There are a great many products that will put dinner on the table. Some are very expensive and well worth the premium. But most of what you need is not. Consider this collection of kitchen products under $25 as the blue collar of your kitchen. They might not look pretty but they always come through.
Reynolds Kitchens Unbleached Parchment Paper
You’re playing yourself if you’re baking cookies right on top of your sheet pan. Parchment paper makes for quicker cleanups, and it can be used as a tool for steaming as well.
ChoiceHD 32 oz. Deli Container
Restaurant kitchens are littered with these containers and for good reason. They’re cheap and durable, and they can store just about everything. Because they’re translucent you can easily see what’s inside, but be sure to label all your containers so you know exactly what’s inside and how long it’s been in there
Ikea 365+ Grater
Clever, cheap and effective. Ikea’s handheld grater is like a bigger, more aggressive Microplane. Buy the matching container so all your gratings collect neatly in a bin.
Kuhn Rikon Original Swiss Peeler
This peeler is the go-to for some of the best chefs in the world. It’s a fast-working, easy-to-handle masterpiece. Just make sure you get it completely dry before tossing it in a drawer — the grooves in the blade are prone to holding water droplets.
Choice Standard Weight Stainless Steel 5-Set Mixing Bowls
A fundamental piece of any active kitchen. These restaurant-quality mixing bowls are absolute workhorses, and their range of sizes make them incredibly versatile for every task. And at $2 a pop, no less!
Pulltap Double-Hinged Waiter’s Corkscrew
Stab, three turns, pull, done. The classic waiter’s corkscrew isn’t as cool as the electric or weirdly complex box set varieties, but it’s faster and no less effective. And if it matters at all it’s also the choice wine opener of Food & Wine.
Hotec Stainless Steel Tongs
Here you have tongs in two sizes that require virtually no care or attention. Their silicon grips run a bit further up the sides of the tong so a more choked-up grip is possible should you need it for heavier flips.
Lavatool Digital Instant Read Thermometer
At this point I hope you’ve had someone tell you to cook to temperature and not to time, but if they haven’t, here’s your PSA: heat sources vary dramatically, the internal temperature of a meat at proper doneness does not. Get this thin thermometer that checks the core temperature in five seconds or less. It’ll make you a better cook.
Korin Ganji Kankiri Can Opener
This is an absurdly affordable, no bullshit Japanese can opener with no swinging parts or annoying cranks or tiny areas for food particles to get stuck in. Take it from chef Katie Button: “This is the best all-purpose can opener ever. It will open anything, and any shape can — square, rectangular, oval or round.”
Microplane Classic Zester & Grater
Originally designed as woodworking tools, the Microplane reigns supreme in the world of zested and fine grating.
OXO Good Grips Fish Turner
Not just for fish. A non-slip handle and a particularly bendy frame makes the spatula’s daintier cousin an egg turner masterclass.
Lodge 10.5-Inch Cast Iron Skillet
As nice as it is to have a machined-down, hand-cast cast-iron skillet, you don’t need one to perform the skillet’s most sacred task: the sear. This one is cheap and smooth enough, though if you’re really industrious, you can slap some low grit sandpaper on an orbital sander and go to town (yes, this actually sort of works).
Mits don’t work. They make fumbling dishes you spend hours on way too close to a reality, and frankly they’re not even all that great at controlling temperature transfer. The Ove Glove allows you to use the appendages you’ve got, and it’s recommended by people who are working in settings far hotter than any you’ll ever have to manage.
Bellemain Micro-Perforated Steel Colander
The holes are small and plentiful enough to drain quickly without losing any food. This one is rust-proof and dishwasher safe. According to oen Amazon reviewer, “it is truly perfection.”
OXO Good Grips Multi-Purpose Kitchen and Herbs Scissors
Kitchen shears are a handy way to snip, trim and cut through cardboard, twine, meat, vegetables and everything else in your kitchen.
Pyrex 6-Piece Food Storage
Though many have tried, none have unseated Pyrex from its place as the choice for durable food storage that resists cracking and warping through ovens, freezers and everything in between.
Zeroll Original Ice Cream Scoop
When it comes to ice cream, you want a scoop that’s built from a solid piece — the more levers, cranks and swingy arm things happening, the more rust and the more chance of it falling apart in the future. This one has no finery or other such things, and it is usable for righties and lefties.
Cuisinart 8-Inch Stainless Steel Skillet
We wouldn’t normally recommend skimping on cookware and other things you’re going to be bringing to high temperatures frequently, but this stainless steel skillet from Cuisinart is spacious and comes with a lifetime warranty.
OXO Good Grips 2-Piece Cutting Board Set
The best cutting boards check four boxes: they stick to the countertop, they don’t bend and warp in the dishwasher, they’re cheap and they’re plastic. Do away with wood cutting boards — they’re breeding grounds for bacteria and god knows what else. They’re also stupidly expensive for what they are. But OXO’s are affordable and you get two in this set, one for raw meats and the other for everything else.
Ozeri Pronto Digital Kitchen Scale
Anyone whose ever followed any sort of diet knows the need for a kitchen scale. When you buy this one, you’ll wonder how you got it for $22. A stainless steel top, an easy-to-read LCD display, quick and accurate measurements (in every unit you’ll want) and pretty nice look for under $25 is a godsend.
Not everyone needs a sauce spoon. It’s a stretched out spoon that can carry more liquid than your everyday cutlery, used for basting meat, stirring sauces and any other activities that require spooning near a heat source. Use one and spare your knuckle hair.
Nordic Ware Half Sheet with Oven Safe Nonstick Grid
Odds are your sheets pans are total garbage — too light, scratch easily and warp with heat. Luckily, upgrades come cheap in the world of sheet pans. Nordic Ware’s sheet pans are the opposite of the ones you have huddled on top of each other under your stove, and thank goodness for it. Plus, the grid rack will make sure your foods are elevated so they get crispy all around, and it doubles as a cooling rack.
Victorinox Fibrox Chef’s 7.5-Inch Chef’s Knife
Perhaps the most talked about and used knife on the internet also happens to be affordably-priced and easy to get the hang of. The primary difference between Victorinox’s reputed blade and the competition is the durability to be sharpened back to a workable state, where many cheap knives simply won’t take an edge back. The cushy, no-slip handle is a plus, too.
If you’re under the impression bartenders, busboys and kitchen staff are using the latest linen towels from Williams Sonoma, think again. This 12-pack of bar towels (sometimes called tea towels) are cheap, look decent and plenty absorbent.
T-fal Heatmaster Nonstick Fry Pan
Treat it right and it’ll last long enough for you to see their value-to-the-dollar skyrocket. Make all the omelettes and other non-stick native dishes you want, just don’t scrap the delicate non-stick coating and you’re good. These pans come with a limited-lifetime warranty as well.