For exclusive access to all our stories, including sequences, teacher tips, video classes, and more, join Outside+ today.
Sure, sous vide cookers, gourmet ice cream machines and deluxe pasta makers are fun to have—but they eat up a lot of valuable counter-space, and how often will you really use these costly contraptions? You don’t need a kitchen full of bulky, pricey devices. Instead, encourage your culinary aspirations with practical, space-conscious gadgets you’ll actually use. Here are seven cool kitchen gadgets that make cooking easier and more entertaining, for $20 or less.
1. Handheld food smoker
A streamlined solution to oversized smokers: this speedy, handheld tool instantly infuses smoky, aromatic flavors into any food or beverage. Fill the receptacle with wood chips, dried herbs, spices or tea. Switch it on and blow smoke into cooked meat, cheese, sauces, oils, salt, even cocktails or dessert. Battery-operated and easy to use, it’s a genius—and affordable—shortcut to the hours-long process of traditional smoking. You’ll find them in a variety of sizes and prices, starting as low as $20 (and they make excellent gifts for foodies who have everything).
2. Citrus sprayer
This cheap-but-brilliant gadget is second only to a squeezer for lemon-and-lime lovers. It’s equipped with a pointy, plastic screw around a hollow tube that gathers juice and filters out seeds, with a pump nozzle on top. Just twist it into oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruit, pump a few times and spritz. You can use it on salads, seafood, fruit, cocktails, iced tea or desserts. Ideal for adding a zesty hint of citrus, without overpowering and sans squeezing. A nifty holding dish lets you set the citrus on the counter or store in the fridge between uses. You’ll find sets of two or three for different sized fruit, from tiny limes to voluptuous grapefruits, for $14 or less.
3. Culinary torch
This tool is like a mini-blowtorch. A kitchen torch is the chef’s standard for caramelizing creme brulée or toasting meringues, but it does oh-so-much more. Use it to brown the top of mac ‘n cheese, char olives, blister peppers, caramelize cut peaches, melt chocolate toppings or toast marshmallows. Because they literally shoot a stream of fire, they’re equipped with a safety switch so you don’t incinerate the kitchen curtains or light up your hair. In a range of options, including higher-end electric versions; you’ll find refillable butane torches (really, all you need) for less than $15.
Like a hot glue gun for cheese: this quirky kitchen gadget transforms queso into a gourmet spin on Cheez Whiz. It’s fitted with a hollow cartridge, a plunger and a nozzle. Load up the cartridge, plug it in, wait three minutes and press the trigger to dispense a stream of ooey-gooey cheesiness. Melt Brie over burgers, spread Swiss on crackers, drizzle cheddar over chili, write your name with provolone on a toasted tortilla. At around $20, it’s an entertaining (and surprisingly useful) tool, and an inspired gift for your favorite cheese lover.
5. Herb scissors
A mess-free mincing solution: these versatile scissors quickly reduce an unruly mound of herbs into fine, consistent shapes and sizes, with no cutting boards to wash, knives to sharpen or bits of green to sweep off the floor. With five super-sharp blades that do the work of one knife, they’re used just like regular scissors–and not just for mincing herbs. Shred spinach, snip scallions, finely chop kale, chiffonade basil and create fast, fresh garnishes for soups, salads, grains, grilled meat or fish. Crazy-useful and uber-cheap: a standard set (around $12) will set you back way less than a decent chef’s knife.
6. Embossed rolling pin
Turn your pastries and pies into artsy creations, with an embossed or engraved rolling pin. Made of wood or plastic, use them like a regular rolling pin to imprint pie crust, cookies, biscuits, pasta, shortbread or fondant with patterns, designs, even words. You’ll find a vast variety of options, from leaves and flowers to hearts, geometric shapes and unicorns, or phrases like “Happy Holidays” or “Baked With Love.” Or personalize your pastry; some offer customized rolling pins with names or quotes. In a range of prices and styles, from $6 basics to intricately patterned laser-cut versions, they’re essential collectibles for both aspiring and seasoned bakers.
If you don’t already have one: you seriously need this versatile kitchen gadget. A countertop spiralizer turns almost any firm-ish vegetable into spaghetti, fettuccini, udon, pappardella or other noodle-y delights. Most come with interchangeable blades in different sizes. So, you can transform zucchini or rutabagas into pasta, make curly sweet potato fries, spiralize apples for desserts, or render beets, peppers or carrots into unconventional shapes for salads or stir-fries. A must-have for gluten-free, grain-free, Keto or Paleo plans, or for anyone who wants a more nutrient-dense noodle. Electric versions start around $50, but you’ll find hand-crank options (no electricity or batteries) for as little as $20.