In college, it’s easy to put off buying quality kitchen equipment “until the next move” or “until I make more money.” What we often don’t realize is that by buying cheaper kitchen tools to just get us through the next semester, we often end up wasting more money in the long run by continually replacing crappy silverware and pans. Lucky for us, I got to chat with the lovely people over at Chefs’ Toys about the 15 best kitchen tools students can purchase for just $15 or less, meaning you can kiss your crappy kitchenware goodbye.
1. Stäl Chef Knife, 10″ – $9.80
Slice, carve, dice, mince, chiffonade, smash garlic, hack open a crab, pierce a can, whatever. The universal desert island knife. Many kitchen equipment how-tos and the like will recommend an 8-inch blade, but 10 inches is better for prepping things like watermelon and large squash.
2. Messermeister Paring Knife – $5.70 each
Another desert island must, if we’re allowing more than one knife in this hypothetical scenario. I reach for this to prep fruit, such as a pear, but it’s called a paring knife because it’s made to pare, to peel or remove a small part of a fruit or vegetable.
#SpoonTip: It’s useful to have a couple if at all possible—people seem to grab these first in the kitchen.
3. Kuhn Peeler – $3.98
This is a compact peeler favored by chefs. Two-way action, lightweight, dishwasher safe, plus it has a cool foreign-sounding name.
#SpoonTip: Asparagus is vastly improved simply by peeling the main stalk (starting an inch or two from the tip) before cooking; also always remove at least an inch from the cut end, regardless of peeling.
4. Cutting Board – $8.40
Sturdy ½-inch thick board with rubber feet to prevent slipping. NSF (National Science Foundation) certified antimicrobial and sterilizable material. This is available in other sizes and colors as well. In a restaurant, the colors signify what the board gets used for, which can also be handy at home.
#SpoonTip: If you’re lucky enough to have a dishwasher, make sure you get a board that fits in there for easy cleanup.
5. Tongs – $3.30 each
Even if you only use them to save your fingertips while flipping pizza rolls in the toaster oven, tongs are an absolute essential. These are also perfect for frying, stirring, and serving pasta. The long-handled ones make grilling a pleasure. These particular tongs are especially useful because they’re easy to grip and have no pesky moving parts to worry about breaking.
6. Frying pan, 10 inch – $12.50
You’re not one of those raw food only people, are you? I can’t think of a dish you couldn’t cook in this pan. It’s a natural choice for frying and sautéing, of course, but a pan like this is the main workhorse of the kitchen. Plus, it transitions seamlessly from stovetop to oven to help make more of your dishes one-pan (or one-skillet) things.
7. Mini Egg Pan – $9.60
Since when are cooking supplies so cute? This little guy is perfect for that quick fried egg on the way out the door. Maybe get two or three so you can make a mini pancake and mini bacon to go with that egg, and skip the fast food breakfast.
8. Oven Mitts – $2.80 each
Oven mitts are much less cumbersome than trying to hold a towel or something between your hand and the object in question.
9. Mixing Bowls – $1-$6 each
You gotta have bowls, period. Stainless steel—lightweight, strong, nonreactive, inexpensive—is the perfect bowl material. Sizes range from super small to freaking huge. These bowls are curved just right for stirring, whisking, tossing, etc.
#SpoonTip: Place a metal bowl in the freezer for about 10 minutes, add 1 cup of whipping cream and 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar, and whisk vigorously until it becomes whipped cream.
10. Cambro container, 2 quart and lid – $3.70 + $1.89
These containers are also available in a plethora of other sizes from 1 quart to multiple gallons. They’re stackable, dishwasher/freezer/everything safe, equally good for storage and transport, and made in Huntington Beach, California. Cambro containers are also excellent for storing bulk dry ingredients like flour, sugar, and rice.
11. Cambro Colorware Tumbler – $14.50 / dozen
You’ll find these cups in just about every phở place ever. How cool would it be to have the same cups in your own kitchen? No? Is that just me? Huh. Anyways, these are just over a dollar per durable, dishwasher-safe cup, and are even cheaper for smaller ones.
12. Plate, 9 inch – $3.60 each
If those cups didn’t get you going, these plates might. Restaurant plates are durable, dishwasher safe, and cheap. Why should your homemade food have to sit on anything less than actual restaurant-quality plates?
Skip the superfluous only-if-it’s-raining-on-a-Tuesday-spoons that seem to come in every prefab silverware pack and buy only what you need.
14. Whisk, 12 inch – $8.40
Or “piano whip.” Whatever. This whisk’s nylon handle is far more ergonomic than the normal smooth metal handles most other whisks have, and for only a $2-3 premium. If you’re getting just the one, make it a 12 inch—the need for larger whisks rarely comes up in a home kitchen, and any smaller task could be done as well with a regular fork if needed.
15. Spatula – $5.30
Just a really nice one-piece, dishwasher-safe spatula. This particular spatula is rated for temperatures up to 430ºF, so you can definitely bust it out next time you’re grilling, too. I find its balance between flexibility and stiffness pretty much perfect.
If you’re interested in purchasing any of these items, keep in mind that Chefs’ Toys ships nationwide.
Special thanks to Chefs’ Toys Marketing Coordinator Kim Pham for info and photos.