Between the two of us, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen — testing everything from recipes, to products, to Pinterest hacks.
Along the way, we've found several favorite kitchen items that we keep coming back to — and wanted to share a few with you, below. What's your favorite under-$20 essential? Tell us in the comments!
1. Multi-Purpose Bowl Scraper, $4
I chop a lot of vegetables, which means I'm constantly picking them up off my cutting board and putting them into a bowl or a pan. Sure, you can do this with your hands, but it gets messy — and scraping your knife around is a) dangerous and b) bad for the blade.
The fix is a bowl scraper: a magical piece of silicone that's meant for scraping down the edges of a mixing bowl (that's what the rounded side is for). But I actually find the straight edge even more useful, since you can use it for scooping things up off of your cutting board, or wiping scraps into the trash. —Christine Byrne
2. Loose-Leaf Tea Maker, $18
I'm a big tea fanatic and, TBH, love the routine of brewing a fresh batch of the stuff. I use this tea maker to do that: Just scoop in your favorite tea, let it steep, stack it over a cup or mug, and press down to dispense. (This version is best for loose-leaf varieties because the mesh strainer at the bottom catches the leaves, but you can use regular teabags, too.) It works for hot or iced tea, is dishwasher-safe, and is surprisingly durable — mine's three years old and going strong. —Melissa Harrison
3. Lime Squeezer, $5
Once you’ve had a margarita made with freshly squeezed lime juice, it’s hard to go back to sour mix or the weird, shelf-stable bottled stuff. That said, juicing limes with a reamer or just your hands is time-consuming and messy, and doesn’t even work very well. This lime juicer makes things go so much faster, and it also gets waaay more juice out of the lime than a reamer can. If you juice a lot of lemons, get a lemon squeezer instead; it’s exactly the same but a little bit bigger. —CB
4. Bendable Ice Cube Trays, $10 (for a set of two)
When I was a kid, my family's freezer was stocked with those hard, plastic (definitively '90s!) ice cube trays. And any time I wanted to ~quench~ my after-school thirst, it usually involved me banging the tray against kitchen countertops until eventually a few cubes popped out and I could ice down my Hawaiian Punch.
Two decades later, a friend intro'ed me to silicone ice cube trays — where the ice immediately pops out once you give the tray a quick twist — and for me, it was basically a revelation. These things rule. —MH
5. Y-Shaped Swiss Peeler, $9.99 (for a set of three)
Back (in what feels like another lifetime) when I worked in a restaurant kitchen, speed and efficiency were super important. Now that I only cook at home and in BuzzFeed's Test Kitchen, I'm less worried about doing things ~as fast as humanly possible~ — but I also know quicker is always better. And owning a Swiss vegetable peeler will save you tons of time and frustration.
This Y-shaped peeler is so much easier to use than a regular swivel peeler. It's small and super light, and lets me peel a 5-pound bag of potatoes in just a couple minutes. Buy the set of three and remember to throw your peeler away as soon as it gets dull, because a dull peeler is super inefficient and actually pretty unsafe (you have to apply more pressure and your hand is more likely to slip). —CB
6. Heavy-Duty Non-Stick Foil, $3
I know we've all got foil in our kitchens already — but IMO, it's worth it to shell out the extra buck for the heavy-duty, non-stick version. Biggest reason why: It's super durable, and stronger than the regular kind. That means it's ideal for stuff like firing up meal packs on grill grates, lining baking pans so you can lift things (like a cake) out in one go, or oven-roasting more delicate items (like fish) that can break apart when transferring to a plate.
Basically, all those times when you want to make damn sure the foil doesn't accidentally rip, tear, or stick to whatever you're cooking? Swap in this stuff. You'll be glad you did. —MH
7. Digital Kitchen Scale, $13.95
You guys. Americans are some of the only people in the world who measure ingredients by volume instead of by weight, and can I just say that it is UTTER. LUNACY. 👏 Particularly when you're baking, it's much more accurate to measure dry goods like flour and sugar on a scale than by the cup — since volume measurements can vary based on how tightly packed your ingredients are, among other things.
In lots of recipes, this variance can really mess up your results. But you can avoid that entirely by using a basic digital scale. And, even better, the scale means not dirtying a bajillion extra measuring cups and spoons every time you cook. —CB