Essential Kitchen Tools for $10 or Less

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Photograph: Vicky Wasik

There are plenty of reasons to love expensive cooking gear—a shiny new high-end blender, stand mixer, or Dutch oven promises a world of fun new kitchen projects and tasty meals—but good cooking certainly doesn't require pricey tools. In fact, some of our most used, versatile, and treasured items cost about as much as a couple of fancy-ish cups of coffee. Read on for our favorite pieces of equipment priced at $10 or less, all of which will make cooking at home a little simpler, more streamlined, and more delicious.

A Paring Knife

The main takeaway from our review of the best paring knives was that paring knives, though important to have, aren't so pivotal that you need to shell out for a high-end brand. Instead, we recommend buying one that’s affordable, like this Victorinox model, and keeping it sharp for mincing shallots and peeling onions. And, because it’s cheap, you won’t have to feel bad if that blade dulls over time from checking the tenderness of a roasted beet or the doneness of a batch of brown-butter brownies...or, I don't know, opening cardboard boxes—for under $10, it's not so taxing to replace.

A Pie Plate

We’ve known for a while that cheaper is better when it comes to pie plates. While you can spend quite a bit on eye-catching stoneware products, we recommend sticking with simple tempered glass, which heats more quickly than stone. This helps butter melt faster, for a flaky, golden crust instead of a sad, soggy bottom. If you're taking the time to make the best old-fashioned pie dough on earth, do it like our pastry wizard does; her favorite glass pie plate is this one from Pyrex, priced at around $7.

Offset Spatulas

You’ve probably seen all sizes of offset spatulas—like these four-inch and eight-inch versions—used in videos for frosting cakes, cupcakes, and other small pastries. But they actually have a few more uses as well. If you've ever found yourself frustrated when trying to pry a fragile piece of fish or a thin-skinned dumpling out of a skillet using a massive spatula, you'll love the way the thin, flexible blade of a small offset can slip under even the most petite food items with ease. Because they’re small and thin, offset spatulas give you more control over your food, whether you’re using them to crumb-coat a gorgeous cake or for plating a fancy meal.

A Fluted Pastry Wheel

The other day, I was cutting dough to weave a lattice crust for our blueberry pie, using a pizza cutter. Though I tried really hard to make everything even, it still looked sort of lame. This is where a fluted pastry wheel would have been nice: Super sharp, with a pretty design built in, it’ll create a more delicate shape for those lattices, and make your homemade ravioli look really nice, too.

Better Can Openers

I’ve long had a bad relationship with can openers. Maybe it’s because the ones I’ve purchased have always been poorly made. Maybe it’s because I humiliated myself using one incorrectly in my first kitchen job. That’s why I got so excited when the team finally did a review of the best can openers on the market, and luckily for us, two of the winners actually come in at under $10. The best traditional can opener is well built, grabs easily onto edges, and cuts smoothly through cans of all sizes. Our favorite fixed opener works a little more slowly than the traditional, but it’s dishwasher-safe (always a plus) and includes a bottle opener, too.

Good Whisks

Before I started working at Serious Eats, I really thought there was only one type of whisk, and that its function was simply to, well, whisk. Any variations, I assumed, were just stylistic. I found out how wrong I was when Stella published "How to Choose the Right Whisk." In fact, there are quite a few types: The balloon whisk is for whisking in bowls and sauciers, and combining dry ingredients; a French whisk is for aerating eggs and cream and emulsifying sauces; a ball whisk is for scraping flat surfaces; and then there are silicone versions for working in nonstick pans. That’s a lot of whisks! Fortunately, several are priced under $10, so stocking up won’t be too much of a problem.

Ninth and Sixth Pans

I was in culinary school the first time I used ninth pans, sixth pans, and other hotel-pan derivatives, and let me tell you: They are useful. I’ve seen very few in home kitchens, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a restaurant kitchen that doesn’t use them for all sorts of organizational purposes. Use them for your mise en place, or cover 'em over with plastic wrap to save leftovers. And when they’re not in use, just stack them for easy storage—the nesting feature is one of the best parts.

A Silicone Turner

There are many different kinds of spatulas out there, but if you own and use a nonstick pan, you'll extend its lifespan with a silicone spatula, which won't scrape away the Teflon like its metal counterpart. We recommend a few silicone turners, but the most affordable is this one from OXO. Next time you make eggs or buttermilk pancakes, you’ll be ready and raring to execute the perfect flip.

A Nonstick Muffin Pan and Liners

If you are a muffin man or woman, you'll want to have the best gear for muffin-making. Start with a dark nonstick muffin pan. (Reflective pans, like ones made of aluminum, won't allow the bottoms to brown enough.) If it's cupcakes you're after—which we like nice and pale on the bottom—use these greaseproof foil liners in the pan. Not only will they pretty up your presentation, they'll also delay browning during baking. Want to know what to bake first? Start with our blueberry muffins then, come holiday time, whip up a batch of stuffin's.

Vegetable Peelers

We've often waxed rhapsodic about why Y-peelers are the best type of peeler for your kitchen. Their carbon steel blades are super sharp, they work well for lefties and righties, and a three-pack costs less than $10. That’s pretty—wait for it—a-peeling to me.

A Bench Scraper

A bench scraper is an essential tool for any cook, which is why it’s pretty cool that you can get one for under $10. Use this one to portion your pasta dough, transfer chopped vegetables into a big pot, or give your cutting board a quick clean after you’ve peeled garlic and shallots.

A Pastry Brush

Because I'm a poor visual artist, paintbrushes have never been of much use to me. But a pastry brush is something I can get behind, especially when I'm slathering pie dough with a glistening egg wash. It’s like painting the Mona Lisa, but so much more delicious. And since this brush has dishwasher-safe silicone bristles, I don’t need to worry about getting any rogue hairs stuck in the dough, or ending up with an oily, stiff-bristled brush that never looks clean.

A Slotted Spoon

A slotted spoon is a great item to keep in a utensil crock next to your stove. A good one will be easy to hold, and sufficiently cupped that water can drain quickly from whatever you’re grabbing, whether it’s poached eggs, pasta, or dumplings. In a pinch, I’ve also used mine as a makeshift spider.

An Oven Thermometer

If you've never calibrated your oven, there's a pretty good chance that the temperature inside it is wrong. An inaccurate oven can undo all of the hard work you put into your baked goods: If it runs too hot, it can burn cookies; if too cold, cakes can end up with a wet crumb. My advice? Invest in this extremely affordable thermometer, and show your oven who’s boss.

A Juice Reamer

We published a whole review of the best citrus reamers, and this reamer from OXO came out in our top three. It’s simple, affordable, small enough to squeeze (ha!) into a drawer, and nice-looking enough to sit right on your bar cart.

A Utility Knife

We strongly believe that a utility knife deserves a spot in your kitchen. Get one and use it to cut open bags of rice, slice perfectly uniform labels, free cucumbers from their shrink-wrap, and even trim pie dough. It’s functional, affordable, and badass—what's not to love?

Plastic Squeeze Bottles

To make your home kitchen more like a restaurant kitchen, it helps to have some of these plastic squeeze bottles around to keep your most used ingredients as accessible as possible. Fill one or two with your favorite olive oil or wine for cooking; use one as a salad dressing dispenser if you’re feeding a crowd. Make your own condiments? Fill up a bottle, stick it in the fridge, and have it within arm’s reach whenever you want.

A Drying Mat

There will always inevitably be some dishes that you can’t stick in the dishwasher—assuming you even have one. In those situations, a good drying mat is a necessity. This one is made from absorbent microfibers that dry quickly after getting dripped on. It can be folded up and tucked away until you need it, and, if you need it frequently, it's not so unattractive that you'll be reluctant to leave it out around the clock.

Bar Keepers Friend

Want to know how to keep stainless steel pots and pans clean? It’s Bar Keepers Friend all the way. This affordable cleaning solution is the key to ridding your pans (and your stovetop, and just about any kitchen surface you can imagine) of grime and dark spots left by polymerized oil.