10 Kitchen Tools and Gadgets You Need (and 5 You Don't)

by Michael Franco
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In the gimmicky realm of home cooking tools and appliances, it can be hard to discern what items you truly need and which ones you don’t. Truth is, when it comes to home cooking, your kitchen doesn’t have to look like a catalog to be well-stocked. All you need are a few simple tools, most of which have been around for ages.

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When stocking up your kitchen, a good rule to remember is that simplicity and versatility are key. Tools that are generally meant for super-specific purposes often sit in a drawer for long periods of time, gathering dust. Meanwhile, tools that have several functions are used on a near-daily basis.

Looking to set up your kitchen? Here’s our list of tools everyone should have, as well as gadgets you can live without.

Tools Every Kitchen Should Have

1. Food Processor

There’s little doubt about it: A food processor is the best-kept secret of any kitchen. They can shred, blend, dice, grate, mix and chop — those most time-consuming cooking tasks — at the push of a button. What’s more, adding a food processor to your kitchen can also expand your cooking repertoire. Kneading dough and making perfectly mixed dressings, sauces and marinades are all made incredibly easier. Not convinced? Turn on a cooking show for five minutes, and you’re likely to see a food processor churning away.

2. Quality Set of Knives

No kitchen is truly complete without knives. Without them, you’d be hard-pressed to do much food prep at all. That’s why anyone who cooks at home should invest in a set of quality knives for their kitchen. And while good, sharp knives can be expensive, they often last for a really long time, provided you take proper care of them. You also don’t need as many knives as you may think. In fact, a set of three is really all you need: a chef’s knife for cutting meats and chopping veggies, a paring knife for smaller fruits and precision cuts and a serrated knife for cutting breads. Invest in a good set now; you can thank us later.

3. Dutch Oven

When stocking up on proper kitchen tools, look to the grandmas. Dutch ovens are the OG “slow cooker.” Made of cast iron, Dutch ovens are heavy, durable and have been used, loved and cherished by cooks for over 400 years. Along with their durability, they’re also extremely versatile. You can use them to make soups, stews, pastas and even breads. Get one now and use it every week for the rest of your life.

4. Cast-Iron Pan

Believe the hype. The cast-iron pan is the workhorse of the kitchen. By getting ridiculously hot and evenly distributing that heat, it makes for truly unmatched searing and frying. The pans are also easy to clean and maintain, and they're virtually indestructible. Use one as a skillet for making perfect pancakes, or as a fryer for making fried chicken. It can even double as a pizza pan for some mean personal-pan pizzas.

5. Rubber Spatula

If you already do any cooking in your home, you likely already have a spatula, but if you don’t already have a rubber one, make it a priority pronto. What makes a rubber spatula better than a metal one is that a rubber spatula can do a little bit of everything. While it can be used for flipping eggs in the pan, it can also double as the perfect tool for scraping batters, sauces and other mixtures out of bowls. They’re also incredibly handy for folding melted butter and herbs into mashed potatoes. Rubber spatulas are hardy, flexible and dishwasher safe. Need we say more?

6. Tongs

Tongs. You can think of them as a second pair of hands in the kitchen. Tongs can flip, grip, lift and move food around. A good pair of tongs can grab anything from a delicate piece of fish to a hot piece of cookware. And while they’re simple, uncomplicated and universal in design, they can also vary widely in quality, so make sure to get a good pair with rubber grips and stay-cool handles.

7. Mixing Bowl

No home kitchen is complete without a multipurpose mixing bowl. With one, you’re able to mix, collect food scraps, store ingredients and even knead bread dough. While mixing bowls typically come in sets, you can really just get by with one medium-sized bowl. When choosing a mixing bowl, go for stainless steel, glass or ceramic. A plastic bowl might be cheaper than other options, but it won’t hold up in the long run.

8. Pizza Cutter

Pizza cutters are perhaps the most underrated of all kitchen tools. They only have one function, right? Wrong. From cutting dough and pasta, to quesadillas, focaccia and even brownies, you can actually do more with a pizza cutter than you might think. The most common types of pizza cutters have a sharp wheel used to roll across pizzas, but there are also rocker-style cutters that can cut an entire pizza with a single rocking motion over a large cutting board. Make your pizza nights a whole lot easier and get a pizza cutter ASAP.

9. Measuring Cups

Have you ever tried baking anything without properly measuring out the ingredients beforehand? If you have, we shouldn’t even have to mention the fact that measuring cups are absolutely essential to any home kitchen. And if you haven’t, well, we’ll spare you disappointingly dry biscuits, mushy cake or paper-thin brownies. Fact is, if you’re cooking or baking, you need to measure ingredients, or you’re going to end up with a mess.

10. Instant Pot

High-tech gadgets usually spell trouble for the average home kitchen. Yet, there is one exception: The Instant Pot. It’s one of the most popular kitchen appliances on the market today, and for good reason; it can perform an amazing array of tasks that will make your cooking life more effortless than you ever thought possible. While it’s not the cheapest appliance available (Instant Pots cost anywhere between $70 and $150), its sheer versatility makes it a worthwhile buy.

You can use it as a pressure cooker, slow cooker or rice cooker. You can even use it to make yogurt or boil water quickly, making the world’s most perfect boiled eggs. Plus, the Instant Pot’s all-in-one functionality saves storage space. Trust us. This is one modern-day appliance to have in your kitchen.

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Most Useless Kitchen Tools

1. Air Fryer

When you’re looking for kitchen tools to make your life easier, it makes sense that an appliance that “fries” food quickly and more healthily would be great to have around. However, an air fryer is not one of those items. Truth is, they really don’t do anything more effectively than an oven would. Plus, they’re loud.

2. Avocado Slicer

If you’re like many Americans, you have a deep love for all things avocado. From guacamole to avocado toast, they’re just one of the world’s best foods. That said, it’s hard to imagine a more useless tool than an avocado slicer. Designed to make slicing an avocado less dangerous than using a knife, these slicers end up just creating a mushy mess half of the time. Worried about using a sharp knife? Just use a butter knife.

3. Pickle Pickers

Let’s be real: Pickle pickers are a good idea in theory. Save yourself the hassle of grabbing pickles in a jar full of brine with a handy pickle grabbing device. Only problem is, these tools never work as well as they should and, for our money, a small fork or spoon works just as good, if not better, than a pickle picker.

4. Blender

Blenders get all of the attention that food processors deserve. The truth is that food processors do a better job of crushing ice and blending fruit than a blender could ever hope to.

5. Pizza Scissors

It’s true that every kitchen needs a pizza cutter. Whether you want a wheel slicer or a rocker-style, there are great options out there that are both affordable and effective. That said, avoid pizza scissors at all costs. Not only do they not work as well as other cutters, but they’ll get gunky and probably ruin your pizza, too. It’s a good idea in theory, but one that has yet to catch on in even the most lenient pizza kitchens.