Highly specialized kitchen gadgets have a bad reputation. I get it, I do. I’ve rummaged through my fair share of overcrowded utensil drawers. I’ve giggled over that video where Alton Brown hates on so-called “unitaskers” and makes an unsettling tube-shaped omelet. I’ve rolled my eyes at pizza scissors with the best of ‘em.
But I’ve also known the sweet, sweet joy of an item that does one thing but does it perfectly, and I wish to share those items with the world. There are some gadgets that are simply worth making room for in your kitchen drawer—and in your heart.
These are the single-use cooking gadgets I have known, loved, and would buy again:
1. Cheese plane
If you’re anything like me, you don’t mess around with cheese. It is a sacred food that must be eaten properly.
The proper way to eat cheese is this: with your mouth and as often as possible.
The proper way to eat cheese when you are having it with crackers or guests and maybe some cocktails or wine and bowls of classy snacks is on a board with a cheese plane.
Use a wooden cutting board or a cheese board—I don’t really care—but place a cheese plane beside it and glide the sharp slotted bit over the surface of the cheese and magically end up with a beautiful slice to eat (with your mouth and as often as possible). This is especially vital for those times when your cheese comes in an angled wedge that cannot be conveniently sliced with a knife. I cannot let you finish reading this article without understanding how much this item should live in your kitchen drawer and how frequently you will use it once it is yours.
Pro tip: It costs less than $10 on Amazon.
2. Garlic Press
I grew up cooking with one of these bad boys, and when I moved out I didn’t think to buy one for my first kitchen. But oh! I grew to miss it.
So yes, I have done the mincing thing with the peeling of the cloves, and the knife, and the scraping off the cutting board. I have done that thing. But with a garlic press, you don’t need to peel the garlic, which I appreciate because peeling garlic makes your fingers smell like garlic indefinitely. You place a clove or two in the little compartment, squeeze the handles together, and finely minced garlic shoots out the holes. I like to do this over the pan and scrape off the remainder with the flat side of a butter knife.
Mincing garlic with a knife will get you a milder, sweeter taste (something about breaking down cell walls less), but I am a garlic lover and I demand some of that strong garlic flavor. Garlic presses all the way, gang.
Pro tip: You can grab one on Amazon for under $15.
3. Salt pig
The first time I saw one of these guys I didn’t get it. “It’s… a container that you… keep salt in?” I asked, unenlightened.
Yep, it’s a container you keep salt in. But it’s a stable container you keep salt in, and it is shaped to keep the winds of time (or, like, crumbs) out of there.
Here’s the deal, everyone: When you cook, you use salt. You use it frequently. You likely already own the best tool for measuring a pinch or few of salt into a dish—shout out to fingers!—and that tool is difficult to use when your salt is coming from a shaker or other container.
What you do with a salt pig is this: You fill it with coarse salt and place it on the counter, next to your stove. When you want to drop some salt into a dish, you reach in with your fingers and you grab a pinch and you take it from there. I know it sounds a bit unsanitary, but salt is naturally resistant to bacterial growth, so it’s all good. And if the salt starts getting a bit dingey at some point, you can always dump it out and throw some fresh salt into the pig. The idea is that the salt is right there at your fingertips while you’re cooking.
Trust me—this salt pig situation is a game changer, and using one will make you feel like a pro.
Pro tip: Amazon sells these things! At $37, they may seem a little pricey but honestly, you use salt constantly and a salt pig is meant to sit on your counter at all times, so it’s a thing to invest in.
4. Apple Slicer
So look. I can slice an apple the old-fashioned way, sure. I can take a knife and cut it into slices and then cut the core out of each individual piece. And I’ll admit, when my mom came home with an apple slicer a number of years ago, I was highly skeptical of the contraption. But! Friends. This tool is the Real Deal.
Honestly, apples are sort of round and wobbly and cutting them makes me fear for the safety of my beloved, beloved fingers. Cutting out the core takes time, and I tend to cut away perfectly good apple flesh in the process out of sheer laziness. Do I slice apples often? Nossir. But when I do, I like to use this apple slicer thing. Sometimes It can get stuck or struggle with a lopsided fruit, but I still maintain that it is magical in its simplicity and success rate.
Pro tip: You can buy one for like $8 on Amazon.
5. Milk frother
So, you don’t need one of these, but how often does sheer joy cost less than $50 on Amazon?
This is a thing I aspire to own but have used many times at my parents’ house. You pour in milk (Or almond milk! Or coconut milk! Get down with your bad self.), put on the lid, and turn the thing on. Soon, what you’re left with is a delightful (dee-LIGHT-ful!) volume of hot frothed milk. It’s like the foamy stuff you can get on your cappuccino at a cafe, but even better because you can fill your cup with as much frothed milk as you want.
When I’m visiting my family, I like to mix up a matcha latte and fill about half the mug with light, fluffed up milk because I can. This makes me very happy. That is all that needs to be said.
Pro tip: Right now you can nab this device for about $42 on Amazon dot com.
6. Spoon rest
Yeah, I’ve heard all the arguments against spoon rests. They’re accurate. You can rest your spoon on a plate. But the fact of the matter, buddy, is that I don’t want to.
Like a salt pig, a spoon rest is probably going to live on your counter. That’s good. There are a lot of beautiful spoon rests out there, and I think you should give yourself permission to use one that makes your kitchen look really nice. When you are cooking, you can place your spoon or spatula on your spoon rest, thus keeping your counter clean. When you are done, you can wash the spoon rest. Lovely.
Reason Number The First why spoon rests are my preferred way to keep a counter clean: They are shaped so that your spoon stays in the spoon rest. It is easy to knock a spoon off of a little plate where it is resting with its handle hanging off all wobbly-like. Moving on.
Reason Number The Second why spoon rests are better: They are. Shush, you.
In my head, these items are the kind of things that adults own. They’re not about making do or scrounging around for something that will keep the curry you’re cooking from dripping all over your counter. They’re about having something on hand that is right for the job, something that looks pretty and does what it is supposed to. They’re about having your life—or at least your kitchen—together.
Pro tip: Grab a ceramic Le Creuset spoon rest for about $26 on Amazon.
7. Tea infuser
Unitasker products are kind of necessary when it comes to tea. Like, if you’re buying loose leaf tea, you kind of need a tea infuser or an infusing tea pot. I have done the thing where you put the tea leaves in hot water and you don’t contain them in any way. I have visited that dark place. And trust me when I say that feeling bits of tea leaves sticking in your teeth, brushing against your cheeks, and getting caught in your throat just ruins tea as an entire concept.
If you are a person who drinks tea at all, a tea infuser is your friend. It’s a little mesh cage that lets you steep loose leaves (which, let’s face it, make better tea most of the time) without letting them go for a swim in your mug. They’re cheap so there’s really no excuse not to own one, unless you really hate tea.
Pro tip: Step right up, these are two for $7 at the old Amazon store.
8. Immersion blender
Talk about a game-changer. If you’ve ever made soup with lentils or potatoes or carrots, something that begs to be smooth and creamy, you need an immersion blender. I used to make due by waiting for my soup to cool, pouring it in a blender, blending it, and then pouring it back into the soup pot, but the whole process is time-consuming and messy. An immersion blender is the perfect solution—you just stick it into your pot and blend it up right there.
Might I recommend 101 Cookbook’s recipe for red lentil soup with lemon? It is my favorite winter soup, and best served blended smooth.