Mamas (and daddies) who spend time in the kitchen, have you put together your holiday gift lists yet? These ten must-have kitchen gadgets should be on your list. They are game-changers, saving you time AND money while making food prep with little helpers more efficient.
I’ve raved about several items on this list in other posts. But with Christmas coming, I thought a roundup of all of them in one place was in order. They are among my favorite kitchen hacks, and I can’t imagine cooking healthy, homemade food from scratch without them.
And best of all, you can score each one for less than $25! Ready to add these must-have kitchen gadgets to your holiday wish list?
Must-Have Kitchen Gadgets for Busy Parents
Are you daunted by home-cooking from scratch because of the prep time needed to slice vegetables? Never tried home-made baked potato chips or veggie thins because of the time needed to make all those uniform paper-thin slices?
That was me once. Now, I cannot imagine food prep without my mandoline. This item tops my list of must-have kitchen gadgets, saving me more time and money than everything else combined. If you’re addicted to the convenience of pre-thin-sliced veggies from your store’s produce section as a cooking shortcut, this one tool could cure you of that habit that adds up.
Having a good mandoline will shave tons of time off your food prep. With my mandoline, I can easily slice potatoes for baked chips, carrots and celery for soup, or peppers and onions for pizza, into uniform thin slices. All with a lot less time than using a knife. And far less effort (not to mention cleanup!) than using a food processor.
When choosing a mandoline, look for one with multiple interchangeable blades, plus a safety handle for holding whatever you’re slicing. Other good features include either a built-in box, or (like mine) a design that lets it sit easily on top of bowls of different sizes. While you can spend more if you choose, there are plenty of highly-rated models available for under $20.
2. Mesh glove
If you get a mandoline, you need a mesh glove as well. Otherwise, you (or children old enough to help with food prep involving sharp blades) risk slicing yourself on your mandoline along with your vegetables.
Although they are machine-washable and feel like fabric, mesh gloves are actually a 21st-century form of chain mail – that stuff soldiers used to wear. The finely-woven metal and filament gloves resist cuts, meaning you can easily slice right down to the very end of whatever you’re slicing.
Mesh gloves are also a great precaution for kids who are learning to dice things with sharp knives. Holding the vegetable you’re cutting with a glove decreases the chances of accidentally cutting your fingers as well.. Consider getting several gloves in different sizes, so grownups and kids alike will have a glove that fits. At under $15/pair on average, they’re affordable enough to get several! (In fact, this top-rated glove is specially designed for kids and others with smaller hands!)
If both a mandoline and mesh gloves are now on your wish list, you can also buy them together, if you prefer.
3. Silicone lid
Why? Well, for starters, by staying on top of whatever you’re cooking, silicone lids will keep you from splattering food all over the microwave or the stovetop. I don’t know about you, but anything I can do to eliminate messes before they happen (and thus spare myself cleaning) is a no-brainer.
Moreover, they’re a great shortcut to healthy cooking with less energy and waste. Instead of boiling or steaming vegetables on top of the stove, just pop some into the microwave, top with a silicone lid, and cook them in a fraction of the time. With a fraction of the energy, and less nutrient loss.
Same for such yummy treats as ten-minute baked apples. Or your kids being able to steam themselves a quick veggie snack or side dish, without using the stovetop.
On the stove, they double as a pot lid and splatter shield, whether boiling water or cooking sausage. (Again, less cleaning for you!) And their low profile and lightweight flexibility makes them an attractive alternative to regular pot lids when camping. Plus they’re dishwasher safe!
Best of all, there are tons of sets out there with multiple lids in different sizes for under $20! I recommend having at least one or two lids, including one at least 10-11 inches across. (It’s not uncommon for me to go hunting for ours when making baked apples for breakfast, only to find it’s in the dishwasher because my husband’s already used it for sausage!)
4. Immersion blender
As I noted here, immersion blenders are a multitasking powerhouse that can replace several larger items in your home, for less space and less money. Imagine replacing your blender, baby food puree-maker, hand mixer, and mini-mincer with a gadget that takes up practically no space in your cupboard, and you’ll see why I love it so much.
I’ll never forget the night I fell in love with our immersion blender. I’d gotten a little ambitious in my supper-planning for a weeknight, and realized I had several hot items that needed to be pureed. All at once. Using the blender would take too long because of needing to wash it between foods, and I wasn’t keen on having hot liquids in the blender anyway. But the immersion blender’s stick went into one food, got the job done, and was ready to go on the next dish after a quick rinse in the sink.
In short, our immersion blender saved my backside that night, not to mention our dinner.
If you get one with lots of bells and whistles, this will be your priciest gift on my must-haves list. But it’s still possible to get a well-rated model for less than $25, and if you’re willing to spend up to $35, you’ll have more choices of models that go beyond a basic stick. Ours has the basic blending wand, a food processor bowl with non-slip base, a whisk attachment, and a nice cloth storage bag to hold the components.
Before deciding which one you want, ask yourself which options are most crucial to you. If you never use a whisk and can’t see yourself ever using the mini-food processor, you might be fine with a basic blending stick (wand). But if you start every day with a smoothie, a model that also includes a clear blending/measuring cup might be nice.
5. Right-angle apple corer
I never thought about apple corers until a few months ago, when I taught my girls how to make baked apples. To me, apple corers had never seemed worth the trouble and space they took up in the drawer.
But when I tried the right-angle apple corer my husband purchased this summer, I became a convert. Here’s why:
- It’s much easier to use than a traditional straight-handled one, because it’s easier to turn.
- It has an easy-release function to eject the core when you’re done.
- Its ergonomic design means that everyone from kids to grandparents can use it, safely and easily.
When we were visiting my in-laws over Thanksgiving, my elderly MIL was commenting on how she might have to give up making her beloved apple pies, because coring and peeling the apples had become so difficult for her. That’s why I’m getting her one of these for Christmas – it really does make the job easy-peasy for everyone, from preschoolers on up.
6. OXO Peeler
We love sharing our love of cooking with our children. And if there’s one tool that makes it easier for kids to “help” with dinner, it’s an easy-to-use vegetable peeler. That’s why my top must-have kitchen gadgets for cooking with kids are our two OXO brand peelers – one for each child.
OXO’s swivel-blade has a sturdy blade that’s sharp enough to get the job done quickly, but with a handle that’s easy for smaller hands to grab, and doesn’t get slippery when wet. Plus it has a built-in tip designed for digging out potato eyes.
OXO also makes a Y-shaped peeler that’s great for peeling round things, like apples or kiwis. (We’re getting one of these for my MIL for Christmas, too!)
7. OXO Can Opener
Close behind our OXO peeler is our OXO Good Grips can opener. Like the peeler, the OXO can opener is an easy-grip, easy-use item that even our kids can successfully operate. Its black rubber handle is easy to grasp, and easy to hold onto even when wet
Moreover, its opening mechanism turns easily. This makes it a no-brainer for everyone from little kids, to grownups with arthritis or other hand issues. As someone who’s had wrist surgery and continues to have periodic bouts of carpal tunnel issues, having a can opener that’s easy to grab and turn is essential. That’s why I’m glad I no longer have to fight with a can opener that’s hard to turn and doesn’t do the job. The OXO Good Grips is a major improvement on both fronts.
8. Digital Scale
Do you like to save money by buying meat in bulk and then freezing it in smaller portions? Or do you tend to cook with metric cookbooks rather than “English” ones?
Either way, you need a good digital scale. My husband uses ours all the time for precise measurements on spices and when baking bread. I most often use it when portioning up a bulk package of meat into smaller portions before freezing for later use.
However (bonus!), I also use our digital scale a lot when printing postage at home instead of going to the post office. (This time-saving option only works if you know the precise weight of what you’re mailing!) So if you don’t like holiday lines at the post office – or if you moonlight as a power seller on Ebay – you also need a compact digital scale.
9. Curved silicone “spoonulas”
I love silicone scraper-spatulas so much, I bring one whenever we travel anywhere we’ll be cooking for ourselves – camping, eat-in lodgings with stocked kitchens, etc. They are so handy in every aspect of food prep. Especially the double-curved-edge ones sometimes called “spoonulas“:
- When baking, they can help you mix the batter, then make sure you get every last drop into the baking pan.
- Being made of silicone, they’re also good for stirring pots on the stove and for getting pan juices out of your cooking pots.
- When it’s time for cleanup, they’ll help you get plates and bowls cleaner (less work for your dishwasher!), and waste less food when you package up leftovers.
Besides coming in assorted vibrant colors, the Rachael Ray 3-piece Spoonula Set is top-rated. And the fact that it includes the three most handy sizes makes it a super value, too!
10. Long oven gloves
The last thing busy parents – or budding chefs – need is a burn from a hot oven or rising steam. Long oven gloves can help everyone in your family avoid burns.
Long gloves are superior to potholders and regular oven mitts for several reasons:
- They provide better protection against heat than any potholders or ordinary mitts I’ve tried.
- Their silicone surfaces make it easy to grab hot, heavy items without accidentally letting them slip.
- Their length can help protect adults’ arms from accidental contact with oven racks, as well as extra protection when grilling or draining hot water over the sink.
What about you? What’s your must-have kitchen gadget under $25? Let us know in the comments!