5 affordable kitchen gadgets to maximize your meals

Whipping up a gourmet meal in the kitchen is a soothing way to unwind for some, but for others, it just brings extra stress to the day. If you don’t have the right kitchen tools, that stress is compounded. But the good news is that tools exist that can make your life in the kitchen easier, and they’re pretty inexpensive, too. Here are some handy gadgets to consider.

  1. Fingertongs ($16, fusionbrands). These colorful tongs may look cute, but don’t be fooled—they’re extremely tough. Crafted from food-safe silicone, they can withstand temperatures of up to 675 degrees. They fit on both left and right hands, so everyone can use them to tug a hot pan from the oven or even flip strips of bacon or toss hot veggies while they’re still sizzling on the stove. Grabbing the warm food with your (protected) fingers is much easier than fumbling around with a traditional flipper, so your entire cooking session will probably go much smoother if you have these Fingertongs on hand—literally.
  2. Tomato slicer ($8, Amazon). If you’re making a Caprese sandwich (or several), this simple-to-use slicing tool will be your best friend. Simply stick a plump tomato or ball of fresh mozzarella on the platform, then press down to shear the sphere into thick, even slices. Stuff right inside of a sandwich or toss on top of a salad. This fun little gadget will remove the frustration of attempting to cut a squirmy, juicy tomato from your salad prep process. And anything soft and round can be tackled by this tool, so don’t be afraid to get creative in the kitchen.
  3. Butcher block ($15, Ikea). You might only consider Ikea for a new couch or dining room table, but it’s also a good spot to shop for smaller housewares, including kitchen gadgets. From staples like stirring spoons and ladles to more creative, colorful items (think rainbow-striped serving trays), Ikea can fully stock your kitchen. This simple wooden butcher block cutting board will cost you less than $20, but it still stands up to constant wear and tear when you oil it regularly. Plus, it’s large and thick enough to handle almost any job.
  4. Silicone mats ($15, Amazon). If you tend to go through parchment paper at a breakneck pace, then silicone baking mats are a solid investment. They can replace parchment paper in any cookie recipe (or really anything else that calls for paper), and you can wash and reuse them easily. There are many different sizes and brands available, but the mats we picked come in pairs of two on Amazon and boast nearly 3,000 glowing reviews. So feel free to stock up if you’re planning on a cookie-baking binge any time in the near future. You might need more than a few.
  5. Steamer insert ($5.99, Ikea). If you’ve resolved to get healthier in the new year, a basic steamer is a must-have. This cheap one from Ikea rests right on top of your boiling pot of water and allows you to easily cook veggies without having to add any extra fat into the mix. You can also use the steamer to cook dumplings, seafood, or anything else that fits into your healthy diet for 2016.