The right kitchen essentials can make mealtime prep so much easier.
Whether your kids are two or twelve, chances are they’re obsessed with food. Meals, snacks, desserts, it doesn’t really matter, does it? When hunger strikes, it strikes hard, and there is no stopping it. Sound familiar? And while we can’t make your little monsters wait patiently while you cook, we can say that having the right gear will make things infinitely easier, hands down. From the greatest way to cook food without actually having to put any effort into the cook part (hello, world’s best slow cooker) to a device that makes chopping onions less painful (and tedious), a well-stocked kitchen will definitely spare you some tears, even if they’re just your own.
Plus, cooking and baking are great family activities to do together—and now more than ever. With the kids around 24/7 due to homeschooling, there’s a good chance they’ll want to get in on the action. From whipping up their own bento box-sized lunch to pitching in with dinner prep, it pays to have the right kitchen essentials on standby. Not only does it help give your budding chef a sense of autonomy, but kitchen time can also be used to foster math skills (fractions! cups! ounces into pounds!) and an ability to follow a sequence of directions successfully. And since all of this is made way more fun when you have the right tools to work with, we’ve rounded up a list of our must-have essentials for you to get in your kitchen, STAT.
Best Watermelon Slicer
It’s not (quite) Houdini-level magic, but it sure is close. This stainless steel watermelon slicer by YUESHICO is a lifesaver. If you’ve ever attempted to cut a watermelon before, then you know that it takes time. Your entire fam will be in awe as you whip out this li’l gadget to cut perfectly cube-shaped slices (2CM, to be exact). What better way to encourage everyone to eat more fruit, amirite?! While family get-togethers probably aren’t happening this year, imagine how easy it’ll be to put together a fresh fruit platter for future barbecues to come. The cutter blade is kid-friendly so you won’t have to worry about any unexpected trips to the emergency room. Phew.
Best Motion Sensor Trash Can
During this pandemic (and for the foreseeable future), sensor-free everything is pretty much the rule of the land when it comes to kitchen appliances. A trash can that you don’t have to touch (eww, germs) is no exception. Available in black stainless steel, brushed stainless steel, rose gold, white, and dark bronze, this 58-liter rectangular voice and motion sensor kitchen trash will straight-up beautify your li’l kitchen nook. To use, just say “open can” or wave your hand to get the lid to open without having to actually touch any icky surfaces. The best part? The kids will get a kick out of it, too.
Shares an Amazon customer, “This may have been the most expensive trash can I have ever bought and probably one of the most awesome purchases I’ve bought. You never realize how crappy the $12-20 trashcans are until you spend a little more on it and then you’re like ‘holy crap.’ Saying ‘open can’ when my hands are full is super helpful, but even better is just waving the can open… The can itself is SUPER DUPER made well, like it crazy the quality that went into this….which I would hope for at $200. If you’re considering a simplehuman trash I HIGHLY recommend them, not just this one but ALL of them. This is my second simplehuman trashcan, I bought the cheaper plastic one as an intro because at the time it fit into my budget and even that one was made crazy well and I still have it. The trash bags are also ridiculous. They do not compare to the grocery store trash bags at all! It doesn’t matter if the box says heavy-duty I can 100% tell you that the simplehuman trash bags will CRUSH them. I feel weird raving about a trashcan and trash bags, but truly, if you’re on the fence, take the dive! It’s totally worth it.”
Best Do-it-All Blender
From baby food (carrot puree, anyone?) to frozen desserts and beyond, you’re going to need a state-of-the-art blender in your kitchen. When you factor in cost-per-use, this professional-grade blender will be a lifesaver. Who needs Tropical Smoothie anyway when you can just whip up your very own fresh fruit smoothie with leftover produce from your refrigerator? This bad boy comes with variable speed control (10 speeds to help you achieve just the right texture for chunky salsas, hearty vegetable soups, you name it). We love the 48-ounce container for smaller servings… just what you need when you have to whip something up in a jiffy for BB but don’t want leftovers.
Raves one Amazon customer, “This puts regular blenders to shame. Should too, since the price is no small thing, and I waited a long time before buying this. But the value of this thing is being able to whip up foods you’d have to go out for, or buy in cans, and being able to control the ingredients so that they are fresh and without additives. Lemon ice/granita on a hot day? Done. It’s stupid simple. Then we were on to blueberry sorbet in one minute using the frozen bag ‘o berries. Now there’s a dessert everybody will gobble up. Hot tomato soup becomes reality for lunch when you have leftover tomatoes sitting on your counter and some fresh basil leaves. Lookout Campbells soup! You’ll never go back to the canned stuff. What next will I make?”
Best Touch-Free Soap Dispenser
Say bye-bye to germs with this touch-free sensor liquid soap pump dispenser from simplehuman. To use, simply place your hands beneath the pump (up close for a small dab or a bit farther away for a bigger glob). How’s that for some Houdini-level magic?? Like the trashcan, this kitchen essential comes in a range of stainless steel colors plus brass to match your kitchen hardware. It has an easy-to-access recharge plug that will keep the dispenser charged for up to three months. A funnel opening makes refills a cinch—no drips or messy puddles on your kitchen counter. Bonus: It also has a clog-free tubing pump which can be used for soap or hand sanitizer.
One customer weighs in, “Easy-peasy to put the soap in this dispenser. It is such a clean-looking convenience to have on my kitchen counter by the sink. Really nice looking. Many visiting friends have commented on how attractive it is, in addition to the convenience of its intended use. I have already purchased a 2nd one of these for a dear friend, he liked it so much. I bought the liquid soap in the bag that was recommended for this dispenser. It has a nice subtle lavender scent. I appreciate its ability to dispense soap automatically when I have really dirty hands.”
Best All-in-One Appliance
Sometimes you want to prep, cook and serve meals in as little time as possible; then there are the rare occasions when you think ahead to dinner while you’re still getting your monsters to chow down on pancakes and realize you have the time to put a chili in the slow cooker. Whichever type of day you’re having, a multi-functional appliance like the Ninja Foodi is one staple we can’t believe ANY household survives without. It can even air-fry things, so you can trick your kids into thinking those french fries are a splurge and get to enjoy them yourself, too. It’s like a billion things in one and only takes up a tiny bit of counter space, so there’s still room for that Magic Bullet you swear you’ll actually use to make healthful smoothies one day.
Best Pasta Strainer
When it comes to easy dinners that require approximately 0 brain cells, making pasta is always a good idea; pouring a 10lb pot of boiling hot water over a strainer in your sink without burning a) yourself b) your kids or c) your dog is a bitch. Enter the handheld strainer that will changing your freaking life, wherein you fish the pasta out of the pot, rather than pour it out with the water itself. So simple, yet SO mindblowing, right? Then, you can let the water (and the handles of the pot) cool down and dump it into the sink after dinner (or tomorrow morning, we don’t judge) without burning anybody. The greatest inventions are the simplest ones, ladies.
Best Hot Handle Holder
One-pan meals that require a little bit on the stove followed by a little bit in the oven are easy enough (generally), but there’s one major issue they all pose: when you take that pan out of the oven, the handle is scorching hot, a fact that is often quickly forgotten in our house, leading to burned fingers and emergency cold water rinses. That was the case, at least, until we found this tiny silicone miracle. Designed to fit over the handle of most pans, it serves as a visual reminder that, yes, you took that piece of metal out of a 400 degree oven a few seconds ago and, if that isn’t enough, provides a barrier from the heat so you don’t injure yourself. When you have 12,370,128,301 things on your mind, including avoiding stepping on the Legos that are every.where., sometimes you need a little help to avoid second-degree burns, and that’s a-okay.
Best Cutting Board
Ah, the cutting board: You always seem to need one (unless you’re a monster who cuts directly on your countertop), but storing them in any sort of reasonable fashion is cumbersome, to say the least. This, my friends, is why thin, flexible cutting boards are the way of the future: They stack neatly, have a textured side to grip for safety and are even color-coded and feature adorable little chicken, meat, fish and veggie icons if you’re the kinda gal who likes to separate boards by type of food. Plus, they’ll add a bit of brightness to your kitchen, which is always fun, and they’re dishwasher-safe, so yes, please.
Best Veggie Chopper
Whether or not you’ve mastered the ski google-wearing to avoid sobbing uncontrollably while you chop onions, I think we can all agree it’s one of the least enjoyable (and frustratingly time consuming) parts of cooking. But fret no more, ladies! One of the cooking world’s best kept secrets, onion choppers — which, yes, can also chop other veggies, too — will basically save your brain from melting like those tears from your eyeballs (see what we did there?). It even comes with a variety of attachments that let you choose the size of the chop, and it comes apart easily so cleaning isn’t a bigger headache than making the meal itself.
Best Bottle Rack
Ok, but really, how annoying are all those water bottles you have lying around for your kids? Yes, they’re necessary to avoid spills and keep your littles hydrated, but they’re certainly not attractive or easy to store when they’re knocked around and rolling all over the place. Keeping them organized with a display rack, much like the kind you’d use to display your fine wines in a previous life — will make them easy for the kids to grab when they need one and easier for you to find without tearing apart the cabinet four times a day. Sounds pretty ideal, right?
Best Measuring Cups
Can you say “essential”? These old school Pyrex measuring cups are still around for a reason, and more impressively, they remain Amazon bestsellers. This set of three comes with 1, 2, and 4-cup sizes, and amazingly, they’re dishwasher, freezer, microwave, and oven safe. Glass means that odors and stains don’t absorb, and a spout allows for easy pouring, even if it has to be one-handed (#momlife, amiright?).
This set has nearly 7,000 reviews, and buyers aren’t shy about shelling out 5 stars thanks to their usefulness, durability, versatile sizes, and stackable shape. “This set seemed to have the right variety of measuring cups for our needs,” says one buyer. “The bigger one is great to reduce on dishes that we need to clean since it can be used as a mixing bowl too. The measurements are clear and easy to use… they are glass, so there is a little heft to them, but that’s what we wanted. After all, it’s Pyrex so you kind of know what the great quality you’re getting.
Best Garlic Press
If peeling cloves of garlic then chopping it into itty, bitty pieces until your fingers pick up the stench (bleh) has you dreading the chore, it’s time for a garlic press. But not just any garlic press. You’ll want a quality one that saves multiple steps, is easy to use, clean, and breaks down garlic just the way you like it. Enter, the Alpha Grillers Garlic Press, made from solid stainless steel. Simply place the whole, unpeeled clove in the compartment, press, and the peel stays in while the minced garlic is squeezed out. It also comes with a silicone roller peeler, which strips the skin from cloves if you want to keep them whole.
Reviewers say that this tool is a kitchen staple. “I have worn out several garlic presses in my lifetime,” one customer says. “Tired of cheap crap, I decided to find a quality garlic press. Noting the lifetime guarantee, I purchased the Alpha Grillers Garlic Press and Peeler Set about a year and a half ago and have been using it just about daily ever since for both garlic and ginger. It is fantastic!”
Hungry (get it?) for more? Spend nap time perusing more kitchen must-haves, each designed to make your life just a little bit easier — even during snack time meltdowns. Hello, sanity.