From pricey mixers to fancy dinnerware, it’s hard to know what products are actually worth the price — and which aren’t. Whether we’re covering high-end juicers or bestselling kitchen gadgets, we try to get to the bottom of what’s worth splurging on and what isn’t.
“I am generally skeptical of most kitchen gadgets,” says Greg Parker, founder of Dabble Eats, who has appeared on Food Network. “Some can be time-savers, but many end up being forgotten in about a month and take up valuable counter and storage space.”
Whether you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen with game-changing new tools, splurge on a gift for a foodie friend or just treat yourself to something new to cook with, we’ve rounded up 17 splurge-worthy kitchen tools for you to choose from. All of these have been recommended by people who cook for a living or who have appeared on cooking shows, or they’ve been researched and tested by us.
“The Vitamix blender is an essential workhorse of the kitchen. I use it for soups, sauces, purees and smoothies,” says Parker. “It is such a time-saver and easy to clean. For the everyday home cook, the base models are powerful enough.”
Turboblend 3-Speed Blender ($399.95; vitamix.com)
This blender offers three speed controls with low, medium and high settings to create a range of textures, while the Pulse feature provides a quick burst of power for chopping ingredients, meaning you can blend soups and smoothies as well as chop up veggies with this handy tool.
Professional Series 750 Blender ($599.95; vitamix.com)
If you do want to go pro, this blender comes with five program settings: smoothies, hot soups, dips and spreads, frozen desserts and self-cleaning. This above-and-beyond machine makes food prep quick, easy and consistent, which is huge when you’re on a mission to improve your diet.
Ascent 3300 Blender ($549.95; vitamix.com)
This hardworking blender is high-tech, featuring a built-in programmable timer and handy pulse feature, both accessible via the blender’s touch screen. It also features a motor base that adjusts blending times based on the container size you’re using, and the ability to pair it with the Vitamix Perfect Blend app, which features 17 programs and over 500 recipes.
However, Sabrina V., founder of Discover Vegans, suggests looking at other blenders if you’re on a budget, saying, “There are just other more affordable alternatives. A Vitamix is a great blender, but you can find other blenders that will get the job done for a lower cost!”
Instant Pot Ace Nova Cooking Blender ($109.98; walmart.com)
Instant Pot, the company known for its multifunction pressure cooker that took the internet by storm, also makes a blender, and it’s the perfect budget buy at just $109. The blender can actually cook food with a heating element right in the glass bowl. You can boil, puree and cook soups. There are also three manual speeds for general blending.
Both Parker and Sabrina agree good knives are worth the investment.
“A good-quality chef knife will be your best friend in the kitchen. Not only does it make cutting and chopping easier and more enjoyable, but it is also much safer,” says Parker. “A properly sharp knife will help develop proper knife skills and limit possible accidents.”
Misono Chef’s Knife, 8-inch ($95; amazon.com)
An 8-inch knife is the cornerstone of every kitchen, and this Misono version (one of Parker’s picks, and an editor favorite) is one of the best knives you can get for the price. You’ll find the Misono almost perfectly weighted and sharp out of the box, and it will cut cleanly through the toughest vegetables.
J.A. Henckels Classic Paring Knife, 4-inch Black/Stainless Steel ($85; amazon.com)
With 5-star ratings across the board, it’s no surprise this classic paring knife has been a staple in our kitchen for a decade. Perfect for slicing garlic, cutting up fruit and cheese and removing blemishes, you’ll find hundreds of uses for this little powerhouse.
Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife With VG-MAX Cutting Core and Ebony PakkaWood Handle ($159.95; amazon.com)
Another one of Parker’s recommendations, this gorgeous Shun chef’s knife is worth the splurge. It’s made with a steel formula exclusive to Shun with extra tungsten for a sharper edge, more chromium for corrosion resistance and additional cobalt and carbon for strength and durability.
Wusthof Whetstone Sharpener ($39.95; amazon.com)
The most important thing to remember with good knives is that you must keep them sharp. We’ve been using this Whetstone at home for over a year and don’t have to take our knives to get sharpened by a pro anymore. Just soak the stone in water before sharpening, and use long, gentle strokes.
Most home cooks have a few cutting boards handy — what better to make a cheese and charcuterie board on? But did you know a quality cutting board can cut down on your prep time and make getting a meal ready easier?
As Parker explains, “An item that is greatly overlooked is a good-quality cutting board. The proper board, for me, allows me to spread out and have multiple items going at the same time. You need something as large as your space allows. A nice board also can be left out at all times and add to the feel of your kitchen space.”
John Boos 18-Inch-by-18-Inch Cutting Board ($226.99; bedbathandbeyond.com)
“Maple is the perfect material for your cutting board — hard enough to stand up to use but not hard enough to impact the sharpness of your knives. Boos is a standard when it comes to brands,” says Parker.
John Boos Boos Block Reversible Maple Wood Cutting Board ($146.95; wayfair.com)
This version is perfect for smaller spaces and features grip handles so you can move it around your space with ease.
Ironwood Gourmet 28218 Square Charleston End Grain Chef’s Board, Acacia Wood ($47.59; amazon.com)
Another gorgeous option, this acacia end grain cutting board will get the job done. We’ve given this brand many years of home and test-kitchen use, and these boards will take a beating. The harder acacia wood will be a little less gentle on your knife blades, but not so much that you should rule it out.
Mevell Food-Grade Mineral Oil for Cutting Boards ($9.99, amazon.com)
You never want to soak your cutting boards and blocks, or put them in the dishwasher. Wipe them down and use food-grade mineral oil like Mevell to keep them from drying out.
“I cannot live without my cast-iron skillet,” Sabrina told us, and while you may think cast iron is for cooking steak and other meats, they’re also great for vegan and vegetarian dishes like enchiladas, stews and chilis.
Lodge Preseasoned Cast-Iron Skillet With Assist Handle Holder ($43.02; amazon.com)
If you can’t snag your grandma’s old cast iron, this highly rated pan is the next best thing. Preseasoned, it’s deep enough to fry cauliflower or chicken, has a nicely sized pour spout and comes with a handle holder for safety.
What not to spend on
While there are plenty of items that are so much better if you spend a little more, there are lots of little kitchen helpers you can pick up for a lot less.
Belugahots Silicone Spatula, 5-Pack ($9.95; amazon.com)
“A mini spatula is one of those items that has a million and one uses,” says Parker. “Scraping down bowls and containers to make sure you get all of your batters or sauces, mixing and giving something a quick stir. You won’t know how you survived without one.” This five-pack will keep you set up for a while!
Cuisinart Mini Silicone Pastel Spatula Set ($7.99; target.com)
This brightly colored mini set from Cuisinart is perfect for any kitchen and a baker’s dream for getting batter into small cups and more.
HaSteeL Stainless Steel Dough Bench Scraper Pastry Cutter ($9.99; amazon.com)
“A bench scraper will become one of your most used items,” says Parker. “From transferring items from your cutting board to your pots and pans to helping to keep your work area tidy, a bench scraper has a multitude of uses.”
Five Two Ultimate Baking Tool Set ($49; food52.com)
This editor’s favorite set — we’re suckers for the gorgeous silicone handles — comes with four tools ostensibly for baking, but you’ll find yourself using the brush for basting and the scraper for everything from cleaning up scraps to cutting bread.