need a hefty blender to make meals and snacks like smoothies, omelets, sauces and dips. Small but mighty, just load your ingredients into the cup, twist on the blade, then get to chopping or blending with the 200-watt blender. The 11-piece set includes the blender, additional blender cups, blades, and a recipe book.
13. Dash Rapid Egg Cooker
Dash’s Rapid Egg Cooker is like your ultimate brunch companion, with the ability to make soft, medium, and hard-boiled eggs in addition to poaching, scrambling, and omelette-making. Compact and lightweight at just 1 lb., you can cook up to six eggs at a time, and can poach two eggs with the separate poaching tray. An auto-shut off function also prevents overcooking.
14. Hamilton Beach Panini Press
Want to make hot, satisfying sandwiches that come out with a crispy crust every time? Hamilton Beach is the gold standard of these kinds of griddles and sandwich presses, and their original model does not disappoint. With 95 square inches of nonstick surface on the top and bottom grill plates, the hot sandwich maker will cook most meals in 10 minutes or less. Fat drips away into the dishwasher safe, slide-out drip tray.
15. Fullstar Vegetable Chopper and Spiralizer
Sure you could always use your kitchen knives, but if you don’t have stellar knife skills yet, than this Fullstar Vegetable Chopper and Spiralizer is a great helper. The built-in chop lid lets you cut foods directly into the 1.2 L collection tray without the mess of a knife and cutting board. The 7-piece set comes with four interchangeable blades that snap in and out, so you can cut and spiralize produce with ease.