The 28 Essential Tools and Gadgets Every Home Cook Needs for 2021

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Credit: Courtesy Of ThermoWorks

A few weeks ago, we launched Kitchn Essentials — our list of the very best kitchen tools that will help you cook better in 2021. (You can browse the whole thing here.) This past year, people have been cooking at home more than ever before, so we thought it’d be helpful to take a look at one of the most important sections on that list: the tools. Because while these items might not be the biggest and boldest, having the right tool for the job will make a huge difference whether you’re making breakfast, cooking a weeknight dinner, or doing some weekend baking.

Here are our picks for the must-have kitchen tools home cooks will need today and for the rest of the year to come.

Note: We’ve indicated which ones are “repeat winners,” meaning they were also chosen as our top picks in last year‘s Kitchn Essentials!

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Instant-Read Thermometer

This is the best $100 you'll ever spend on your kitchen. It's the most accurate thermometer out of all the ones we've tested (down to less than one degree, give or take), reads out in just two or three seconds, and is incredibly durable and easy to read. It’s also a favorite among professional chefs (yes, even pros need a thermometer!). For a more affordable option, we love the ThermoPop, which is $34 and still very accurate.

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Pepper Mill
was $39.95

This is Ina Garten’s favorite pepper mill. We love it, too, because it has a wide opening for loading the peppercorns, a ceramic grinding mechanism, an easy-to-turn crank, and a catcher for measuring and storing. It's incredibly efficient and the grinding mechanism has yet to let us down.

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Stainless Steel Mixing Bowls

Stainless steel mixing bowls show up in nearly every pro kitchen because they're lightweight, durable, and easy to clean. We love these bowls because they take things to the next level with their tight-fitting lids! Use these bowls in the fridge, freezer, or even on your patio table this summer.

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Wooden Spoon

Don’t spend a lot of money on a wooden spoon that’s just going to crack or split eventually. These spoons are made of the same composite material as our favorite wooden cutting board, which means they’re durable and dishwasher-safe. Our favorite of the options is the paddle, which is very spoon-esque — only it has corners to help you scrape as you stir.

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Slotted Spoon

A good slotted spoon is super-helpful for poaching eggs, lifting meatballs out of tomato sauce, deep-frying, and more. We like this spoon's handle in particular, which has grippy, comfortable sides that make it super easy to hold.

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You may have heard us wax poetic about this spatula before, and you’re probably going to hear it at least a dozen more times. It's seriously that good. It’s covered in all one piece of silicone, which means there’s no place for gunk to hide. It has just the right amount of bend to it. And it comes in a few different sizes and colors (get the mini to clean out your almond butter jars!).

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If you're only going to get one turner, get this one. It has a nylon head, so you can use it on all your pots and pans (including nonstick). If you have room for two (we recommend storing them in a crock by the stove!), OXO also makes this great stainless steel option that we love.

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Fish Spatula
was $29.99

"I own two of these," says our Tools Editor, Riddley Gemperlein-Schirm. "They have a flexible, agile head that's sturdy enough to lift larger pieces of meat, but thin enough to take fragile cookies off a baking sheet." As you can guess, fish spatulas are good for more than just fish: We use them for eggs, pancakes, and more. Another great thing about this particular fish spatula? It's dishwasher-safe, unlike other ones out there that have wooden handles.

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was $16.95

If you didn’t know that ladling could be fun and satisfying, it’s because you haven’t been using the right ladle. This is the right one. The front is just bendy enough to dig in where the wall of your pot meets the bottom and it’ll get every last bit. “I get such a kick out of ladling chili out of my Dutch oven with this thing,” says our Lifestyle Director, Lisa Freedman.

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Silicone-Tipped Tongs

These are the tongs you'll want to use with your nonstick pans (the silicone will protect the coating on the pan) and when it comes to mixing up salads (without bruising your lettuce). And yes, there’s another set of tongs next on this list, and we honestly believe you need them both.

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Stainless Steel Tongs

When it comes to stainless steel tongs, we feel that basic is best. These are super simple, other than their scalloped (read: grippy!) heads. They're also longer than the silicone-tipped ones above, and we love them for searing steaks, plating pasta, and grilling outside.

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“I wrote an entire book on pudding and, during the process, one thing became very clear to me,” our Editor-in-Chief, Faith Durand, says. “You can always use a smaller whisk for a bigger task but you can’t ever use a giant whisk in a tiny bowl.” You’ll think this one was made specifically for your hand once you get ahold of it — it clearly wasn’t, but it will feel that way.

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Sauce Whisk
Williams Sonoma

“There are very few things you’ll make in the kitchen that will succeed or fail depending on the tool you use,” says Faith, our newly appointed whisk expert. “Sauce is one of those things!” This flat whisk allows you to get into the corners of any pot and really breaks up any of those bits on the bottom. You can’t (successfully) make a sauce or gravy without it.

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Bench Scraper

Technically considered a baking tool (mostly used to scrape up dough and divide it into segments), we think non-bakers need this bench scraper, too. It's essentially an extension of our hand and we use it to scoop up or direct ingredients from a cutting board into a pot. We've found that it really saves some wear and tear on our chef's knife. It's also great for scraping gunk off a countertop.

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Food Editor Kelli Foster used a spider during culinary school, and ultimately decided it would earn a place in her tiny home kitchen. “It’s a must for pasta so you can transfer it directly from the water to the skillet with sauce; it’s also super helpful when blanching vegetables, boiling eggs, and frying anything. You can even use it as a colander for rinsing a handful of berries.”

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Liquid Measuring Cups

We picked this classic measuring cup set for a few reasons: It comes with all the key sizes, each one can go in the microwave, the markings are easy to read (even after years of use), and they're comfortable to hold. We also really like these, which get read from the top, but we don't recommend putting them in the microwave.

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Dry Measuring Cups

You could buy those pretty, ceramic measuring cups, but while they may *look* great, they're not always 100% accurate. These stainless steel measuring cups, however, are. They have non-slip handles, etched markings that won't rub off, and magnetic snaps that keep all four of the cups together for easy storage. They're also dishwasher-safe and, again, incredibly accurate.

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Measuring Spoons

If you're in need of great measuring spoons, look no further. These are shockingly sturdy and have measurements that are permantly stamped into their handles, so they'll never rub off. They also have a removable loop that keeps them together and, with the exception of the tablespoon measurement, fit into spice jars.

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Kitchen Scale

If you're even semi-serious about baking, a kitchen scale is a must. How else will you weigh out the perfect amount of flour or try that recipe you found on an international kitchen blog? Owning a kitchen scale might sound a bit nerdy, but if you never want to guess what 4 ounces of chocolate looks like ever again, we suggest getting one. This one costs just $25 and barely takes up any space.

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Can Opener

Unlike other can openers, this one won't feel flimsy in your hand and the knob is incredibly easy to turn. Plus, it's got a built-in magnet, which grabs the lid, and a special release lever, so you never have to get your hands dirty.

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Hot Pad

"One of the first things Faith and I bonded over was our love for this suede hot pad," says Lisa. We've both had ours for at least eight years and they're still good as new. They are thin and flexible enough to gently mold to any pan, but strong enough to grab a screaming-hot cast iron skillet from under the broiler. And they're gorgeous.

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Oven Mitt
was $40.00

These oven mitts are both pretty AND functional. They have a silicone mitt portion that's protective yet flexible enough to easily grab onto baking sheets, oven dishes, pie plates, and Dutch oven handles. They're also long and cover a large portion of your forearms, protecting you from accidental slips and subsequent burns. They come in five fun colors like Rhubarb and Paprika.

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Salad Spinner

If you're not washing your salad greens, you're missing a VERY important step. A salad spinner makes that step easy and honestly a bit entertaining. We love this one because it's efficient and wildly fun to use. Pro tip: Wash your greens when you get them home from the supermarket, spin them dry, and then put them right in the fridge — salad spinner and all.

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Ice Cream Scoop

There are some great ice cream scoops out there (looking at you, Zeroll), but we ultimately picked this spring-loaded option because it can be used for so many other things — like cookie dough, meatballs, watermelon, and more. We’ve found that the medium size is the most versatile.

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Citrus Squeezer
Williams Sonoma

We just couldn't imagine cooking without citrus juice. Like the Microplane zester, a simple juicer is not just a tool: it's a flavor-maker. Practically any recipe can be punched up with a squeeze of lemon juice. "This sleek and powerful hand juicer squeezes out every last drop, filters out seeds, and requires minimal effort on your part," Grace Elkus, our Deputy Food Director, says.

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Steamer Basket

Most Kitchn editors reported having simple, off-brand stainless steel steamer baskets. This is an upgraded pick, however, that a passionate set voted for. It works just like the old-school kinds but it has an extendable handle to get it in and out of pots. And it fits in nearly any pot — including your Instant Pot.

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If you’ve ever tried to strain pasta into a collapsible colander, only to have it collapse mid-pour, you’ll get why we recommend this sturdier option. It won’t help you save space, but it’ll do its job incredibly well. It drains water quickly (thanks to all-over perforations) and has a wide, tall base that ensures no pasta water pools in the sink and floods back into your colander. Because we've all been there, and it's, um, not ideal.

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Fine Mesh Strainer

Three words for you: Rinse. Your. Rice. This little extra step makes all the difference (no gumminess!). For the task, we like this strainer. It's made of fine mesh, so nothing will sneak through it. It has a little hook that ensures it sturdily rests on any bowl. And it can go in the dishwasher.

Credit: Kitchn